31 July 2018

Trials but no tribulations.

by: Myron 

An historic day on Monday. Both our tugs operating together.

Margaret continued to impress by effortlessly pushing Delilah. At the same time Goliath's steering repairs proved to be up to the job, so that is now back in service.
At the same time the steering modifications designed and made by Western Depot were fitted, and trials then undertaken.  They proved very successful. We must now mount the screen in its operating position and cut some weed. 

An excellent day.  It would be nice to hope that we have now overcome all of the technical problems that have plagued us for the last 18 months.

30 July 2018

Pat's Progressed

When we left Pat last week, it must be said that she was not too happy.  Our first job was to get the fuel primed in the diesel engine and get that running.

Several responses from our last blog provided all the information we needed.  Thanks guys.  The process was followed and within the half hour, or so, the engine fired into life and ran.

However, as reported before, we suspected an electrical fault as well.  The voltage on the control panel was not the same as the main battery system.  Not only that, it appeared to be unstable indicating that there was an intermittent and resistive joint somewhere.  The front of the control panel was removed and the internals probed.  Checks were also made on a fuse board mounted on the side of the engine.  Not the best place given the heat and vibration conditions directly on the block.
The examination revealed that there was indeed an intermittent joint associated with a 10A fuse that fed the control box.  Whilst the fuse looked o.k, the problem went away when a new one was fitted.  It happened to be a tighter fit in the socket.
With the engine now running reliably, we set about adjusting the ballast in the back bilge.  With the water level in the lock increased to ensure we were actually floating, the heavy rail ballast was repositioned as close to the bottom of the boat as possible and in locations most likely to correct the trim.  It should be noted that the jib position has a major influence on the trim, very small shifts make a notable difference.

The results of our labours resulted in a reasonable improvement, sufficient to give us the confidence to move just outside the lock into shallow water and undertake some experiments with the stability of the boat under jib position exercises.  
The feet were deployed and then the jib carefully taken to one side, observing the effect on boat trim.  Movement was significant, but not too worrying.  Another test followed after we had swung the port side front foot 90deg to its most outwards position.  The improvement was quite dramatic.  Jib movement felt much more secure with little trim deviation of the boat.  A full bucket load of water lifted made little difference.  It might be possible to set the feet to their 90deg positions and manoeuvre in that condition knowing that a secure and stable platform awaited when it was time to dredge.  Very early days, but reassuring that, given the proper operating disciplines, dredging should be safe and productive.

At the end of operations, Pat pulled back into the lock and was left moored, sat on the bottom.  Additional iron ballast will further improve matters.  We also checked the water separator after operations and there was pleasingly no water present.

Pat is a lot happier tonight.  It should be noted that when we arrived, both mooring ropes had been cast into the water.  Leaving the vessel in such a location that there are no locals to watch over it, is probably not best practice.

Two Get Seared In Wales

By: Buffs

Readers of this blog will be aware of the Bucket list of items identified as being wanted to support the activities of the volunteer workforce of the Trust.  It was in pursuit of possible solutions to meet one of these items that two WD volunteers left the safety of the East side of the Severn and ventured deep into the heart of Wales.  Their target was to be reached through the ice carved valleys and sharpened hills of mid Wales with breathtaking views and broad winged raptors soaring above green wooded hillsides and yellowing meadows.

The Bucket list, so called because we need to shake a bucket to acquire the funds to buy the items on the list, includes a heavy lift capability for Western Depot.  It is listed as a fork lift truck but further thought has expanded this to include lifting and moving heavy items not just in WD but across the whole SVCC estate to support both maintenance and restoration tasks for the foreseeable future.  WD has widened its scope of possible solutions to include a class of vehicles known as mini loaders.  These are a versatile group of agile wheeled and tracked vehicles which can be fitted with a variety of attachments for construction, grounds maintenance and agriculture.

Several different types of mini loader were on display at Builth Wells, the home of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show.

After a draft requirement was worked up for the two WD volunteers they visited a number of stands at the show.  The type of mini loader which meets many of the lines of the draft requirement, including being able to work on the towpath and not cause damage to it, is a four wheel drive articulated machine with a hydraulic drive which supports both traction and working equipment.

These two images show examples of the type of machine which could be used to support the work of CCT. One manufacturer has over 120 possible attachments and the other has over 170 possible attachments.  The base machine is available in a range of sizes and available power.

The WD volunteers left the stands with day sacs weighted down with brochures and with a better understanding of the machines and their utility on the canal. Now for some serious deliberation and to work up a requirement set for a possible future purchase, either new or second hand.

The RWAS is huge with kit on display ranging from handsaws to tractors and trailers the size of a small terraced house. We took the opportunity to talk with grounds maintenance equipment manufacturers gained some useful nuggets of information to add to the knowledge pool at WD. 

Here is one for our logging team
The most popular stand was demonstrating a cattle cooler.  It created a water mist which sprayed over one of the walkways.  Heavenly on a very hot day.

26 July 2018

A good day for the Tug Team today

by: Dave & Myron

The steering on Goliath has been fixed and she is now back in service.

Some tyres were fitted to the front of Margaret.  These are to enable her to push our wide bean barges, acting as a cushion between the tug and barge.  A very simple and cheap solution to this important requirement.

Margaret had another voyage to Dudbridge and Ryford. Three more crew members were introduced to the delights of her stunning performance.  What was really noticeable was that the cut was much easier to navigate today than Monday, we seem to be doing some good already.  We carried out two inspections of the weed hatch, clearing large amounts of detritus from the prop, not that the tug seemed bothered by it.  The weed hatch on Margaret makes it a simple job to clear the prop.  Good, because we shall be doing it a lot.
Good news as well regarding Weedie. T he parts to repair the steering have been finished.  We look forward to getting her going again, hopefully next Monday.

Dudbridge Grill

by Andy P.

Another few strenuous sun baked days.  The top platform was duly drilled and attached to the wall at the requisite height and all made level.  Next it was the jigsaw fitting sequence as we fought, literally, with the drawing and metal on the ground to figure out which existing piece was going to be the down slope.  Duncan was right it just took the rest of us some time to agree.
Scaffold was easily moved and lowered to take the weight and we were off a boltin, drillin, and screwin so the song went.  The grill was put in place and with the first steps we relaxed on the top platform.
Next it was the lower platform and sides which very quickly surrendered to our efficient pace.  We were in danger of finishing this today until we ran out of nuts-a quick dash down the road and we were off again to complete the lower platform and grill.
A wavy photo as we completed our work with only 4 pieces left.
Nice to see Patricia and new small friend were looking on
If you wanted to know what there is at the end of the tunnel-a light of course.

25 July 2018

Pat's Progressed

A difficult day spent investigating the issues which caused us some grief on Monday, namely the engine running fine soon followed by stalling.

We knew that there were electrical issues in that the battery had taken been exhausted, however, all day Tuesday charged from the solar panel, it had recovered, but initial testing showed that the problem of engine failure persisted.

When we checked the fuel systems at WD, tests were done to probe for water in the fuel, none was found, but the disturbance of launching the boat and then rocking and rolling seems to have released undiscovered water.  The fuel water separator was almost full of the stuff as witnessed by the contents of the container we drained it into.  The thin layer on top is fuel, below is water.
Not only that, some had been carried over into the fuel filter.  Late in the day, we managed to secure a new filter, but then we had the problem of priming the diesel engine.  None of us were familiar with the exact method for the Perkins unit in our boat, so that is the next thing to do when we can get some expert advice. 

We also changed the engine battery as the one fitted was of unknown condition and did not seem to have the sustained cranking capacity expected of it.

Other than that, lock gates were swung to release some of the sediments around them.  Also, greasing of most of the spud leg joints, those that could be reached, offered a welcome diversion.
Shortly after this image was taken, we drained the lock to ensure she rested secure on the bottom
Once we up and running reliably, our attention will focus on trim and stability.
Summit Working Parties

by: Karen Shaw

Hi Everyone

I expect some of you wondered if I came back from travelling Aus and NZ - I did - but had to get straight into A Level and GCSE marking for an average of 10 hours a day and have only just finished the whole lot.

So I write to advise you that the next Summit Section work party is from 10.00 am to 3/4 pm on  Sunday 19 August.

There will be some strimming to do as well as manual bank and bed clearing work with hand tools, path boarding and sorting out what we want to do with the container as the pub would like us to improve its appearance.

New members are also welcome to come along for all or part of the day. I usually provide tea / coffee and biscuits / cake but please feel free to bring along your own hot or cold drinks, and a packed lunch or have lunch in the pub. Please do bring lots of water if the weather continues to be as hot as it has been.

As usual, please wear sturdy (preferably steel toe capped) footwear or wellington boots and stout clothes. Long sleeves and trousers are recommended to avoid nettle stings and insect bites. Gloves and all other PPE are provided along with all necessary tools.

The site is reached by a well sign-posted but rather pot holed track to the Tunnel House Inn on the right, as you come down Tarlton Road out of Coates and after a tight bend under a railway bridge. Postcode is GL7 6PW. On arrival at the pub car park, please park up or down on the right.

Dates for work parties to the end of the year will be:

Sunday 16 September 2018

Sunday 14 October 2018

Sunday 18 November 2018
Sunday 9 December 2018 with lunch at the Tunnel House Inn after.

Any questions please contact me: Karen Shaw. Details on Connect.

24 July 2018

Where are the WRGies?

by: Jon Pontefract

So, you've read the piece on the CCT website, but just what are the WRGies up to at Inglesham this year.   As Rick Barnes has reported, the towpath side of the lock chamber wall was completed last year, as was the offside top gate area including spill weir, paddle culvert, and chamber for back pumping.   This year, two long weekends of work saw all of the damaged brickwork removed from the offside chamber wall, and a large stepped excavation created behind.   The first 3 week-long Canal Camps have been busy rebuilding the brickwork and the associated concrete blocks behind.   I turned up on Sunday as the 3rd Camp were being shown around the site and introduced to their planned work.
On the right hand side of this picture can be seen the start of rebuilding the towpath side wing wall - I think there was about 2 courses of semi-decent brickwork left to establish the curve.   As Camp leader Ricey explained, he hasn't got many experienced volunteers on this Camp, so he's grateful to a couple of veterans staying on for a few days to either lead the 'newbies', or tackle the complicated bits, such as the ladder recesses or paddle culverts.   This next picture shows David Smith busy altering the scaffolding to allow the next few courses of brickwork and blockwork to go up.   
The tarpaulins aren't up in case of any impending rain, but to keep the sun off the bricklayers, and to stop the mortar drying too quickly.   The pump was running at this point, so the lower levels of scaffolding were just emerging from the flooded lock chamber - the Thames will leak in over a day's site shutdown.   The river is not as low as one might expect during the current weather, probably because up to 40% of the Thames water is made up by Swindon's treated sewage at this point.   Bet you don't want to go swimming there now you know that!

The Inglesham site will be shut down for the first 2 weeks of August, but work resumes on 11 August for a final 3 weeks of Canal Camps.   At the end of this Summer's activities, it's hoped that the lock will be more or less finished, which leaves the landscaping to be considered.   Then CCT needs to come up with a plan for a working lock and what to do with the 1/4 mile of canal it owns above the lock.  

A new tug!

by: Dave Irving

Our new tug Margaret was launched today, after 3 months and 339 volunteer-hours of restoration work, following quickly after new dredger Patricia had been lifted into the canal. Margaret's lift-off started at about 11:00.
Up she went, then over the wall, and was placed gently into the canal.
The crew got on, checked that all was OK (it was!), reversed out of the lifting straps, and brought her gently alongside the towpath - we were immediately impressed by her manoeuvrability and responsiveness.
Once everyone was in the right place, and she'd been inspected by her sponsor, off she went on her first trial trip to Ebley.
At Ebley, we moored, and checked for anything untoward, but all was still OK.
No water leaks, a little smoke was traced to damp exhaust bandage and soon cleared, all was still OK.  So we went for a longer run to Ryeford and back, exploring the steering, the engine responsiveness and power, and finding all was good.  One final trip of the day was to Dudbridge to visit Patricia, and back again to Ebley.  We have a short list of things we discovered and will need to work on soon, but none are critical or urgent – we'll be doing them over the next few weeks.

We're very pleased with the new tug, and are looking forward to working with the dredging team to decide how we will work together moving the mud hoppers.

23 July 2018

Pat's Progressed

Today was the day when our Patricia left her home at Western Depot and headed east out into the great narrow world.

At 07:25 this morning, the vehicles required to lift and transport her began to arrive.  The lift followed very closely the reversal of her arrival from WD car park to the awaiting lorry occupying the bus stop on the road outside.
Steps were taken to ensure that the crane driver, unfamiliar with the area, arrived safely at Wiggles Yard following a lead car.  Here, Tug Boat Margaret was waiting its turn for a lift over the wall.  It seemed that there was probably a discussion taking place along the lines "What do you need this for, there is already a crane here!"
However, the big one was chosen for the job.  With public control in place on the towpath, the lift commenced.  One uncertainty was just how much depth was available for the boat to float in.  There were places where many bubbles emanated from the canal bed and broke the surface, a sure sign that you've landed on mud.  Eventually, after two or three trial placings, a point further away from the wharf proved o.k., from which Patricia was able to turn the prop' and move forward.
A short while later and in the presence of her generous sponsor, Tug Margaret was also lifted into the water.   Being slung with fabric straps, she sailed off her lifting gear and quite soon headed away to Ebley.  Quite a crowd had gathered by this time to watch proceedings from nearby.
One minor mishap was the damage to a hydraulic connector on the clam bucket rotator sustained, probably, last week when the boom was parked.  It had not been possible to fully assess the complete movement envelope of the three pivot point coupling.  We identified that a small piece of the bracket needed removing, which we did and then studied other bucket situations and any likelihood of further damage.  None was found.  A handy battery powered angle grinder did the job.
Soon it was time for a small team celebration.  A bottle of bubbly was opened and with great care and forethought, we launched the cork in the direction of our estranged project leader.  So, Bob.  Has it landed near you yet?
Moving around was quite difficult as the mud and silt is never far away.  Lack of canal use certainly compounds the problem.  We moved into Dudbridge Lower Lock and eventually proceeded to the upper lock.  For some reason, there is a power supply issue on Pat.  The batteries are not charging correctly.  This caused the engine to conk out on a few occasions.  The solar panel helped matters, but not before we had borrowed the battery from Margaret and received a push into the lock from her.

Patricia is now resting in Dudbridge Upper Lock.  We could not easily get out of the lock due to silt above the gates and time was running short.

So, a few teething problems to sort out.  The stability dynamics of the craft are most interesting and will require a better understanding.  Plenty to interest us in the commissioning and trial stages.

20 July 2018


by: Ian Moody

Yesterday we split the team in two and worked on two sites.  One team headed over to Dock Lock to complete the stock fencing beside the towpath and to continue the rebuild of the original spill weir.
The second team stayed at Wallbridge Lower Lock to finish the blockwork retaining wall in the yard and also did a bit of Heras fencing up at Brimscombe.
Rumours that we were joined by Ken Dodd’s younger brother cannot be confirmed.