.................................The 2012 Season...........................
Bittell in the Dry Dock at Caggys Boat Yard, Tipton.
This year started with a visit to The Moat House Pub in Reditch for a New Year get together of vintage Tractors, Steam Engines and other Classic Vehicles. I took my Morris Commercial Truck along.
During the New Year I spent most of my time building a Chassis inside my new project A 1960 Whittaker Dodgem Car.
During the Middle of January We had TUG BITTELL in the Dry Dock at Caggy's Boat Yard in Tipton. After doing some welding jobs to the Hull we cleaned all the rust off the hull and repainted it black.
In February I bought myself a new (Second Hand Car) off my mate Mick Cheley from Quinton in Birmingham. After my old Ford Escort est failed it's MOT on a rotten floor and sills. The Escort lasted well, I owned it for 17 years it was only 3 years old before I bought it second hand. Well now I own a 2007 Fiat Doblo 1400cc Petrol. It's basicly a van with windows but this car has been modified with a dropped rear floor and a fold down ramp at the rear to get wheelchairs in which is ideal to car to get my disabled Wife in the back to take her places. Plus it's very usfull to carry anything else like engines etc.
During the Month of March I serviced the Lister engines on Bittell and Sagitta
Steve blacking the stern of the hull on Bittell. 24" dia Propeller.
During April leading up to the Easter Bank Holliday Weekend Dudley Canal Trust took the Tug Bittell to the Historic Boat Gathering at Vines Park in Droitwich. It took 2 day's to get the boat there leaving Parkhead Locks where I live and traveling the canal system via the Dudley number one canal then turn left at Stourton Junction onto the Staffs & Worcester Canal all the way down to Stourport Basin. We navigated 44 locks which took us 9 hours to complete. The next day was easier as we went down the River Severn down to where we turned left and up the newly restored Droitwich Canal, we did 16 locks today. After finding a mooring spot among the 35 other Historic Boats we left the Tug in Vines Park for two days during the show.
During Bank Holiday Monday we started to move Bittell back home assending the rest of the Droitwich Locks then turning left at Handbury Junction onto the Worcester/Birmingham Canal carring on up the Tardebigge flight of locks in the pouring rain ! We did 48 locks this day, mooring up for the night at Tardebigge Old Wharf. The next day Bittell carried on through Birmingham finishing it's trip at the Black Country Living Museum.
During the following weekend I had the Joey boat "Flying Scott" towed through Dudley Tunnel then we all went off to do the B.C.N. clean up along the Walsall Canal. We had around 100 Volunteerers turn up to drag out scrap and rubbish from the bottom of the canal, we came along with Bittell and Joey to load up and take back to the skips.
During May Day Bank Holiday Bittell and Flying Scott attended the Tug Gathering at the Black Country Living Museum. We had 15 working tugs on show. Also My trucks, Morris Commercial and Ford Model A coal lorry was in attendance. We used the Morris Commercial to deliver a load of packing cases using the hand crane to unload them onto the wainting joey boat.
Inbetween the weekends I found I was haveing problems with the Morris Commecial truck. Driving to the BCLM and back home last weekend I was getting missfiring problems and lack of power ? On the Tuesday after the Bank Holls I stripped the Cylinder head off the block only to find the head gasket had blown between number two and three cylinders. Whilst waiting for the new gasket to turn up I gave the head a decoke and faced down the surfaces. By Thursday morning I had recieved a complete new Cylinder Head Gasket Set and fitted it all back together by Thursday tea time ready to drive to the next event at Bidford - On - Avon during Friday.
........The Burnt out head gasket......
The Second weekend in May I took my Morris Commercial, Supercars and Classic Caravan to Bidford-on Avon Steam Rally. During the weekend we ran the Supercars around the main arena I also got interviewed by "Coventry Radio" for a future broadcast. Later on that weekend I WON BEST COMMERCIAL TRUCK with my Morris.
The Third weekend in May I took the 1932 Ford Model A Coal Truck to the "Northern Forties" Weekend at Halfpenny Green Airport, Wolverhampton. Dave Shortland and Graham Howland also bought their Stationary Engines along running their lighting genorators. The highlite of the weekend was the Dinner and Dance in the large Aircraft Hanger when we had the Big Band Experience playing all 1940's music, all 300 people that were there ALL dressed in their peorid clothing to add to the atmosphere.
The first weekend in June was the Queens Jubliee Bank Holiday weekend. I was at West Park Steam Show all weekend. I took my 1960 Morris Commercial truck plus my 1961 Portafold Classic Caravan and the two 1935 Supercars, But new on the scene was my newly restored 1960 Whitaker Dodgem Car. I fitted a four wheeled Mobility Scooter underneath the dodgem so the car does 4 mph. On the Saturday of the show we drove the Red Supercar and the Dodgem Car around the 3 mile parade through the streets of Wolverhampton which as you can imagine turned a lot of heads......I found a photo of the two cars in Tuesdays Express and Star.
In June I had to take Gill and her friends to Ascot Racecource. 10 mile down the road was Brooklands Museum. I've always wanted to go there because I knew that the little Scooter Car was there. This was the one Jim Parkingson drove went around the World back in 1967. Around the rest of the Museum were old 1920 supercharged racing cars and moden F1 cars, I had a go in a Meclaren F41 simulater around the banked ovel Brooklands track. There were old airplanes dating back to the early 1900's plus the Concord expieriance. Then I had a walk to look at the massive banked concrete track that is still there, be it only part of it (Shame!) I was amazed how steep it realy was !
Brooklands Raceway. All concrete banked ovel.... You could not walk to the top because of how steep it was. Shame it's still not running !
Bittell's trip started at the Black Country Living Museum. The Tug went Via the Birmingham Canals then onto the Birmingham and Fazely Canal turning right at Fazley Junction Tamworth onto the Coventry Canal, then after a left turn at Hawksbury Junction we went on the Upper Oxford Canal until we got to Braunston on the Grand Union Canal. The trip there took 3 days and 3 days back, a round trip of 186 miles and 80 locks.
During the Months of July and August we were experiancing a very wet summer with many events eaither being cancelled or postponed to a later date.
On June 30th We (Dudley Canal Trust) in conjunction with the Black Country Living Museum hosted the Olympic Torch runner. We had our own Bittell and Sagitta open and on show all day plus the tripboats were doing regular trips into the Limestone Mines. The runner had been in Wolverhampton most of the day and was on his way down the Birmingham New Road who at 4.30pm turned into our car park and jumped onto the Steam Narrowboat "President" the boat left it's mooring just in front of the Dudley Tunnel and went into "Lord Wards Canal Arm" The runner jumped off "President" and ran through the Village having a Tram lift on the way up to the main entrance of the Museum.
In August the BCLM put on a 1940's Weekend around the Village. I took the 1932 Ford Model A Coal Truck there just to park in the street of the period village setting.
Around the rest of the village the Home Guard were on duty with road blocks checking everyones papers. During Saturday night the D.Day Darlings entertained us with all their 1940's singing and dancing in the building of the Workers Institute.
The Sunken Mud Hopper at Parkhead.
During the year we (Dudley Canal Trust) had been having workpartys to start getting Parkhead Locks tiedied up ready for the September rally. One of the jobs that needed doing badly was to remove the sunken Mud Hopper that had been outside the Cottage for three years. As we pumped this boat out it was very clear that it would not be worth welding a new bottom plate on the well rotted boat. So a decission was made to scrap the boat. Having first hired a crane and a Artic to move the boat to the scrap yard the boat weighed in at 14 tons.
On the first weekend in September Bittell and Flying Scot Joey got involved in the Tipton Clean up. This is normally a joint workparty between Tipton Community Assosiation (The organisers) Dudley Canal Trust and Birmingham Canal Navigation Society plus anybody else that want to come along to help. We normally do the bit between Factory Junction and the BCLM.
The second weekend saw Bittell at the Withymoore boat rally where we cellebrated Christmas complete with a three course Christmas Dinner !
The B.C.B.F. Brass rally plaque.
The Fourth Weekend in September was a busy time. The Welland Steam Rally had moved their weekend from the Postpound event which is normally on the last weekend in July. So on the Friday I drove the Morris Commercial down the Motorway to the Welland Steam Rally for the day, then on the Sat/Sun we took the Boat's Bittell and Sagitta to the Tipton Canal Festival plus my Morris was there as well with the Dodgem car on the back. On Sunday lunch time I went to the Mail Box in Birmingham to the Radio West Midlands Studio for a live interview with Carl Chinn to promote the the up and coming Parkhead Canal Festival.
On the weekend of the 29th/30th September we held our own PRARKHEAD CANAL FESTIVAL. This was organised between two Canal Societys, Dudley Canal Trust... Worcester/Birmingham & Droitwich Canal Society. With over 86 boats entered and over 50 vintage vhicles booked in a good turn out of public in the good weather everybody had a good time.
The Brass Plaque of the P.H.C.F. Of a boat going through Mr Bagleys Bridge at Parkhead.
The first weeeked in October was set aside to set up the Water and light Festival at the Waterfront, Merry Hill. Bittell went down there on the Saturday Morning with crew to decorate the boat, 16 boats were in the pradade on the Saturday night all going through the Shopping Center lit and decorated up.
The third weekend in October was the Stourbridge Open Weekend at the Bonded Warhouse. Over 100 boats came to the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Canal Arm. PLus I had my Morris, Ford, Tractor and Dodgem car there and the two Narrowboats Bittell and Sagitta. This would be the last event for Sagitta this year.
Brass Plaque Celibrating the 50 years of the opening of the Stourbridge Canal.
After getting both Bittell and Sagitta back from Stourbridge with our Volunteers the First weekend in November saw Bittell on it's way to Sunny Smethwick for the BCNS traditional Bonfire event. This Year cellibrating the 21st year of the event, over 86 boats turned up which were moored down the Engine Arm, Old Main Line and New Main Line Canals. This would be the last event for Bittell now for this year.
The BCNS Brass Plaque to celibrate the 21st Anniversary
On the third weekend in November I was invited to bring my Morris Commercial Truck to appear on the Morris Commercial Club Stand at the "Classic Car Show" Hosted by the N.E.C. Birmingham. This was the first time the Morris Commercial Club had been invited to this show so we were a bit limited on space. Only three trucks were allowed to be on the stand which included a T1 Tonner Breakdown Truck, A LC3 Luton Van and my own LC5 Flat Bed truck. I decieded to put one of the Supercars on the back for this weekend which provoked a lot of intrest, So much so the Judges deemed the Club "BEST SMALL STAND AWARD" to which the Committee from the M.C.C. were chuffed to bit's.
This Month I had a nice supprise when two Magazines did articles on my vehicles.
I had a 5 page article in "VINTAGE SPIRIT" On the Supercars.
And another 5 page article in "HERITAGE COMMERCIALS" On the Morris Commecial with part 2 to follow next Month. Both these articles were done by Alan Barns.
This is the last event for my vehicles now. We are getting close to Chistmas and the weather is turning cold and wet, I'm in the middle of building a bit of heat for next year in the form of pot belly stove built out of a gas bottle !