The Start of the 2015  Year.......................................

January 2015.............

After finishing the front of the Morris Commercial off by fitting of a new o/s front kin pin and bushes, removel of the two front wings to repair and spray in gloss black. I started the New Year by stripping down the Ford Model A Coal Truck. I had three problems with this truck to sort out. The major problem was to much free play in the steering, it's been getting worse over the last few years to the point it's getting frightning sometimes driving down narrow country lanes with the truck wondering from side to side !

I also have a exhaust manifold gasket blowing plus the front wings are cracking up due to exssesive viabration when going down these roads.

So, after removing the o/s front wing which is held on by 12 bolts I put the wing on the table in front of the fire for now. I realy wanted to have a close look at the drop arm which by waggling the steering you can see the drop arm going up and down ? I suspect some wear in some bushes somewhere ?

So I started stripping the exhaust/carb manafold first so to make better room, it had got to come off anyhow because of the blown gasket. then took the whole steering column out and put it on the bench to have a close look at the wear in the drop arm. Yes, as I thought the bushes were very badly worn !

There are two bronze bushes pressed into the steering box casing which are     1 1/2" diaminter. I contacted Dave O'Niel from Leicester to order some new bushes, and exhaust mannifold gasket plus rings, they came to me within 24hrs of ordering !  

The site of Dudley Canal Trust new Visitor Centre "The Portal"

Friday 6th February 2015. Len Crane's Funeral at the BCLM.

Friday 6th February 2015 it was Len Crane's Funeral. 

There must have been close to 500 people who tuned out for this to cellebrate Len's Life from 1933 till 2015.

His body was carried in a Vintage Hearse supplied by A&A Walters Funeral Directors of Sedgley.

The Black Country Living Museum was the main venue which opened it's doors to the many guest's that tuned up from all over the country.

People started ariving at 12 midday at the BCLM Len's two steam engines, the Crane Engine and his Burrell Showmans Engines were looking all bright and shiney and in full steam, the lorry Organ was playing fairground tunes the whole day. Also there was Len's other crane engine which Robert Bate's owns now (Len used to own this engine) This made a great backdrop in the cold sunshine with their jibs high and carring a wreath on each hook.

At 12.40pm The Vintage Hearse arrived with Len in the back followed by the Limousime's with Len's Family inside. Just for a moment the hearse stopped just under the two wreaths then the Steam Whistles started blowing off as they were leaving which was nice to see. 

At 1.30pm The Vintage Hearse pulled up at Gornal Cremetoriam where there must have been around 200 people waiting, a 1/2 hour service proceded after everybody just manage to squeeze in the building, seating was only for 85 so it was standing room, anywhere you could find !

Later it was all back to the BCLM for the Wake and a cup of hot tea and free Fish & Chips plus speaches of funny stories that Len got up to over the many years involved in the steam world this lightend the mood somewhat. By 4pm people were starting to wonder away back home. 

March 4th.  The View along Daytona Beach, U.S.A. @ 85 deg f.

On Tuesday March 3rd, 11.15am We flew out of Manchester Airport on a Virgin Atlantic Jumbo Jet. 9 hrs later we landed at Orlando International Airport. After picking the Chevy hire car up from the Airport we drove 70 miles due North East to our first Motel in Daytona Beach, by now we had been traveling around 22 hrs so we just crashed out in bed at 10pm (USA Time).

The next morning I was awake at 5am (due to my body clock all over the place !) I went outside which was still dark but warm around 60 f. During the day we had a bit of a rest and a look around Daytona, Harley Davison Bikes were starting to gather on street corners plus cruising up and down the coast road all day, little did we know this was the start of Bike Week where over 6,000 Harleys were due to arrive.

On Thursday 5th we drove around 65 miles South to The Kennedy Space Center

 Upon arrivel we walked around the Rocket Garden (ABOVE) where all the full size Rockets stand on show, it's supprising how big they are next to us humans ! We jumped on the coach that took us around all the launch sites which are 5 miles apart, the driver telling us what rockets took off from the sites plus the Shuttle site, plus how they get rockets out to a 5 mile site by a giant Catapiller Crawler doing 1 mph along a gravel roadway. We finished off at Atlantis where we had a 3d film about the invention of the Shuttle plus looking at the real thing which was on show with all it's loading doors open. The photo on the left are the two rockets and fuel tank that launched the Shuttle. 

March 6th. Me holding a 4 month old Alligator at the Everglades, South Florida.

The Next day (Friday 6th March) We drove around 250 miles going South through Miami all the way down to Homestead where we stayed 2-nights in a Motel right next to the Speedway. We were only about 20 miles away from the Everglades and as it was only Lunchtime, so we decided to book into the Motel First then drive to "Gator Park" to have a ride on an Air Boat to see some Alligators.

Not ever seen these Air Boats I was fasinated by the power plant, they were using a 500 ci big block Cadliac V8 engine which was powering a 4 ft propeller to push the boat along, they only operate in about 6" to 12" of water and can get up to speeds of 50 mph......sometimes sidways !!! It was a good thrill ride.

Anyhow, we did manage to see some wildlife when we finaly stopped, plus a few Alligators. 

During the Weekend we drove 250 miles South to the bottom of Florida Keys. first spending the Saturday at Isamorada, swimming in Florida Bay and seeing this Sunset later on.

Then on the Sunday we drove over the Longest bridge I've ever been on.....It was 7-miles long which got us to Key West, the most Southern point of America. During these two days the weather was not that kind to us with some heavy downpours which only lasted a few minuits and 88 deg f temp made it all evaporate minuits later. When at Key West we did the posed bit by having our photo taken by the monument on the most southern tip which was only 90 miles across the Atlantic to Cuba.

March 8th........ The Seven Mile bridge to Key West.

  • Having reached rock bottom at Key West it was time to turn around and head North back up through Florida Keys, staying at Harbour Lights Motel in Islamorada for Sunday night. The next Day (Monday 9th March) we drove about 300 miles, making our way back onto the main land and up through the Everglades heading to Naples which was on the West Coast of Florida. It was very posh around here, Not a Burger joint to be seen for miles ! Only expencive houses. We then went North up the coast road towards Tampa Bay in search of a very dificult to find Motel (Not many around here) Having paid well over the odd's to stay overnight we decided to head inland to Orlando where the accomodation was a lot cheaper to find. Having found our Motel 6 and booked in, we proceeded to go to Disney World for the rest of the day (Tuesday 10th)

We got in for around Lunch time and spent all day and some of the night there till it close down at 10am.

Wednesday 11th March) Having walked our leg's off in 90 deg f heat yesterday we decided to put our feet up around the pool of the Motel for the day, plus booked in for another night.

The next day we got up early and drove 120 miles North to Gainesville.

March 12th to 15th The Gatornationals at Auto Plus Raceway, Gainseville in Florida.

We Arrived at Autoplus Raceway at Gainesville at 2pm Thursday 12th March.

This is the Third round of the Pro Cars and the first round of Pro Stock Bike, plus Pro-Modified.

The last time I saw a Drag Race meeting in America was Indianapolis 1983 where Top Fuel was running e.t. 5.50's@250mph and Funny Car was running e.t. 5.70's@245mph  Using around 4,000 h.p.  In fact, back then we saw the first ever (16) Five Second Funny Car field. Pro-Stock was running e.t. 7.30's@190mph.

 

32 years later and Top Fuel are running e.t. 3.70@325mph.  , Funny Car running e.t. 3.98@320mph (on a 1,000 feet) Using 10,0000 h.p.  Pro-Stock car e.t 6.45@219mph (1/4 mile)

 

Thusday was Sportsman Qualifing, which gave us chance to do some shopping before the mad rush in the next three days. Plus we managed to find our friend Tony (Chunky) Morris in the Sportsman Pits, who was driving an 8.90 e.t rear engine Super-Comp dragster who had qualified for the 74 car field, his first round was 8am tomorrow morning !

March 12th. Tony (Chuncky) Morris Who I had not seen for around 25 years ! in front of his Super-Comp Dragster.

Friday 13th March.

 Tony won his first round in Super-Comp. 11am first round of Pro-Qualifing.

Tony Shumacker ran a best of 3.84@318mph in Top Fuel for Q1 at the moment, Criuse Pentrigon ran a best of 4.02@322mph for QI in Funny Car. Chris Mcgayha ran a best of 6.51@220mph Q1 in Pro-Stock. Angel Sampay in Pro-Stock Bike Q1 6.88@196mph. Those times were the best today. They finished off at 5pm with a pair of Jet Funny Cars which ran 5.51@285mph

Saturday 14th March. It's going to be a hot one today, Having got to the track at 10am, we made our way into the stands, At 8am Tony won his second round of Super-Comp, but lost in the 3rd round.

11am was the start of the 3rd round of Pro-Qualifing and the track temp is 110 deg f with 88 deg f air temp ! Most Pro Cars are loosing traction due to the hot track conditions and not bettering their times they did on Friday apart from Shawn Langdon who ran Number 1 Qualifier 3.76@324mph and Matt Smith in the new Victory Pro-Stock Bike No1 Qualifier 6.84@197mph

Then in the last round of Top Fuel, Larry Dixon who was driving for Bob Vandagriff launched well off the Starting Line then as he was aproching the finish line at 280mph the Dragster broke in half ! The front half went into Doug Kallitta's lane whilst the back half (with Larry in it) went Skywards toping around 200 feet ! They said he flew about 1/8th of a mile down track before crashing down to earth sliding down the concrete crash barrier in the shut down area, Larry got out of the car okay with just a sore back and a bruised knee !!!!

The Car was writton off.  (See photo below)

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_OHeHmVOJY See this crash on You Tube.

I did not take this dramatic photo, but you can clearly see the impact against the concrete barrier after Larry Dixon went Higher than the Grandstands !

Sunday 15th March. Elimiations Day. We got in at 9am to get booked in with Darell Gwynn to go on the Track Walk.

At 10am we and 400 others go on the track walk (All for Charity) We me some of the drivers who came with us, John Force, Alex Dejoria, Dell Worsham, Leah Pritchit, Larry Dixon, Angel Sampay, Steve Johnson,  The track temp started at 82 deg f but by lunch time it was 112 deg f with an air temp of 89 deg f ! boy, it was hot in those stands.

The National Anthem was sung and the paratooper flew in to start the first round of Top Fuel, the place was packed with people.

By 5pm All the Finals had been run.........

 

PRO-WINNERS.

Top Fuel.......Spencer Massey.

Funny Car.....Ron Capp's  (Photo on the right)

Pro-Stock.....Greg Anderson

Pro-Stock Bike....Karen Stofer.

 

 

I could not resist grabbing a "Wally" Trophy and doing the posed bit.

Monday 16th March.

We drove about 50 miles South to Ockla to see the Don Garlits Musuem of Speed.

Having paid $20 each I found it very interesting looking around the old Drag Racing Cars from the mid 1940's (After the 2nd World War) up to present day.

It was nice to see other drivers cars in the Museum, like Shirley Muldowney's Top Fuel Car, Kenny Birnstins T/Fuel car that was the first to run over 300mph and Jungle Jims Funny Car.

Plus Don's many Top Fuel Cars, I think at the last count was up to 34 ?

His lastest Top Fuel Car is powered by Batteries.....Yes, it's an Electric Dragster that Don (At 83) is driving himself, he's looking for the first 200mph with this car, so far it has reached 186mph in around 8 seconds.

I Met the Ledgend himself Don Garlits who's 83 now and still active in Drag Racing

On Tuesday 17th after staying the night in a Motel in Daytona Beach we started heading 70 miles back to Orlando International Airport for our flight at 8pm. In all we did around 1,200 miles around Florida with petrol at £1.50p per gallon it did not hurt our pockets to much..................

 

Due to tech problems we had to change planes which unfortuatly landed us 9 hours later at Gatwick which meant a 5 hour coach trip up to Manchester Airport to collect the car to drive back down the M6 rush hour getting us back home for 6pm !

Okay it's back to 4 mph stuff now !  Saturday April 4th / 5th. A small gathering of boats at Tipton.

After getting the Morris through it's MOT on Tuesday 31st March (Which passed okay)

On Good Friday we moved both Sagitta & Bittell plus the Flying Scott boats just up the canal to Tipton and moored outside the Neptune Center in Owen Street.

Around 30 boats gathered on the cut around the area, 8 of them were working boats in the Form of SAGIITA, BITTELL, FLYING SCOTT, SCORPIO, LEO, ATLAS, MALUS, ROACH.

Public was a bit thin on the ground, the weather was dry but overcast and cool.

We all went out on Bittell & Flying Scott during the Saturday to collect floating rubbish around the Old Main Line Canal. I also took my Morris Truck.

See photo on the right, a model of a Morris Commercial on the roof of Sagitta !

Easter Bank Holiday Monday 6th April. "Wings and Wheels" @ Halfpenny Green Airport.

After packing up the boats and takeing them back to their moorings at the Black County Museum the next day on Bank Holiday Monday we set off to Halfpenny Green Airport with the Morris towing the Dodgem Car.

During the week Hank Redfern fitted some new L.E.D. Lights to the Dodgem and as the car has not been out for some time since that Prom night I did back in July last year I felt it needed some running around time. This place with it's hard concrete and tarmac roads were ideal (As long as you missed the pot holes !) The car performed well all day much to the delight of the paying public.

Weather started of dull, overcast (Misty) and a cool wind, but by late morning the sun came out and heated the day up to around 19 deg c. There were a good turn out of public to see the many vintage cars and aroplanes. 

April 18th/19th. B.C.N. Clean up at Sunny Smethwick.

Some months back, I found a large bale of recycled plastic floating in Blowersgeen lock.

Me and an employee from Canal and River Trust did try to lift it out but gave up due to the weight of it ! I said we should just tie it up to a tree on the offside and leave it till we take the boats on the clean up where Barry could lift it out of the boat with his HIAB when we get to Smethwick. The only problem was getting it into the boat in the first place. So one day John Rudge and myself floated the bale attached to the joey boat into my lock at Parkhead, put some scaffold poles across the lock, floaded the lock which bought the boat up and the bale, wrapped chains around the bale and to the poles, then dropped the water out of the lock as so to lower the boat and let the bale hange in mid air......we then floated the boat under the bale then floaded the lock again so that the bale landed in the back of the boat, the boat went down about 3 inches and looking at the bend in the poles I would say we had about 1/4 ton there !!

Saturday 18th April. 11 DCT Volunteers arived at 10am at the Black Countery Living Museum so Bittell towing the Flying Scott joey boat set off along the Old Main Line Canal at 10.30am, picking up floating rubbish on the way to the clean up

As we approched the Stewart Aqueduct we spotted some piles of rubbish that the 100 plus volunteers had pulled out that morning, We started chucking the stuff in the joey boat, by 1pm we had reached the top lock at Smethwick where we tied up the boats for a break. at 2pm we set off down the Smethwick locks in search of more rubbish, we only got as far as Smethwick Junction before the boat was full.

I was also handed an old wet oily smelly sack which contained the stock of a sawn off shotgun and unused cartridges !

When I got back to the skips I quickly handed this over the aurthoritys.

 After securing the boats for the night, we set off home in the vans at 5pm. 

Sunday 19th April.  We had 9 dct volunteers turn up at the boats today, Barry had  unloaded the joey boat first thing this morning, so having an empty boat we set off back along the Old Main Line and down the 3 locks at Spon Lane, did a sharp left turn onto the New Main Line towards Birmingham, breasted the boats up to start picking up the piles of rubbish off the towpath, by the time we got to the Elivated section of the M5 Motorway where there were piles of rubbish the boat was full again.....So, the main objective now was to get unloaded so we can get home later. After bringing the two boats back up the 3 Smethwick locks I towed the boat across the Smethick Aqeduct so that Barry can unload the boat with the HIAB, Tony told me we had shifted around 40 tons this weekend ! By 3pm we were on our way back along the Old Main Line (Again) and down 3 Brades Locks onto the New Main Line, Through 2-mile of Netherton Tunnel, we got back to Parkhead at 6pm.

Bittell makes the tight turn into the Engine Arm with a full load of crap on board the Flying Scott. (Photo Ann Johnson)

Our boat load being emptied by Barry from Canal & River Trust.

April 25th. Bittell on it's way down the Staffs & Worces Canal to Stourport.

After the BCN Clean Up (Monday) I started work on Bittell's Oil Leak from the Oil Cooler pipes, changing some fittings I managed to seal it up, after that I serviced the engine. Tuesday, I got the power wash out to give the tug a good blast off from all the canal mud that was thrown all over it during last weekend, plus power washed the engine off, cleaned everything up after. Wednesday, we bought Sagitta around from the BCLM to Parkhead. Thursday, I serviced Sagitta's engine plus did other jobs to the engine and cleaned the cabin up. Friday, 8am We started moving Sagitta down the locks to Stourport. This time we had decieded that Sagitta should have a head start on Bittell. Sagitta moored up at Stewpony Wharf (next to the lock) on the Staffs & Worces Canal by 1pm.

 

Saturday 26th.....We started out at 8am with Bittell ( 5 crew)from Parkhead, in the meantime Sagitta (6 crew) started out from the Stewpony Wharf at 9.30am with a 5 hour and a 29 lock head start on us.

Bittell got to Stewpony Wharf at 12 midday (not bad !) By now Sagitta was down by Wolverley Lock, We pushed on.........

As we were coming into Stourport towards the last lock today (number 39) York street lock we could just see Sagitta going into the lock, We moored up just as Sagitta was leaving the lock, We had traveled about 20 miles and 39 locks and caught up with the back of Sagitta, which means the Handicap System DOES WORK SOMETIMES ! Both boats are now moored together in the Basin by the Lock Keepers Cottage ready for the River tomorrow.

Sunday April 26th, On our way to Droitwich down the River Severn.

We all arrived at Stourport after dropping some cars at Kidderminster Railway Station first.        At 10am we fired the boats up and started getting into the first of the two wide locks where we strapped both boats together using ratchet straps, I can get them tighter by using these straps rather than the ropes we normally use. So with both boats set on half throttle we motored down the River Severn going through two river locks untill we have to make the very tight left turn into the bottom wide lock of the Droitwich Barge Canal. As we aproached the turn with Bittell on the inside in reverse and Sagitta in forward gear we spun the boats around with no problem at all straight into the bottom wide lock which was the first of 9 locks going uphill for a change.

The weather forcast today was going to be heavy showers but we did not see any ?

It was gloriouse sunshine all day which made the trip very plesent. It was nice to see they had done some dredjing along this canal which made our progress even better, by 3.30pm we had reached our destination in the Marina at Vines Park, managing to reverse the boats onto the pontoons okay, there were the usual audiunce waiting for us to give us a cheer and a drink.    Then a 10 minuit walk to the Railway Station, we all got on the train to Kidderminster where our cars were waiting to take us home.

Over 2nd/3rd Bank Holiday May weekend 42 boats were on show in Vines Park including Classic Cars. The weather over the two days were mixed, Saturday was overcast and cold with odd light showers, Sunday was a lot warmer but with heavy showers and some sunshine thrown in.

I made up a portable floating Tunnel Gauge so we can gauge some of the boats that might be able to go through Dudley Tunnel, but with an air gap from the water line to the top centre of the gauge set at 65" limited the amount of boats that could go through, the n.b. HELEN DID FIT....Just  !  On the Saturday I also took the Dodgem Car to run around the tarmac roads in the park. Sunday at 4pm Sagitta started working it's way up the 7 locks and moore up on Handbury Junction after getting stuck in the top lock at Handbury due to a pinch point, which they had to use the chains to pull the sides of the hull in to release the boat from the lock !!! We also moved Bittell through the swing bridges & down the Park a bit further and tied it on the side of n.b. SWIFT so we could get a slighty quicker start in the morning.

May 4th (Bank Holiday Monday) After leaving cars at Stourbridge Junction we all jumped on the train and traveled down to Droitwich at speeds up to 90 mph ! getting us there in half an hour. A 15 min walk from the station down through Vines Park and onto the boat we left with Bittell at 10am. This time going up the narrow locks towards the Worcester Birmingham Canal. The weather today was nice, warm, (17 deg c) with lots of sun. Sagitta had left at 8.30am from Handbury Junction so that ment they had 1 1/2 hour, 7 lock head start on us, so I would say there were no way of catching her this time ! By 4pm we had reached our destination at the Top of Tardebigge, We had done 50 locks today in 6 hours ! We traveled down by train at 90 mph and came back at 4mph in 6 hours !! Sagitta was waiting for us at Taredibigge who had got in 1 hour before us. From here Sagitta is intending to go down to Crick for the end of the Month. Whilst Bittell will stay on the BCN and go around to Hawne Basin for next weekends event.

Wednesday May 6th.  Bittell started from the top of Tardebigge at 9.30am going straight into Tardebigge Tunnel. The weather today was not good.....Wet / Windy and cold ! It felt like the middle of January not the begining of May !

Today we are heading for Hawne Basin in Halesowen for their Open Weekend. The good news is that we don't have to do any locks today as we did more than enough on Bank Holiday Monday.

We are on the lower Birmingham level so it's a 35 mile long trip round the long way via Birmingham and many tunnels to navigate. Infact we have to go through 8 tunnels today starting with Tardebigge Tunnel, Shortwood Tunnel (see photo on the right) Wast Hill Tunnel, Edbaston Tunnel,  Broad Street Tunnel,  Galton Tunnel,  Netherton Tunnel and last of all Gosty Hill Tunnel.

Having got to Gas Street in Birmingham for 1.30pm in the rain, we pushed on up the New Main line, as we were going down the Dudley Number Two Canal towards Hawne Basin we caught up with Atlas and Phoenix just before Gosty Hill Tunnel, we got into the Basin at 5pm.                      

 

That's 7 1/2  Hours to do 35 miles and 8 tunnels.

May 6th. Bittell caught up with Atlas just coming out of Gosty Hill Tunnel in Halesowen. The Factory, Stewarts and Lloyds is just to the left which is slowly disapearing among the trees.

So, We managed to do this ring from Parkhead to Hawne Basin doing 90 miles, 102 locks and 10 tunnels in 4 Days.

8th May. The steelwork has started to be erected for the new Visitor Centre at Tipton.

9th/10th May. Hawne Basin Open Weekend.

During the weekend of the 9th/10th May Bittell attended the Coombswood Open Weekend at Hawne Basin, Halesowen. Bittell was moored down the bottom of the Arm ( On the main Dudley No 2 Canal) which at the moment is a dead end. Untill Bittell had a towing job to do, Ivor Chambers was doing a Horse Boat Demonstration using the Butty "Malus", the horse was towing "Malus" down towards the Stewart and Lloyds steelworks, winding and coming back,, but as most of you know the horse could not go all the way back to Hawne Basin due to fencing and boats in the way, so we used Bittell to tow the Butty into the basin and wind around thus returning it back to where we had found it so Ivor could do another run in the afternoon.

 

.........Bittell towing "Malus" through Burton bridge backwards

Wednesday 13th May, 12 o clock miday saw us leaving Hawne Basin with the Tug Bittell, The photo on the left is Bittell just going into the 500 yards of Gosty Hill Tunnel. At 1.15pm we were entering the Netherton Tunnel of two miles long, by 2.15pm we had reached the bottom lock at Brades where we went up three locks there. At 2.45pm we entered the six locks at the bottom of Titford flight which took us about half an hour to assend and tied Bittell up by the Pumphouse at the top ready for this weekends rally. The weather today was very nice dry and hot (17 deg c) Took us 3 1/2 hours to complete. 

Bittell, just about to enter Gosty Hill Tunnel.

May 16th/17th Bittell at Titford Pumping Station, Oldbury.

May 16th/17th The BCNS had their Summer Rally of boats on the highest point of the B.C.N. With just over 65 boats booked in made it a popular event, The weather over the weekend was dry and sunny, I also took my Morris truck there and parked it next to the top lock during the Saturday.

Later on Saturday we took Bittell towing Bernard Hales G.W.R 65 Joey Boat up to Tiford Pools in a convoy of boats, I spent most of the time pulling other boats that were stuck in the shallow arm that lead into the pools, once we got in there we were okay, but as usual it was a bit of a battle to get up there.

...........................................Bittell towing G.W.R. 15

Bittell pulling Historic Narrowboat "DOVE" out of the shallows

Have a look at the You Tube Video on                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54pwy93cAPg

On Sunday 17th I took my Morris Truck to Bidford-On-Avon Steam Rally.

The Weather today was dry and sunny but with a cool wind made it a bit on the chilly side.

Around 350 exhibits were on show today, I lined up the Morris along with the other commercials that were on display. This was my first Steam Rally this year which made a change from all the boat rallys I've been doing just lately.

to be Continued on next Blog page......May to August.