2015........MAY ONWARDS.

May 24th. The new Visitor Centre (The Portal) coming into shape now. Note, the canal closed off to put a swing bridge across

Work started on this 3 million project back in January 2015 and has been in the planning stages for around 12 years now. The site is next to the Black Country Living Museum on the Birmingham New Road side. The Idea is to link up the three attractions of Dudley Canal Trust the Zoo and the BCLM by a road train link. Our new building which should be finished by September this year will house Trip boat ticket sales, Shop Sales, Gift Shop, Confrence rooms, Bar and Restaurant plus toilets. The canal has been closed off with a dam across it for about 6 weeks now so that the ground can be prepaired to put a swing bridge across so that visitors can access the new centre for boat trips into the Limestone Caverns.

An Artisit Impression of how the building should look.

Supercars outside Broom's Garage attracted plenty of visitors over the three bank holliday days.

Over the Whitson Bank Holliday (May 24th/25th/26th) I took the two Supercars to the Black Country Living Museum for three days. This was the first time out this year for the little cars,        I had the use of Broome's Garage which was a nice base to work from and to keep the cars inside overnight. The weather during the weekend was mostly dry and cloudy with some light rain on the Sunday morning. After rolling in on Saturday morning we set things up and gave the cars a good clean and polish. Just after lunch we did our first runs around the Village in the cars, I mainly wanted to try the new belt tentioner I made during the Winter to stop the belts slipping on the blue car, after some adustments it seamed to work well. The Museum was quite busy all weekend but Monday was packed out, the kids loved sitting in the cars to have their photos took by their parents. Later on Monday afternoon things were going quite well untill I heard a loud bang from the red car I was driving which locked up the rear driving wheel ! ?......  The Clutch had worked it's self loose and dropped off the engine !!!!!

I spent most of the time picking up bearings and broken bits off the road ! This is as bad as Drag Racing.......Coming home with a broken car !

 

The following Monday I rebuilt the clutch in the red car, plus made some modifications to run it a bit better and safer.

Thursday 4th June. Me posing for the Express and Star local Paper getting ready for Steamer Sunday.

7th June.  Steamer Sunday at Himley Hall. Martin Attewell photo.

Below....Full size and model traction engines in the line up at Himley Hall, Martin Attewell photo.

Sunday 7th June saw the Black Country Live Steamers at their club event organised by Jacki Wynn of Dudley M.B.C. In the 180 acre grounds of Himley Hall which way back used to be an old Medieval Manor until the Earl of Dudley had the Manor House built by Jack Ward in the 18th Century.

This place makes a perfect location for a photo shoot, especally when the sun is out on the front of the Manor House who is now owned by Dudley Council.

 

I myself don't own a steam traction engine, so I hear you say why am I a member of the BCLS  Club ?

Well about 15 years ago I must admit liking one of these little steam traction engines. The beauty of them they are easy to handle, easy to operate and easy to store. So not knowing a lot about how a steam engine works I decided to join a local Steam Club at which time they all met upstairs in the Bull pub at Lower Gornal, then later at the Bratch Pumping Station in Wombourn. This was the place they operated from and held events for many years under the leadership of their then President Len Crane. Until about 5 years ago when Severn Trent decided to close the Pumping Station Down due to Health and Safety reasons ! The BCLS Had nowhere to go until I suggested they move to Blowersgreen Pumphouse in Dudley which is the home of "Dudley Canal Trust" to which they are still there now.

 

I still have not got a steam engine as yet after 15 years, I've learnt that much about these engines that it sort of frightend me off them ! Well to put it another way......I don't think I could look after one properly ?  I have that many fingers in different projects and vehicles I could not stretch myself to run a steam engine as well, don't get me wrong, they are lovely things to look at but laying out many thousand of pounds and maintaing one is a big undertaking, yes , okay if that is all you own, but not for me......yet ?

 

Going back to the event itself......This is the second time we have held Steamer Sunday under sunny conditions, Hopefully this event will replace the lost West Park in Wolverhampton we all loved to go to, But we need more exhibits to come along and to make this into a two day event. 

Friday June 12th Sagitta arrives from Crick to Lansdown Park in Worcester. Photo. Martin Attewell.

Thursday June 11th. Bittell going from Parkhead in Dudley down the River Severn on it's way to Lansdown Park Worcester. Photo by Martin Attewell.

On Wednesday 10th June Bittell started out from Parkhead at 9.30am. 7 crew tuned out to help the boat down the many locks to Stourton Junction where the boat turned left onto the Staffs & Worcester Canal which just left three crew on board to do the rest of the trip, an overnight stay in Kidderminster saw Bittell get moving again on Thursday at 9am to head for Stourport. By 11.15am Bittell had entered the River Severn and was heading down stream.

By 2.30pm the Tug had turned left into the two wide locks at Digliss Basin when it only had to go up two more narrow locks to get to Lownsdown Park where the next event was to be held. Meanwhile, Sagitta had been coming from the Crick Boat Show over a period of a few weekends making Worcester on the Friday before the event. 

13th/14th June Bittell and Sagitta at Lownsdown Park in the Middle of Worcester.

Unfortuatly the weather for the weekend was not good, Having rained all Friday night the rain coninued during Saturday until it stopped about 2pm,  when a few public were starting to come around, but by then it was to late. About 35 boats were entered here. Later on Sunday Bittell and Sagitta was moored in Lowesmoore Basin the home of Viking Afloat for about 2- weeks.

Sunday 14th June, I took the Morris to Astwood Bank Steam Rally in Redditch. I was expecting a poor day, but as I got up the sun was out, the clouds blew over later that morning, it was dry most of the day until about 4pm when we started to get light rain. The show was a bit disapointing  with some of the sections low on attendance, plus lack of stalls again ?

But to my supprise I was presented with a trohpy for BEST COMMERCIAL. This "Maurice Allely Memorial Cup trophy " has only been won once before last year by a Mr S.Field with a Morris R Type. So I feel privlaged to have won this award which I have to get engraved and returned back in 12 months time to the Committee of Astwood Bank next year.

There were a good turn out of Traction Engines large and small. We had a fly past of 4 Spitfires/Hurricanes which they were in formation as they did two passes coming back from the Air Show at Cosford in Wolverhampton.

14th June. I won the "Maurice Allely Memorial Cup" for best commercal truck in the show at Astwood Bank, Reditch.

Wednesday 17th June. Carol and myself attended a Car Boot Sale at Stourbridge Rugby Club, Stourton. We arived at 6am that morning, we started selling stuff as we were trying to unload, I must have taken £50 in the first half an hour of being there, meanwhile Carol was next to me with her car unloading that. All these items came out of our Mom and Dad's house which we are trying to thin out with the intention of selling the house in the future. A nice dry day....just.

We stayed till packing up at 12 miday. I would say we sold about 60% of the items we took there.

Friday 19th June. I decided it was time to move the Fordson Tractor from my mom and dad's home in Greyhound Lane, Norton Stourbridge. The weather today was dry and sunny so today was the best day to do this job providing the tractor will start ?

The Fordson had been standing in the garage since back last October when I bought it back from the Bonded Warehouse in Stourbridge. I did put the battery on charge, fill it with fuel, check the levels and it fired up, first on petrol, reversed it outside and warmed it up before switching it over to T.V.O. (Nice Smell !) I started out from Greyhound Lane at 12.20pm at 7 mph I arrived at Canal Cottage in Peartree Lane, Dudley  at 1.30pm that was 1 1/2 hours to do about 5 miles !........... It was a nice day ! This is getting the tractor closer to the BCLM for their 1940's event in a few weeks time plus we neeed the space in the garage to put stuff in.

THE GERMANS ARE COMING AGAIN !!!!!

Look what dropped out of the sky last night and landed in my allotment ???

Don't panic Mr Mainwaring it's just a pretend bomb. I've just made it for the Black Country Museum 1940's coming event on the 18th/19th July. The idea is to plant this bomb somewhere around the Museum and for the ARP Wardens to stand and gaurd for two days. It's only made from a tall red propane gas bottle with the steel fins welded on the tail, paint it matt black and it's done, just dig out an 18" hole and set it at an angle to give the affect.

June 26th. I went to the Banbury Steam Rally for the day.

Tuesday June 30th A new Swing Bridge is delivered and lowered onto the Dudley Canal for the new Visitors Centre

Saturday July 4th we were back on the boats again, after leaving them down in Worcester for about three weeks we started out at 8.30am that morning with Bittell & Sagitta.                          In front of us were 56 locks which was a daunting prospect especially knowing it would get hot later today. (24 DEG C)

With 11 volunteers available we sent Sagitta up front, by 8.45am we were into our first of many locks, Sagitta managed to get stuck in two of them, which needed assistance from Bittell to get her in. then later on Sagitta managed to get a matriss around it's blades in a bridge hole !!

By 1.15pm we had reached Handbury Junction which Sagitta needed fuel, so it went in for a spash and dash, we also went in the pub for the same as things were beging to heat up by now.

By 7pm we had reached our destination for now at Tardebigge (where we had left some cars)

We intend to leave the boats here for a week now. 

Friday 10th July.  We collected Bittell from Tardebigge after dropping cars at Kings Norton Junction first at 8.30am that morning. 4 volunteers set off with Bittell at 9.10am going straight into Tardebigge Tunnel, about an hour later we stopped alongside Sagitta where it had been moored at Alvechurch, we got it started and followed behind Bittell. As we aproached the M42 Motorway Bridge I noticed a narrowboat across the canal which was looking a bit low in the water ?

As I got closer it was pritty obvious that it had been set on fire and SUNK !

The only gap I could see was to go down the off/side which can be shallow, Bittell got through okay followed by Sagitta....no problem. after getting through Waste Hill Tunnel we arrived at the event at Kings Norton Junction for midday.

July 11th/12th. Sagitta and Bittell at the Kings Norton rally.

11th 12th July saw the first rally held here for some years now.

Saturday's weather was dry and sunny all day.

The ground events happend on the playing fields just off the Pershore Road in Birmingham. About 42 boats were booked in that went around the Junction. We managed to get Bittell and Sagitta on the towpath but only just, as the depth is a bit on the shallow side.

I took my Morris truck to the show and parked it on display by Graham Howland and Dave Shortland's Stationary engines which were on show as well plus the many trade stands and the nessacery beer tent. During the late afternoon, paddy had some contaminated diesel he needed to get rid of, so 2- 40 gall drums were lifted out of the joey boat and lifted onto the back of my Morris truck so I could burn it in my oil fire during the winter months.

Sunday 12th July.

It was a very wet start to the day, we dropped off two cars at Todd's end Car Park before driving down in the pouring rain to Kings Norton. By now it was around 9.30am and it's still raining !

By about 11am things were drying up a bit and the sun came out. At 12.30pm we set off with Sagitta first which left me with sorting the rest of the boats to tie up after getting Bittell out, we then followed on with Bittell later. We caught up with Sagitta by the University who had also caught up with Atlas towing Malus who I know were stopping in the middle of Birmingham, we were making very slow progeress at this point until we got through B.ham which was very busy at the time. As we went under Sheepcote Bridge I opened up Bittell and got passed Sagitta and streaked ahead gaining about 20mins on her, the plan was to get Bittell up the three locks at Factory then walk back to set the locks for Sagitta, which worked just right, by 6pm we all rolled into the Black Country Living Museum ready for the next event next weekend.

12th July The New PORTAL Visitors Center coming on well, Roof is on and floors are in now.

Monday 13th July. Colllecting sea mine from Trevor Smiths Garage in Lye.

Getting ready for the 1940's event at the Black Country Living Museum. Some weeks ago I built a German WW2 Bomb, now the next project was a Sea Mine.......This thing was origanally a Sea Bouy which I borrowed off Trevor Smith of Lye.......I just welded on some 1" round bar, painted it Matt Black and transported it to the Museum on the back of the Morris truck. Using the hand crane to unload this steel ball that wieghed about 3 cwt I lowered it into the canal to see if it would float ?

It was a bit top heavy to start with but after lifting it again I chained on 2- 56 LBS Coal wieghts to the bottom of it so it would float the correct way up.

July 20th/21st. 1940's weekend at the BCLM. Lock up your daughters....The Yanks are coming !

Over the weekend of the 20th/21st July we had the 1940's event at the Black Country Living Museum in Tipton. The weather this year was great, hot n sunny all weekend. Thousands of people came to see this happen. I took my 1932 coal truck and my 1946 Fordson Major there plus Bittell was there also. Plus the 2- bombs I made as well. these bombs went down very well, especially the Sea Mine that went floating around the canal, this prooved plenty of exitment when the sirans went off and this Sea Mine came floating out under Broad Street Bridge, the local Home Guard found a way to lasso the mine and disarm it.

Things had been going well at the 1940's event untill I got out of bed the next morning.

You see this event went on till about 10pm on the Saturday night, so I decieded to sleep on the boat up the canal arm of the Museum, I woke up the next morning to find the canal level had dropped about 1 ft ?  Then a phone call from Mark off the tripping Co saying there was water rushing into Dudley Tunnel from the Tipton End !!!  I then drove around to Parkhead Locks to see what was going on......To my horror the whole place was flooded out.....Including the cottage !!!

The kids had wound a paddle up on the top lock and left it running all night !!!!!

I spent a good three hours cleaning up the mess in the cottage and repairing the towpath where the vehicles had to come up that night, later that week I had to buy a new carpet for the lounge. 

Bittell doing towing demonstration around the tight bend of Lord Wards Arm in the BCLM Towing two 70ft Joey boats and a 30ft tug behind. Total lengh 210ft. (including Bittell)

                       German bombs get everywhere !

I've towed some things around with Bittell over the last 25 years but never a Sea Mine !.....Photo Ann Johnson.

During the week after, On the Monday I started drying out the Lounge Floor after that I orderd a new carpet. Plus repaired the towpath better.

TUESDAY, I took the Morris to the BCLM and craned out the Sea Mine out of the canal which was loaded on the back of the truck and strapped down well, I did not want this steel bomb falling off the back of the truck on the Dudly By Pass bouncing down the road. I then retuned it back to Trevor Smith's Garage in Engine Lane Lye to be unloaded by his Coles Crane and put back in his yard.

WEDNESDAY, I had a lift to the BCLM to get the Fordson Tractor out of the Rolling Mills, This took me about 20 mins to drive home to Parkhead, plus got Bittell out of the Museum Arm and moored up on the Main Line behind Sagitta.

THURSDAY,  After getting some jobs done I took the Morris truck to Brierley Hill to pick up the new carpet and take it home to fit it in the lounge during the afternoon.

FRIDAY, Got the Morris truck ready to go down to Welland Steam show.

Saturday 25th July Welland Steam Rally. Traction Engine towed this 1918 Howitza 18" WW1 Gun from Wilkshire to Upton-On-Severn in the rain ! 

The weekend of 24th/25th/26th July is always the Welland Steam Rally. I took the Morris truck to the show just on the Saturday 25th due to the bad weather ! Set up day on Thurdsday 23rd was nice and dry/sunny But Friday was a complete wash out, They did hold the Auction during Friday but with not many punters around. I left at 8am on Saturday Morning with my truck in the pooring rain (Knowing it should dry up later on ) driving down the M5 in the rain was not good but as I passed Junction 7 Blue Sky's was noticed ahead, I pulled into the Rally site at 9.15am and parked up among the 200 plus Commercial Trucks that had arrived. After breakfast I had a good wonder around the auto jumble plus it was very intresting to see these Caterpiller Earth Movers in action The day tuned out nice with 20 deg c and sunny all day, the site dryed out well till I left at 5pm.

The Day after (Sunday) was RAIN !  It's a shame realy as normally the Welland show attracts nice hot dry weather.

On my way back from the Welland show I had a little mishap when reversing the truck back into it's workshop.

The Steering Wheel BROKE !! I've never broken a bakerlite steering wheel before ?

That same night I was on the Internet trying to locate a new steering wheel.......nothing ! which did not supprise me.

The next plan of attack was to see if it can be repaired ?

 

I saw a You-Tube video on "How to repair a cracked steering wheel" The chap used a special Epoxy Putty that's made in America to repair the wheel, I did find the Epoxy Putty P.O.R 15 located a company in California, but they needed 10 days to ship it over to me, so I hunted about on Ebay until I found a Company in Rochdale called Frost Equipment that stocked the Putty, after ordering it on Monday Morning it arrived Tuesday Lunch Time at a cost of £33.91p total price.

I did try to remove the steering wheel, but from my knollage it has never been off, I was frightend I would cause more damage to the bakerlite trying to get the wheel off.......So I decieded to leave it on. I then jacked up the front wheels so I could turn the steering wheel easy.  I decided to drill the bottom of the spoke to put a nut and bolt as extra strength, after that I used my angle grinder carfully to V out the cracks around the wheel being carfull not to touch the steel bar inside, then by mixing part A & B Of the Epxoy Putty together I pushed it into the gaps, with water on my fingers I smoothed it all out to get the right shape. Leaving it 24 hours to go off I then rubbed it down with wet & dry paper and water to get a lovely smooth finish, Later I dryed it all off to paint the filler parts with Matt Black.....JOB DONE.

After repairing the steering wheel on Wednesday, On Friday I took the Morris on a road test to Stourbridge and to load the truck up with stuff for Sunday.

August 2nd. TRIMPLEY VINTAGE SHOW. I took the Morris full of stuff to sell on the car boot sale, Carol (My Sister) also took her car (at the back of the truck) there as well full of stuff from my Mom and Dad's house. The weather was great at 21 deg c which really pulled the punters in to see the show. We did sell about 20% of the stuff, could have done better thou !

8th August, Steve towing Bittell through Castlemill Basin and into Dudley Tunnel.

Saturday 8th August. We towed Bittell through the two mile long long Dudley Tunnel.

Starting out at about 10.30am that morning, having to clean the blades off on the electric Tunnel Tug the "John C Brown" (JCB) We set off into the tunnel system at 11am behind a trip boat full of people going into the Limnestone Mines. I normally tow on a short rope to make things handel better, by about 12.20pm we had come out at the other end of the tunnel at Parkhead, After mooring the JCB in the Pensnett Arm we took Bittell down the three locks at Parkhead and moored her up Jacks Arm. Having a tea break next we walked back up the flight to the JCB, My first job was to go down the weed hatch to get tangled weed from around the proppeller, this I had to do three times before I went back into the Tunnel at 2pm we arried back at the BCLM at 3.10pm with another cup of tea waiting for us.

11th August. The Morris collecting this large steel shovel sculptor off Luke Perry at Solid Swivel in Cradley.

The Instlation team, Left, Luke Perry, Steve Bingham, Alex Parker, Richard Jones and John Rudge. Have a quick breather before we go into the depths of Dudley Tunnel. The Sculptor is wraped up in the middle of us on the bow of the Tunnel Tug.

On Tuesday 11th August we had the job of fitting this giant Spade Sculptor for Dudley Canal Trust. Luke Perry built this 10ft 270 kg steel spade as a thank you to all the volunteers that dug this canal tunnel/mines and Parkhead Locks out back in the 1960's and 1970's. I took my Morris truck to "Solid Swivel" in Cradley to collect this Sculptor with Richard Jones at 8.15am that morning which was loaded up the easy way by forklift truck. I then drove to Parkhead Locks to the waiting Tunnel Tug and six volunteers who helped lift this sculptor off the back of the truck and onto the JCB Tug which was situated outside my cottage. We then took the Tug up the three locks at Parkhead and into the depths of Dudly Tunnel till we moored the boat in Hurst Junction. We then lifted the 10ft shovel up in place on the portal of the 1984 tunnel entrance and bolted it down in place. By 1pm we had all finished that little job and went back to the towpath for a well erned cup of tea. The official un-veiling will happen later in OCTOBER.

Continued on next Blog Page, August onwards......................