The Year did not start very well when I learned that long time friend Chris Wick's had died afer a long illness with Cancer, he Died on 29th December. His Funeral Was on Thursday 14th January 2016 at 1.20pm, West Heats Crematorium in Watford. I started out at 8.45am from home this morning, Hence to say the traffic was bad going up to Quinton Where Snow had come down overnight.
16th January. Finished restoring the trailer. Over the last few weeks I put the trailer on my ramp to stip down the brakes and bearings, having fitted new brake shoes plus free off the hand brake, bearings were okay, just needed re-packing with fresh grease, plus de-rust the brake drums, new tyres fitted plus the spare I rubbed down the steel work to give a good coat of blue gloss paint all over. Checked the lights over and it's ready to hire out
Monday 18th January. Bittell goes into Dry Dock at Caggys in Tipton.
During Sunday 17th January a group of us collected the Tunnel Tug from the "Portal" to travel through the 2-mile Dudley Tunnel, Arriving at Parkhead, bought Bittell up the three locks to connect onto the Tunnel Tug to be towed back through Dudley Tunnel towards Tipton. Having disconnected the two boats at "The Portal" Bittell carried on and down the three Factory locks arriving at Caggys Boatyard in the afternoon, I reversed Bittell into possition to get her onto the dry dock. It's been about three years since we had blacked her bottom and it was over due to do this job.
Monday 18th. It took about 3-hours to drain down the tug onto the bostocks, then whilst it is still wet Ralph powerwashed the mud off the hull. After checking around the hull for any damage I proceeded to weld on 2- Anoides to the rear swim plates plus modify the rudder blade to stop it catching the rear counter, the hul was then scraped off where anything loose on it came off. The hull was to wet to paint today.
Thursday February 11th, Collecting artifacts from Walsall.
On Thursday 11th February I went to Walsall to collect some Canal Artifacts to go on display in our new Visitors Centre "The Portal" After dropping all the small items into the Pumphouse first I took the Alisa Craig 2- Cylinder 20 H.P. @ 1,500 RPM Diesel Engine back to work with me to start work on it.
Saturday 20th February. Went to see a 1953 Chevy Step Side truck.
On Saturday 20th February I drove down to Clacton on Sea to have a look at this 1953 Chevy Step side Pick Up that was up for sale. It was 194 miles from door to door which took me 3 1/2 hours to do. This Chevy has an 350 Ci (5,700 ltrs) V8 Petrol engine fitted with a 3-speed auto gearbox and power steering and is 63 years old which is just a year older than me ! we went out in the truck for a test drive which went very well indeed. Okay the body work needs tidying up a bit plus a few other jobs that need doing, I decieded to buy the truck.
Tuesday 1st March. Mick Cheley and myself went to Braodway (Nr Evesham) to Buy & collect this Compition Altered Funny Car Altered.
Wednesday 2nd March, take the Ford Model A car up to Micks house to make room out of my workshop.
Thursday 3rd March, the Chevy pick up arrives on the back of a flat bed truck.
Thursday 3rd March, The Chevy truck Came from Clacton On Sea on the back of a flat bed truck which was a 4 hour trip one way. After unloading the truck I got it around the back to see if it would fit into my workshop.....it fitted okay......I had measured it but untill it went in there I was not 100% sure at 16ft long and 75" wide I thought it would be tight fit. The body looks tatty with sight bits of rot/ stone chip's and scratches all over it, it realy needs a re-spray but Looking at the truck and bearing in mind I've got at least 4 months work on the Race Car, I decided it was not time to start another job so I think the best way would be just touching the paintwork up and giving it a good cut and polish up including the chrome work. In the meantime I managed to get the insurance sorted out and Hank Redfern to come and sort out the wiring in the Dashboard.....I do have a few instruments not working.....All these are cosmetic work that need doing, but will get there eventually.
March 4th. I started work on the Comp Altered Dragster, by first fitting the engine in the chassis, having to make up engine mounting plates to suit then fitting the Auto-Gearbox, the idea is to mock the running gear up to start with, the intention is to drop the body over the chassis with the engine fitted to get a centere hole drilled in the bonnet of the fiberglass shell so I know exactley where the air scoop is to be fitted, having removed the flip top body then work on the gearbox area to start making up a cross member/ shortened prop-shaft and propshaft protection loop.
To see more of the Altered restoration go to "My Vehicles" And click on "New Race Car"
12th March, Towing Bittell through Dudley Tunnel, Above Steve on the back of the JCB Tunnel Tug in Castle Mill Basin
Saturday 12th March Heidi And Myself towed Bittell through the two mile Dudley Tunnel.
Monday 14th March 2016. My Invite for the grand opening of our new Visitors Centre "The Portal"
Express and Star news paper cutting
Monday 14th March was a special day out, I was privlaged to be invited to the Opening of "THE PORTAL" By H.R.H. The Pricess Royal, Princess Ann arived on time at 11.15am who came in by Hellicopter and drove in by Range Rover for the last bit. I was in line with all the Trusteee's of D.C.T.T. To greet her and to shake hands with her, She insisted in shaking hands and talking with evrybody in the visitors centre, soon after that Princess Ann boarded the trip boat "George" along with all the Trustees, Directors, Press and other V.I.P.'S Including the Mayor and Mayoress of Dudley for a 45 miniute trip around the Limstone Mines and Tunnels, After gettng off the trip boat she went upstairs in the Portal to meet the School Children from Wren's Nest School, then went into the Gonzoolers Resturant to unviel the Plaque and do a short speach, Princess Ann left at 1.15pm, we then all piled into the very inviting buffet for lunch. The Weather for the day was warm and sunny, it could not have been better. .........I took the Photo on the right
Saturday 19th March, Training day for Volunteer's.
19th March, We, (Dudley Canal Trust) Had a boat Skipper training day Today,Around 12 volunteers turned up on a dull and cold day, We used our two historic Boat's SAGITTA and BITTELL. After explaining the correct way to fire up the engines we set off towards Factory Junction in Tipton, there we winded the boats with everybody tacking a turn to steer and wind the boats around at the junctions, by 3pm we had done several trip's up and down the canal, Photo on the right is Carol Turley steering BITTELL.
20th March, I went to Essex Raceway to an American Auto Jumble.
20th March, I went to Essex Raceway just off Junction 31 of the M25 To an Amecrican Auto-Jumble Sale.
March 26th. Easter Bank Holiday. Both Bittell and Sagitta go to the Tipton Boat Gathering where another 20 boats were moored up for the 3 days.
23rd March. After fitting the engine and gearbox into the Altered making up cross members, proshaft loop, battery carrier, towing point, cutting the old roll cage off the chassis and stripping all the paint off the rest of the chassis, I loaded the old Chassis up on the back of the Morris truck to take to Roy Wilding's Workshop in Oldbury for him to build a new roll cage onto the back of the chassis plus putting some strengthing bars below the roll cage for added protection.
28th March. Whilst the Chassis is away at Roy's It gave me chance to work on the bit's and pieces......I first worked and finished sorting the Gearbox out, then sorted out the rear axle, plus painted them both up (SEE RACE CAR UNDER "MY VEHICLES" FOR MORE DETAILS) Then stripping the Cylinder Heads down to de-choke, clean up, and grind in valves, plus stripping down the short block, checking and cleaning up, then rebuilding.
31st March. Engine now assembled and painted up ready to go in the chassis when it comes back. (It's a 302ci Small Block Chevy, 5 Ltr, approx 230 BHP)
3rd April. We moved Bittell from "The Portal" around the block to Parkhead, leaving it's mooring next to the Black Country Living Museum at 10am we got to the top lock at Factory by 10.15am Decending the three Factory locks by 10.45am we carried on down the "New Main line" turning right at Dudlay Port Junction then through the 2-miles of Neterton Tunnel (See photo, just coming out of Netherton Tunnel) traveling along the Dudley Number 2 canal we reached Parkhead at 12.15pm to tie the tug up in Jacks Arm.
14th April, Chassis was sprayed in two-pack paint, the car is now ready to be built now.
Saturday 16th April. On the BCN Clean - Up. On our way to Ocker Hill to get unloaded, just coming back from the Asda Supermarket with a bog off deal on trolleys !!!!!
16th/17th April. BCN Clean-Up on the Walsall canal. The Skips were based at Ocker Hill, we had around 80 volunteers turn up to do this job, We (DCT) Bought Bittell towing the Flying Scott Joey boat along from Parkhead Locks which took 2 1/4 hours to get to the top lock at Ryders Green Locks, having to split the boat's up to take down the 8 locks there, picking up rubbish off the towpath that the volunteers had pulled out, thing's were light to start with until we got to Asda in Great Bridge.....This we nick name "TROLLEY ALLEY" I bet there were 80 trolleys on the towpath there ! Well it was a squash to get them all on the joey, we had to start loading them onto the tug when we ran out of space !
9am Sunday 17th April, Bittell SUNK.......(again ! ?) This it how we discoved the boat that morning.
The Inside is totally flooded, plus the engine is full of water and all electric's shorted out, (Battery under water) !!!!!
17th April. I had a phone call this morning at 8.30am from Tony Duffield of "Canal & River Trust" to say that BITTELL HAD SUNK OVERNIGHT !
23rd April. We collected Bittell and Flying Scott Joey Boat from Ocker Hill, We are just coming out of the top lock at Ryders Green, But with a leaking Tug ! AGAIN !!
23rd April. 5-Crew turned up at Okcker Hill Moorings at 9.15am Saturday to get Bittell back to the Portal today. But as we aproached the tug I noticed it was leaning a bit and a lot lower than it should be ! AGAIN !! As I opened up the rear doors I saw about 1ft of water in the bottom of the boat ! The engine looked okay (Dry) So I started it up and got the 12 volt pumps working straight away, it took around one hour to get all the water out, but my main concern was "Where it was coming from ?" Looking under the engine with a light, I think I can see a slight weep, there is water coming in somewhere in that section of the hull ? So knowing I was passing a dry dock in Tipton I phoned up Ralph at Caggy's Boat Yard to see if the Dock was available, yes it was enpty at the moment, so without further a do we got going up the 8 locks with the two boats........keeping a cloe eye on this leak, I put my portable 12volt pump in place to pump the unwanted water out.
Sunday 24th April. Having drained the tug down onto the Stocks it gave me chance to look at this hole from underneath, it looked bad, plus with a chipping hammer managed to chip through the hull along the chine into many holes ! for around 1 foot ! Yes it was very thin where ithe hull had rubbed through. So, I got Brendon involved in doing this job as I think I'm not going to trust myself to weld this job up, Brendon is the best person to do this job as he does this for a living every day.
The crane is bought in and Bittell lifted out onto the bank.
April 26th. Bittell is craned out onto Caggy's Yard.
Tuesday 26th April the decission was to crane out the Tug Bittell after finding too many holes in it's hull ! Plus the boat was in the way of another booked dock boat waiting to get in, so a sticking plaster was put on to tempory seal the hull, to get it floating again until the crane arrived.
27th April. I sold my Fordson Tractor to a chap down in Penzance, Cornwall. Just loaded it up in Narrowboat Way for it's trip down South.
29th/1st/2nd May. The BCLM Host the TUG GATHERING Which is held every two years over the May Day Bank Holiday. 9- Tugs were in attendance, a bit lower than usual due to a few missing due to one thing and another, those missing were "ENTERPRISE" "PACIFIC" "OXFORD 2" "VESTA" and "BITTELL"
3rd May. Engine/Gearbox/Rear Axle all fitted into frame rails of the little altered. (See restoration of an old race car in "My Vehicles", for more detail)
14th May. Morris at Bidford-On-Avon Vintage Gathering.
14th May. I took the Morris and the Topolino body off the race car today to the Bidford-On -Avon Vintage Gathering alondside the river Avon. Weather was good, with the Sun out all day A slight North wind which kept it a bit on the cool side in places. A good turn out of exhibits were on show, there was a nice 1948 Studebaker truck there as well. The Topolino did create a lot of interest, I'm glad I took it.
25th May. Body now sprayed in two-pack base coat, start to put flames on the body now, see restoration of an old race car under "My Vehicles"
27th May. The flame job is done. Took around 8 hours to get the masking tape right, Mark sprayed the job with white, yellow & red Flames to give it that hot rod look, 2- coats of laquer went on top to give it that smooth finish.....looking nice, just need to sort out signwriting now, later on.
30th May. I went to Shackespeare Raceway to the Yanks weekend today. The Wild Bunch were there running their points round, weather was dry but cool & overcast, plus a strong headwind. Running in the Wild Bunch class was an old friend of mine from back in the 1970's Alan Loten who drives "PARANIOA" Running 9.50 et @ 135 mph. I had a good chat with the local Scrutineer about my Altered.
5th June. "Transport through the ages" at Himley Hall.
5th June was The First official show at Himley Hall called "TRANSPORT THROUGH THE AGES" I took my Chevy Step-side truck and the caravan, it gave me chance to give the caravan a good clean inside and out. A good turn out of exhibits and trade stalls plus the Black Country Live Steamers gave a good show as well, but the crowds poured in, there were thousands there with 22 deg c sunshine made the day.