2016 SEASON

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 Crem​atorium 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.

Mick Cheley and myself traveled down by train from Birmingham New Street station, 2hrs later we arived at Watford Station where Steve Smy picked us up in the "Smy Van" to take us to the Crematorium, It was a cold dry day, We all assembled outside the church. 
Bare in mind we have not seen this gang of people since we all met in the early 1980's at Santa Pod Raceway where we ALL used to be involved in Drag Racing where we ran the "Mr SHIFTER" race car. We refered them as "The London Gang" where most of them lived around the Watford area, We often used to be invited along to a party or two around Christmas and New Year times, mostly at Chris Wick's house who used to Drag race the Sunbeam Alpine Modified car called "THE CAT" Chris's house was Ideal for partys because he had a Juke Box in his front room which was allways turned up to the maximum playing old songs, mainly Heavy Metal Music, later he fitted carpet to the inside walls of the lounge  to try and contain the noise to the inside of the room.
We all went our seperate ways somewhere around the early 1990's when I stopped racing And I don't think we have set sight on anybody from the London Gang since then, roughly 25 years ago !!!!!
Hence to say when we were gathering outside this church for Chris's Funeral ........Well let's just say we had ALL change a lot ! (Apart from Mick Cheley) I think we should have ALL worn name tag's just to make it a lot easier to recognise people !
Steve Smy, Richard & Val Lea, Dave Mingay, Andria, Derek Knight, Graham Barrs, Brian & Julie Pateman, Mick Chely, Not forgetting Parrish !
were just just some of the 70 people that arrived in church. After the 20min service we all went to the Wake which was held at the Tudor Arms in Watford  where it was great to catch up with people we have not seen for about 25 years. After catching the 4.15pm train from Watford Station we got back at 6.30pm to Birmingham, I got home at 7.15pm. 
 

 

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.

 
Tuesday 19th. 4- of us turned up today Chris Round, (pictured above) Ann Johnson, Tony Insull and myself to do a final clean off of the hull and to make a start on the painting. The first coat is the Important one, making sure you get plenty of paint in the rust spots and joints, we spent about 4- hours on this.
 
Wednesday 20th.  Since Monday the weather had gone very cold, it had been going down to Minus 3 deg at night plus freezing the water on the canal, as long as you wrap yourself up with plenty of clothes and put some good boots on your feet because of the wet mud in the bottom of the dock you can normally get on with the job okay. This morning after drying some of the water off the hull all 4 of us gave the hull another coate of bitumen black paint which we were done by luchtime.
 
Thrusday 21st. Again We all arrived to dry off the hull to give it another coat of black, So we managed to get 3 coats of black on the hull, leaving the boat to dry off well during Friday......Floading the dock on Saturday Morning to re-float Bittell.
Sunday 24th.   We collect Bittell on the morning bringing her back via the New Main Line, Netherton Tunnel, Dudley No 1 Canal back to Parkhead.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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.

Having checked the engine over which was siezed solid I found it had been robbed of all it's pistons and valve gear, (they must be rare engines if it's all been robbed !).  My job was to make up a trolley with large castors on the bottom to be able to move this engine around safely in the visitor centre.
Making the base out of 3"x 10" wood joist's I attached the four large bearing castors with brakes on to the bottom corners, plus I made some 4 boards to screw onto the sides of the trolley as so to hide the wheels and to stop people flicking the brakes off ! Having given it a coat of paint to tidy the engine up plus the base, I managed to get the engine into the back of my car, the engine weigh's around 1/4 of a ton which managed to squash my Fiat down well, dropping down the dissabled ramp the engine just rolled out onto the floor, I just wheeled the engine into the Lobby of the Portal to put on display on Friday 19th February.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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.

I've always liked these style of Chevy's trucks plus having a V8 fitted make it plenty powerfull. All I have to do now is to find a way of trailering the truck back up to me.
 

 

Tuesday 1st March. Mick Cheley and myself went to Braodway (Nr Evesham) to Buy & collect this Compition Altered Funny Car Altered.

100" Wheel base, with a 1938 Fiat Topolino tilt fiberglass body fitted, this was just a rolling chassis and body.
This has been bought as an unfinished project, the rest of the engine parts came in boxes, such as the 302 ci V8 Small Block Chevy which it bog standered, the 3-speed Turbo 400 Gearbox driving an Oldsmoble rear axle. The rest of the bits were stacked in the back of Mick's truck whilst we loaded the rolling chassis onto my trailer, On the way back we stopped outside Mc Donalds for lunch. Getting back to Lye at 2.30pm where we unloaded everything.
 
On Wednesday 2nd March, Due to being messed about from someone who should have bought my Ford Model A car on Ebay I had no choice but load the Ford onto my trailer and take the car up to Micks house, the weather was cold and horrible with driving rain and snow, Managed to get there okay after uloading we got the Ford A intohis garage until I can put on Ebay again.
 
 
 
 

 

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.

After collecting the JCB Electric powered Tunnel Tug full charged from "the Portal" (Our new Visitor Centre) we traveled through the two mile canal tunnel and moored the JCB In the Pensnet Arm and walked down to the bottom of the Parkhead Flight to collect the tug Bittell, after assending the three locks we connected up the tow rope and towed the boat through Dudley Tunnel, moring Bittell next to our other historic boat "Sagitta" in ready for the Royal grand opening of the Portal which is soon to happen on Monday 14th where Princess Ann will come along to unveil the plaque.
 

 

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.

It took me around 2 1/2 hours to travel down there via the M45, M40 and M25 Leaving at 6.30am on Sunday Morning we arived at the site at 9am and was greeted by a long que to get in......The place was packed with around three acers of Auto-Jumble to go through.
I was looking for bit's for my 1953 Chevy Truck and some bit's for the Altered......I found about 50% of what I wanted, it was a dry day but cool, manged to get home by 5pm.
 
 
 

 

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.

​4th April. I collected the Chassis from Roy's Workshop complete with new roll cage fitted. Roy had to do a lot of strenthing up below the roll cage as well.

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 !

Very gently we made our way to the skips at Ocker Hill Moorings to get unloaded, Later we went up to Walsall and got back late due to to a stubbon mattriess !
 

 

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 !

So armed with a car full of tools and pumps I got to the moorings at Ocker Hill at 9am only to discover he was telling the truth........
The first thing I did was to run long extentsion leads from the office to the canalside then put in the pumps i had bought with me, whilst those pumps were working, we put some sand bags on certain places to stop the water rushing back in. After a few minuits you could see a noticble difference in water levels, after about an hour BITTELL was floating again.
We then started looking for a leak from the hull area......Nothing ? Apart from the stern Tube leaking quite bad ! We can only suspect that it was this that caused the sinking due to lack of grease !!!!
After throwing all the loose stuff out on the bank......good job it was a nice sunny day to help dry things out a bit. We then (with help from Dave Newhall) start looking at the engine which was obviously flooded with water plus all the electrics. The first thing we did was to remove the alternator which I put in my warm car to start drying out, the starter motor inside looked dry ?.....we looked at the battery and it was still alive ! Then Dave took the two manifolds off and we pumped the water out of the cylinders by turning the engine over by hand with the starting handle, Pauline pumped out the water from the sump into a 5 gallon barrel, we cranked the engine over on the starter motor which pumped even more oily water out. After fitting the two manifolds back on I drained out the reduction gearbox which again was full of water. We also put new grease into the stern tube to stop that from leaking, Not trusting this boat, not to sink again Alex Parker bought me a new  battery and new electric pump with a float switch so we could rig up a auotomatic pump in the back of Bittell overnight. Hence to say we did not do any of the second day of the clean up, we worked on Bittell all day. I went back on the Monday to refill the engine ad gearbox with fresh oil.......I got to start the engine okay after I charged up the battery at home ovenight, Engine sounds okay........The oil in the engine and gearbox went milky after getting it warm......so it was all drained out again and refilled with more new oil......run the engine again.......oil looked a lot better now after warming it up......but still drained it all out again including the oil filter which acted as a good water trap without the elliment inside. Pauline came along to help, having had the fire in the stove lit for a while now to start drying the front cabin out, Pauline washed all the mugs up, plus other cleaning things. 
Tuesday 19th April.....I went shopping to get the new best SAE 40 oil and new oil filter then went to the boat to refill the engine again with new oil & filter after it had been draining all night. Got engine running okay plus lit the stove again. I also ran the boat up the Walsall canal to give it a road test.......everything was fine. So that's it, the BITTELL live's to fight another day ! 
 
​WELL THAT'S WHAT I THOUGHT !
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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.

There were times Bittell scraped the bottom of the canal which made the leak worse ! By the time we got the tug in the dock the water was realy pissing in ! SEE PHOTO.
 

 

​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.

Finding a steel curved patch was difficult but still needed to be modified to fit snugly around the bottom of the chine on the hull. and having a big job of grinding back the hull to some decent thickness took a lot of time as well, but perserverance continued.
 

 

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.

Now we have to wait till the chap who survey's the hull's to arrive on the 24th May to see how bad the rest of the hull is ? Then we go from there ! ?? 
 

 

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"

Those Attended were "ATLANTIC" COVENTRY" "CAGGY" "GOVENOR" "HELEN" "LAPLANDER" "JOANNA" "NANSON" SHARPNESS"
Weather was a right mixed bag with frosts at night, sunshine in the mornings, rain/hail & snow in the afternoons !!!
We (DCT) had NO Bittell there but the Flying Scott was in attendance, we used it to hold the wooden packing cases that my Morris Truck delivered on the canal side, then unloading the Morris using the hand crane, the crates were loaded into the waiting joey boat, Tug Coventry then towed them all out, and back again to be loaded back up, other towing of boats were happening over the weekend with Tugs towing long trains of joey boats in and out of the canal arm around the Museum. The star of the show was LAPLANDER Which is a little steam powered tug that dated back to 1890.
 
 
 

 

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.