Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sickle Loses a Cylinder.

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective post for 12th March)

Lister HA3
Whilst this post marks quite a significant milestone for "Sickle", I am at a bit of a loss as to how and try and make it interesting.  The short version of events is "Green engine in "Sickle" is replaced by a very similar looking green engine, differing really only by having one less cylinder", and hence any "before" and "after" photos show little of note to anybody, except perhaps those with a strong interest in engines of a certain age.

HA3 was 33 horsepower and the "13" identifies it as 1963 build
The story of how we bought an engine originally intended for "Flamingo", but which has now ended up in "Sickle" has already been told in a previous post.  It was actually not that easy a decision. Since its two cylinder water cooled Russell Newbery engine was replaced by a three cylinder air cooled Armstrong Siddeley engine in 1957, "Sickle" has only had 3 cylinder engines, including a Lister HA3 - the type fitted to "Sickle" during our ownership until now, but not the one fitted in British Waterways service.  The rationale of British Waterways using a bigger, more powerful engine than used in their carrying fleet, was presumably that tugs like "Sickle" regularly pulled multiple boats around, often ones heavily laden with dredgings and similar , and that the extra power was useful in that context.  The downside in a boat now in use in preservation is that these big three cylinder air cooled engines really are over the top for a 40 foot boat propelling itself around, and seldom actually towing.  These boat diesels actually like to be worked quite hard, and ones that are often run at little over tick-over tend not to survive as well as those worked harder. "Sickle's" old engine definitely showed signs of an engine that did not have the opportunity to work hard on a regular basis.

The "old" engine again.
So we decided that although lacking strict historical authenticity, replacing a Lister HA3 with an HA2, was an acceptable move.  The engines are visually identical, other than the extra cylinder in the HA3, making it maybe 5" longer overall, (I haven't actually measured).  Prior to 1957, "Sickle" performed ice breaking and tug duties with a 2 cylinder engine anyway - when the boats were first converted to icebreakers by the Ministry of War Transport in 1942 they retained the same Russsell Newbery engines that they had had as carrying boats, with no change to available power.  The Lister HA2 now going in is actually on paper more powerful than these Russell Newberys.

And the HA3 from the other side
When "Sickle" went to Brinklow Boat Services for the swap, it was envisaged there would be few complications.  In practice a few unexpected things happened, but before that, because the engine can only be removed through an opening in the front engine room bulkhead, Cath and I had the lovely job of moving over a ton of iron ballast further forward into "Sickle's" hold, in order to create the space necessary as the engine came out.

Then, in order......

The "new" HA2 - green again, of course,
1) Dave at Brinklow found he had great difficulty in moving "Sickle" away from the spot we left her at.  Whilst moving the ballast had brought the back end up, (having the side effect that the propeller was too high to get a good grip on the water), the front end had been brought down enough that the front end was apparently stuck firmly on the canal bed.  (We were not there to witness any strong language at this point).

And the HA2 from the other side.
2) The nuts and bolts holding the panel over the hole in the front panel, through which the engine would come out were very tight.  In trying to remove them Simon had got his thumb trapped between wrench and angle iron in the cabin, and had cut into it very badly, necessitating a hospital visit, and some weeks of healing. (Again we were not there to witness any strong language).

HP rating relates to pre-marinisation use. The 11 at the end means 1961 build.
3) It transpired that the hole through which the engine should come out, (and the new one go in), did not go far enough towards the bottom of the boat, and the engine could not pass through into the hold.  The hole would need cutting larger, and the covering plate modified to be longer.

The safer alternative to driving an alternator
4) It was hoped that everything that needed to line up still would with the new engine.  The gearboxes are identical so once married to to prop shaft, the control connections for engine speed and gear operation should still be in the same place, as should the connection to the roof mounted exhaust.  The only thing we hoped was required was that because the front of the engine would be maybe 5" further back, (because of one less cylinder), that the holes for the mounting feet would need to be re-drilled.  Unfortunately the resulting position was apparently exactly where there were gussets supporting the engine bed, precluding just drilling through, and bolting down.  Yet more modifications were necessary.

And finally from above.
Anyway, all that apart, the rest of the work was to plan.  Certain parts were "borrowed" from the old HA3, as either the new engine came without them, or the parts already fitted to the old engine didn't need modification.

It was quickly pointed out to us that the reduced length of the engine now resulted in a large gap between the follow in front of it, and the engine.  So a piece of new flooring was also agreed.  After a bit of deliberation, we decided to also have a proper cage made to cover the alternator, and the belts and pulleys associated with it.  The only loo on "Sickle" is beside the engine, and visiting it alongside spinning belts has always felt a bit hazardous.  Now when a steerer watches someone dive into the engine hole to use to loo, they can be more confident they will emerge again later uninjured.

However, the end result, despite all the work, remains much as I said at the start:  "Green engine in "Sickle" is replaced by a very similar looking green engine, differing really only by having one less cylinder".  As I also said, hard to make a very interesting story from that.  The biggest visible difference is the bigger space forward of the engine, and the cage to protect the alternator drive, just mentioned.

Finally anyone who has looked closely at the photo captions may have noticed that we have replaced a 1963 engine with a 1961 one.  Yes, the "new" engine is indeed older than the old engine!


  1. But the sort of people who are interested in that sort of thing are exactly the sort of people who will be reading your blog!

  2. The thumb is operational but doesn't like the cold weather.


We have (finally!) been alerted to the fact that many people have been unable to post comments on this blog. (It seemed a bit odd, as people used to, but it has stopped occurring). We have changed some settings, so hopefully now possible again. Comments will be moderated, and you will need to enter word verification.