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!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The "new" engine arrives.

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective post for 9th February)

We had arranged that we would arrive at Brinklow Boat Services ready to see our "new" engine delivered whilst we were still there, so that all parties were happy with all the arrangements.

Our seller was slightly delayed, but was soon with us with the engine securely strapped to a suitable trailer.

Brinklow generally use their fork lift to move such items around, and the engine was fairly quickly unloaded and transferred to a rather more substantial pallet, in order that it could be temporarily moved into one of the buildings there.  Although not shown here, the fork lift is too tall to enter that building, so the final move involved a low trolley designed to move pallets, and which could lift it the necessary amount off the ground.

Work would not commence absolutely immediately, but Brinklow promised us it would within a week or two.

First outing of 2017 - Taking Sickle to Brinklow

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective post for 7th to 9th February)

Braunston flight
As explained in a previous post, "Sickle's" current engine is to be replaced by another engine we had agreed to buy, initially thinking it was destined for "Flamingo".

This meant that "Sickle" needed delivering to Brinklow Boat Services for a mutually agreed date, and this was the purpose of this trip.  As there were no further stoppages planned on our route, we simply needed Brinklow to agree a date, and this was it.

"Pub" lock, Braunston
This is, of course, quite a short trip, although at this time of year, we stick to a relaxed schedule, usually based around not getting started too early, no involving travelling after dark.  The usual complication for any trip that starts at one place, and ends at another applied, of course, namely that a car has to be delivered to the end point, before travelling back to the start point.  Two acrs are required, but fortunately we have managed to keep Cath's late mother's car on the road, although the recent cost of putting it through an MOT undoubtedly exceeded any book value it has!  It is adequate as the second car for these trips, but not ideal - our original intent had been only to use it for local journeys, but at least we now have the reassurance that it is capable of passing an MOT, even if the brakes feel a bit tenuous compared to a new car!

Approaching Hillmorton locks
The second complication we now have is that on the sudden and unexpected death of Cath's mum, Ann, we "inherited" her dog Max, meaning we now own two large black dogs. Unlike Odin, Max is not pure Labrador, but is still mostly Labrador, and not far off the same size.  Whilst Cath and I have evolved ways of sharing a back cabin with one large black dog, (largely dependent on the tolerance and good-naturedness of said dog), we simply do not have space to bed both down in the back cabin any reasonable way.  We love Max to bits, but he is a serious impediment to our use of Sickle, so far only part "solved" by taking a second boat with us when we move Sickle!  We continue to consider the problem, (the answer to which can not be "sell Sickle"!), but at the moment "Sickle only" trips mean leaving at least one dog at home with the sons, and if we are doing that, it generally makes more sense to leave both.  So this was a dog-less trip.

Middle lock at Hillmorton
I had feared from the weather forecast that this might be a trip where we got fairly wet and cold, and was planning for fairly regular swapping of steerers.   The reality was pleasantly different to expectations, and we neither got particularly wet, nor particularly cold.  At least one of the days we spent a lot of time boating in considerable sunshine.  To me the Northern Oxford saw far more appealing at this time of year, with few boats on the move.  I really do not enjoy it much in mid-summer, as you queue up along somewhere like Barby straight, with half a dozen boats ahead, usually limited by the speed of the lead boat.  In fact the whole boating experience at this time of year was great - with generally no hold up at any of the lock flights, most of which we passed far quicker than in summer.  

Cath in charge, me on locks at this flight.
The sole exception was our very first lock at Whilton where the first pound up to the second lock contained so little water I doubted we would even get over the top cill of the bottom lock .  We did crawl over that, but on the approach to the second lock, I grounded mid-channel, where the deepest water might have been, had there been enough of it.  I proved to be completely stuck, despite having only grounded at very low speed, but could go neither forwards nor backwards.   Fortunately I was not single handed, because I was stuck on the boat, with no chance of getting off. Cath letting down a  flush of water finally floated me off, but although I then crept over the cill into the second lock, I then grounded actually in the lock on debris clearly on the bottom of it.  It is quite disappointing to find a pound in one of the major flights so devoid of water, but sadly at both Buckby and Braunston now it often seems to be the case that either there is too much water, (cascading over gates), or far too little, (in some pounds at least).  I think CRT have cut staffing on water control duties more than makes sense if incidents like this are to be avoided.

The ritual passing of my late brother Pete's former butty "Angel"
A generally pleasant trip, and great to have a run out in "Sickle" which will always be a more nimble boat than the very much heavier "Flamingo".  We do need to come up with a creative way of travelling with just "Sickle", but with two large black dogs on board though!

Shopping stop near Rugby

Weedon to Brinklow Boat Services, Stretton Arm
Miles: 26.8, Locks:16

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Other Historic Narrow Boat Blogs

As far as I am aware there are very few other active blogs written by owners of historic ex working narrow boats.

I'm aware of some that still exist, but where no post has been made in a long while, but will only add these to the discussion if and when they come back to life.

Our list of blogs to in the column on the right of the Sickle and Chalice blog lists the three others I'm aware of, so this post is just to draw your attention to the fact they exist.  I am particular pleased to see the new blog that has recently appeared for narrow boat "Enceladus", a boat we actually briefly considered buying, though when it was in a far less complete stage than when purchased by it's latest owner Sarah. (Yes two out of the three other blogs are written by Sarahs).

All of these blogs tend to have a different style and slant from each other, and indeed from ours

Have a look, and see what you think!




How we looked at, but didn't buy Enceladus here.

And why the other Sarah was heavily implicated in us ending up with a full length boat as well as a short one here.

(Although it was probably two days taking Chertsey down part of the Grand Union with Jim that made such an outcome inevitable - something I don't actually seem to have blogged).