Willow’s History: “Six New Motor Canal Boats”

Yesterday I received a very exciting email, from a chap who works at the Gloucester Waterways Museum. It contained copies of an article from Motor Boat magazine in January 1935, hailing Willow and the other Severners as modern, innovative boats, and containing some general arrangement drawings. They’re not brilliant quality but we’ll be able to see the originals at the museum. It seems that these drawings were used by Warwickshire Fly when they restored Oak in the 1990s.

GWM-Oak-1 image

An extract:

“All eight boats are of the same type, being 72ft in length and with a maximum beam of 7ft. The limiting dimensions do not allow much scope in design. The Introduction of electric welding, however, has permitted the construction of a hull of exceptional cubic capacity, with the result that these boats carry 30 tons of cargo on a loaded draught of 3ft 6ins and 33 tons on a draught of 3ft 9ins. This is a distinct improvement on the old type of wooden boat, which was only able to carry about 25 tons on a smaller draught. The sides and superstructure, also the frames and knees are made of Hingley’s “Netherton” iron, known for its non-corrosive qualities and long life.

Attention has been given to the living accommodation for the crew, having in mind that frequently the captain has his wife and at least one child aboard with him. the cabin is 6ft high thus enabling an average adult to stand upright with ease. It is well ventilated with opening portholes, and cowl and mushroom ventilators. A departure from the orthodox design has been made by placing the engine room aft ¬†instead of at the fore-end of the cabin, as in earlier types of boat. Upright fuel tanks are also abolished. The service tanks are under the engine room floor, with the main tank in the counter forming the skin of the boat. Water ballast tanks, to facilitate working under light draught, are under the cabin floor. […] They were designed by the company’s transport department and are being built by Charles Hill at the Albion Shipyard in Bristol”

GWM-Oak-3

We hope that we’ll be able to find even more detailed drawings in the County Archives, but these are still very interesting, as is the magazine’s description of the boats’ innovations. The bit about ventilation disagrees entirely with contemporary accounts of living in these cabins. as they were found to be very stuff and difficult to keep ventilated. We didn’t know that they had opening portholes, so we’ll try to get some installed to replace the deadlights the boat currently has in the cabin.

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Categories: History | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Willow’s History: “Six New Motor Canal Boats”

  1. Are the water ballast tanks still installed? If so, could you provide some details about them?

  2. Unfortunately not, but there are some traces of fittings so it can be established what was there.

    The space between the bulkhead at the front of the back cabin, and that at the front of the engine room, were made watertight, and had a (presumably) iron top, giving a tank about 9″ deep by 9′ (approx) long by 7′ wide. Oak still has a semi rotary hand pump, which I suppose could be used for filling or emptying the tank.

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