Recently Wooden Canal Boat Society volunteers have been largely working on getting “Southam” up and running again.
Built by Walkers of Rickmansworth in 1936, “Southam” was one of an order of 36 butties for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company. She spent her working life mostly carrying between London and the Midlands until retired by British Waterways in 1962. David Blagrove writes about towing her to Lapworth in his book “Bread upon the Waters”. After changing hands several times she was motorised and converted in 1965.
The WCBS bought “Southam” from British Waterways, sunk at Hillmorton, in 1992 and, after an epic journey North, dealt with the reasons for her sinking.
As the best of the unrestored boats in the WCBS fleet, “Southam” can be kept running by a series of major dockings. She’s being kept in her post 1965 converted condition as an example of the way in which many ex working boats survived.
“Southam” has been a very useful boat, towing on recycling trips and towing “Lilith” on trips to collect timber for rebuilding “Hazel”, as well as providing accommodation for volunteers at Portland Basin and at waterway events.
In 2014 she was laid up because of mechanical problems and efforts were concentrated on getting “Hazel” finished. It soon became clear that work was needed on the hull and conversion too.
Tameside College donated a BMC 3.8 litre Commodore engine, almost identical to the one that had powered the boat since 1965 but was now getting rather poorly. This has been stripped down, built up again and the marinising parts swapped from the old engine. The Parsons gearbox has also been rebuilt (and the reason for continual gearbox trouble found and eliminated).
During 2019 work has progressed slowly on renewing cabin sides which were getting fairly rotten. In October she was taken out of the water for 4 planks to be replaced on her left hand side. Much of the shearing (the vertically planked inner lining of the hull) has been replaced with keruing boards recovered from lorry beds. This work is now nearly complete and she will be launched at the end of December.
In 2020 the new engine will be installed, a new engine room built around it and work will continue on renewing the cabin sides and fitting out.
Having “Southam” up and running again will enable 118 year old “Lilith” to take a break from recycling trips so that she can have her stern end rebuilt. After that, “Forget me Not” will need a rest from towing duties so that she can have a mid life overhaul. Painting the Forth bridge has nothing on maintaining wooden boats!
Recycling trips 2020
Sundays (meet at Portland Basin 09.30 bring a packed lunch)
January 5th, February 2nd, March 1st, April 5th, May 3rd, June 7th, July 5th, August 2nd, September 1st, October 4th, November 1st, December 6th.
Mondays (Meet at Portland Basin 6pm)
January 6th, February 3rd, March 2nd, April 6th, May 4th, June 1st, July 6th, August 3rd, September 7th, October 5th, November 2nd, December 7th.
Tuesdays (meet at Portland Basin 6pm)
January 7th, February 4th, March 3rd, April 7th, May 5th, June 2nd, July 7th, August 4th, September 1st, October 6th, November 3rd, December 8th