This weekend, we visited Stone in Staffordshire, on the Trent and Mersey canal, to the boatyard owned by our friends the Fullers. They were planning a gathering of working boats and a party, and it was very well attended with about 25 historic working boats and butties. They also have connections in the traction engine world, and so several people brought their engines along, including Betsy, the Aveling and Porter (I think) steam roller that was owned by TV personality and preserver of "oor indoostrial 'eritage" Fred Dibnah before he passed away.
We left on Saturday morning, and after a combination of trains and buses, we arrived in Stone at about half one. First stop was a local pub, where several of the traction engine mob were due to arrive.
We then headed to the boatyard, where we held a parade of historic boats to the winding hole and back, to get a chance to grab photographs of the boats moving. I went on Victoria, the Royalty-class boat owned by our friend Mike, and Amy headed off on the Josher motor Ibex with the Fullers.
Rebekah with 12-week-old daughter, Eliza Grace - who is already very used to boating and is soothed to sleep by the sound of an air-cooled Lister!
There was then a bit of a job to do. Wooden Clayton's tarboat Spey, owned and operated by a consortium of other (relaively) young working boaters, had picked up something massive on the propellor whilst heading the the party the previous day, and had had to be towed in. Whilst at the boatyard, with a large crane, it was the natural place to get the boat partly out of the water and get at whatever was around the prop. Old boats don't have weedhatches - and this was something big!
Jason, the skipper of Spey, got under the counter once it was lifted slightly - but couldn't get whatever it was off. I had the important job of holding Jason's legs and stopping him going right into the cut....
So Spey was lifted up more and Joe got in, carefully - very, very, very carefully, as Spey is wooden and covered in tar! - with the gas axe to cut off whatever it was.
Success! A very mangled supermarket trolley, cut off of the propeller.
To celebrate, we went for a jaunt on Spey, having kicked over the semi-diesel Bollinder engine and carefully backed out of the yard.
Very precious cargo!
Once back at the boatyard, festivities continued into the night. A bonfire was lit, a hog roast was set up, and we played around on the Fullers' narrow gauge railway!
Of two-foot gauge, they've a line laid out around the boatyard in a rough rectangle shape, with branch lines off to serve the moored boats - the narrow-gauge railway wagon pump-out machine is a sight to be seen! Dan and I had a go on the hand-truck, and had fun zipping around.
After playing around for a bit, things got a bit serious - we brought out the two diesel locomotives! I had a go at driving the 11hp Ruston engine, which was great fun, and took train loads of people around and around the yard.
Eventually, we retired to bed, exhausted - in 100 year old Josher butty Ilford's back cabin. With the range going well, we were warm and snug.
Betsy, Fred Dibnah's steam roller. (Photo: R. Fuller)