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luctor et emergo

Tug boats, how did they work?

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Looking at a few tug boats the other day, and been wondering since, how did they work? From what I can gather, they don't have any 'towing' ability (bollards, eyes, hooks, etc ) at the stern, other than an ordinairy NB already has, and what is the purpose of the large empty front deck?

When I think of a tug, I think of a small boat moving big ships around where they can't manouvre under their own power, but where would that happen on the canal? Or is the term tug not related to that at all?

 

Thanks

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Looking at a few tug boats the other day, and been wondering since, how did they work? From what I can gather, they don't have any 'towing' ability (bollards, eyes, hooks, etc ) at the stern, other than an ordinairy NB already has, and what is the purpose of the large empty front deck?

When I think of a tug, I think of a small boat moving big ships around where they can't manouvre under their own power, but where would that happen on the canal? Or is the term tug not related to that at all?

 

Thanks

 

'Tug Style' is a grossly misused term with modern pleasure narrow boats.

 

Were they 'real' tugs you were looking at?

 

Tim

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In strictly UK canal terms 'tug' usually means a boat that pulls other canal boats around, but which itself does not carry cargo.

 

In a way in any motor boat butty combination the motor was a "tug", but carried a load approaching that of it's tow, so was not called such.

 

Curiously I have seen pictures though of "carrying tugs", (IIRC Elements had some).

 

Typical tug uses were moving one or more unpowered carrying boats around, and on the BCN it was not unusual to have a train of several unpowered boats in tow.

 

Even so operators like Caggy Stevens, who did have tugs ,often still used a horse, because with single width locks, there was double the effort if a tug boat had to be worked through too.

 

Often the tow was, as you say to typical dollies, although some kinds of surviving wide-beam tugs have a large hook arrangement.

 

If there was a flat deck forward of a cabin area, I think it seldom surved much purpose than covering an otherwise empty space, and to provide a platform that could be worked from when taking other boats in tow.

 

Of course specialist tugs didn't necessarily only pull unpowered boats - tunnel tugs often pulled boats that were normally self powered too, as part of maybe a long train.

 

One class of tug still often seen is the pusher tugs, or which a classic type called "Bantam" still has many in private use by contractors. These push theit "tow" from behind, keeping it in place by steel hawsers tightened by winches. We saw one pushing a Leeds and Liverpool short boat on our last trip out, (boat had had engine craned in at a boatyard, but it was as yet unconnected, so it couldn't move on it's own). The combo was too big to occupy a GU lock together, so the pushed boat had to lock through ahead of it's "tug", (slow progress that day, for us!).

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'Tug Style' is a grossly misused term with modern pleasure narrow boats.

 

Were they 'real' tugs you were looking at?

 

Tim

 

 

possibly not, they were 'new' boats, well built a few years ago. Although I have seen boats that are claimed to be from the 1950's , in a similar layout.

 

In strictly UK canal terms 'tug' usually means a boat that pulls other canal boats around, but which itself does not carry cargo.

 

In a way in any motor boat butty combination the motor was a "tug", but carried a load approaching that of it's tow, so was not called such.

 

Curiously I have seen pictures though of "carrying tugs", (IIRC Elements had some).

 

Typical tug uses were moving one or more unpowered carrying boats around, and on the BCN it was not unusual to have a train of several unpowered boats in tow.

 

Even so operators like Caggy Stevens, who did have tugs ,often still used a horse, because with single width locks, there was double the effort if a tug boat had to be worked through too.

 

Often the tow was, as you say to typical dollies, although some kinds of surviving wide-beam tugs have a large hook arrangement.

 

If there was a flat deck forward of a cabin area, I think it seldom surved much purpose than covering an otherwise empty space, and to provide a platform that could be worked from when taking other boats in tow.

 

Of course specialist tugs didn't necessarily only pull unpowered boats - tunnel tugs often pulled boats that were normally self powered too, as part of maybe a long train.

 

One class of tug still often seen is the pusher tugs, or which a classic type called "Bantam" still has many in private use by contractors. These push theit "tow" from behind, keeping it in place by steel hawsers tightened by winches. We saw one pushing a Leeds and Liverpool short boat on our last trip out, (boat had had engine craned in at a boatyard, but it was as yet unconnected, so it couldn't move on it's own). The combo was too big to occupy a GU lock together, so the pushed boat had to lock through ahead of it's "tug", (slow progress that day, for us!).

 

I thought something like that, just wondered why there would be a different type of boat doing what a 'normal', cargo carrying working boat already did. And that odd clear deck space at the front. Considering that NB are so good at using every bit of space (I mean, housing a family in the cabin... :lol: ), it seems like a waste, unless there was a purpose (like fitting a counter weight when pulling heavy loads, I know, I'm way off here.. :lol: )

The tunnel tug I can see. The pusher concept is used to good effect on the big rivers and canals in Europe. Much easier to manouvre than a train.

 

Thanks for your replies.

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One class of tug still often seen is the pusher tugs, or which a classic type called "Bantam" still has many in private use by contractors. These push theit "tow" from behind, keeping it in place by steel hawsers tightened by winches. We saw one pushing a Leeds and Liverpool short boat on our last trip out, (boat had had engine craned in at a boatyard, but it was as yet unconnected, so it couldn't move on it's own). The combo was too big to occupy a GU lock together, so the pushed boat had to lock through ahead of it's "tug", (slow progress that day, for us!).

 

I think a Bantam and L&L shortboat should be able to be in a "wide" GU lock together - the bantam can go diagonally across the lock behind the 61' wideboat, but there would be be very little margin for error.

 

We did trials for Bowyers in the late 80s for the proposed gravel run ex their pits in Harefield to West Drayton. We used a L&L wideboat Ribble for the trial, but we then bought 4 x 60' unpowered craft from Den Haag which we proposed to use with a Bantam or more likely with a portable power plant. At that time Bucks revised their aggregates extraction plan and the job was shelved, and unfortunately Mark Bowyer who was the main driving force then died.

 

When the job was revived BW got in on the act and were able to get funding to have new and rather silly boats built to do the job (badly).

 

Our ex partner Tim Wood now has the Den Haag craft and several Bantams, plus a couple of wideboats he works as Wood Hall and Heward, and still strives with some modicum of success to operate a commercial fleet on the southern GU and London generally.

 

When Electric Eric was barrel boating with Threefellows we did see him and Beryl using the motor as a pusher with the butty on the Denham straight, but it was not an unqualified success. The motor was lashed tight to the butty stern, slightly to one side, with the motor stem more or less level with the butty hatches. Over here it is not unusual for one Freycinet péniche to push another, but the pusher is modified with some socket device at the stem that locates into the stern of the pushed craft so they can be winched very rigidly into one 80m unit in a straight line rather than offset.

Edited by Tam & Di
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I think a Bantam and L&L shortboat should be able to be in a "wide" GU lock together - the bantam can go diagonally across the lock behind the 61' wideboat, but there would be be very little margin for error.

Short boat was called Farnworth - I have an feeling you may know it ? :lol:

 

The Bantam worked through with us (50 feet) and another narrowboat (60 feet at least). I hadn't realised they are narrow beam at the back, but wider at the front, (well this one was!). Also quite a tight fit.

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Just to add, Some of the BCN tugs had a decent foredeck for placing Joey ellums on, Pacific and Bittell specifically. The thick timber ribs helped protect the deck plates and stop ellums from slipping off into the cut.

 

The opening page of Canalscape London shows Buffalo hauling a train of gravel barges. Due to the compromised position of the tow hook right at the stern, there was a technique to towing that demanded some skill. Joe Hollingshead can teach. There was also - on the BCN - a technique known as 'stemming'. Basically it was push towing, but depending on the tightness achieved at the link, it was more like reversing an artic, with the driver facing the 'right' way (if you take my meaning). Blossom knows about that. Manoeuvring other vessels in the way River and Dock tugs would do from a slightly aft of midships towing hook was not possible due to lack of space on the cut, a shaft would suffice for that.

 

There was less need of a foredeck for that purpose further south, though a good foredeck was a safer platform to get on and off, and gave more room to work from when tying to other craft.

 

Derek

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Just to add, Some of the BCN tugs had a decent foredeck for placing Joey ellums on, Pacific and Bittell specifically. The thick timber ribs helped protect the deck plates and stop ellums from slipping off into the cut.

 

The opening page of Canalscape London shows Buffalo hauling a train of gravel barges. Due to the compromised position of the tow hook right at the stern, there was a technique to towing that demanded some skill. Joe Hollingshead can teach. There was also - on the BCN - a technique known as 'stemming'. Basically it was push towing, but depending on the tightness achieved at the link, it was more like reversing an artic, with the driver facing the 'right' way (if you take my meaning). Blossom knows about that. Manoeuvring other vessels in the way River and Dock tugs would do from a slightly aft of midships towing hook was not possible due to lack of space on the cut, a shaft would suffice for that.

 

There was less need of a foredeck for that purpose further south, though a good foredeck was a safer platform to get on and off, and gave more room to work from when tying to other craft.

 

Derek

 

Bittell shown here

 

There's also a video by LHP called "The Wyrley Route" showing Joe Hollingshead steering Enterprise with three Joey boats, loaded with coal form Angelsey Basin.

 

Andrew

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I suspect that the length was needed to give some stability when working. Short tugs could be useful where there was plenty of width, but I suspect towing on a canal, where the water width was restricted, made longer tugs easier to handle. Given that, Caggie Stevens always seemed to have a chair on the deck of his tugs in front of the engine room, and would be ferried round in comparative luxury by his staff on sunny days.

 

On the L&LC, there were steam boats which could carry cargo, and these were used almost exclusively for towing dumb boats in trains of up to four on the long pounds in Lancashire. Horses were stabled at locks to tow the dumb boats up and down the locks. There were also more conventional tugs, usually around 50 feet in length, which were built for ice breaking. Their normal job, post 1921 when the company gave up its carrying fleet, was working for the engineering department, but they could also be used for towing boats carrying cargo when required. Prior to 1921, they had been allocated to specific pools, for example, one worked Liverpool to Appley, one from Wigan to Manchester, and one on the Skipton Pool.

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I suspect that the length was needed to give some stability when working. Short tugs could be useful where there was plenty of width, but I suspect towing on a canal, where the water width was restricted, made longer tugs easier to handle.

 

Bantam tugs were built by E.C. Jones at Brentford, on the bottom end of the G.U. They are as Alan notes wider at the front and taper to a narrower stern in a vaguely teardrop shape. They were specifically designed as a pusher unit, and many were used on gravel workings throughout the country to push the barges about. They have a couple of vertical posts on the bow and winches which allow the pushed barge to be winched in tight with two cables, with no possibility of "flex" between tug and tow. If they are driven hard with no "tow" - no barge in front - they have a tendency to dive. BW built their own version of one at Bulls Bridge in the 80s (can't remember the name just now) and it was almost impossible to drive at more than tickover if it was not pushing. It just did not have the fine under water hull shape of the Bantams. A vessel used for pulling rather than pushing would need to be longer to prevent it diving in this way. Bantams do have a towing dolly at the stern and can therefore tow a second barge (or more) in addition to the one they push.

 

We operated this one, which is now owned by our ex partner Tim Wood. Wood Hall and Heward have 3 or 4 of them now, and they are very useful bits of kit. H&S has required them to put wheelboxes on to protect the poor steerer from the elements! Can't have them getting wet now, can we! (actually we used to use "rainsheds" on our narrowboats, so who am I to sneer?)

 

Bantam.jpg

 

(edited to add snap)

Edited by Tam & Di
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Bantam tugs were built by E.C. Jones at Brentford, on the bottom end of the G.U. They are as Alan notes wider at the front and taper to a narrower stern in a vaguely teardrop shape. They were specifically designed as a pusher unit, and many were used on gravel workings throughout the country to push the barges about. They have a couple of vertical posts on the bow and winches which allow the pushed barge to be winched in tight with two cables, with no possibility of "flex" between tug and tow. If they are driven hard with no "tow" - no barge in front - they have a tendency to dive. BW built their own version of one at Bulls Bridge in the 80s (can't remember the name just now) and it was almost impossible to drive at more than tickover if it was not pushing. It just did not have the fine under water hull shape of the Bantams. A vessel used for pulling rather than pushing would need to be longer to prevent it diving in this way. Bantams do have a towing dolly at the stern and can therefore tow a second barge (or more) in addition to the one they push.

 

 

There was some argument with the Thames Conservancy about whether this was allowable within their rules, see

 

http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/mwp.php...antam-Tugs.html

 

and scroll to the bottom.

 

Tim

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There was some argument with the Thames Conservancy about whether this was allowable within their rules, see

 

http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/mwp.php...antam-Tugs.html

 

and scroll to the bottom.

 

Tim

 

An interesting link. I had not realised they came in such diverse sizes. Jones' response that a pusher tug winched tight up on its tow effectively forms one solid unit is absolutely correct. On the continent a towing tug is hardly ever seen, except as an enthusiast's pride and joy - everything is pushed now, and can be units 200+ metres long on rivers such as the Rhine. In the UK the Unions held onto the concept of towage as it means that there has to be one person for each towed vessel in addition to the tug crew. The fact that they can generally sit in the tug playing cards and drinking tea was irrelevant as far as they were concerned. The fact that this makes movement by water more expensive and less likely to continue passes them by.

Edited by Tam & Di
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A bit :lol:

 

Unions - the 'democratic' way to lose work and trade, only bettered by government regulation.

 

I don't know why, perhaps because I've just been digging and delving recently, but in complete contrast without unions to stand for them, the widow of the Captain of the Tilbury that blew up on the Regent's by Macclesfield Bridge when its load of gunpowder, petrol and tea took a spark (we assume) from the tug in October 1874, received £5 in full discharge against all claims against the company (G.J.C.C.). In compensation claims for damage to property of the surrounding area and rebuilding of the bridge, a total of £84,417.2s.0d was received.

 

It took one year and eleven months for the widow to be paid that £5.

 

Fourteen months after the Tilbury in December 1875, the company steamer Pincher suffered a boiler explosion with the loss of two engine drivers lives. Two months later the family of one of the dead claimed relief, and the Board directed £5 be sent against funeral expenses.

 

Details from the minutes of the G.J.C.C. board meetings from Richard Thomas's website.

 

Derek

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I suspect that the length was needed to give some stability when working. Short tugs could be useful where there was plenty of width, but I suspect towing on a canal, where the water width was restricted, made longer tugs easier to handle. Given that, Caggie Stevens always seemed to have a chair on the deck of his tugs in front of the engine room, and would be ferried round in comparative luxury by his staff on sunny days.

 

I helped someone tow 220' of boats with a bantam the other day and when starting from rest the bantam would tend to go sideways because it was easier to 'bend' the train than it was to get it to go forward through the water. Worked well once underway though, towing was from a dolly, a turn round a t-stud (to stop the tow overtaking) and then a curved bar to keep the rope high (what are these things really called?)

 

The main reason for the so-called 'tug style' narrow boat as a copy of a tug boat is that the tugs were often cut down full length narrowboats and much under 50' with a long swim and bows would have compromised stability and, obviously, the cut and shunt would have to be done in the straight section.

 

And i am sure that another factor was that they had good lines and looked the part - hence their popularity as a modern boat style. There would also have to be hold space for ballast if a tug was to sit in the water properly.

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Bantam tugs were built by E.C. Jones at Brentford, on the bottom end of the G.U. They are as Alan notes wider at the front and taper to a narrower stern in a vaguely teardrop shape. They were specifically designed as a pusher unit, and many were used on gravel workings throughout the country to push the barges about. They have a couple of vertical posts on the bow and winches which allow the pushed barge to be winched in tight with two cables, with no possibility of "flex" between tug and tow. If they are driven hard with no "tow" - no barge in front - they have a tendency to dive. BW built their own version of one at Bulls Bridge in the 80s (can't remember the name just now) and it was almost impossible to drive at more than tickover if it was not pushing. It just did not have the fine under water hull shape of the Bantams. A vessel used for pulling rather than pushing would need to be longer to prevent it diving in this way. Bantams do have a towing dolly at the stern and can therefore tow a second barge (or more) in addition to the one they push.

 

We operated this one, which is now owned by our ex partner Tim Wood. Wood Hall and Heward have 3 or 4 of them now, and they are very useful bits of kit. H&S has required them to put wheelboxes on to protect the poor steerer from the elements! Can't have them getting wet now, can we! (actually we used to use "rainsheds" on our narrowboats, so who am I to sneer?)

 

Bantam.jpg

 

(edited to add snap)

Someone at the yard where I have taken my two halves has just cut one of these in half and stretched it so saving alot of the construction work, must say it looks very nice, but is this sacralidge to alter apiece of history so drastically or a good thing to keep this particular boat in the spotlight by putting it to good use.I suppose there will be mixed feelings on it.

Edited by soldthehouse
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Someone at the yard where I have taken my two halves has just cut one of these in half and stretched it so saving alot of the construction work, must say it looks very nice, but is this sacralidge to alter apiece of history so drastically or a good thing to keep this particular boat in the spotlight by putting it to good use.I suppose there will be mixed feelings on it.

 

 

Stretching (or shrinking) a boat is not unusual and can look perfectly OK. It does need to be a parallel sided boat though - to cut and lengthen a Bantam with its teardrop shape must make it look a bit odd. Anything with a lot of sheer has to be done carefully too. The cut has to be exactly at the lowest section of hull, and even then if it is lengthened or shortened too much it can look quite ugly - in my not-desperately-humble opinion anyway. We've also seen one or two inexperienced cut-and-shunts where the welder just started at the top of one side and welded continuously down, under, and up the other side. The resulting heat distortion leaves a boat slightly banana shaped.

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