When I started writing this blog, I remembered there was a photo of me sitting inside the boiler of the dredger Perseverance. The boiler needed to be re-tubed and this work was done at Reading and a demonstration steaming was carried out before the dredger was transported to the Basingstoke canal. Roma and I looked high and low for this picture, rummaging through old photo albums and even peering at slides (who remembers 36mm Kodachrome, that gives those “nice bright colors”?). But still the image eluded us.
Our plan is to take our new narrowboat, "Perseverance" (what else could I name her?) on a Great Cruise South this autumn, and so I bought a set of the excellent pamphlets and histories produced by the Basingstoke Canal Society to start my planning. To my delight, the society also included a 50th anniversary brochure which included this photo, taken in 1973 when I was 18.
For orientation, this is inside the boiler and I am sitting on the curved bottom surface. Beyond me is a plate with a pattern of holes, and the other side of the plate is the firebox. A similar plate behind the camera feeds hot gasses out to the chimney. Between the two plates run boiler tubes carrying hot air, and the space I am sitting in would normally be full of boiling water.
The Swan Vesta match box was used to light the oxy-acetylene cutting torch which we used to slice each tube in half, then each broken pipe was worked loose (they are tight fit in the endplates, not welded) and passed out of the inspection hatch, through which I had climbed. The job was harder at the start because most of the space was full of tubes and there was little room to work. In the picture, the job is almost complete with just a few left to dislodge and pass out of the boiler.
You will notice some period features of this image. Firstly, I am sporting long hair and excellent sideburns. Very classy for the time. Secondly the standard of PPE in use. Dad leant me his bobble hat to keep the dust from my flowing locks and, despite hammering metal pipes inside a steel drum, I clearly didn’t need ear defenders, goggles or gloves.
One final piece of proof in case anyone doubts the authenticity of this image, here’s the hammer which I inherited from my dad.
I suspect he inherited it from his dad.