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Workboats, Maintenance Boats and Wide-beam Tugs

Just a few random items that were culled from my collections. More to follow as I source them.


ARTHUR A BLAND - previously used in the Nottingham/Trent area for many years. Seen at Newark in 2011 on the BW tender list.

London tug: 'BRENT' built by Bushell Bros of Tring - photo embedded from https://collections.canalrivertrust.org.uk/EXTRASIMAGE511

FRIAR TUCK - previously used in the Nottingham/Trent area for many years. Seen at Newark in 2011 on the BW tender list.

ERIC OF LINCOLN - not sure where this was (or who to credit?) but a sister vessel to the above.

LITTLE JOHN - a relatively modern replacement for an old Bantam tug (of the same name), which was previously used in the Nottingham/Trent area for many years. Pictured in 2009

This (No 4000016) is the narrow beam equivalent of LITTLE JOHN - a relatively modern replacement for an old Bantam tug. Pictured in 2015 at Kegworth. CD.

At Swinton in 2005 were these two 'boxy' looking tugs, FREIGHT TRADER & FREIGHT PIONEER, which have a rather sad history. They are the two BACAT (Barge Aboard CATamaran) tugs that were built in the 1970s for moving BACAT barges in pairs around the north-eastern waterways prior to shipping them on the BACAT container vessel to and from the continent (notably Rotterdam). This got very much in the hair of the dockers in Hull, who were effectively bypassed, and after long strikes (there were a lot of them at the time) the project was effectively dismantled. The tugs and barges were used for a short time on local traffic (I think some of the barges still are) but the tugs were not as practical as more traditional variants and were laid up. The BACAT mother ship was scrapped after many years on conventional container service in about 2009. Also laid up here was the Yorkshire Keel CONFIDENCE.

The tug URANUS was shortened from a barge. It and its twins CANOPUS and NEPTUNE were all from Holland originally but incorporated into the BW fleet for use as maintenance boats. I am unsure of the prsent whereabout of CANOPUS (last seen almost permanently moored at Beeston on the Trent in the 1980s) but NEPTUNE is currently in private hands and travels extensively (see barge listing for photo).
The pan with it is a dumb 'house lighter' (ie it has a rudimentary cabin) and was being used to carry the large shipping container for use as offices at Trent Lock for a few years in the 2000s. It was known locally as the BW branch of IKEA - for obvious reasons!

Wendy Ann at Peel, IoM 2009. Pic: CN Deuchar
WENDY ANN at Peel, IoM 2009. Pic: CN Deuchar. This harbour tug is a bit of a classic. Built 1939 for the Admiralty as C129 she seems to have spent her working life around Poole Harbour and Portsmouth. Like many historic boats, her present owners have taken a lot of pride in restoring something that turned out to be much more difficult and expensive than they first thought - but the result is stupendous! See here for more

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DUMPA: Bantam tugs of a variety of designs have been a mainstay of maintenance vessels for decades. Although many have been replaced, many can still be found - like this one on the bank at Redhill on the R. Soar. Pics: CD

This brand new, Bantam style, push tug was exhibited at the 2009 National Rally at Redhill on the R. Soar. Pic: CN Deuchar

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This tiny tug, seen on the Trent at Meadow Lane Wharf in 2009, is little more than a floating engine.

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And this version (??PEN), seen on the bank at Redhill 2015, is not much bigger.

WHELDALE, here preserved at the Yorkshire Waterways Museum, was one of seven tugs originally built to push-tow 'Tom Pudding' compartment boats in Yorkshire, but in the event they were used conventionally to pull the trains. See the Goole and Barge pages for more information.

A pair of Cawood Hargreaves tugs in 1984, which used to be on the coal traffic to Ferrybridge where the loader in the background lifted up the hopper barges on the right, to discharge to the power station adjacent.



RP2 - a rare example of clever thinking. This 'ramp pan' allowed a conventional land-based, tracked excavator, or tractor to be used on the water. This could then be used for bank clearance or dredging aftr being loaded off any bank with a suitable height. Clever idea - but this one, covered in odd timbers and rubbish, was on its way to be sold in 2010.

RP1 - this was the other 'ramp pan' at Trent Lock, when still used. Note the heavy winches.

Broad beam 'pans' or 'lighters' used on the major rivers for general carrying of maintenance materials being pushed or pulled by a tug. These two are both 'house lighters' - ie they have a small cabin for the crew.

Typical mud hopper used ubiquitously for canals, rivers and harbours. Note the built up coamings on the edges of the hold and the spacious 'unused' floatation areas at each end.

Another of the local open pans - with the modern LITTLE JOHN again

A modern narrow beam, short hopper - designed to fit in a narrow lock with the push-tug still attached. Kegworth 2015: CD

This unusual short but wide beam hopper was seen at Zouch in 2007 en route to a house boat conversion on one of the backwaters. Anybody know its history?



This 'spud leg' narrow beam dredger was always a bit of a classic on the narrow canals. This one I think was RABBIT and was seen at Newark in 2011 on the BW tender list.

Regrettably rarely used now, but ITCHEN was one of the most efficient piling boats I ever saw - or rather heard! As I approached Fazeley many years ago, for over an hour I could hear this boat working - driving 2m trenching sheets along the bank at the rate of one every 10 minutes. Something I have never witnessed at such speed since - except possibly among the fitter gangs of voluntary groups such as WRG!

HD 14: A vessel of similar type to the above on the bank at Redhill, 2015. CD

Similarly, this small dredger was 'playing with mud' on the Mon & Brec Canal in 1986. It was essentially a mini-digger mounted within a work flat. The sum total of the dredging team on this waterway seemed to comprise this vessel and a dump truck on the towpath to dispose of dredgings. CD

This work flat, photographed at Fradley in 1973, is typical of the craft used by maintenance gangs up and down the country almost from the building of the canals to around the year 2000. Since then, much work has been handed over to contractors who bring in their own, often specialist, vessels.

Although this was on the Isle of Man, it is typical of the many 'RB' (Ruston Bucyrus) excavators which were once used extensively on the UK mainland by British Waterways and river authorities.

Attenborough Gravel pits again and a standard road crane on a pontoon - working on improving the nature reserve in 2009

In a burst of typical BW wastefulness, the same IKEA box shown amongst the tugs above, was dismantled in 2009 and carried away in pieces in this crane boat (either MCB 1 or 16?) because it was too expensive to remove. This was despite the dry dock opposite being interested in it for an office/extension - which would have been a straight lift for the MCB.

Another view of the same crane boat earlier in 2009. These 'motor crane boats' were originally wire rigged girder lattice cranes which could be used for dredging or general lifting. The hydraulic replacements seem like a good 'upgrade' but the hydraulic jibs are apparently prone to bending in half under stress!

This is the same type of crane boat in 1974 - fitted with the original lattice-girder jib. In this instance she is fitted with a grab bucket for dredging on the Trent above Trent Bridge, Nottingham in (late) preparation for the rally the same weekend.

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THOMAS JAMES: A dredger barge on the OUSE around York. This vessel is currently under restoration/conversion. In the 3rd photo, she seems to be rescuing another barge which has gone over a weir? Any other information (and boat names?) most welcome. (Pics: Rachael Brown)



This unusual boat seems to have performed some large scale pumping operation (at Attenborough Gravel Pit incidentally) but was sunk when seen in 2009

This weedcutting boat was photographed on the Mon & Brec Canal in 1986. Weed cutters have a long history of innovative design - but, usually, subsequent failure! I would be interested to know how this one fared? CD

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Another weed boat design. This is the John Nuttall, at Trent Lock in 2019. which also seems to be able to load the cut product..? (CN Deuchar)

Here we see contractors 'electric fishing'. This was part of a recovery operation following a pollution incident on the Erewash Canal in 2012.

This was part of a channel depth survey - apparently using sonar. Erewash Canal again. CD

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This work pontoon was being used by Network Rail to inspect the bridge over the Cranfleet Canal in 2018.