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Working Practices of BCN Day Boats 1.

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It may seem a little perverse, in a series of posts ostensibly about Working Practices on a BCN Day Boat, to begin with an image that isn’t a BCN boat, isn’t a day boat at all in fact, but truth is, I simply love this image of a horse drawn narrowboat, somehow – for me – it captures the essence of that lost age…

Anyways, enough of the misty-eyed romanticism, let’s get into the hard facts and the tougher realities of working and handling day boats, the workhorses of the BCN.

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This is George Arnold with his horse Betty with a load of dry slack at Bromford Stop some time in 1958. George worked for Ernest Thomas of Walsall. The boat glimpsed behind George is Tom No.28 belonging to the Central Electricity Authority. The dry slack would have been loaded at Sandwell Colliery Wharf, and was bound for Ocker Hill Power Station. It was a trip he’d make twice a day for six days a week.
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When a day boat was fully loaded there was little spare space, and it was often difficult for planks to be placed to help leggers get a purchase on the tunnel sides as they walked or legged a boat through narrow tunnels – many BCN tunnels were only 8-9 ft. wide. It was therefore often the case that necessity dictated that they use a slim straw bale or simply sacking thrown on the cargo.
This day boat is coming out of Gosty Hill Tunnel from the Stewart & Lloyds Tube Works. The boat belongs to H.S. Pitt.
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As I attempt to understand our own day boat, and in a sense try to get under the skin of day boats, it’s atmospheric image such as this that help me most. This picture captures, for me, the intense intimacy of the relationship between factory steam, heavy industry, belching chimneys, oily water , day boats and workers. Both loaded and unloaded day boats litter the image. One loaded boat is being moved by means of a long shalf

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