Tuesday, 22 September 2009

My canal artwork

Here are few of my paintings. I started out just doing pictures of classic canal boat engines while I was living afloat for something to do in the winter evenings.
I'd never painted before apart from airbrush work, but with a child's watercolour set I did this one as my first effort and didn't look back.

This is a Lister JP2, a mainstay of the later canal fleets. Heavy, thrifty and endlessly reliable, like all Listers. These are now a very expensive bit of iron, but not so long ago couldn't be given away!
It's shown in a background of a wooden boat very much like ours. In fact our boat had a JP2 for a long time.

This is a Bolinder semi-diesel 2 stroke. This was the engine which almost single handedly transformed the many horse boats and few steamers on the canals into the modern cargo carriers that continued right up to the point where canals became more for leisure than work.
It is started by a blowlamp being aimed at a bulb on the top for about 15 minutes, then it's kicked over by a retractable pin on the rim of the flywheel. Get that wrong and it would throw you clean out the side doors! On some engines there was no gearbox, you had to time it just right and get the engine itself to run backwards, which many 2-strokes can. these engines have just the one massive capacity cylinder, so need that enormous flywheel to keep going. You can hear a hardworking "Bolly" over a mile away.

Although not really ever a canal boat engine due to cost and size, the superb Kelvin engines are now very sought after for powering modern narrowboats and tugs. Their construction is flawless by design and excecution, even the insides of the engine are enamelled in white!

Their main claim to fame is the fact that they are petrol/diesel. That is, they are started on a tiny amount of petrol, then switched over to diesel once running. I once drove a Kelvin J2 and was presented with a 12 point list of operations to attend to each time it was started, but once those items were checked the engine would always start without fail amidst actual smoke rings from the chimney. Its exhaust note of "Gerdonk" was excelled only by a bigger K2 unit I once heard saying "Rivitt, rivitt" to me.
These were the darlings of the Scottish fishing fleet. If you're freezing in a rough North Sea, you need to know you'll get home.

Many people seem to think the Russell Newberry is the Rolls Royce of engines.


It's certainly Rolls Royce price, but I think there are other, more worthy owners of that title.

Nonetheless, the RN is much loved and even warrants an owners' club.
It has a few strange and interesting features, like horizontal valves, for instance. It was until recently, still made, but at a very high price. It has a distinctive sound, like a cantering horse.

Many of the boats that housed these sorts of engines would gather at this most famous of meeting places...Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham.
This painting shows Gas Street in around the 1970s.
The two boats in the picture are recently decked out in British Waterways colours, albeit without the lettering. The unpowered "butty" was usually tied up to the bank with the motor boat outside it wherever a pair stopped for the night or whilst awaiting loading orders.

These pictures and some others are available to buy as limited edition prints.
The reproduction here is not reliably coloured as, for some reason, they come out a little grey when photographed. Being all A3 size they couldn't be scanned.

I will, I hope, soon have a Paypal account through which they can be bought for £17-50 each+£2-50 p&p in a cardboard tube.

No comments:

Post a Comment