Pump It

In between bouts of painting and taking the boat to the winding hole outside Shobnall marina, I got my double sided knitting of the Roman numeral flags done. The techniques are better than my test piece though still experimental through the three flags and the last one I did, the C, was most challenging as it is not symmetrical, making reading the charts harder. 


One side of the bunting squares
Bunting for 1900 in Roman numerals reverse side

Now all I have to do is write the pattern instructions and hints and tips, so others can give it a go. Shane is also writing out instructions for starting up Bartimaeus, in case anyone wants to use the boat when we are in Edinburgh.

This morning we saw children playing football in the park, a weekend with no storms was making the park busier. We weren’t planning to stay still and watch the sport though, we were moving a short distance down the canal to experience a historical event, not Roman but Victorian. We went to the moorings nearest to the Pumping station as it was having one of the rare Steaming Days when the engines are actually working. There is one tomorrow too but the temperature is better for painting then. 

We found the canal busier today, probably with it being a weekend with no storms, and met people coming out of the lock as we approached and then someone was waiting to come in, as we came out. In the short journey we saw quite a few boats moving. We moored up at rings and set off, hoping the cafe would be open today. Last time we might have been the only visitors but we expected it to be busier this time.

What I hadn’t expected was that some of the visitors would be a steam punk group with impressive regalia. We were told they would be coming by one of the volunteers and that they would be in to see the engine starting up soon.One huge engine was already going and they were about to start up the other identical one, so we waited for the spectacle. To my surprise the volunteer asked me to help with the procedure by turning a valve. The valve was not visible but a metal rod with a flat handle had been slotted down a hole in the floor to attach to whatever it was I was opening in the level below. He said he would give me the nod and I should just keep turning until it stopped. I checked the direction – anticlockwise. Then they blasted a steam whistle and rang a bell so others knew to head to that Pump Room. The steam punk group duly arrived and were keen to take part. The room filled up with other steam enthusiasts.

Watching steam punk man being instructed for starting the pump.

I awaited the nod from Alastair the volunteer, who was operating a different valve and calling directions to the others. Fortunately it was pretty straightforward but I had to cast my handbag aside as the handle bashed it as I turned.

The engine started up quickly. Two men hold the handles and move them manually, as it starts up but then it operates itself.

Spooky! Handles with no hands running themselves

The whole apparatus is spread over 3 floors. Other rooms had different steam engines running and there was a large shed with furnaces being stoked. There we saw some younger recruits, as it is pretty heavy labour there. Shane was offered the opportunity to shovel coal into the high hoppers at or above head height, but gave it a miss. He enjoyed the chat from the enthusiastic volunteer taking a break from shovelling.

Young volunteers tending the fires: stoking and clinker clearing and loading coal hoppers

There are also several other buildings with other steam powered machines including a knife grinder of enormous proportions and an array of very large knives for whetting. We watched metal being heated in the forge and hammered and snipped into shape, a delicate coat hook. A volunteer remembered us from a previous visit and greeted us warmly. Everyone was so enthusiastic. We didn’t join a formal tour but were given many informal chats with the volunteers there. And yes there was a cafe!

Group on a tour : Spot the odd one out!