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Tours 2000, BCN, Severn Estuary, K&A and River Wey

5 - Tuesday 4th July - Dudley Tunnel. Dudley No2 Canal to Windmill End. Netherton Tunnel. New Main Line to Albion Junction. Gower Branch to Bradeshall Junction. Old Main Line to Black Country Museum Moorings.



The crew was awoken (about time) by a mobile call from Peter Wright at approx 06:30, who was waiting at the Black Country Museum (BCM) boater's gate. The crew arose whilst Neil talked to Peter W and looked at gauging point. The measured water level was now 19" below the towpath level (surprise!); 2" improvement. Then Kevin Maslin arrived (he has his own bogmaster key). We took this opportunity to measure up against the gauge again (this was only secured by a finger-tight shackle); this time we get through clear with about 1" to spare (more like Neil's gauge). Brian Dominic is the next to arrive (after a MacDonald's breakfast).  Final preparations include removing cratch cover, cratch and top board, opening top hatches (good weather thankfully), fitting half, square section drain pipe covers to brass hand rails, and laying equipment racks flat down.  Plenty of pictures of this were taken by Brian and Kevin. A re-run through the gauge with Mike Reynolds, the Tug Captain proved that clearance was not a problem, you could see his jaw visibly drop!!! After a time he went to collect the tug, from the Singing Cavern, It is kept here as it has better charging facilities. At the mouth of the tunnel we tied up to the tug and then starting at10:15, we were away. 
We were towed to Castle Mill Basin, through the two short tunnels (there is another small open basin in between). Here Kevin M got off the tug (on which he was travelling) to take some more pictures.  After a short stop we went through the main navigation tunnel and we had a go at legging through for about 30 mins. This was to the strains of the "Dudley Tunnel Song", the KLF and Tubular Bells 1, this last item was essential as it was played when we first went through here in 1975. It was tough work; the men that used to do the legging for a job, with heavier boats than ours, must have had mighty strong leg muscles. We re-hitched to the tug and carried on though, past various interesting features, through the low sections.  One of these was before the new 1984 concrete section, and another couple were just before the Parkhead portal. We emerged at 12:25 (2hrs 10mins, but we were not trying to break records!) 
In manhandling our way under the Parkhead gauge, there was a slight scratch to one of the brass handrails (due to our lack of concentration and the boat going UNDER THE EDGES COMPLETELY! ).*** unless the BCM end gauge is recalibrated we would recommend everyone gets gauged at the south Park Head end, this is close to the BW profile dimensions, which are still pessimistic and is at least THREE INCHES higher than the Tipton portal swinging gauge.*** Neil was standing on the stern deck through the low sections and the experience (with additional ballasting) was much like going through some bits of the Harecastle Tunnel (with regular ballasting), except that the Harecastle is a bigger diameter. After a while, for the motor to cool down, the tug departs back with Kevin M, who was going to come back later, in his car for transport purposes. Firstly the engine compartment was emptied of extraneous junk, so we could start the engine to use the electric kettle, so we could make some tea! Next follows a ballast shifting and water emptying session; at this point it was agreed with Oldbury Boat Services (good chaps!) that they would take the pavoirs, either this evening or the following morning (Wednesday). Brian D turned himself into a nifty pumpmeister, using the emergency bilge pump to empty the dustbins, the front cockpit "swimming pool" and the water (gas) locker. Moving back to normality on Earnest, the damage was assessed as:
a) one lost stick fender
b) a few graunches below gunnel line on the port side mainly from the BW crash rail.
c) one scratch to brass hand rail covers (we were expecting to get them totally bu**ered!)
If we had known that the tunnel had good width throughout we could have used the normal tyre fenders down on the crash bar / safety chain support. Kevin M came back and offered welcome assistance to Brian and Gavin (returning crew member with a lift back to the station).  Peter W decided to stay until wherever we got to (which turned out to be where we started from...!) At 14:30 we set off for OBS; while Parkhead locks were being prepared (these were all empty) Neil went up the restored short section of the Pensett Arm/Canal. We went into Parkhead Top Lock at 14:40 and was out of the  bottom lock at 14:55, just getting in front of Water Joker coming up Blower's Green Lock. With Peter W steering (with Earnest in an untidy state of trim - stern light) we passed disused Blackbrook Junction (15:10), this was the two lock line to by-pass the dog leg and the deep Blowers Green lock. 
The Bumblehole Arm Junction was passed at (15:45), Windmill End Junction (15:50), Netherton Tunnel in (15:55), out (16:25).  Throughout this time we were pursued by Water Joker. Dudley Port Junction passed at 16:40. We lost Water Joker, who turned left to go through Factory locks, whereas we decided to go though the Gower branch. Albion Junction was passed at 16:55 (too late for OBS), and decided to go back to the BCM visitor moorings. We came out on to old main line after Bradeshall Junction at 17:25. The Brades locks having taken us up to the Wolverhampton level, which seemed down. Before going up the interesting final two lock staircase of the Brades locks, the over bridge has been heavily strengthened underneath, causing the air draught to be only 6ft 6ins. Also at this point we observed a very shifty character doing a "pick up" of some "special stuff" in a bulging carrier bag from the bushes beside the lock. Through out this operation he shielded his face from view, strange! We arrived at Tipton Junction (18:20), and executed another untidy turn to Dudley Tunnel Branch / Lord Hays Branch. After a stodgy wind we were back at the visitor moorings at the BCM (18:30). The boat in front in front was Water Joker, which proves (perhaps obvious) that Factory Locks is the quicker route from the Netherton Tunnel, but the Gower Branch had to be done! That night we had fish and chips on the boat and then went to the pub.

All quiet at the Tipton Portal of the Dudley Tunnel.

Julian E, Danny, Peter W, Brian D and Kevin M contemplate the TNC's latest "new" adventure.

Brian D and Neil NOT suffering from pre-tunnel nerves. (Photo - Kevin Maslin)

Gavin suffering from pre-tunnel nerves, will the boat get stuck and  have it's roof cut off!?

Julian E and Neil remove the cratch and cover, uncovering the finest polished pine legging boards. Note front doors have had to be removed! (Photo - Kevin Maslin)

Neil fitting the (pointless) plastic handrail protectors. (Photo - Kevin Maslin)

"Let's get physical" Brian D sorts out Julian E's and Colin's legging technique / position.

Somewhat lower in the water than the manufacturers intended! Note the plastic liner in the water (gas) locker.

The "unofficial" morning gauging. (Photo - Kevin Maslin)

The "unofficial" morning gauging. (Photo - Kevin Maslin)

The tug arrives. Kevin M wondered where he had got to!

John C Brown, the Dudley Tunnel tug.

Off we go! Dudley Tunnel. (Photo - Brian Dominic)

The tug master tightens up the crossed tow ropes.

Nearly all in!

Tug passing through the first mini opened out basin.

Looking back at the first small basin.

Looking back at the first small basin.

Castle Mill Basin. The tug master seems to want to take us through the closed Wren's Nest Tunnel, goody!

The closed off Wren's Nest Tunnel. Bugger!, we are not going up there!

Shot taken from the bank. Earnest crossing Castle Mill Basin. This shot shows how low and level ballasted Earnest was! The entrance tunnel into the basin is under the hanging ivy! (Photo - Kevin Maslin)

Earnest crossing Castle Mill Basin. Kevin M on right hand bank, taking last picture. The lower tunnel to the left is the Tunnel to the Singing Cavern, the route of the DCT daily trip boats. 

Earnest crossing Castle Mill Basin. The lower tunnel to the left is the Tunnel to the Singing Cavern, the route of the DCT daily trip boats. 

"BOING!". Earnest crossing Castle Mill Basin.

Tightening up the tow ropes for the main navigation tunnel. (Photo - Brian Dominic)

Looking back at the last view of Castle Mill Basin portal.

Entering brick bit from rock lined section. (Photo - Brian Dominic)

Looking back at rock lined section. 

We get a sneak preview of part of the DCT display in a side cavern. 

The new DCT tunnel, back from Singing Cavern to the main navigation tunnel at Cathedral Arch. Here there is a slight opening to the sky.

Rocky bit. (Photo - Brian Dominic)

Poisonous rocky bit (we were told NOT to touch the sides!) (Photo - Brian Dominic)

Long brick lined section, where we tried a go at legging. Peter W and Colin power (+Neil having a good shaft at the rear!!!!) (Photo - Kevin Maslin)

Long brick lined section, where we tried a go at legging. Julian E and Colin power (+Neil having a good shaft at the rear!!!!) (Photo - Kevin Maslin)

Mind those calcite formations! (Photo - Brian Dominic)

Don't touch the stalactites! (Photo - Brian Dominic)

New concrete bit.

New concrete bit. The end is insight.

Leaving first of low bits after the concrete bit.

The last "lowest" bit. There must be at least 6 inches clearance at the handrails!!!! (Photo - Brian Dominic)

The tug about to break into the light at the Parkhead Portal.

Un-hitching the tug at the Parkhead Portal. (Photo - Kevin Maslin)

Easing Earnest out. Parkhead Portal. Dudley Tunnel.

Easing Earnest out. Parkhead Portal. Dudley Tunnel.

Easing Earnest out. Parkhead Portal. Dudley Tunnel.

Neil contemplates the real challenge, getting the bloody water and bricks out! Parkhead Portal. Dudley Tunnel. (Photo - Kevin Maslin)

The tug has winded and is cooling down. (Photo - Brian Dominic)

Kevin M about to board tug, for journey back. Parkhead Portal. Dudley Tunnel.

The tug leaves. Parkhead Portal. Dudley Tunnel.

The de-ballasting starts. First the water dustbins. (Photo - Brian Dominic)

Brian D, pumpmeister!

A few of the "unhidden" bricks!

Brian about to empty the "swimming pool".

Rest Of Images

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