... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Thursday 2 September 2010


So far, we have been lucky enough not to get anything wrapped round Chertsey's prop. As we are about to visit the BCN for the first time, this charmed state of affairs cannot be expected to last much longer. Naturally, Chertsey is not equipped with anything as wimpish as a weedhatch. I have had a practice go at poking about under the counter with the cabin shaft, and I have also attempted this on Tarporley (before going down, sorry, sending Maryam down, the weedhatch). It is very hard. At least, it is very hard if you are small and uncoordinated and have weak arms and no idea where you're meant to be pointing the thing. So I approach this inevitable task with some trepidation.

Discussing this with Blossom, he said, what you want is to get hold of a shunter's pole, and he described this as bearing a sort of spiral hook which you can work into whatever ails you, and twist it round and round and get a really good grip on it, more effectively than with the cabin shaft. Sounds marvellous I thought, but how esoteric... how much call can there be these days for an implement for manually decoupling railway carriages... I shall keep my eyes open, and if I am lucky, I might find one within the next decade or two.

Then lo and behold if the very subject didn't turn up on CWF, and someone named a supplier - Richard Carter of Huddersfield, established in seventeen forty-something, and purveyor of every agricultural and engineering implement your heart could ever desire, and many more it probably wouldn't. Who knew there were so many different sorts of spade? So we rang them up and spoke the the very obliging Michelle, and soon a shunter's hook on a hickory shaft was winging its way to us. I have just taken a really terrible photo of it, but hopefully you get the general gist. Now I'm torn between excitement at the prospect of trying it out, and hoping (no doubt vainly) that the need won't arise.


  1. I'm looking forward to your reports of using the new implement!

  2. Looking at the catalogue, only one screw hole is visible, for the screw or pin securing the hook to the shaft.

    Based on my experience in using a shafted tool for pulling, I suggest you add additional 'screws' to resist the twisting and pulling forces the hook will encounter in its prop clearing role. At some stage you, or some other user, will put a tremendous combined pull & twist load into the hook. The very last thing you want is for the head to separate from the shaft in those circumstances. Everyone else will laugh at the resulting acrobatic manoeuvre, but it won't be funny for the user, and could be dangerous.

    I thought, from your report, that Blossom was describing the sort of double helix associated with drain clearing rods, especially as these are made for pulling. However, the Shunters Hook does seem to be more in period with Chertsey.

    Good Luck.

  3. As far as the head on a shunter's pole, or a 'pigs tail' as they are also known, I have never known one be held on with a screw or even multiple screws, but in fact are held onto the shaft by means of a steel rivet about a 1/4" diameter. a hole is drilled right through the ash shaft then the rivet passed through from the blade side of the head, then a washer about 3/8" diameter with a 1/4" hole is put over the projecting end of the rivet on the ash shaft side, and it is riveted over. Some of them also have a second rivet about half way down the tapered section of the head going through from side to side at 90 degrees to the other one.I have never known one come off, in fact there a bugger to get off even when you want them to. Myself, I don't know what the fuss is all about, the B.C.N is no worse than any other canal for picking up a bladefull (ha ha) it just happens more often!

  4. Thanks Blossom for the additional detail re normal design & build. Clearly the designer and I share the same opinion about the disaster of the hook falling off when put under strain.
    Peace of mind is worth spending money on. If all it takes is a '6ft pole with a steel hook', then that is probably a price worth paying :-)