Activities during 2014

River Kennet - 10 September 2014

Our trip to the River Kennet on Wednesday was a great success and we think is probably the first time ever for Consuta. The weather was perfect and we left Beale Park around 9:00am. By 1:00pm we had reached the Cunning Man Inn on the Kennet at Burghfield for refreshments, then an eventual return to Beale Park by 6:20pm.

We have since measured up the distances as 9 miles on the Thames and 5 miles on the Kennet - (28 miles there and back) - with three locks on the Thames and four locks on the Kennet, though we did wonder was County Lock on the Kennet really necessary with a drop of about 12 inches?

The Oracle shopping centre in Reading is an interesting place, although most of the visitors found their mobile phone screens more interesting than an old steam boat passing by.

The river through here used to be called the brewery gut and before the new centre was built and the channel widened, the currents could be very fast. The section is still controlled by traffic lights for right of way through the section. There are further pictures on the Consuta facebook site plus a bit of video of Consuta passing the dinosaur compound at the Oracle (we didn't linger!).

Second Boat Handling Session - 25 August 2014

We ran the second training session on the lake at Beale Park. Steve and Dilly Bil, Henley Royal Regatta umpire launch drivers came along and compared the differences of handling Consuta with the petrol umpire launches. The main difference is probably due to the sizes of propellers. Consuta has a 30 inch diameter prop, whereas the petrol launches only have about 18 inches, and the big prop not only provides great acceleration but also has a major braking effect at times when not always needed.

Boat Handling Session - 1 August 2014

We ran the first informal boat handling session yesterday. The aim is to practice arriving and departing rather than going, so we stayed on a quiet stretch of the river at Sonning and practised multiple approaches and three (well rather more than three) point turns.

The river was pretty quiet throughout the day.

Everybody said they enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about handling Consuta. There was lots of opportunity to practice coordination between helmsman and engineer and see how everything goes much better if done slowly.

We aim to keep the numbers low (around 4) on each session so that each person gets plenty of practice. As I write this it's just started raining heavily and cancelling Saturday's session was in hindsight a good choice.

We will arrange some more sessions in August and September.

Henley Festival - 9th to 13th July 2014

Consuta had a very successful week at the Henley Festival, raising almost £2,000 from donations. This included one very generous private donation. Warm weather and a prime position on the Festival waterfront are key to a successful evening and we were lucky to have both on most nights. Bryan Ferry, Joss Stone, Burt Bacharach and The Jacksons were amongst the acts performing during the week.

For the fist time this year we were able to steam Consuta at the Saturday afternoon Free Art event. Normally the festival organisers restrict the size of operating crews during the evening to three but this limit did not apply for the afternoon event and a group of supporters did an excellent job of handling Consuta and keeping a steady queue of people wanting a ride on the river.

Things got a little tricky when one of the bigger steam boats stopped the singer in the BMW lounge with a cloud of acrid smoke but Consuta was seen as the "clean" steamboat thanks to careful application of new coal and a closed damper when alongside. The picture of our prime mooring below shows the challenge for the fireman.

Consuta's guests were treated to a special welcoming party when they returned to the landing stage.

We stopped operating once the main concert started and the festival site transformed with lots of lights.

Reading Town Regatta - 28th June 2014

Consuta, sponsored by Savills, took part in the Reading Town Regatta during the afternoon of the 28th June. The day started with a rather wet and miserable short cruise upriver late morning but the sun came out by early afternoon. This was a very relaxed event with some VIP trips, although the crew got carried away and worked as an umpire launch for six races. This race course is short at 800m but very fast – great fun. I understand that the rev counter indicated that we were travelling at 16mph at the start of one race.

Consuta sprouts a pair of oars at Henley Women's Regatta - 21st June 2014

Trust can never shake off "slow" image

Actually we had a terrific day in beautiful weather (most unusual for this event). We lost count of the number of races we umpired. Consuta was in steam from 5am to 8pm.

Plug in a pair of headphones, turn up the volume and click on the image below to experience a high speed run down the course.

The reason we were able to run the course at such speed is in fact a little sad. One of the two teams suffered equipment failure and the Umpire requested we stay with them until she was sure assistance was on its way. We then chased after the second team, who were by this time well down the course.

The person doing all the work is the least visible. Without a skilled fireman Consuta would run out of steam pretty quickly and need that pair of oars to complete the course.

Consuta re-positional from Pangbourne to Charvil on Friday 13th June.

12 adults and one baby were on board for this first 2014 river trip by Consuta. While raising steam two cars were placed at Charvil to get people back to Beale park at the end of the trip. This involves a journey through or bypassing Reading; there are a multitude of possible routes and I thought I had tried them all until Nigel took us on a new one - I won't use this one again because I'd get lost.

The river trip started about 11:30 but after Whitchurch lock (and the new bridge works pictured above) the engine started to make groaning noises. Old hands recognised this as a lack of steam oil in the engine. Sure enough the ratchet oiler had failed. This device relies on two ratchet pawls with a lever worked from the engine and to our amazement one of the wheels had come off it's thread and slide away from the pawl. We managed to get it working for the rest of the trip and hopefully sorted out for the future, but will need to be kept under close scrutiny for the next few trips

We stopped at our favourite mooring for lunch just past Caversham bridge at the River Spice, most passengers had brought a picnic but a few found various takeaways. It was noticed that two passengers were sipping Pims - ideal on this hot sunny day. After lunch we continued to Charvil without incident arriving there just after 3:00. Engineers were Zak and Paul, who advised that we had burnt four bags of coal. A lovely river trip enjoyed by all.

11th June 2014 - Planning Inspector Grants Permission for Thames Museum

Overturns weak case put forward by West Berks Planning Department.

This excellent result is very much down to the work Brian, Paul and Tony have put in over the last year. West Berks Planning department did all they could to keep this as a closed decision but an open hearing allowed key statements of support and a pragmatic approach by the Planning Inspector demolished the Council's case.

You can read the Inspector's report here.

News of the appeal is also nicely featured on the BBC website here.

Beale Park Boat Show 7-9th June 2014

Despite some severe weather warnings from the Met Office, Consuta was steamed for the first time this year at the Beale Park Boat Show in some delightful conditions.

We spent most of the weekend running trips on the lake, not an umbrella in sight.

David prepares Consuta's engine, supervised by the Trust's youngest recruit (note the Health and Safety approved restraint system).

Re-Launch 29th May 2014

Consuta was relaunched and boiler refitted today without any problems; this despite a rather dull dreary showery day. The RJ & Sons crane (Roy) left at 10:30 with job done. Refitting the pipework always takes a bit of time (fiddly) so there are now only a few remaining jobs to be completed before she is ready for steaming at the boatshow. We don't seem to be missing too many important bits - anybody seen the pressure gauge? and where is that whistle?

It was noted that Consuta floats nicely at the waterline when there is no water in the boiler (this water content weighs 700 lbs) - so roll on the installation of a new better and lighter boiler.

We were surprised to find that it was rather busy at the Beale Park lake because the boat show pontoons were also being placed into the water; so there was a bit of competition for space around the slipway.

Many thanks to all who came out to help; good to meet up and have a bit of a chat - 11 of us then went on for a pub lunch at the Bull.

Next gathering will be at the Beale Park Boatshow - our stall set-up day is on Thursday 5th June.

More pictures on Consuta's facebook page.

Consuta in 1920

A nice piece of video from Pathé newsreel. Click on image below to start.


Consuta is now being reassembled and we took the opportunity of trying an updated version of the new boiler template that was cut from mdf (see below) to check that we really could get rid of the ugly boiler casing and return Consuta to her original appearance. We should be able to halve the height of the casing.

Everything is now ready for the existing boiler which is now looking very smart (and hopefully valuable on the second hand market).

The new boiler template almost looks too small when compared to it's original below.

Consuta pops her nose into the sunlight ready for some great adventures in 2014.

Appeal Latest

Many thanks to those who were able to get to our appeal meeting on the 15th April. There are some photos of the appeal on the Consuta facebook pages taken during the site visit in the afternoon.

There were about 30+ people at the hearing meeting in the morning with some great professional support evidence from Martyn Heighton, Oliver Pearcy and Peter Turvey plus also from those who had compiled the appeal case; Tony Paul and self. At the meeting the museum proposal was described as the Thames equivalent of the Windermere Museum and that the HLF were already looking favourably on our project.

So all we can do now is sit back and wait (3 - 7 weeks). I will however dust off the lottery application folder and see what needs to be done on this before we get the appeal decision. The public interest for the museum application and the appeal will help with a lottery application; the inspector said that he had received 57 support letters and no objections, and I think there were nearly 50 support letters for the original application.

Meanwhile we need to get on with work to get ready for the Beale Park Boat Show which is the first event on our calendar, so will start looking at what is needed for completion and produce some dates for work parties. Possibly one more at Kintbury and a couple at Beale Park.


Work Party 2nd April at Kintbury

Sorry about the very late change of date for the work party. This was partly because of a forecast for rain on the day which never materialised, also our chef had other work on the day.

Five supporters turned up and we managed to get a lot of work done, and also had a jolly good meal.

The boiler was cleared of a lot of mud from the river water which had accumulated above the foundation ring. An airjet helped blow some out; but a bit anti social with all the dust.

Photos show: removal of firebars; tube and smokebox cleaning; flange gasket making.


Another Route to a Lighter Boiler..

Work is slowly progressing on cleaning up the outside of Consuta’s boiler (not the new one but the one we currently use). I think the surfaces have suffered over the years because of poor or no protective cover especially if the lagging gets wet.

The two photos show the barrel which has the worst pitting. An ultrasonic thickness check in a few places gave a minimum reading of about 9.2mm; I think the barrel was originally 10mm.

The worst pitting can be seen in the photos, this is by the main stop valve which always seems to start leaking during the season, so is probably the culprit creating dampness in the lagging.

This joint always suffers and is due to the poor pipe line route causing great stress on the joint. I’ve made a few thickness checks on the backhead (it’s a new toy) and this measures over 11mm so probably started off as 12mm. The wrapper is surprisingly good and has already been painted black.

Other work carried out is serving the check valves, and some other boiler fittings; this work is much easier to carry out with the boiler out of the weather close to available maintenance facilities. Oh we do need that proper museum base ASAP.

Boiler CAD/CAM - 25 Feb 2014

One of the important objectives for the design of a new boiler for Consuta is that it should have a lower profile than the current boiler and allow us to return the boiler casing to its original lower height and less boxy form. This is however directly at odds with the desire for a larger working water range and greater space below the bottom row of tubes.

To help check whether the currently proposed CAD design will physically meet these requirements, we have CNC cut a template that is the full height of the boiler at it's deepest point.

This is not a true cross section as an 8mm wrapper section would be rather delicate in MDF. It has however exactly the same external dimensions and (half) width of the CAD model. The section was produced by transferring part of the 2D CAD drawing to a CNC package called VCarve Pro which was used to prepare the CNC code for cutting by a small stepper motor driven routing table.

Click on the image above to see a two minute video of the machine cutting the shape out.

It's a great shame the machine can't slice through boiler plate the way it can cut through mdf.

We hope to be able to position the template within the boiler space and see that we can fit the ash pan below and lower the casing height. If this proves not to be possible, we can build another CAD model with a bigger barrel that will allow one or two extra columns of tubes to compensate for the removal of the lower tube row which will, in turn, allow us to decrease the boiler height.

Winter Social - 15th Feb 2014

There may have been flooding outside but the Consuta Winter Social took place at the Swan in a newly refurbished and warm function room.

Around 60 guests attended from The Consuta Trust, The SBA and The Goring and Streately Historical Society.

The food was excellent with the extra advantage, for those facing in the right direction, of watching telly at the same time. Paul Smith had set up a projector and he and Mark kept a succession of interesting videos running in the background throughout.

After lunch Brian Smith gave an update on winter activities, including the latest on the Museum appeal. David Eager gave a short presentation on progress on Consuta's new boiler and Richard Howard explained the improvements to the 2014 Beale Park Boat Show.

Tony Cundick showed the Heritage Boat Museum model and Mike and Janet Hurst had brought along some excellent display boards showing the Saunder's heritage in the local area.

February 4th 2014 - New Pictures of Consuta from Leander's Library

Thanks to Geoff Leggett, the Leander club's Honorary Librarian, some new pictures from around 1912 have come to light. These are particularly interesting because they show views of Consuta and Maritana from above.

Evening Standard, March 30th 1912

This first picture shows Maritana being used to coach the Oxford eight prior to the 1912 Race.

Daily News, Feb 24th 1913

The second picture shows Consuta passing under one of the London bridges with an attentive umpire at her bows. Everyone looks dressed for a cold February day on the river.

Both pictures give clues as to the preferred boiler layout and size. Each boiler seems smaller than Consuta's current boiler.

Winter Maintenance

Although there have not been any Consuta work parties so far this year work is progressing on a few fronts. I have the boiler at Kintbury and quite a few of the other bits and pieces.

The two boiler check valve have been removed and fully serviced. It seems that there was a build up of lime where the valves sit and some may remember these valves did stick on a few occasions. The best way to remove this was with a large diameter round file.

There is an O ring in this design which is an important seal; I managed to find some Viton ones of the right size (I hope) in China - £6 for 20. They have to be Viton because of the temperature and are supposed to be good to 250 degrees C. The spindle packing has also been renewed, although I don’t think this would be needed if the O rings seal correctly.

The boiler inspector wanted the small pointers on the handles paint red – so this was done.

Another issue was the pressure gauge was reading low about 14 psi at the boiler max pressure of 180 psi. I’ve noticed that nobody minds if the safeties blow if the pressure gauge reads low but people get concerned if the gauge goes past the red line without the safeties blowing – its psychological I suppose. I made a test rig as in photo to compare consuta’s gauge with others. General purpose 4” gauges are about 2-3% accurate. The gauge uses a bourden tube which works the pointer through a mechanical geared linkage. Most gauges gave a simple adjustment for what is known as the span ie how far the pointer travels when pressurised.

The other key point is that when there is no pressure the gauge should read zero. I checked three 4” diameter gauges I have and they were all within 1 psi at 180; so one of these was used as the standard. The results were pretty good and I believe that the gauge is now easily within the allowable 2% error. It reads about 1 psi low at 180 psi.

"Spot Consuta's Summer Mooring" Competition.

It's down there somewhere

This picture must have been taken on around the 9th January 2014 and shows the Thames floodplain at Charvil doing what it is supposed to do. This is the worse flood at Charvil since 2003, the water recently peaked about 50mm below the levels then.

It's a good thing that Consuta is out of the river. Whole trees have been racing past and a boat moored just downstream of Consuta's summer base is now aground, up on a lawn next to the river after being pushed there by the current because the water was too deep and too fast for the owner to adjust the mooring lines. Water levels are receding and the boat is likely to be left high and dry. It weighs three tonnes and is likely to stay put until the next bad flood, probably not another 10 years, may be not even another 10 days.

February 4th 2014 - New Pictures of Consuta from Leander's Library

Thanks to Geoff Leggett, the Leander club's Honorary Librarian, some new pictures from around 1912 have come to light. These are particularly interesting because they show views of Consuta and Maritana from above.

Evening Standard, March 30th 1912

This first picture shows Maritana being used to coach the Oxford eight prior to the 1912 Race.

Daily News, Feb 24th 1913

The second picture shows Consuta passing under one of the London bridges with an attentive umpire at her bows. Everyone looks dressed for a cold February day on the river.

Both pictures give clues as to the preferred boiler layout and size. Each boiler seems smaller than Consuta's current boiler.

10 January 2014 - Date set for Public Hearing.

This will take place at the Newbury Council Offices at 10:00am on Tuesday 15th April. The site visit will be probably be during the afternoon.

If you wish to make any comment about the appeal you have until 31st January to write (email) the planning Inspectorate. The link to the PINS site is here.

If you want to see all the current paperwork (our case for appeal) look here.

Robin Ford is now providing the local media details of our appeal - so far some nice coverage.

Anyone can come along to the hearing and can even ask questions, so if you want to find out why the council rejected, here is your chance. I'm hoping that we will also have key history/boat organisation representatives present and perhaps even the media. This project is an excellent opportunity to have a great museum in our area covering the early navigation developments on the Thames and nobody can understand why planning application procedures were broken by officers to stop local councillors looking at the merits of the case.

Flood pictures taken 8th January at Streatley, Beale Park and Pangbourne.

The Swan Inn at Streatley - just about flooding the lower bar area. The lock normally has a drop of about six feet - the blue notice says self service - its a joke?

Towpath and moorings down stream of road bridge now under water.

Next photos are the Swan Pangbourne - closed

Now Whitchurch Bridge - or dear - will it reopen this spring on time?

Looking towards Whitchurch side of the river. View from the temporary footbridge - we think the crane pontoon has pulled on its mooring lines.

Looking towards the Pangbourne side of the river. Boathouse Surgery at Pangbourne - surely not today.

Adventure Dolphin Centre at Pangbourne - did they do a Flood Risk Assessment?

Now flooding at Beale park

No chance of Consuta getting under the pond foot bridge now! The road was dry but field on each side were beginning to flood.

Looking towards the entrance of the museum. Consuta's pontoons stranded - there was no sign of the slipways either.

1 January 2014 - Trust Wins Approval for Public Hearing on Museum Planning Appeal

The Trust has been notified that the procedure for our museum planning appeal has been changed. This is good news as it follows our request for a review of appeal procedures because we knew that a written appeal, which had been requested by the council, was not right. The notification states:

The appeal file has been reviewed by a senior Inspector Manager who considers that an oral event is required. They have advised that a hearing is the most suitable procedure for the appeal to allow the Inspector to understand the premises on which the parties were approaching the matter.

We have also noted the fact that the planning application generated in the region of 50 representations.

One knock-on effect of this change is that the time limit for representation letters is now 31st January. The date for the hearing will be provided at least two weeks prior to the appeal meeting, and we would encourage anyone who wants to find out more about the Councils planning reasons for rejection to come along.

There is a useful 2 page leaflet issued by the government about hearings which is available on the Trust website. Here is a quote:-

The inspector will try to make sure that everyone who wants to speak has an opportunity to do so. He or she will encourage a full and frank exchange of views but will also expect parties to keep to the agenda and avoid repeating points. So, it can be useful for local residents to appoint one spokesperson or share out topics between several people present.

Local residents have an important role to play in the hearing process. The inspector will want to hear your views and will encourage a fairly informal atmosphere so that anyone who is not familiar with planning matters is not discouraged from speaking or made to feel uncomfortable. By following the agenda, anyone who wants to speak on a particular point will know when this point is being discussed.

4 December 2013 - Trust Launches Appeal Against Boathouse Planning Decision

The Consuta Trust has lodged a formal appeal against the decision by West Berks Council to refuse the application for a River Heritage Museum at Beale Park. A copy of the details of our appeal can be found here or from the sub menu on the left hand side. This copy, unlike the one on the Council's web site has all the linked supporting documents attached. Simply click on the blue links to open.

We are currently pressing for a public hearing, although the planning department do not appear to be keen on this.

We will publish more details including a date for the appeal hearing once we have them.

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