Tag Archives: Dublin

DUKWs? Fiat lux

I have written here about a series of misfortunes suffered by DUKWs in Liverpool and London. On 16 June 2013 I put up some photos of DUKWs in Dublin and Liverpool; I pointed to what seemed to me to be two differences between practices in the two cities:

First, before they enter the water at Grand Canal Dock, Ringsend, the DUKWs are fitted with extra buoyancy in cylinders that slide into racks along their sides. I saw the VikingSplash crew removing the cylinders from the yellow DUKW; it took only a couple of minutes, and I presume that it didn’t take much longer to put the cylinders on.

Second, the Dublin passengers are issued with buoyancy aids before they take to the water. I can’t see any buoyancy aids on the Liverpool passengers, although it’s possible that they are out of camera shot.

There are links on that page to photos, news reports and a seriously scary video of the sinking of a DUKW in Liverpool. Then, in September 2013, a DUKW went on fire on the Thames; my brief report and links here. In October 2013 the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch issued a safety bulletin (my report here, with links) pointing to foam buoyancy as a common factor. The Liverpool DUKWs did not have enough buoyancy to keep them afloat if they started taking water and MAIB thought it would be impossible to get enough into them. On the London vessel,

… the most likely cause of fire was the action of the rotating drive shaft (or other moving parts) on the oil contaminated surfaces of the buoyancy foam blocks.

In November 2013 I noted that the wearing of lifejackets had been discussed in London and I commented on the policy of the Dublin operator, VikingSplash:

The point that strikes me is that, in both UK accidents, passengers had little time to don lifejackets and would have been trying to put them on in a confined space and under less than ideal conditions. It seems to me that Viking Splash’s policy [having passengers don lifejackets before taking to the water] is the right one.

In December 2014 the MAIB published its report into the two accidents. There’s a Guardian news report here [h/t gjb] and you can download the MAIB’s full report and annexes from this page. The London and Liverpool accidents are covered in the same report.

It’s well worth reading and pulls (as far as I could tell) no punches, even tearing strips off the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, both within the UK Department for Transport and both involved because the DUKW is an amphibian.

I took three main points from the report.

The Irish approach

First, the Irish authorities seem to have thought seriously about the safety problems. My understanding of the buoyancy requirements was mistaken: the UK DUKWs had added buoyancy (although not enough, and adding more foam caused fire) and the Irish buoyancy cylinders are not designed to keep the vessel afloat. Here’s what MAIB says:

In Ireland, APV operators have been permitted to operate vintage DUKWs without having to provide any residual buoyancy. To mitigate the consequences of serious flooding, the Irish regulator required the operators to:

  • Fit external buoyancy tubes designed to slow the sinking process and make the vehicle sink bodily [my emphasis].
  • Retract the canopy roof and open the side curtains prior to entering the water.
  • Require passengers and crew to wear PFDs while on the water.
  • Provide a fast rescue craft, rescue crew and an inflatable liferaft at the slipway.
  • Limit operations to a non-tidal area.

This approach focused on passenger survivability by reducing the risk of entrapment and drowning, rather than vehicle survivability, and introduced several of the interim measures recommended by the NTSB following the sinking of Miss Majestic.

The Irish model demonstrates that open topped APVs can be operated successfully in similar weather conditions to those experienced in the UK, and that passengers are willing to wear PFDs.

So big it up for the Irish Maritime Administration.

The speed of the sinking

Second, if you’ve seen the video of the Liverpool sinking you may have been struck by its speed. In both Liverpool and London passengers had very little time to get out and the report’s synopsis says

In both instances, the crew had little time to co-ordinate the evacuation process and the confined nature of passenger spaces made it almost impossible for them to control or assist the passengers.

And in 4.3 Common safety issues:

8.  It was extremely fortunate that all on board WQ1 and Cleopatra were able to evacuate into the water unharmed. In both cases the passengers were forced to act on instinct and exit the vehicles under their own initiative.

Any of several issues could have cut the time available and “the risk of entrapment and the likelihood of loss of life would have been considerably higher”.

So Figure 63 of a Dublin DUKW doesn’t just show the external buoyancy cylinders: the passengers are wearing buoyancy aids, there is a crewman already stationed at the stern and the side and roof canopies are open, all giving more chance of escape.

I’m not in any position to assess the overall safety of the Irish DUKW operation. What interests me here is a more general point about the evacuation of passengers from trip vessels: getting a large number of people out of a small space in a short time is not easy. And the recent problem of getting people off the Norman Atlantic didn’t make me feel any better.

Photo

Third, I am delighted that my photo of a DUKW in Liverpool was useful to the  UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (see the report’s Figure 16) but they really should have asked for permission to use it.

 

Matricide

A young woman, named Anne Macdonald, threw her mother into the Grand Canal, Dublin, last week, where the unfortunate woman was drowned. The daughter was excited to the unnatural act by a sudden fit of passion, on being called an opprobrious name by her mother.

Liverpool Mercury 1 January 1830

Nenagh Canal

Canal between Nenagh and the River Shannon

At a numerous and highly respectable Meeting of the Gentry, Merchants, Traders, and Freeholders of the Baronies of Upper Ormond, Lower Ormond, and Owney and Arra, held at Nenagh, County of Tipperary, on Wednesday, the 30th day of January, 1839.

PETER HOLMES, Esq, JP, and DL, in the Chair.

Moved by John Bayly, Esq; seconded by the Rev J H Poe, Rector of Nenagh:

Resolved — That we consider a Canal communication between Nenagh and the River Shannon, of vital importance to the prosperity of the town and neighbourhood, as increasing commerce, lessening the cost of fuel, facilitating intercourse with the sea ports of the country, and giving employment to the poor.

Moved by John Bouchier, Esq; seconded by the Reverend Ambrose O’Connor, PP of Nenagh:

Resolved — That we have heard with interest the Report of Mr Henry Buck, Engineer, on the proposed line of Canal; and recommend the adoption of the line he has surveyed.

Moved by John M’Keogh Dwyer, Esq; seconded by Thomas Maguire, Esq:

Resolved — That we recommend the adoption of the Prospectus that we have heard read.

Moved by Hastings Atkins, Esq; seconded by J J Poe, Esq:

Resolved — That we appoint Peter Holmes, Esq, a Commissioner, who is to name a second, the second a third, and so on, until the whole are appointed.

Moved by O’Brien Dillon, Esq; seconded by John Bayley, Esq:

Resolved — That the names of Lords Dunally, and Orkney be added to the list of Commissioners.

Moved by Doctor Quin; seconded by Doctor Dempster:

Resolved — That we recommend the proceedings of the Meeting to be published in the Nenagh Guardian, Limerick Chronicle, and other Papers, and that the Secretary be instructed to get printed 300 copies of the Prospectus.

Moved by John M’Keogh Dwyer, Esq; seconded by Thos Maguire, Esq:

Resolved — That we now enter into a Subscription list for Shares, according to the provisions of the Prospectus read at this Meeting.

PETER HOLMES, Chairman.
O’BRIEN DILLON, Secretary.

Mr Holmes having left the Chair, and Mr Bayley having been called thereto —

Resolved — That the thanks of the Meeting are due, and hereby given, to Peter Holmes, Esq, for his impartial conduct in the Chair, and for the spirited example he has set in being the first to subscribe for Fifty Shares.

JOHN BAYLEY, Chairman.
O’BRIEN DILLON, Secretary.

Dublin Monitor 7 February 1839

Broadstone

You can visit the building on the weekend of 18 & 19 October 2014 as part of Open House Dublin. And there are other sites of industrial heritage and transport interest that will be open between 17 and 19 October.

The value of art …

… is the evidence it provides about boats and inland waterways.

Here is an unreliable link to a painting called Grand Canal Harbour [click on the image to enlarge it] by Flora Mitchell. If the link doesn’t work, use this, which seems to be less flaky, and enter the two words canal and mitchell in the Quick Search box; you should get two thumbnails of canal paintings by Flora Mitchell.

[updated 20140922]

A puzzle in waterways history

According to the Lagan Canal Trust,

The Lagan Navigation also forms part of a wider all Ireland waterway network. This network of waterways once traversed through the towns and cities of Ireland delivering goods and produce, helping to shape the economic fortunes of the country.

I would be grateful for information about any goods or produce that were ever carried from the Shannon, or from the Royal or Grand Canals or the River Barrow via the Shannon, through the Junction Canal in the Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Drainage District [later called the Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal and later still the Shannon–Erne Waterway] and then the Ulster Canal to Lough Neagh or any of the waterways connected therewith. Or, of course, in the opposite direction.

As far as I can tell, outside the sales blurbs written by engineers seeking employment and waterway owners seeking subsidies, there was never a connected all-Ireland waterways network; nor was there ever any need or demand for such a thing.

Any more than there is now.

 

The Royal under the Railway

A new, short book, on aspects of the history of the Royal Canal, published by the Railway and Canal Historical Society, will be launched at the Clinker Lecture on 18 October 2014. The title is The Royal under the Railway: Ireland’s Royal Canal 1830–1899 and it covers a number of topics, mostly about the canal after it was bought by the Midland Great Western Railway. From the Introduction:

The accounts of the Midland Great Western Railway for the half year ending 31 December 1849, four years after it bought the Royal Canal, showed its gross income from the railway as £23,773 and its income from the canal as £7,677, roughly a quarter of the total. By 1899, though, income from the railway was £264,393 and that from the canal £2,220, less than one per cent of the total. The Royal Canal, never particularly successful, had declined into utter irrelevance.

It may seem perverse, therefore, to offer even a short book on the canal’s history in that period, especially as there exist two full histories, by Peter Clarke and by Ruth Delany (with Ian Bath in the most recent edition). This, though, is not a full history, even of the limited period, roughly 1830–1899, from just before the railway took over until the end of the nineteenth century. This is rather a complement to those histories, providing just enough background information to  enable the book to stand alone while covering some new topics and providing new or extra information on others. The topics include:

  • the 120-foot steam-powered narrowboat
  • the Midland Great Western Railway’s early attempts at running canal boats
  • the ingenious Mr Mallet’s moveable bridge
  • the whore who held the mortgage on the canal
  • the competition between the roads of Roscommon and the Royal Canal
  • the reconstruction of Dublin bridges over the canal
  • the horses who slept on board their boat.

[…] this book is not intended to be the last word on any of those topics. I hope that it might encourage others – those researching local, family, social, industrial, transport, economic or technological history – to record and transmit anything they might learn about the history of the Royal Canal. To take just three topics, we know very little about canal employees, the operations of canal traders or the management of the horse-drawn canal boats. On any one of those, useful information could just as easily be found by a local or family historian as by a canal specialist.

 

Steam, the Shannon and the Great British Breakfast

That is the title of the Railway and Canal Historical Society‘s 2014 Clinker Memorial Lecture, to be held at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham B3 3BS, at 1415 on Saturday 18 October 2014.

The lecture will concentrate on the period before 1850 with such interesting topics as

  • Shannon steamers
  • the Grand and Royal Canals
  • the first Irish turf (peat) to reach the USA (possibly)
  • port developments in Dublin, Limerick and Kingstonw
  • the Dublin and Kingstown Ship Canal
  • the Midland Great Western Railway
  • what “cattle class” really means
  • bacon and eggs.

Admission is free and booking is not required. However, if you plan to attend, it would be helpful if you could e-mail […] to this effect.

The Clinker Memorial Lecture is named for Charles R Clinker, an eminent railway authoe and one-time historian of the Great Western Railway, who died in 1983.

If you would like the contact email address, leave a Comment below and I’ll get in touch with you direct.

 

 

Saving canals

Barrow Line 20140721 03_resize

Barrow Line 1

Barrow Line 20140721 06_resize

Barrow Line 2

Barrow Line 20140721 08_resize

Barrow Line 3

Barrow Line 20140721 09_resize

Barrow Line 4

When I get a moment, I must find out how many boats have been down that way in this warm, sunny July, the peak of the holiday season. The warmth will have encouraged the vegetation, but I suspect relatively few boats have been through. And only two boats entered the Royal through Dublin in July, even though two openings were offered.

Apart from giving artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative about the value of the canal tourist industry and the abiding love of boaters for the canal, using canals helps to keep the weed down.

 

Effin mensuration

Statue of Dr Johnson near his birthplace in Lichfield

Statue of Dr Johnson near his birthplace in Lichfield

The learned readers of this site will not need to be reminded of the sapient advice of the late Dr Samuel Johnson:

[…] no man should travel unprovided with instruments for taking heights and distances.

There is yet another cause of errour not always easily surmounted, though more dangerous to the veracity of itinerary narratives, than imperfect mensuration. An observer deeply impressed by any remarkable spectacle, does not suppose, that the traces will soon vanish from his mind, and having commonly no great convenience for writing, defers the description to a time of more leisure, and better accommodation. […]

To this dilatory notation must be imputed the false relations of travellers, where there is no imaginable motive to deceive.

Samuel Johnson A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland W Strahan and T Cadell 1775

The good doctor would, I think, have welcomed the invention of the digital camera with inbuild chronometer. Equipped with just such a device I arrived yesterday at the first lock on the Royal Canal to witness the lifting of the railway bridge and the passage thereunder of fleets of boats. I thought it would be interesting to record how long each stage took.

I have written before about this bridge: reporting a question by Maureen O’Sullivan TD in October 2013 and another in November 2013 and providing statistics on usage a few days later:

  • only 58 boats went through in 2013
  • the bridge was lifted on seven dates
  • two other scheduled lifts were cancelled as no boats wanted to travel
  • Irish Rail charged Waterways Ireland €1200 per weekday lift and €2000 per weekend lift.

The first 45 minutes

A lift scheduled for early July 2014 was cancelled; yesterday’s lift catered for just two boats, whose passage was assisted or monitored by eight Irish Rail staff and four from Waterways Ireland. Four of the Irish Rail people may have been in training as others seemed to be demonstrating things to them, but that’s only a guess. Three of the WI staff travelled together in WI’s stealth van and operated the first lock; the other, who travelled separately in a 4WD vehicle, visited from time to time. As far as I could see there was no contact between the Irish Rail and WI teams.

The bridge was scheduled to be lifted by 1100.

Before the lift 0945

Before the lift: 0945. The lifting bridge is on the right of the photo

Before the lift 0946

One minute later: 0946. A separate group of workers, perhaps contractors, is going down the west side of Spencer Dock with equipment

Before the lift 0949

Four men still on the bridge 0949

Before the lift 0951

Two minutes later

Before the lift 0956

On the bridge 0956

Before the lift 0958

Still there 0958

Before the lift 0959

One minute later

Before the lift 1006

The bridge 1006

Before the lift 1012

The bridge 1012

Before the lift 1015

The bridge 1015: another person approaches

Before the lift 1020

Six men at the bridge at 1020

Before the lift 1028

A seventh man approaches at 1028

Preparing to lift

The preparation stage, presumably involving the unlocking of some mechanism, took about five minutes altogether.

Preparing the bridge 5 mins 03_resize

One man worked on the far end while another walked to do the same at the near end

Preparing the bridge 5 mins 06_resize

An eighth man, behind the fence on the right, seemed to summon two of the men on the bridge

Preparing the bridge 5 mins 14_resize

They went to this building, which I guess houses the controls for the bridge

Preparing the bridge 5 mins 15_resize

Meanwhile work continued on the bridge itself

Preparing the bridge 5 mins 19_resize

Almost done

Preparing the bridge 5 mins 22_resize

A final check

Preparing the bridge 5 mins 25_resize

Everybody was off the bridge by 1033

Lifting

The lift itself took just over nine minutes; the bridge was up before 1044, in good time for the arrival of the boats.

The lift 9 mins 02_resize

After about one minute

The lift 9 mins 08_resize

Another minute later

The lift 9 mins 11_resize

Another minute (or so)

The lift 9 mins 15_resize

About four minutes have elapsed

The lift 9 mins 18_resize

After five minutes. The sides are clear of the water in which they usually rest; they are dripping on to the canal below

The lift 9 mins 20_resize

Six minutes in

The lift 9 mins 23_resize

Seven minutes

The lift 9 mins 24_resize

The men behind the fence may be controlling the lift

The lift 9 mins 28_resize

Not much further to go

The lift 9 mins 32_resize

Eight minutes

The lift 9 mins 40_resize

It’s up

The bridge up 16_resize

One of the jacks

After the boats passed_resize

Side view (taken after the boats had gone through)

The bridge up 13_resize

Water under the bridge

Boats go through

It took just over three minutes for the two boats to go under the bridge.

Boats approach 12_resize

Cruiser approaches; steel boat visible through the bridge

Cruiser goes through 03_resize

Cruiser about to enter

Cruiser goes through 04_resize

Heads down

Cruiser goes through 06_resize

Half way through

Cruiser goes through 07_resize

Leaving

Cruiser goes through 08_resize

Out

Steel boat goes through 12_resize

Steel boat entering

Steel boat goes through 20_resize

Almost through

Steel boat goes through 22_resize

Looking ahead to the lock

Steel boat goes through 25_resize

Done

 

I did not record the lowering of the bridge, which I presume took much the same time as the raising.

Preparation 5 minutes, lifting 9 minutes, passage 3 minutes, lowering and locking say another 14 minutes: say 45 minutes altogether, allowing some margin. But a large number of boats would take much longer as the rate at which they could move on from the bridge would be limited by the time taken to work through the lock.