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Help Us Get President Back in Steam

We need your support to help raise £60,000 to replace the boiler of our historic boat, President, one of the last coal-powered steam narrow boats in the world.

President, Steam Narrowboat's History

President was built in 1909 by Fellows, Morton and Clayton Ltd.  Steam narrow boats could carry 18 tons of cargo and were powerful enough to tow several unpowered boats, known as butty boats. They worked "fly" (that is day and night) between London, Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Leicester and Nottingham.  

The large compound steam engine and coke-fired boiler took up valuable cargo space. To solve the issue, in 1925, President's steam engine and boiler was replaced with a 15 horsepower Bolinder, increasing carrying capacity by nearly 8 tonnes. President then spent the remainder of her working life as a motor boat. 

President was purchased by a private owner in 1973  as a derelict hull and restored to her original appearance complete with working steam Scotch return boiler. The Museum took ownership of her in 1982 and remains, to this day, a much-loved part of our Collections. Her story is considered highly significant and she is listed on the National Register of Historic Vessels.

Enjoy a closer look at President with this 360° video produced by Harald Joergens.

Why we need your help

After 30 years of service President’s boiler has been found unfit for purpose and needs urgent replacement. Work is underway to design the new unit and source a suitable boiler maker.

What will happen if we can't repair the boiler?

  • Seeing President in steam brings life to the stories of the Black Country during the peak of the Industrial Revolution. A boat that is not operational will deteriorate quickly and there is a risk that President and her unique story will be lost forever. Consequently, the Museum will not be able to retell this story for our c. 300,000 visitors each year, or include demonstrations as part of our immersive STEAM  learning programme for c. 60,000  school children who visit each year.
  • The volunteer group, Friends of President, will no longer be able to take President or Kildare onto the canal network. This is important because it keeps our historic vessels alive, brings pleasure to those who crew the boats and people who witness the pair on their journey, and helps to develop the skills that come with operational use. Without these opportunities, the key skills of boating, navigation and historic restoration will be lost.
  • Kildare is an unpowered butty boat, and also listed on the National Register of Historic Vessels. She is towed behind President and provides a fully fitted boatman’s cabin for the crew. The long-term impact of losing President is that we will not be able to accurately depict how these two heritage boats would work together and will lose a unique example of canal history forever.

What will we do?

Whilst we fundraise for the boiler work,  President will travel to Alvecote, Tamworth for repairs to the wooden base of the boat and paintwork restoration. This element of the work has been generously supported by the Friends of President volunteers.

The boiler has already been hauled out of President in preparation for restoration.  It will be sent to an external boiler works offsite where it will be exposed for an internal and external examination. Welding seams will be examined and repaired, and the ‘tired’ fire tubes must be completely replaced.

Get involved

If you would like to help us get President back in steam for future generations to enjoy, you can:  



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