Steam Dredgers on the Grand Union

Picturing the Past: NarrowBoat, Spring 2023

Andy Tidy

Andy Tidy studies images of various kinds of steam-powered dredgers at work

The story of Perseverance highlights the longevity of such machines, and also their capacity to move volumes of silt, which is comparable to those of modern diesel-powered grabs. And that takes us on to the place of floating steam dredgers like Perseverance/No 14. Records of the Basingstoke restoration reveal that the council’s preferred method of channel clearance was to employ a grab from the bank. This was generally more efficient but, unfortunately, fewer than half of the canal banks had suitable access. For the remainder they sent in the antique floating dredger which, while slower, was at least able to get the job done.In days gone by and today The Laurence Hogg collection contains a large selection of images of land- and water-based steam dredgers, with both types being employed as local circumstances permitted. The archive photos show them being used at the same time, with the floating dredgers clearing the channel into mud hoppers, and the land-based dredgers emptying…

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