Emanuel Smith, a motor boat pioneer

Unearthing History: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2007

Alan Faulkner

Alan Faulkner looks at the Brentford-based business that was at the forefront of the introduction of motor narrowboats

Emanuel Smith was not the first to introduce a motor boat onto the canals but he was certainly one of the pioneers. Based at the southern end of the Grand Junction Canal at Brentford, his name deserves to be better known today. Whilst steam-powered craft had been operating for many years, with carriers such as Fellows, Morton & Clayton having around thirty in service at one time, their engines and bunkers took up much valuable cargo space and an engine-driver had to be employed. This prompted carriers to experiment with alternative methods of propulsion. John I. Thornycroft & Co Ltd of Chiswick fitted one of its 30hp gas motors, fuelled by anthracite, in the former FMC steamer Duchess early in 1906 and carried out a series of experiments to assess its performance. Later in the same year FMC installed a suction gas engine made by Crossleys of Manchester in a new steamer hull but the boat, which was named Vulcan, was converted to a conventional steamer in 1911.…

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