Breaking the Ice

Traditional Techniques: NarrowBoat, Winter 2013

David Blagrove

David Blagrove examines a particularly detailed print – of a well-known photograph of an ice breaker at Linford

This purpose-built horse-drawn ice breaker is ready to set out from Linford Wharf in February 1902. It has sponsons added to the sides, presumably to create more wash as it is rocked from side to side. It was this wash that helped break the ice. There are ten men and boys preparing to roll the boat by swinging back and forth on the central bar, and one steerer, who would not be able to see much with all his colleagues lined up in front of him. He seems to be wearing an old soldier’s cap, so he could possibly be a Boer War veteran. The gentleman behind the steerer looks rather as if he has come out of the office for a day’s sport, being much better dressed than the others, although there is another bowler hat crowning what may be a foreman or charge-hand and a more old-fashioned ‘billycock’ hat next to him. The ice breaker will have five horses pulling it, the equivalent of a 100hp motor, bearing in mind the old boatman’s adage “a horse on the bank i…

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