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1938 Narrowboat, “Birdswood”, uses Curtis 1238 AC Vector Drive

Curtis Instruments (UK) Ltd News and PR from Curtis Instruments (UK) Ltd - Published 15 October 2015 by Kerry Green, European Technical Manager, Curtis (UK)
Back in 2013 I received a website enquiry from The Friends of the Cromford Canal who required our assistance in the conversion of 1938 diesel powered Iron Narrow Boat to a modern, environmentally friendly Electric drive system.

The Friends of the Cromford Canal (FCC) is a charitable organisation whose aim is to see the restoration of the Cromford Canal, commissioned and dug in 1789, for the benefit of the general public today. The society promotes the restoration and maintenance of a 14 mile section of Canal to its earlier glory, once again connecting it to the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill in Derbyshire.

The boat, Birdswood, named after the nearby BirdÂ’s Wood railway bridge, was originally built as an engineless, cabinless butty in 1938 and worked around Birmingham towed by a horse or motor boat. It has an interesting hull made of Iron that is pointed at both ends to enable easy running in either direction.

Around 1955 the boat was modified and fitted with a cabin which allowed the boatman and his family to live on board to make longer journeys, all still without an engine. In 1995 the cabin was extended and a diesel hydraulic propulsion unit was added and the boat was used on the Caldon canal as a trip boat serving food. The unusual conversion was partly due to the pointed stern which does not easily permit a direct drive shaft through the centre point, so a small hydraulic motor was fitted into the rudder to which a propeller is attached. Hydraulic hoses run over the back of the boat to the hydraulic pump which was powered by the diesel engine.

In 2013 Birdswood was purchased by the charity, to work on the Cromford canal in the Derwent Valley world heritage site which is also a designated SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). As such, zero emission propulsion was required and after evaluating different ideas it was decided that although the hydraulic drive would remain, the diesel engine would be replaced by a CFR Induction motor controlled by a Curtis Instruments 1238 Vector Controller.

48V 820Ah batteries were supplied by Powercell and Curtis commissioned the system. Interestingly, we fitted Acuity to monitor the battery data, state of health, total power used and operating temperatures, as well as an 840 and enGage II.

Now, almost two years later, we are starting to see some really interesting and useful data coming through from Acuity. As the hydraulic system is very low pressure, Acuity proves the efficiency to be very good with the boat easily managing 4 pleasure cruises before an overnight recharge is needed. It was a great team collaboration which is what Curtis likes to promote with all customers and colleagues.

Needless to say I became so captivated with the project I have since joined the FCC and am a volunteer assisting with the maintenance and running of the boat, as well as giving historical talks to passengers.
"the past brought to life, today"

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