Get President back in steam

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

The total project cost is £87,000 but thanks to President’s many dedicated supporters, much of this has been raised and we now need your help to raise the remaining £20,000.

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.

After 30 years of service President’s boiler has been found unfit for purpose and needs urgent replacement. 

Why we need your help

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

  • 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. 360,000 visitors 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. 
  • 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?

Design, fabricate and install a new boiler, making use of existing original components that have been retained, including the man-hole door and water gauges. The new boiler will be more historically accurate but will match the footprint and efficiency of the removed boiler. With an appropriate maintenance and management regime we expect the new boiler to have a 40+ year operational lifespan.

We will also restore 32ft of hull bottom boards and kelson using historically accurate fittings, manufactured specifically for President as well as replacing the boat cloths for President and Kildare which will be measured, specially made and installed onsite at the museum.

Get involved

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

  • Sponsor a rivet for just £10complete the form and make your donation online! Alternatively, please fill in the form and post to Black Country Living Museum, Discovery Way, Dudley, DY1 4AL.
  • Make a donation online 
  • Join the Friends of President or volunteer
  • Or get in touch with the Museum’s fundraising team by emailing [email protected] or by calling 0121 557 9643.