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.

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. 380,000 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. The boiler will be of semi-traditional construction, partially riveted with flanged end plates, expanded tubes, welded longitudinal seams and ancillary components to a design based on the 1990 Cochran boiler with some major improvements. The expected lifetime of a new boiler will be between 40-60 years, meaning not only will it save an irreplaceable steam narrowboat which brings a unique example of canal history to life, but will bolster an invaluable group of volunteers (Friends of President) who will be able to recruit further members and pass on key heritage and boating skills for its future maintenance and inspire communities as they man this well-loved narrowboat on the canal network.

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:  

  • 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