Thursday, August 21, 2014

The heart of the matter

My post before last was about the history of the Vereeniging, and one of my long standing blog friends, Mel of The Heron's View fame, asked about the engine, an at once sore and dear subject. The sore part is that I had to have the lovely old Industrie engine as shown in that post removed, so I thought I would take this opportunity to explain why.

The Vereeniging was 'born' in 1898 with a Van Rennes parrafin engine  like this:

Thanks to for this image

This served the Mur family until 1921 when it was replaced by the single cylinder semi-diesel hot bulb engine I described in my earlier post. When I bought the Vereeniging, this lovely old beast had been lovingly restored by the previous owner. In actual fact, I think the barge itself was merely the housing for the engine as far as he was concerned. I was very proud of my Industrie motor for many years, but the truth of the matter was that it did rather dictate what we did with the barge. It was very difficult to start - needing large quantities of compressed air and a good technique for 'bursting' the air into the cylinder -  not to mention gas bottles to fuel the burner for pre-heating it. The process of getting it going took a good half hour but if you counted in the time it took to fill the air bottles, this was more like an hour and a half.

Then, when we were on the way, I had to constantly re-fill its little oil pots that were positioned around its bulk because all the wonderful, but largely mechanical moving parts had to be kept lubricated. This meant diving down into the engine room at regular intervals and risking losing limbs in my attempt to avoid the spinning (and massive) fly wheel as I topped up each of these small receptacles.

Nevertheless, I was happy to put up with this as long as the engine remained reliable. In the end, though, it wasn't. It let us down on three separate occasions, the worst of which was when it just died in the middle of the Hollandsch Diep - a huge open stretch of water between two of Holland's southern peninsulars. In many ways, this was the deciding event for me and I realised with a mixture of sadness and resignation that much as I loved the Industrie, I wanted to 'fare' safely even more. The engine had to go. Here is the film of when it was removed with dear friend Philip (of Watery Ways fame), who bought it, looking on.

However, I still wasn't prepared to sacrifice authenticity completely and as a replacement, I found a 1955 Samofa two cylinder engine - another classic, but easier to both turn over by hand and also to convert to electric start. It took a massive amount of work to install it and adjust it for the Vereeniging, but in the end, with its push button starter, I was delighted with my 'new' old motor. And best of all, it still made the same wonderful clapping sound as the Industrie did. Here below is the film I made of it being installed.

So there we are. That is the story of the Vereeniging's engine. The Samofa is still going well and so far, has never let us down. We don't fare far these days (my work is too busy), but when we do, we can at least just start and go… and keep going...and we still have a wonderful old classic to show for it.


  1. Val, my husband would be very interested in this post as he blogs about stationary engines. I'll point him this way.

    Hope all goes well on the water.


  2. What happened to the original engine - was there a museum that was interested? Sound is important - it makes you feel that all is right with the world :) xxx

  3. Oh Denise, I must ask you for your husband's blog as I'd be interested in seeing what he writes about too! I also know many others who are engine enthusiasts as well.

    Fran, Philip bought it from me and then sold it to a man with a tug boat that he wanted it for, so I think it went to a good home xxx

  4. What fun to see movies on your boat, Val. I know absolutely nothing about engines, but I know my Dad would have been very interested in these old classics. Glad you now have something good and reliable to go faring whenever you please. Great post, Val.

  5. Thank you Val watching the videos of your engine brought back memories of working on an old twin cylinder petrol/paraffin engine in the 1950's. I think it was a Petter but am not sure. I do know that the flywheel weighed one and a half hundredweight and there was lot of bad language flying around when putting it back on.
    The engine powered a very old wooden exRNLI lifeboat that was being used for fishing trips.

  6. Am AWOL so am just driving by. Will try to catch up with this when I get home - looks fascinating.

  7. Patricia, it normally is men who like these old motors. I think I'm quite unusual in my fondness for the oily bits as we call them.

    Mel, that must have been fun. I don't know how much the flywheel on my old engine weighed, but I know it was a lot!

    Jo, I hope you're having a good summer! My blog isn't going anywhere, so drop in any time!

  8. Something so nice about the sound of a boat diesel engine running sweetly! I was listening to it in my daughter's boat the other day.

  9. I remember you at once blessing and cursing the old hot bulb engine! ... along with stories of being stranded on the water. I hope you, yourself, are now able to dictate the direction and distance the Vereenigning fares. :) xo

  10. Jenny, you are so right! It is the sweetest of sounds, isn't it?

    Dale, I am thrilled to see you here again! And three comments all at once. Thank you, dear friend! You know the history and have been in my blogosphere a long time.

  11. Hi Val - that's great that your Industrie went to someone who would love her .. she has to be a 'her'!!!

    You have a true passion for ensuring the Vereeniging is kept as original as possible .. the engine may not now be exact .. but the put put put is ...

    Excellent you put the work in .. and I'm so glad it starts easily ..

    Cheers Hilary

  12. Gosh! I know nothing about engines and I admire the way you fed it constant oil to keep it going. OK, that's not stricly speaking true. I know a bit about engines but for some inexplicable reason they scare me. I used to have nightmares about engines when I was a kid. Don't ask! I do love that chugging sound when you meander along the canal though.

  13. Very interesting post , greeting from Belgium

  14. You´r so Lucky !
    But, I have a Better Engine......


  15. Hilary, thanks, luckily it is an enduring passion, otherwise it could become a chore :)

    Ros, I don't think it's strange to be frightened of these huge engines. I've had my nervous moments myself. They are so powerful.

    Thank you Luoisette! I spend quite a lot of time in Belgium. I love it!

    I think I'm lucky too, Ib, but what engine do you have?? I'm curious now!


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