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'DIS' markers


NB Alnwick

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How old are these posts anyway.

I put mine up yesterday . . .

 

I'm thinking of the ones on the Grand Union. or the Grand Junction depending on timing of course. I think they are GUCCo not GJCCo ie post 1929.

I'm not sure, but feel certain they were pre '29. I'll ask around.

 

How would the lock-keeper, if there was one, know who's whip it was that was cracked, or were there other sound signals particular to different companies?

A whip crack is a whip crack, and the sound would come from one side or the other assuming you heard it from the lock. If a lock keeper was present, I doubt he was either judge nor jury over what transpired between two boats from opposite directions unless they were damaging property or wasting water. He was a representative of the company and was empowered to keep the companies artefacts and bye-laws in operational order and adhered to.

I doubt he would be willing to referee a boxing match - especially if the women got involved, which they sometimes did.

 

I've never really checked it out but are they always the same distance from a lock and if so then surely this distance is recorded somewhere and has some reasoning behind it.

15 to 20yds above and below a lock so I read, same distance each side of course. Waterways should have such records, though judging by the amount of stuff they threw in skips from Bulls Bridge - perhaps not.

 

I'm thinking of Lady Capels lock near Watford on the Grand Union, if you were approaching it from above the lock itself doesn't become visible until the last minute whereas if you are coming from below you can see it for quite a long time, depending on the season and state of undergrowth.

So maybe a crack of the whip would help stop, or perhaps just encourage, racing to the lock but as has been mentioned previously any boatperson 'worth their salt' would already know where the locks were anyway so why would they need an indicator at the side of the towpath?

No - the Lock Distance Post. They knew where the Pubs were too. The post was a defining factor - evidence if you like - that here was the actual point of 'distance', just the same as why a speed limit sign is placed entering a built up area - that is where the limit/distance begins - it is at that point priority is gained over the lock.

 

I'm definitely going for the idea that these were installed when powered boats were becoming more common but there were still significant numbers of horse drawn boats. they may even be a health an safety system set up because as 'Tam and Di' mentioned earlier a steamer, with its large propeller and deep draught, could actually put the horse of an unpowered boat in significant danger and maybe even its crew.

If they are 15 - 20 yds from the lock, there is little space in which to attempt any overtaking, that distance being less than a boats length. I'd have to go out and measure, but the further away from the lock, allows a greater degree of 'cheating' as one or other may be out of site of the other. So you have the visual contact of the boats, plus that of the posts if indeed they are at 15 - 20 yds from the lock

 

If you overtake after a ''DIS" marker your insurance is invalidated.

Which Century are we talking about?

 

times change, but not that much when it comes to insurance.

I somehow doubt any individual boatman would have had insurance. Certainly the company would have had in the event of one of their boats or boatmen causing damage, but an individual boatman may well have relied solely upon care and consideration for his boat, which may well have entailed and contained his worldly possessions. Insurance is a device for obtaining money for large corporate entities, of which government is linked and heavily involved. Were individuals made responsible for their actions and liable for them, greater care would be experienced in the world around us on an everyday basis.

 

Derek

 

PS I just noticed you mentioned a 'Health and Safety system' possibly. When the barge carrying petrol, sugar, tea and gunpowder blew up beneath Macclesfield Bridge on the Regent's in 1874, the GJCC estimated something in the region of £84,000 would be expected in claims for damages to structures and property in the vicinity. With regard to the loss of life of the Barge Steerer Mr. Charles Baxton of Loughborough, his wife received eleven months later - £5 for all claims against the company, to be accepted as complete discharge of the companies responsibility in the matter. Health and Safety? Not when a man's life was valued so.

Edited by Derek R.
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Maybe....

 

These DIS markers are the point after which it is no longer permitted to moor a boat because it is too close to the lock...

 

 

 

 

I'm sure they are more than 15 or 20 yards (a boat length) from the locks

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I'm sure they are massively more than 15 or 20 yards (a boat length) from the locks.

Jim Shead's site also has some old nonsense about 15 to 20 yards I think.

 

As MM says, that's less than the length of a boat - what would be the point!

 

No idea about other waterways, but that distance is a nonsense for how they were on the Grand Union. 150 to 200 yards would make more sense, which is why I have never bought the "crack of a whip" argument. You couldn't hear a crack of a whip at 400 yards with trees and bridges in the way, I feel fairly sure.

 

I don't buy the lock-keeper argument - the concrete posts on the GU look new enough to have been added long after there were lock-keepers at many locks, (and many locks never had permanent lock-keeper, I think - ever).

 

I also agree it seems odd that nobody knows chapter and verse on this, and do wonder if different canals had different arrangements, and it meant different things.

 

Are we really saying that if a boat passed one "lock distance" marker slightly before a boat that was coming the other way, that they could then turn a lock that was already in the other boat's favour. That seems pretty incredible if anybody is trying to claim these things were anything like as close as some have said. Even at 100 to 200 yards, it would not make a heap of sense, given that water saving was one of the biggest issues on many of the working canals. (Stretches of the GU for a period had narrow locks added alongside the existing broad, to save water when boats were working singly - would they have encouraged turning locks against a boat already nearly there from the other direction, given that kind of investment in water saving measures ?).

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>snip<

I'm sure they are more than 15 or 20 yards (a boat length) from the locks

 

The 'DIS' post near our mooring at Cropredy is well south of the road bridge and, I guess, at least a quarter of a mile south of the lock. Between the 'DIS' post and the lock there are several ancient obstructions: the wharf and winding hole, the road bridge, the old coal wharf and the old gauging stop. Even with the loudest whip crack in the world, I doubt if the lock keeper at the lock could hear it if it were cracked at this particular 'DIS' marker. The marker north of the lock seems to be much nearer which altogether lends itself to the theory that these markers only applied to boats passing the post as they approached a lock and old canal bye-laws may well have prohibited overtaking or mooring to the towpath except when waiting for the lock. Surely someone must have a copy of some old Oxford or GU bye-laws?

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It's good thing they weren't electrically powered, otherwise 'everyone' here would know exactly what they were and how they worked (there would still, of course, be at least as many differing opinions, but everyone would know that theirs was right)

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DIScussion, DIScord, DISagreement. I'm DISmayed that nobody seems to know the true purpose of these markers. I can't help, I've never even seen (or noticed) one.

 

I'm definitely going for the idea that these were installed when powered boats were becoming more common but there were still significant numbers of horse drawn boats. they may even be a health an safety system set up because as 'Tam and Di' mentioned earlier a steamer, with its large propeller and deep draught, could actually put the horse of an unpowered boat in significant danger and maybe even its crew.

If they are 15 - 20 yds from the lock, there is little space in which to attempt any overtaking, that distance being less than a boats length. I'd have to go out and measure, but the further away from the lock, allows a greater degree of 'cheating' as one or other may be out of site of the other. So you have the visual contact of the boats, plus that of the posts if indeed they are at 15 - 20 yds from the lock

 

:lol: But I do know the true purpose: They mean that once a boat has passed that post no other craft coming up behind is to overtake! I've tried saying we were told by a lock keeper back in the late 50s when we started ditch crawling; I've tried saying that in France there are signposts similarly located which actually do use the very words "Limit of Overtaking"; I've offered reasons why I think the posts would have been made necessary. I can see why people coming onto canals with pleasure craft long after cargo carrying finished might invent their own interpretation of them but it does not make it right. You may not want to ram the boat ahead of you to get into the lock first - but you are not living in a world with no social security and very low wages to support you, your wife and umpteen children; where getting to a quay first means you get the last load available. You're not in a world where you've been boating 18 hours a day come snow, rain or shine; where you sleep in your clothes so you can be up and away as soon as you feel your boat beginning to move about from the approach of another early riser.. Someone turns the lock around on you? - you go and frown at him very severely!!!!!!!

 

From Harry Hanson's "Canal People" (pub David & Charles 1975):

Staffordshire Advertiser 28 Nov 1840: “John Carden was peacefully steering a limestone boat along the Trent & Mersey Canal towards Etruria Lock. He passed the distance post 10 yards from the lock which then gave him priority. Bryan Bennett, close behind, would have none of it and in his determination to get his boat into the lock first drove it with such force against Carden’s boat as cause it to sink”. (So who's bothered about only having 15-20 yards here then?)

 

Birmingham Canal Co. Letter Book 23 Aug 1814: “That on 14 April 1813 John Heritage in attempting to take the turn of Smiths Robert boat at locks did jam which prevented the boats passing one hour”, and “That on the 18th instant, he the said John Heritage by similar endeavour to take the turn of Isaac Parkes stopped the passage of the canal two hours”.

 

Northants Record Office notes an instance at Stoke Bruerne top lock in the 1870s when two steam tugs and their loaded barges disputed the right of way. A London & Birmingham Steam Co. captain managed to get into the lock immediately ahead of the Fellows Morton pair, but the G.U. Co’s bye laws gave precedence to FMC boats. The FMC captain and crew attempted to pull the BSC boats back out of the lock, but were only successful after twenty-four hours, by which time there was a queue of 60 boats waiting. Apart from “frequent remarks of a bantering and sarcastic description” the 16 boatmen saw the business through without recourse to fisticuffs.

 

 

Now though they are just historical artifacts, and no doubt BW will pull them all up as soon as someone finds a half-baked reason to complain about them.

Edited by Tam & Di
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Northants Record Office notes an instance at Stoke Bruerne top lock in the 1870s when two steam tugs and their loaded barges disputed the right of way. A London & Birmingham Steam Co. captain managed to get into the lock immediately ahead of the Fellows Morton pair, but the G.U. Co’s bye laws gave precedence to FMC boats. The FMC captain and crew attempted to pull the BSC boats back out of the lock, but were only successful after twenty-four hours, by which time there was a queue of 60 boats waiting. Apart from “frequent remarks of a bantering and sarcastic description” the 16 boatmen saw the business through without recourse to fisticuffs.

 

pedant mode on/

 

Surely that should be G.J.C.Co , not G.U.Co

 

pedant mode off/

 

edited to make quote make more sense

Edited by magnetman
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I acknowledge you words Tam, and if you've been told that by a lock keeper in the fifties - fair enough. I've seen many alongside the towpath since we came afloat in '80 (new boy), but thought that Jim Shead's 15 - 20yds was way out. But I'm on the bank right now and can't just nip out and have a look, and memory plays tricks. It just 'feels' wrong that a post could be so close to the lock, and be primarily to prevent overtaking. 10yds as recorded and quoted seems a bit ridiculous, and in that particular instance it sounds like matey behind was after blood! With horse boats too!!

 

I'm genuinely curious now to find out when they were placed and what the official reason was - I know, you've already told us! But I've had tales told me before from certain persons for extra effect - sometimes they've been spot on, and sometimes . . . they've been salted.

 

Andrew, they will be nothing to do with tying up specifically, that 'rule' is more like not to tie up within a boats length of a lock, two preferrably.

I don't know what DIScord and DISharmony's about, we're just chewin' some fat and working out what animal it once was. Tam knows it's Beef, and my taste buds haven't got used to meat yet. Too much bloody Quorn. I do like cheese to be cheese.

 

Tom Doubting.

 

PS Nice to see you got a website Andrew - I'll be placing an order.

Edited by Derek R.
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I'm genuinely curious now to find out when they were placed and what the official reason was

Tom Doubting.

 

"Staffordshire Advertiser 28 Nov 1840: “John Carden was peacefully steering a limestone boat along the Trent & Mersey Canal towards Etruria Lock. He passed the distance post 10 yards from the lock which then gave him priority."

 

Well, at least 170 years ago, and official or not, that's what they were thought to be for right back then.

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So, these whips that all these boatmen are merrily cracking as they pass the dis posts. Anyone got any evidence that boats carried whips? Why would they?

 

Richard

 

They carry loads of ropes too :lol:

 

 

including soft cotton rope :lol:

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So, these whips that all these boatmen are merrily cracking as they pass the dis posts. Anyone got any evidence that boats carried whips? Why would they?

 

Richard

 

They carried them to use as an audible warning of approach, a good 'crack' could be heard easily at 100yds.

Yes, there are examples in museums and period photographs of Ladies with them. They were also used to announce their approach to blind bends and bridge 'oles, as well as in fog. (remember fog?)

 

Copyrights to the following authors:

From 'Canal Arts & Crafts' by Avril Lansdell, Shire book, ISBN 0-7478-0586-5

HorseboatingWhips01Small.jpg

 

'Canal Recollections' By Julian Holland, ISBN 1-85585-396-5

Horsegirl04Small.jpg A studio shot C1910.

 

'The Narrow Boat Book' by Tom Chaplin, ISBN 0-905483-05-7

Fog03Small.jpg

The boat is 'Chiltern'. In case you were wondering, the steerer of Chiltern is unlikely to have carried or used a whip to warn of his approach. He might have used a mouth horn, or electric horn. A mouth horn is one you blow through with your mouth. An electric one is where it is connected to an electrical circuit and you press a button to complete the circuit. It makes a noise by magnets vibrating a diaphragm, though some operate compressors that blow air through a trumpet.

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>snipped<

 

In case you were wondering, the steerer of Chiltern is unlikely to have carried or used a whip to warn of his approach. He might have used a mouth horn, or electric horn. A mouth horn is one you blow through with your mouth. An electric one is where it is connected to an electrical circuit and you press a button to complete the circuit. It makes a noise by magnets vibrating a diaphragm, though some operate compressors that blow air through a trumpet.

 

It was probably one of these as used by 'Lookout men' on the railways for more than a Century:

 

Click here for details and to hear the sound.

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They carried them to use as an audible warning of approach, a good 'crack' could be heard easily at 100yds.

Yes, there are examples in museums and period photographs of Ladies with them. They were also used to announce their approach to blind bends and bridge '

 

I'm stepping even further outside my knowledge here. So, would the whip have been carried originally to manage the horse, and horses were managed by the women? At some point it became custom and practice to let other boaters know you were there by cracking the whip?

 

Richard

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I'm stepping even further outside my knowledge here. So, would the whip have been carried originally to manage the horse, and horses were managed by the women? At some point it became custom and practice to let other boaters know you were there by cracking the whip?

 

Richard

 

Richard, you know that it has always been so . . .

 

How many women resist the opportunity to 'crack the whip'?

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It was probably one of these as used by 'Lookout men' on the railways for more than a Century:

 

Click here for details and to hear the sound.

 

Yep!!

 

Known by firefighters as Railway Warning Horns and widely used in many fireservices

 

Used until only recently by my own fire service when it was recognised that their use had been superseded by hand held radio

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Yep!!

 

Known by firefighters as Railway Warning Horns and widely used in many fireservices

 

Used until only recently by my own fire service when it was recognised that their use had been superseded by hand held radio

 

Yes - you have just reminded me of an incident beside a railway line - four appliances in attendance plus two more pumping water. The line was thought to be disused and hoses were draped across the railway tracks.

 

Then there was this whistle from an approaching light engine (an engine proceeding alone or with just a brake van rather than hauling a train of coaches or wagons) on an unexpected test run! The local village policeman was in attendance and he smartly stepped up and raised his right hand above his head palm facing the approaching locomotive.

 

Unfortunately, although this signal might properly be read as a stop signal on the highways and byways, on the railways, the stop or danger signal is both hands raised above the head and a single raised arm in response to a whistle is the 'all clear', 'all right' or 'right away' signal. The engine driver promptly responded with a brief 'pop' on the engine's whistle and accelerated on his way - leaving four lengths of hose cut to exactly 4' 8½" in length and several bemused fire-fighters! Although they were probably called 'firemen' in those days . . .

Edited by NB Alnwick
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Unfortunately, although this signal might properly be read as a stop signal on the highways and byways, on the railways, the stop or danger signal is both hands raised above the head and a single raised arm in response to a whistle is the 'all clear', 'all right' or 'right away' signal. The engine driver promptly responded with a brief 'pop' on the engine's whistle and accelerated on his way - leaving four lengths of hose cut to exactly 4' 8½" in length and several bemused fire-fighters! Although they were probably called 'firemen' in those days . . .

:lol:

 

You are not related to the Rev Wilbert Awdrey, are you ?

 

That imagery could more or less have come stright out of Thomas the Tank Engine.

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:lol:

 

You are not related to the Rev Wilbert Awdrey, are you ?

 

That imagery could more or less have come stright out of Thomas the Tank Engine.

 

Don't say that. He'll have HIT Entertainment trying to sue him for millions!

 

Richard

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Don't say that. He'll have HIT Entertainment trying to sue him for millions!

 

Richard

He may already have had them baying for cash in a previous existence, I suspect, (or Brit Alcroft, or whoever it was back then!).

 

Try reading it in a Ringo Starr voice - it works for me!

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I'm stepping even further outside my knowledge here. So, would the whip have been carried originally to manage the horse, and horses were managed by the women? At some point it became custom and practice to let other boaters know you were there by cracking the whip?

 

Richard

 

Generally horses would be managed by word of mouth alone or the simple presence of someone walking alongside or behind, but the sound of the whip could assist in getting some recalcitrant beasts to pick up and get on. It would be unusual for a whip to be used 'on' a horse, although there probably were one or two blokes that might. Lay a whip on a horse and the sudden reactive movement would likely cause more problems than they solved, so it was used for the sound it made.

 

Having said that, you'll be hard pushed to find any people leading horses nor steering visibly carrying or having a whip to hand, though they might be under a coat. Motor boating saw their demise I fancy, as no motor steerer is going to hear a whip crack!

 

Derek

 

It was probably one of these as used by 'Lookout men' on the railways for more than a Century:

Click here for details and to hear the sound.

 

That's the one! Didn't know you could still buy them. Bit of paint to colour 'em and you have an attractive useful tool.

 

Derek

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I've decided that this thread is missing an appropriate picture.

 

Here is an attempt to get the post and the lock in the same shot - it hopefully gives some idea of the distance and, for those people who don't know what is being discussed, an idea of what the posts look like (or at least what some of them look like). The photo was taken in 2008 and I am afraid I can't remember where it was taken - that's my not brilliant way of organising photographs playing its part.

 

sany0636.th.jpg

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thought that Jim Shead's 15 - 20yds was way out.

 

Of course, both boats don't need to be moving to "overtake" at a lock. I assume such a short distance would be to stop the following boat from jumping into the lock mouth as the other boat pulled up at the lock mooring to get the lock ready. Normally this would only be done when going down, as when assending they would presumably just pull into the tail of the lock.

 

Mike

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