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Why the preference for Bolinder Engines


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The Bolinder, made in Sweden, was sold in this country by James Pollock & Co during the early period of internal combustion engines which were fitted to canal craft. It became a popular choice, but why?

 

How did cost, availability and efficiency rank in the equation?

 

During the period following the Great War of 1914-1918, Bolinder was not the only oil engine available, there were Robey (Jones Burton & Co of Liverpool), the Nat (Torbina Engine Co of Oulton Broad), the Gardener (Norris, Henty and Gardner), the Kromhout and Vickers Petter.

 

The name Lister is also mentioned on a regular basis on this site. R.A Lister of Dursley Gloucester made a variety of powered plant, which included narrow gauge railway locomotives.

 

Ray Shill

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My guess is salesmanship.

 

It's like the slate quarries of North Wales. All used local deWinton's until Hunslet managed to get on the scene. Why Hunslet? They had no previous track record in the field and went on to dominate for ages

 

I also suspect we will never know why. The activities of salesmen rarely create permanent records

 

Richard

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Exactly

 

Likewise, did Bolinders have travelling reps where other manufacturers relied on letters?

 

Richard

 

Pollocks of Faversham, as has been said, were their agents for years and apparently their business was hit fairly hard when Bolinders set up thir own sales force in the UK.

Maybe they were just bigger or better than the opposition?

I think I recall that Bolinder semi-diesels where built under licence in the UK with production continuing after the parent company had advanced onto true diesels.

 

There were certainly 'aftermarket' parts made for them in th UK.

 

Tim

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It's must be remembered that communications in those days and canal carrying was in decline - had been beginning some fifty years earlier with the advent of the railways.

 

I don't suppose the were any trade magazines. The major carriers were small companies with little technical resources to be able to travel around the country seeking solutions.

So what happened?

Somebody buys an engine and fits it into a boat.

It works.

Other carriers see it on the cut

OO - I can see the potential, no bulky feed, no shovelling poo every day, no overnight stops to let the engine rest. Must have one of those..

Have to start the engine with a blowlamp?? Don't bore me with details. I didn't get where I am today by looking at details...

 

Perhaps Bolinder go there first and as the engine worked satisfactorily, sales increased.

 

It would take a helluva lot of research to dig out the real details. Perhaps some of the youth of today could adopt the task as part of their history degree??

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It's must be remembered that communications in those days and canal carrying was in decline

 

I'm not sure I understand this bit. Communications was growing, these were the days of the spread of telephones, the postal service was delivering several times a day, telegrams were common and travelling salesmen were getting small cars

 

It's also pre the big GU widening scheme

 

Richard

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Could it have been that, I would guess that the engines of the day were hand built/ assembled & that the Bolinder company had a better assembly line leading to shorter delivery waiting times than their competitors & if they were building boats in large numbers & in quick time span, the canal company's, wouldn't want new build engine less boats laying about that could be working & earning? Also perhaps if they placed an order for xxx number of units & Bolinder could supply in the time period they got a favorable price

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"I don't suppose the were any trade magazines. The major carriers were small companies with little technical resources to be able to travel around the country seeking solutions.

So what happened?"

 

There were indeed trade magazines, today much prized. "Canals & Waterways" carried features on the Bolinder, and ither single units together with anything "new" likes the Hooke reversing rudder and the add on roof mounted engines, her are some pages:

 

gallery_5000_522_362076.jpg

 

gallery_5000_522_3921.jpg

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It is said that internal combustion engines were fitted to waterways craft in Europe on a grander scale than was used in this country. Their waterways were generally wider and admitted larger craft and greater space was available for an engine compartment. By contrast, in Britain a factor appears to be the general depth and width of our waterways, which required a more powerful engine. That is in excess of 10HP and for river work, 20HP. Engine design was in the process of development and both oil engines and petrol/paraffin engines were fitted to canal craft, in Britain, with experimental fervour. The feature of the Bolinder was the direct reversibility it offered. This was a feature that was key to working British Canals where tight turns and access to basins required both forward and reverse motion in often rapid succession. A disadvantage was the hot bulb technology, I suppose, which made starting difficult. Yet even for this problem, there was a bright side. At least it provided a new market for the blow lamp!

 

Ray Shill

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I find it hard to accept that the Hot bulb Bolinder was a simple engine. It certainly was in respect of its moving parts, and that no gearbox was fitted, but the process of first lighting a blowlamp, which itself needs a few minutes of preheating with meths before it lights with the main fuel - paraffin, it then needs to be left for so many more minutes to heat the bulb, then priming the engine proper before pulling out the peg from the flywheel, bracing ones' self and giving a firm kick over or up to top dead centre in hope she would fire - then if it was firing the wrong way - getting it going the right way, and heading into a lock wanting reverse took just the right amount of timing to obtain same using the correct levers. It needed skill! Doubtless many boatmen, and women, gained that skill, and were rightly proud of it once acquired, but how much easier would a full diesel and gearbox have been? Perhaps the skill acquired was equal to that of handling their animals and the challenge was taken on. Though of course it would not be the boatman who had any say over what engine he might get.

 

However, how many manufacturers were offering the latter in 1920?

 

Engine porn, Sorry, can't help myself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=263&v=w9XxfpuUvs0

Edited by Derek R.
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There were certainly 'aftermarket' parts made for them in th UK.

 

Tim

 

FMC cast some of their own parts I believe and have 'FMC' on the casting.

 

I understand that this building has something to do with UK made Bolinder part. https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@52.506481,-1.9901669,3a,75y,39.03h,103.24t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1srJrrMi_-vvTb97m2npjArg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

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Is that the old Kenrick building?

 

Kenricks were, I think, the main makers of aftermarket Bolinder parts.

I remember John Jinks showing me the differece, many moons ago, between a Bolinders head and a Kenricks head (which I had just given him).

 

Tim

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The first Bolinder to be fitted into a UK canal boat was fitted in 1912 to Cadbury's 'Bourneville', though which number it was I do not have to hand. Cadbury and FMC had many links so it is likely that FMC followed their lead almost immediately afterwards. Pollock was certainly on the board of the British Bolinder Company after being the Swedish parent company's main agent for many years and he wrote several books about hot bulb engines. He had a large showroom to back up his advertisements. Compared to the later multi-cylinder engines used by GUCCC the Bolinder is far easier to run by a non skilled engineer, and requires far less maintenance provided the oil feeds are kept filled. Because of shortages brought about by the War, Rustons built a number of the multi-cylinder Bolinder Engines for the Admiralty. Whether this was under licence or expediency is still under debate. Gardner and Kromhout went through several phases of licence and agreement (both ways) and during the Second World War, the Germans continued production of the Kromhout 4cyl Gardner series engines, most definitely without a Licence. Kenricks did produce spare heads for FMC and these lack the location groove for the fuel pumps which allow these pumps to slip slightly sideways if not tightened up to extremes and even allow the engines to oscillate rather than turn over. Very disconcerting if you are trying to steer when it happens. I hope to visit the Kromhout Museum again next week after too many years absence.

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Stretching it a bit here - but wasn't the issue that - in those days (and the dates we could be discussing) Diesel was a heavy oil (with or without capitals) and only suitable for large engines. I say that 'cos when I was in short trousers most tractors (stay with me) were either petrol or TVO and diesel was only for large kit. I mention tractors because at that time they were the only motors that I had access to - or allowed to drive on a farm in school holidays. Small plant engines were invariably petrol fuelled.

If I'm right - then the only other practical motive power engine fuel would be 'paraffin' and hot bulb technology preferable to petrol start to make the ting run.

I'm assuming the Bolinder is pre 1920's?

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I'm assuming the Bolinder is pre 1920's?

Yes. Fitted in narrowboats since 1915, although FMC were still fitting them in new boats well into the 30s when the GUCCC was fitting 'high speed' (1000 rpm) diesel engines. Hot bulb engines were still being built in the 1950s and, I think, possibly into the 60s for use in fishing boats.

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Yes. Fitted in narrowboats since 1915, although FMC were still fitting them in new boats well into the 30s when the GUCCC was fitting 'high speed' (1000 rpm) diesel engines. Hot bulb engines were still being built in the 1950s and, I think, possibly into the 60s for use in fishing boats.

Other carriers too- although Severn and Canal specified 15 and 20hp Bolinders in their wooden motors, they went for 8/10hp Petters in the "tree class" of 1934/35. Although the Petter S types had gearboxes, they could be run backwards for prolonged reversing.

Edited by FadeToScarlet
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Bolinders were "pretty big" as a company at the time

 

http://www.oldengine.org/members/diesel/marine/bolinder.htm

 

cites over 600,000 BHPs worth of engines had been sold by 1918 in sizes

from 5 to 320 bhp - sounds like an awful lot of engines to me.

 

On the other hand there were many manufacturers of semi-diesels, with many

offerings of similar power characteristics - youtube has video of engines from 7

different swedish manufacturers, 9 danish, 4 norwegian, - mostly vertical marine

engines plus finnish, german, and most of the rest of europe, and even 5 english

manufacturers ! (mainly horizontal stationary engines).

 

 

 

<snip> Hot bulb engines were still being built in the 1950s and, I think, possibly into the 60s for use in fishing boats.<snip>

 

a recent posting on the vintage engines on ebay thread linked to a 50hp hundested hot bulb (danish) -

complaints arose that 1972 wasn't vintage !

 

springy

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