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Mick in Bangkok

Basis setting out questions regarding vintage/classic engines

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Hi,

I am new to canal boating and considering buying a live aboard for early retirement in the next years and just starting to do some basic research. Working model steam engines are a passion of mine and I am wondering of the feasibility of combining this hobby, albeit swapping for a vintage diesel, into the boat.  

I know that these are very general newbie question but do vintage engines raise the overall purchase cost of a boat a lot?

Apart from the necessity of an engine room, I assume around 7 ft. do they otherwise compromise the onboard living comfort and space?

Also would such an engine only be found in a vintage boat or can they realistically be installed/found in newer boats?

Thanks for any pointers.

Cheers Mick

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You can buy a new boat with vintage engine. Plenty of newish 2nd hand boats with vintage engines come up for sale. My boat is 2007 with a 50 year old engine in it.

 

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I dont live aboard but an engine room is a very valuable storage and heated space. Rather than repeat whats been posted in here numerous times, if you search in the forums for trad layout vrs cruiser etc or engine room you will find many, many opinions. Imho cruiser and semi trad layouts waste more space. ;)

 

 

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Mick, our boat, which we had built in 2006, has a rebuilt 1956 engine (a Gardner 2LW) installed. Yes, a vintage engine in a boat can raise the asking price, especially if it is a well-known make such as Gardner or Lister. It helps if it's a type for which spare parts are readily available.

As for "compromising" the living space, no, I would say that it improves it. Our engine room is between 5 and 6 feet long. As well as the engine, it contains storage cupboards and the inverter, and is the parking space for cans of oil, spare chimney, folding trolley (invaluable for taking porta-potti cassettes and water containers to and from the sanny station if you're moored some way away from it). and of course tins of Brasso! So that's lots of clutter which otherwise would have to be accommodated elsewhere. It has a washing, or drying line, along the top - because a big plus point about such an engine is that it exudes a vast amount of lovely dry heat, which dries out damp clothes and footwear. This heat also, in winter, warms up the bedroom (which is behind the engine room) for several hours after a day's running.

You may wonder about reliability. I can speak only for our engine: in the 11 years that we have had it, it has had an annual service (oil change, filters), and when quite new and "tight" it blew a starter motor. Apart from that, touch wood, nothing at all has gone wrong with it.

Oh, and it sounds pleasing and reassuring when we're cruising along too.

Of course I am biased, I'm sure that modern engines are usually most efficient.

 

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From observing the market, talking to other owners and boat sales brokers I reckon a "vintage" engine could have either and enhancing or devaluing effect.  I had a friend once (no, really..) who had a beautiful tug style trad with an immaculate old Russell Newbury and he could not give this boat away.  There were a lot of tyre kickers, many of which didn't understand what a "proper" trad was, but after reducing the price several times I think he ended up keeping the boat.  

I think there are people, myself included, who would buy a proper trad with an engine room, but there's a certain apprehension to taking on a vintage engine especially if it's something with a question mark over spares availability.  And yes something like Athy's 2LW ought to enhance the value of a boat, but only to those who appreciate these things and not that many narrowboat buyers do.   I find it sort of surprising that boats with very expensive engines are often priced similar to other boats of similar spec with a modern japanese lump, but as I say, this is the seller/broker living in the real world where your average narrowboat buyer doesn't appreciate the difference.  

As regards the effect on internal space I've thought about this a lot, and Athy might disagree, but on a long boat, say 55 foot and over, an engine room makes perfect sense, in fact I would say it's the best way to locate the engine. Assuming you don't want a cruiser stern (and of course a lot do,for some reason) when it makes no sense.  But when you get down to 45 foot and under, the impact of the engine room seems to compromise the internal living space too much.  I can't quite figure out why this is but I know a couple that have a 45 footer - same as my boat - with an engine room and their boat is so cramped inside by comparison, they can't even have a permanent bed.   I'd be interested in Athy's take on this as I think his boat is around 45 foot.    

Edited by Neil2
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46 minutes ago, Athy said:

Mick, our boat, which we had built in 2006, has a rebuilt 1956 engine (a Gardner 2LW) installed. Yes, a vintage engine in a boat can raise the asking price, especially if it is a well-known make such as Gardner or Lister. It helps if it's a type for which spare parts are readily available.

As for "compromising" the living space, no, I would say that it improves it. Our engine room is between 5 and 6 feet long. As well as the engine, it contains storage cupboards and the inverter, and is the parking space for cans of oil, spare chimney, folding trolley (invaluable for taking porta-potti cassettes and water containers to and from the sanny station if you're moored some way away from it). and of course tins of Brasso! So that's lots of clutter which otherwise would have to be accommodated elsewhere. It has a washing, or drying line, along the top - because a big plus point about such an engine is that it exudes a vast amount of lovely dry heat, which dries out damp clothes and footwear. This heat also, in winter, warms up the bedroom (which is behind the engine room) for several hours after a day's running.

You may wonder about reliability. I can speak only for our engine: in the 11 years that we have had it, it has had an annual service (oil change, filters), and when quite new and "tight" it blew a starter motor. Apart from that, touch wood, nothing at all has gone wrong with it.

Oh, and it sounds pleasing and reassuring when we're cruising along too.

Of course I am biased, I'm sure that modern engines are usually most efficient.

 

Seconded! I love my engine room!! Also my Lister JP2 seems to burn just less than a litre an hour even on a river....I think it does help if you aren't afraid of being hands on if you run a vintage engine....or have deep pockets should something go wrong....just bear in mind that some parts might not be available off the shelf at every boatyard

edited to add. 

Our boat is 50ft....we find the back cabin a very useful space...no perm double but it's a 2min job to put the bed down...and I don't find the boat cramped...in fact others  are surprised it's not longer...I think some of this is due to things like a smaller galley & wetroom bathroom...so look at the whole boat. 

Edited by frangar

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I am thinking of a trad 57 to 60ft, with room for a fixed bedroom, diner,  living room, 1 x bathroom, walk through engine room with side doors and a vintage engine with no issues regarding spares, is this a realistic layout?

I would be hands on but am not an experienced mechanic.

Hoping for something in the budget range of say 50K.

Not yet looked at an actual boat but planning a rental holiday next year before committing.

 

 

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10 minutes ago, frangar said:

Seconded! I love my engine room!!

I suppose it's a bit like having a garden shed at home. People who don't have one wonder why their neighbour has this wooden thing in the back garden, whereas the neighbour finds it invaluable and would not want to be without it.

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2 minutes ago, Mick in Bangkok said:

Also worth mentioning is that we are a married couple permanent live aboard but would like space for periodical guests so a convertible diner and a sofa bed in the living area.

 

Make sure you have a well stocked magazine rack:)

  • Happy 1

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3 minutes ago, Athy said:

I suppose it's a bit like having a garden shed at home. People who don't have one wonder why their neighbour has this wooden thing in the back garden, whereas the neighbour finds it invaluable and would not want to be without it.

Quite well put. For what its worth in my extensive liveaboard experience my first boat having a rear engine room and ancient lister and all the rest being modern engines under my feet then you can keep your vintage and space wasting engine room. Lots of reasons but as a liveaboard with only a 68 foot boat the engine would take needed comfy space and leave a useless little cabin at the back needing a second heating source as the solid fuel stove heat stops at the engine room. We all have different " must haves " and things that don't matter. As a for instance for us an absolute must have is a near enough full size double available at all times and never ever such as a pigmy bed but others think differently, my bro in law had a fixed double but took it out and now has a pigmy bed :o why oh why?

If its the ops first boat I would say best advice is buy seconhand a boat you think you would like at a sensible resaleable price and see how you get along with it and how you actualy live then if must some time later throw money at a new build but even then when its finished there will be things you would change.

10 minutes ago, Mick in Bangkok said:

Also worth mentioning is that we are a married couple permanent live aboard but would like space for periodical guests so a convertible diner and a sofa bed in the living area.

 

Exactly. But not everyone likes them.

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8 minutes ago, rusty69 said:

Make sure you have a well stocked magazine rack:)

Funny innitt whilst I would never have ever thought about it when we bought this boat it has one fitted and we find it most useful.

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3 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

?

If its the ops first boat I would say best advice is buy secondhand a boat you think you would like at a sensible resaleable price and see how you get along with it and how you actually live then if must some time later throw money at a new build but even then when its finished there will be things you would change.

 

Yes, sound advice. In any case, with a budget of around £50,000 Mick would not get a newly-built boat of the size he requires.

Regarding beds, our (non-traditional) back cabin has a bed 4'6" wide. It is a cross-bed. We find it ideal but, as the lanky Alan Fincher sagely pointed out recently on here, if you're over six feet tall then you may not be comfortable in such a bed because you could only stretch out diagonally.

 

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Not to everyone's taste, but Beta have made two 3 cylinder traditional (ish) looking engines based on modern engines, so parts availability and reliability concerns are addressed.

One based on a John Deere tractor engine and one on a Ford tractor engine.

See this thread.

 

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3 minutes ago, Athy said:

 

Regarding beds, our (non-traditional) back cabin has a bed 4'6" wide. It is a cross-bed.

 

Work of the Devil.

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7 minutes ago, Mick in Bangkok said:

I am thinking of a trad 57 to 60ft, with room for a fixed bedroom, diner,  living room, 1 x bathroom, walk through engine room with side doors and a vintage engine with no issues regarding spares, is this a realistic layout?

I would be hands on but am not an experienced mechanic.

Hoping for something in the budget range of say 50K.

Not yet looked at an actual boat but planning a rental holiday next year before committing.

 

 

You may find it a challenge to find a "fixed bedroom, living room, diner...." and an engine room as more often than not an engine room is paired with a traditional back cabin.  If you were prepared to configure the back cabin as a fixed bedroom and lose the traditional look then you could achieve your wish list.  Alternatively, you could leave a cross bed made up permanently and use the gunwales and side hatches for access the stern (which is what the previous owners did).  The point above about 6ft+ is very valid.

If it helps, our 62ft configuration is pull out double from under the front deck (you have to have moveable furniture for this to work), dining area with drop down table (where the furniture goes when the bed is out), galley, bathroom, engine room, back cabin with 5ft double cross bed.

I was nervous about ownership of a vintage engine but these fears were quickly erased and having owned the boat for 12 months I would not have it any other way.  My only advice would be to try and buy something that has history with a competent vintage engine specialists, in my case a 3LW maintained by Paul Redshaw.

One other thing to bear in mind, the recent RCD changes have just about ruled out vintage engines in new builds (somebody will be along shortly to correct me if that's wrong) and there are very few "traditional" builders taking on new builds.  In my mind that means that a good boat will remain a good investment for the foreseeable future.

 

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Don't dismiss older boats with traditional engines and back cabins. There are examples of really well maintained older boats like this. I think that in many cases if someone is willing to take on looking after an old engine they are possibly the sort of person who will take great care of the rest of the boat and all of its associated equipment. 

Our boat is 31 years old with a 40 year old Norwegian fishing boat engine which runs beautifully. The boat has been blacked every two years of its life and the paintwork and woodwork kept in good order.

At 57 foot there are the great advantages and joy in having a traditional style of  back cabin and a generous engine room. The compromise is that the saloon is shorter than some at only eleven foot but for the two of us and up to a couple of guests from time to time the layout works well.

 

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1 minute ago, Peter-Bullfinch said:

 I think that in many cases if someone is willing to take on looking after an old engine they are possibly the sort of person who will take great care of the rest of the boat and all of its associated equipment. 

Our boat is 31 years old with a 40 year old Norwegian fishing boat engine which runs beautifully.

 

Yes, a sound point.

A Sabb, perhaps?

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3 minutes ago, Peter-Bullfinch said:

Don't dismiss older boats with traditional engines and back cabins. There are examples of really well maintained older boats like this. I think that in many cases if someone is willing to take on looking after an old engine they are possibly the sort of person who will take great care of the rest of the boat and all of its associated equipment. 

Our boat is 31 years old with a 40 year old Norwegian fishing boat engine which runs beautifully. The boat has been blacked every two years of its life and the paintwork and woodwork kept in good order.

At 57 foot there are the great advantages and joy in having a traditional style of  back cabin and a generous engine room. The compromise is that the saloon is shorter than some at only eleven foot but for the two of us and up to a couple of guests from time to time the layout works well.

 

Agreed - 1993 and 1954 in my case

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Engine porn alert! I see that you don't spare the Brasso (and also that you hang your mop in the engine room, either that or you have a levitating terrier).

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