Steam Boat journey from London to Swindon

From the Wilts, Berks and Gloster Chronicle, 8th April 1872

There has been on the canal at New Swindon, since Monday last, a small steam vessel of somewhat elegant appearance, and showing some rather remarkable workmanship, so much so in fact that it has been visited by large bodies of the New Swindon Mechanics and has attracted very general notice.

The vessel, which is known by the name of the Fly-by-night, is the property of William Louch, Esq, who was formerly a pupil under Sir Daniel Gooch in the Swindon factory, has just performed a voyage from London to Swindon by river and canal, having its owner and several other gentlemen on board. In length the vessel is forty-two feet over all, her width of beam being six feet two inches. The journey to Swindon, a distance of 134 miles, occupied four days.

The first day's trip was from London to Cookham, a distance of 54 miles, Second day, from Cookham to Pangbourne, a distance of 29 miles, Third day, from Pangbourne to Abingdon a distance of 23 miles, and the fourth day from Abingdon to Swindon by the Wilts and Berks canal, a distance of 28 miles. Under ordinary circumstances the speed of the vessel is from 8 to 10 miles an hour, but the journey up the Thames was against the stream, and the full speed could not be maintained in consequence, whilst in the canal the weeds, the shallowness of the water, and the locks, greatly retarded progress.

The draught of the vessel is three feet six inches, but it was found necessary at Abingdon to reduce the draught aft to three feet, and even then the journey from that place to Swindon took seventeen hours, there being, in addition to the eighteen locks, thirty lift and swing bridges to be attended to.

It may be interesting to some of our readers to know that the eighteen locks between Abingdon and Swindon represent a rise in the level of the canal of no less than 282 feet.

The Fly-by-night is not only of an elegant build, but is most complete in all its arrangement, carrying full accommodation for a party of nine or ten persons. Propelled by a screw, her engine and boiler are models of good and finished workmanship. The boiler, which is constructed on Messenger's patent principle, is vertical, and contains 115 tubes, one inch in diameter, and fifteen inches in length. The engine which is affixed to the boiler is single, the diameter of the cylinder being 53¾ inches, with an eight-inch stroke. The diameter of the screw propeller is two feet six inches, with a four foot pitch. With the boiler pressed at 80lbs the screw performs 300 revolutions per minute.

During the four days' journey the vessel was under steam forty-three hours, involving a consumption of twenty-eight cwt, of coal. Although the boiler and engine are exposed to the view on the deck, they are kept quite distinct from the cabin, which is most elegantly fitted up, and so constructed as to be made, if required, quite private, the fittings being of polished mahogany and teak, with plate glass windows.

In various lockers there is every provision for even a long voyage, a complete cooking apparatus by steam being affixed when necessary to the steam boiler. This is by no means the first time we have had occasion to refer to the ingenuity of the Messrs, Louch. At the time of the Paris Exhibition they crossed the Channel and ascended the Seine in their yacht "the Argonaut" (10 tons).

We afterwards published "the log" kept during the outward and homeward trip, and a most interesting one it was. Since then we have published "the log" of a canoe voyage up the Thames from Thames-head to London bridge.

Those of our readers who recollect that account will be pleased to know that the "Fly-By-Night" which met the canoes "somewhere up river" is now lying at New Swindon, where no doubt, on proper application being made, they may enjoy the opportunity of inspecting her machinery and really clever and perfect appointments.