In 1988 I started building a steam engine. I'd never built a 'full size' engine before, although I have a cupboard full of various engines, mainly Hot Air Engines, that I built in the previous decade or so. I'd wanted to build a steam launch for many years, in fact since they first crossed my path in 1967.
It all started when I left school and went to train as a marine engineer with the 'Blue Funnel Line', one of the best and largest shipping companies in the country. Training time was spent between college, workshop and sea-time. The Chief Superintendent of the company, Willy Maguire, had a friend called George Pattinson who lived in Windermere and he had a collection of steamboats, which were kept in various boathouses around the lake. Bits of these boats used to appear in our workshop in Birkenhead to be repaired. Most of us during training carried out restoration and maintenance jobs with senior engineers, either in the workshops or at Windermere.
Early in 1977, I was home on leave when I was called to the office to see Mr Maguire. "Ah! Mr Ayers, George is opening a Steamboat Museum at the old sand wharf on Windermere. Take half a dozen engineer cadets and give him a hand." Two whole months playing with steamboats and being paid for it!
Of course we all had a great time, sorting out problems, putting up flagpoles and playing with steamboats. In the end, Prince Charles came to open the museum, I steamed 'Branksome' and took the 'official party' on a cruise round the lake, and the day was a great success. The Windermere Steamboat Museum is currently closed but when it reopens, it is well worth a visit.