On Monday evening 30th August, the Villiersdorp Branch of the West Cape Tractor & Engine club met for several reasons. First to collect the year’s subs. There’s no Treasurer as such, so this is simply done by putting money down and adding your name to the list. All done on trust, that’s just one of the reasons why there was another reason to gather…. to celebrate winning the Trophy for the Best Small (?) club in the West Cape T&E Club. Small? There were at least 55 people present at the meeting and a long list of apologies! The win was cause to break out the bubbly and to pass the trophy around, starting with the (teetotal) Chairman, Eniel Viljoen!
Another reason was to discuss details for the forthcoming Community Day and Auction at our Museum, in aid of the Churches, Old Age Home, and various other charities, not forgetting the Tractor & Engine Club itself! Soon tasks were being handed out to willing helpers.
However, there was a buzz about…. news of a new Club Project in the pipeline! Something bigger than the large Crossley Engine we all helped to rescue and restore a couple of years ago. Something a lot bigger! A 110 tonne, 100 foot-long Steam Tug!
In order to give the members an idea of what we were talking about, I had prepared a collage of photos of the vessel, Alwyn Vintcent; some taken when it was cosmetically restored two years ago, and the rest last Thursday.
First Eniel gave the background: when the vessel and its sisters were built in Italy, the fact that three of them were sold to Australians many years ago; how that planned sea trip got only as far as Port Elizabeth; how Alwyn Vintcent came back to the Cape, was used for sightseers, first under steam power, later converted to diesel-hydraulics; before being handed back to the Maritime Museum. It was then sold to an Australian who had it cosmetically restored.
I went on to say that there was just one signature required to secure its death-warrant at the hands of the scrappers’ torch, and how, last week, we’d had a meeting on board and discussed possibilities for its future. It couldn’t stay in the V&A Waterfront, either on the water (more paying quays for pleasure boats need the space), or on the hard, where every square inch must earn revenue.
We had discussed taking only the engines out, we thought of removing the hull and keeping the innards intact; both of these options involving a lot of work. Then someone suggested saving the whole vessel as is. But who?
Keith Wetmore then stood up and made an impassioned appeal. He said he had heard of how we had saved and restored the Crossley, making it a Club Project, and how everybody had pulled together, doing whatever they could, or making donations, to make the project a reality.
When talk had turned to saving the whole vessel, he thought of this club (he is a West Cape Tractor & Engine Club member, but not as yet a Villiersdorper!) as being the only hope, and how he’d asked me to phone our chairman from the meeting on the vessel. He had only been partly surprised by the positive reaction, and the feedback we received while we were still at the V&A Waterfront last Thursday evening that there was positive reaction from other influential Villiesdorp citizens.
Eniel took the floor again and asked for comment.
Nic de Wet reminded us that a project like a boat can easily become an eyesore rather than a tourist attraction, and that constant maintenance is needed, but that he was still positive. Before long, Eniel had the strong feeling the Club was behind him!
Alec was as usual preparing delicious Boerewors Rolls at the back, so we didn’t have to go home on an empty stomach, while the members could spend time studying the collage and discussing what they had taken on!
In the meantime, other offers of help have come in, for example, from Dylan Knott who project managed the 2008 restoration and his group of locomotive minders. Also Conrad Blacksmith, who has offered to come with a group of Blacksmiths to help strip the vessel for road transport. These are only some examples of the support which is forthcoming……
30th August 2010