Steam Tug TID164

Preserving and running a wartime vessel in the 21st Century

Site of the Pickersgill yard, Sunderland


Like most TIDs, TID 164 was intended for wartime service but missed active duty because she was still being built as the war ended.
As one of the last TIDs she was built by William Pickersgill & Sons Ltd., in Southwick, Sunderland, for potential use in the far east.
The only concession for the tropical conditions was a steam generator to run a boiler room ventilator fan, as well as electric lights.



Early Service History

1945: For about two years she was in Naval Service at Port Edgar, attached to the shore establishment HMS Lochinvar on the Firth of Forth, Scotland.
1947: The Port of London Authority chartered TID 164 to join other TIDs in the London Docks including Brent (TID 159), another Pickersgill tug.
1948: TID 164 went back to the Firth of Forth and was based at the Royal Naval Dockyard, Rosyth.
1962: She was in reserve, and was then put under the command of the Captain of the Dockyard at Rosyth in May 1967, and remained active until she was put up for sale in 1974.


1972 - 73

In 1973, when Martin Stevens from the Medway Maritime Museum was looking to replace Biddick (TID 54), the last coal fired TID, he started negotiations with the Ministry of Defence in Bath, Somerset. They had two TIDs left in service - TID 172 in Chatham and TID 164 in Rosyth, Scotland.

The Medway Maritime Museum was based in Chatham but it was not for them to question the decision of the M.O.D. to offer them TID 164. When Martin Stevens persuaded the Admiralty that they should sell their last TID tug for a "less than commercial price" for preservation, a deal was struck.

Collecting Biddick (TID 54) from Sunderland
(l to r) Michael List Brain, David Trussell, Martin Stevens

When the new owner and friends went north to collect the tug, they had calculated that the
9 tons of oil which the M.O.D. supplied would not be enough. Before they sailed another ton of oil was lashed on deck in barrels, Two and a half days later TID 164 joined the Empire Class steam tug Cervia in Chatham and in accordance with Museum policy was used commercially. Compass had been swung and lifesaving equipment had been loaned.



The ITL International Towing Ltd Fleet


ITL Iternational Towing Ltd

In 1975 the name TID 164 was changed to Hercules. This was done to disguise the fact that TID tugs were only 220 indicated horsepower. The Museum also used the name ITL International Towing Ltd. to increase credibility with customers. Using the tugs commercially certainly worked for Cervia but not for TID 164.

Cervia was used for coastal towing and had a regular crew to maintain her. When a vessel had to be towed up a creek in shallower water the crew would transfer to TID, do the tow, and then abandon her. Only when the tug worked in her own right did proper maintenance happen.

Tows included gravel barges from Tower Bridge to Rye in Sussex, a tow of another two barges through the Caledonian Canal - one with Cervia, one with TID, and the collection of the Museum's other Empire Class steam tug Goliath from the Clyde.


"Dad's Navy"

A memorable tow was that of the steam powered Thames sewage ship Edward Cruise which Cervia delivered to the River Medway. TID 164 took over, and struggled into the shallower waters of Otterham Creek to Bloors Wharf. This tow produced ITL's most dramatic accident which closed Europe's largest cement factory for a week!

To cut a long story short, the BBC were on board Cervia filming a feature for the Nationwide programme called "Dad's Navy". The director wanted to match the speed of the engine to Scott Joplin's 'The Entertainer'! Without a thought for the tow which was some 600 feet astern, the skipper duly telegraphed the engine room to slow down. The tow lost speed on a corner of the river and proceeded to demolish the elevators which unloaded ships and barges.

Not content with this, the Edward Cruise swung from one side of the Thames to the other, hitting barges and freeing them from their mooring bouys as she went. The VIPs who were on the Edward Cruise were not amused.

TID 164 on the River Medway



In anticipation of a contract, TID 164 waited on the west coast of Scotland near Cairnryan where the aircraft carrier Centaur was being broken up, and later in the Crinan Canal.
The contract did not materialise and TID suffered more neglect.

Awaiting work on the West Coast of Scotland



The prohibitive price of oil stopped commercial towing and TID 164 reverted to her original name. When the Small Ships Register was introduced the tug was registered as a yacht thus avoiding expensive Board of Trade regulations.

When TID 164 was moored at Chatham on a tidal berth with a concrete base she sank at her moorings. Each of the eight original sections of the tug was built with a drain plug which protruded from the hull. On every tide the plug sat on concrete and eventually the thread wore and the plug dropped out.



Before the Royal Navy left Chatham in 1984 they fabricated the levers which attach counter-balance weights to the funnel.
After modifying the funnel a test run under the bridges of the Thames gave the Houses of Parliament it's first dose of thick black smoke in many years!