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Chamber’s Port of Goole tour has all the bells and whistles, thanks to ABP

Chamber’s Port of Goole tour has all the bells and whistles, thanks to ABP

Goole Chamber members pictured with the Wheldale tug at the Yorkshire Waterways Museum during their tour of the port. Included in the picture are (second right) Chris Green and (third right) Chamber President Sally Booker.

THE Chamber’s Goole members discovered a hidden gem as they visited The Yorkshire Waterways Museum for their July meeting and enjoyed a boat trip around the town’s historic port.

The museum, which is appealing for new Trustees with business expertise to support it, nestles between the Blacksoft Sands nature reserve and Goole’s marina.

During their visit to the UK’s most inland port which is a vital gateway to Britain’s canal system and the River Humber, the Goole members of the Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce enjoyed a boat trip around the port complex on board two boats which used to work the Aire and Calder Navigation, the Wheldale tug and the Sobriety.

The Sobriety gives its name to the The Sobriety Project, a charity that utilises the museum’s vessels, nature trails, community gardens, healthy eating cafe and allotments as resources for the personal development and training for disadvantaged people in the community.

The Aire & Calder Navigation was completed in 1826 and still sees one barge a week heading up the canal to Leeds, but ABP’s Port Manager for Hull and Goole, Chris Green, recognises the potential advantages of using this system for carrying freight.

According to museum volunteer Malcolm Broadhead, The Wheldale tug, which can be hired privately for boat trips, was one of many tugs used to tow compartments which were filled with coal and became known as “The Railway on the Water”. He explained how the trade began in 1864 and ran for 122 years, transporting 55-million tonnes of coal up the canals, with the compartments becoming known as “Tom Puddings”.

However, not all the coal made it to its intended destinations, with the crew apparently trading some of it for beer, food, accommodation and even chickens and eggs with people who lived near the canals. Guests also learned about the systems of Bells and Whistles – bells were used as signals for loading coal into the tubs, while whistles were used to signal to the tugs’ crews.

In its heyday between the Wars, Goole handled 3.5-million tonnes of cargo, mostly coal. Today, that figure is around 2-million tonnes and now focuses on handling a plethora of goods including steel, cement and timber; contributing £101-million to the economy each year. The fascinating tour also took in Goole’s modern facilities which include a grain store, containers holding vegetable oil from France which is transformed into 500 different types of oil for aromatherapy products, steel being imported from Duisberg in Germany, and steel girders from Spain, newsprint, and of course, Goole’s famous water towers. A recent addition to the town’s skyline is a new Damac concrete silo which handles cement, pumped from ships into the tower, before being loaded onto trucks which drive through the tower’s centre.

To sail from Goole to the sea takes five hours, however the busy port can regularly see up to nine ships delivering or collecting cargo at any one time – and that sometimes includes second-hand static caravans on their way to Poland!

The museum’s boats can be hired for full or half days and residential visits are also available. Admission to the Museum at Dutch River Side, Goole, DN14 5TB is free, although donations are welcomed, and a coffee shop provides a good selection of refreshments. More information can be found by visiting or calling (01405) 768730 or emailing

port of goole tour chris green

ABP’s Chris Green (left) explains the new Damac concrete silo to (left to right) Nigel Wilkinson, chair of the Chamber’s Goole Area Council John Hughes and Paul Taylor.

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