While you’re tuck­ing into your tur­key, spare a thought for Sam, who might be deal­ing with trou­ble on Lon­don’s canals

Canal Boat - - This Month -

Sam Thomas, CRT Op­er­a­tions Man­ager, who keeps the canals run­ning over the Christ­mas pe­riod

‘Flood­ing is the big­gest chal­lenge’ SAM THOMAS - CRT Cus­tomer Op­er­a­tions Man­ager

1 What first at­tracted you to the wa­ter­ways?

I started work­ing for the or­gan­i­sa­tion when it was Bri­tish Wa­ter­ways in March 2000, an op­por­tu­nity arose through word of mouth. I was work­ing as a pro­duc­tion man­ager in a fac­tory and saw the op­por­tu­nity to im­prove my qual­ity of life through work­ing in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment.

2 Do you have a favourite canal or river?

I’m fond of the whole Lon­don net­work as I’m a born and bred Lon­doner. I have an affin­ity with Cam­den Locks on the Re­gent’s canal as I went to pri­mary school in Ken­tish Town. Brent­ford is my fam­ily home now, hav­ing watched my chil­dren grow up in the area. We live in the house by the lock. So I’d say Brent­ford on the Grand Union in­clud­ing the Han­well Flight.

3 What do the wa­ter­ways have to of­fer the coun­try?

Within an ur­ban set­ting, a place to re­lax and re­flect. Also a great place to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent peo­ple and canal users. The na­ture and his­tory of the canal net­work is a nat­u­ral draw for peo­ple who visit.

4 And what do they need most?

Love and at­ten­tion not only from keen en­thu­si­asts but from the wider com­mu­nity. Own­er­ship is of­ten there from reg­u­lar vis­i­tors but not re­alised.

5 Where were you based when you were a lock-keeper?

At the tidal locks in Brent­ford, where the GU meets the River Thames at Thames Lock. It is manned by CRT lock-keepers on a seven-day ba­sis. I man­aged the locks for four years be­fore mov­ing fur­ther afield in Lon­don.

6 What was the best thing about be­ing a lock-keeper?

Meet­ing peo­ple and help­ing them. Also mov­ing from a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany into the canal en­vi­ron­ment made me feel very con­tent in my role.

7 And, was there any­thing you didn’t en­joy?

The 5am starts could be a chal­lenge but not really, it was all part of the job.

8 Have you ever fallen in?

Fallen in twice and once into the hold of a boat, for­tu­nately, with no last­ing con­se­quences.

9 How long have you worked on the op­er­a­tions side at the Canal & River Trust?

I’ve worked for 16 years for CRT and Bri­tish Wa­ter­ways, in the Lon­don team.

10 What kinds of prob­lems have you had to help with?

Any­thing from help­ing boaters with engine prob­lems, show­ing novices how to op­er­ate locks, clear­ing trees that have blown over. Re­mov­ing cars and other ob­struc­tions. Find­ing lost dogs, cats. Usu­ally direct­ing peo­ple to the near­est laun­drette or more of­ten the lo­cal pub.

11 Have you been on call on pre­vi­ous Christ­mas Days?

Yes I’ve been called out to re­move a car from a ma­rina that had been driven in by a care­less Christ­mas rev­eller the night be­fore. I moved a crane barge to the lo­ca­tion, lifted the car out, handed it over to the po­lice – and went back to my tur­key.

12 What other prob­lems are likely to crop up, and how many are in your team?

Flood­ing is gen­er­ally the big­gest chal­lenge. We have a team of up to eight peo­ple on standby who will de­ploy to spe­cific sites to mon­i­tor and man­age the wa­ter lev­els. Also sup­port­ing our boating cus­tomers whose power sup­ply may fail at their home moor­ing site. We can now re­motely ac­cess their in­di­vid­ual bol­lards to re­boot and power up if they fail.

13 What are you read­ing at present?

HipHop Fam­ily Tree by Ed Piskor. Also Spoon’s Carpets by Kit Caless – yes a book about pub carpets.

14 Who would be your ideal cruis­ing com­pan­ion?

Fan­tasy, it could be Björk or Bob Mar­ley but in re­al­ity, my two teenage sons.

15 What did you want to be aged 12?

I had my heart set on be­ing a fire­man or an ar­chi­tect.

16 What is your proud­est achieve­ment?

My fam­ily.

17 What do you think of peo­ple on our rivers and canals?

They are a di­verse bunch, re­mem­ber it’s not just boaters. Peo­ple that visit really care not just about what di­rectly af­fects them but oth­ers as well. I do like the chang­ing gen­er­a­tions within the boating com­mu­nity. As I said, they take own­er­ship and see it as their own, I like that. The peo­ple that mis­use the canals are a small mi­nor­ity.

18 What do you do in your spare time?

I like to mooch around pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hi­bi­tions and try to see live mu­sic.

19 Where would you go on your dream cruise?

The Congo or the Panama Canal.


What su­per­power would you most like to have?

The power to re­grow my hair to its for­mer glory.

Work and home – Thames Lock at Brent­ford

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