British Waterways talked to surviving boat gangs to bring two heritage working boats, Atlas, and butty boat, Malus, back to their former glory.
Using just the memories of mariners and archives of photographs dating back more than 70 years, specialist boat builders pieced together a picture of the boats.
Now, Atlas and Malus, both built in 1935, have been handed to the Birmingham Canal Navigation Society and Coombeswood Canal Trust, who will moor the vessels at HawneBasin, in Halesowen.
Both will be kept in working order to give thousands of visitors a glimpse into the history behind Birmingham’s huge network of waterways.
Lucie Hoelmer, bid manager for British Waterways, said: “Incredibly there were still a few people around who remembered exactly what working boats looked like in their heyday. We asked them what life was like when they lived on the boats and were given a lot of information ranging from the type of carpet that was in the boats to the sort of sleeping conditions they were used to.
“Nowadays people have the luxuries of kitchens and beds on the barges, and they are really just floating homes.
“Back in the 1940s the boats simply had a fold down table for preparing food and a cast iron stoves to boil dinner on.
“By handing over these two boats we hope to give people a real insight into the different world of gangs that lived and worked on the boats.”
The restoration project, which was given a £250,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant in 1999, saw a total of 10 boats fully restored.
Atlas and Malus will now be used for exhibitions and rallies to raise awareness of canals among young people.
In their glory days they were used for transporting coal and flour around the country and it is believed they were used to transport ingredients from London via the Grand Union Canal to the old HP factory in Aston.