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Title: British Canals - Is their resuscitaion practicable?
Author: Pratt, Edwin A.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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(Constructed by Telford to carry Ellesmere Canal over River Dee. Opened
1803. Cost £47,000. Length, 1007 feet.)








The appointment of a Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways, which
first sat to take evidence on March 21, 1906, is an event that should
lead to an exhaustive and most useful enquiry into a question which has
been much discussed of late years, but on which, as I hope to show,
considerable misapprehension in regard to actual facts and conditions
has hitherto existed.

Theoretically, there is much to be said in favour of canal restoration,
and the advocates thereof have not been backward in the vigorous and
frequent ventilation of their ideas. Practically, there are other
all-important considerations which ought not to be overlooked, though
as to these the British Public have hitherto heard very little. As a
matter of detail, also, it is desirable to see whether the theory that
the decline of our canals is due to their having been "captured" and
"strangled" by the railway companies--a theory which many people seem
to believe in as implicitly as they do, say, in the Multiplication
Table--is really capable of proof, or whether that decline is not,
rather, to be attributed to wholly different causes.

In view of the increased public interest in the general question, it
has been suggested to me that the Appendix on "The British Canal
Problem" in my book on "Railways and their Rates," published in the
Spring of 1905, should now be issued separately; but I have thought it
better to deal with the subject afresh, and at somewhat greater length,
in the present work. This I now offer to the world in the hope that,
even if the conclusions at which I have arrived are not accepted, due
weight will nevertheless be given to the important--if not (as I trust
I may add) the interesting--series of facts, concerning the past and
present of canals alike at home, on the Continent, and in the United
States, which should still represent, I think, a not unacceptable
contribution to the present controversy.


London, _April 1906_.


 CHAP.                                                           PAGE

    I. INTRODUCTORY                                                 1

   II. EARLY DAYS                                                  12

  III. RAILWAYS TO THE RESCUE                                      23

   IV. RAILWAY-CONTROLLED CANALS                                   32

    V. THE BIRMINGHAM CANAL AND ITS STORY                          57

   VI. THE TRANSITION IN TRADE                                     74

  VII. CONTINENTAL CONDITIONS                                      93

 VIII. WATERWAYS IN THE UNITED STATES                             104

   IX. ENGLISH CONDITIONS                                         119

    X. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS                            142


 INDEX                                                            157



 AQUEDUCT AT PONTCYSYLLTE (in the distance)      _Frontispiece_

 COWLEY TUNNEL AND EMBANKMENTS              _To face page_   32

 AT DEVIZES                                       "    "     42

 ELLESMERE PORT                                   "    "     48

 SHROPSHIRE UNION CANAL AT CHESTER                "    "     70

 "FROM PIT TO PORT": PROSPECT PIT, WIGAN          "    "     82

 G.W.R., SWANSEA                                  "    "     88

 A CARGO BOAT ON THE MISSISSIPPI                  "    "    110

 BOATS                                            "    "    114

 RESERVOIR, STAFFORDSHIRE                         "    "    128



 AND BIRMINGHAM                                   "    "     56

 SOME TYPICAL BRITISH CANALS                      "    "     98




The movement in favour of resuscitating, if not also of reconstructing,
the British canal system, in conjunction with such improvement as may
be possible in our natural waterways, is a matter that concerns various
interests, and gives rise to a number of more or less complicated

It appeals in the most direct form to the British trader, from the
point of view of the possibility of enabling him to secure cheaper
transit for his goods. Every one must sympathise with him in that
desire, and there is no need whatever for me to stay here to repeat the
oft-expressed general reflections as to the important part which cheap
transit necessarily plays in the development of trade and commerce.
But when from the general one passes to the particular, and begins to
consider how these transit questions apply directly to canal revival,
one comes at once to a certain element of insincerity in the agitation
which has arisen.

There is no reason whatever for doubt that, whereas one section of
the traders favouring canal revival would themselves directly benefit
therefrom, there is a much larger section who have joined in the
movement, not because they have the slightest idea of re-organising
their own businesses on a water-transport basis, but simply because
they think the existence of improved canals will be a means of
compelling the railway companies to grant reductions of their own
rates below such point as they now find it necessary to maintain.
Individuals of this type, though admitting they would not use the
canals themselves, or very little, would have us believe that there are
enough of _other_ traders who would patronise them to make them pay. In
any case, if only sufficient pressure could be brought to bear on the
railway companies to force them to reduce their rates and charges, they
would be prepared to regard with perfect equanimity the unremunerative
outlay on the canals of a large sum of public money, and be quite
indifferent as to who might have to bear the loss so long as they
gained what they wanted for themselves.

The subject is, also, one that appeals to engineers. As originally
constructed, our British canals included some of the greatest
engineering triumphs of their day, and the reconstruction either of
these or even of the ordinary canals (especially where the differences
of level are exceptionally great), would afford much interesting
work for engineers--and, also, to come to commonplace details, would
put into circulation a certain number of millions of pounds sterling
which might lead some of those engineers, at least, to take a still
keener interest in the general situation. There is absolutely no doubt
that, from an engineering standpoint, reconstruction, however costly,
would present no unsurmountable technical difficulties; but I must
confess that when engineers, looking at the problem exclusively from
their own point of view, apart from strictly economic and practical
considerations, advise canal revival as a means of improving British
trade, I am reminded of the famous remark of Sganerelle, in Molière's
"L'Amour Médecin"--"Vous êtes orfévre, M. Josse."

The subject strongly appeals, also, to a very large number of patriotic
persons who, though having no personal or professional interests to
serve, are rightly impressed with the need for everything that is in
any way practicable being done to maintain our national welfare, and
who may be inclined to assume, from the entirely inadequate facts
which, up to the present, have been laid before them as to the real
nature and possibilities of our canal system, that great results would
follow from a generous expenditure of money on canal resuscitation
here, following on the example already set in Continental countries. It
is in the highest degree desirable that persons of this class should be
enabled to form a clear and definite opinion on the subject in all its
bearings, and especially from points of view that may not hitherto have
been presented for their consideration.

Then the question is one of very practical interest indeed to the
British taxpayer. It seems to be generally assumed by the advocates
of canal revival that it is no use depending on private enterprise.
England is not yet impoverished, and there is plenty of money still
available for investment where a modest return on it can be assured.
But capitalists, large or small, are not apparently disposed to
risk their own money in the resuscitation of English canals. Their
expectation evidently is that the scheme would not pay. In the absence,
therefore, of any willingness on the part of shrewd capitalists--ever
on the look-out for profitable investments--to touch the business, it
is proposed that either the State or the local authorities should take
up the matter, and carry it through at the risk, more or less, either
of taxpayers or ratepayers.

The Association of Chambers of Commerce, for instance, adopted, by a
large majority, the following resolution at its annual meeting, in
London, in February 1905:--

 "This Association recommends that the improvement and extension of
 the canal system of the United Kingdom should be carried out by means
 of a public trust, and, if necessary, in combination with local or
 district public trusts, and aided by a Government guarantee, and that
 the Executive Council be requested to take all reasonable measures to
 secure early legislation upon the subject."

Then Sir John T. Brunner has strongly supported a nationalisation
policy. In a letter to _The Times_ he once wrote:

 "I submit to you that we might begin with the nationalisation of our
 canals--some for the most part sadly antiquated--and bring them up to
 one modern standard gauge, such as the French gauge."

Another party favours municipalisation and the creation of public
trusts, a Bill with the latter object in view being promoted in the
Session of 1905, though it fell through owing to an informality in

It would be idle to say that a scheme of canal nationalisation, or even
of public trusts with "Government guarantee" (whatever the precise
meaning of that term may be) involving millions of public money, could
be carried through _without_ affecting the British taxpayer. It is
equally idle to say that if only the canal system were taken in hand by
the local authorities they would make such a success of it that there
would be absolutely no danger of the ratepayers being called upon to
make good any deficiency. The experiences that Metropolitan ratepayers,
at least, have had as the result of County Council management of the
Thames steamboat service would not predispose them to any feeling of
confidence in the control of the canal system of the country by local

At the Manchester meeting of the Association of Chambers of Commerce,
in September 1904, Colonel F. N. Tannett Walker (Leeds) said, during
the course of a debate on the canal question: "Personally, he was
not against big trusts run by local authorities. He knew no more
business-like concern in the world than the Mersey Harbour Board, which
was a credit to the country as showing what business men, not working
for their own selfish profits, but for the good of the community,
could do for an undertaking. He would be glad to see the Mersey Boards
scattered all over the country." But, even accepting the principle
of canal municipalisation, what prospect would there be of Colonel
Walker's aspiration being realised? The Mersey Harbour Board is an
exceptional body, not necessarily capable of widespread reproduction on
the same lines of efficiency. Against what is done in Liverpool may be
put, in the case of London, the above-mentioned waste of public money
in connection with the control of the Thames steamboat service by the
London County Council. If the municipalised canals were to be worked
on the same system, or any approach thereto, as these municipalised
steamboats, it would be a bad look-out for the ratepayers of the
country, whatever benefit might be gained by a small section of the

Then one must remember that the canals, say, from the Midlands to one
of the ports, run through various rural districts which would have
no interest in the through traffic carried, but might be required,
nevertheless, to take a share in the cost and responsibility of
keeping their sections of the municipalised waterways in an efficient
condition, or in helping to provide an adequate water-supply. It
does not follow that such districts--even if they were willing to
go to the expense or the trouble involved--would be able to provide
representatives on the managing body who would in any way compare, in
regard to business capacity, with the members of the Mersey Harbour
Board, even if they did so in respect to public spirit, and the sinking
of their local interests and prejudices to promote the welfare of
manufacturers, say, in Birmingham, and shippers in Liverpool, for
neither of whom they felt any direct concern.

Under the best possible conditions as regards municipalisation, it is
still impossible to assume that a business so full of complications as
the transport services of the country, calling for technical or expert
knowledge of the most pronounced type, could be efficiently controlled
by individuals who would be essentially amateurs at the business--and
amateurs they would still be even if assisted by members of Chambers of
Commerce who, however competent as merchants and manufacturers, would
not necessarily be thoroughly versed in all these traffic problems. The
result could not fail to be disastrous.

I come, at this point, in connection with the possible liability of
ratepayers, to just one matter of detail that might be disposed of
here. It is certainly one that seems to be worth considering. Assume,
for the sake of argument, that, in accordance with the plans now being
projected, (1) public trusts were formed by the local authorities for
the purpose of acquiring and operating the canals; (2) that these
trusts secured possession--on some fair system of compensation--of the
canals now owned or controlled by railway companies; (3) that they
sought to work the canals in more or less direct competition with the
railways; (4) that, after spending large sums of money in improvements,
they found it impossible to make the canals pay, or to avoid heavy
losses thereon; and (5) that these losses had to be made good by the
ratepayers. I am merely assuming that all this might happen, not that
it necessarily would. But, admitting that it did, would the railway
companies, as ratepayers, be called upon to contribute their share
towards making good the losses which had been sustained by the local
authorities in carrying on a direct competition with them?

Such a policy as this would be unjust, not alone to the railway
shareholders, but also to those traders who had continued to use the
railway lines, since it is obvious that the heavier the burdens imposed
on the railway companies in the shape of local rates (which already
form such substantial items in their "working expenses"), the less
will the companies concerned be in a position to grant the concessions
they might otherwise be willing to make. Besides, apart from monetary
considerations, the principle of the thing would be intolerably unfair,
and, if only to avoid an injustice, it would surely be enacted that
any possible increase in local rates, due to the failure of particular
schemes of canal municipalisation, should fall exclusively on the
traders and the general public who were to have been benefited, and
in no way on the railway companies against whom the commercially
unsuccessful competition had been waged.

This proposition will, I am sure, appeal to that instinct of justice
and fair play which every Englishman is (perhaps not always rightly),
assumed to possess. But what would happen if it were duly carried out,
as it ought to be? Well, in the Chapter on "Taxation of Railways" in
my book on "Railways and their Rates," I gave one list showing that
in a total of eighty-two parishes a certain British railway company
paid an average of 60·25 per cent. of the local rates; while another
table showed that in sixteen specified parishes the proportion of local
rates paid by the same railway company ranged from 66·9 per cent. to
86·1 per cent. of the total, although in twelve parishes out of the
sixteen the company had not even a railway station in the place. But
if, in all such parishes as these, the railway companies were very
properly excused from having to make good the losses incurred by their
municipalised-canal competitors (in addition to such losses as they
might have already suffered in meeting the competition), then the full
weight of the burden would fall upon that smaller--and, in some cases,
that very small--proportion of the general body of ratepayers in the
locality concerned.

The above is just a little consideration, _en passant_, which might
be borne in mind by others than those who look at the subject only
from a trader's or an engineer's point of view. It will help, also,
to strengthen my contention that any ill-advised, or, at least,
unsuccessful municipalisation of the canal system of the country might
have serious consequences for the general body of the community, who,
in the circumstances, would do well to "look before they leap."

But, independently of commercial, engineering, rating and other
considerations, there are important matters of principle to be
considered. Great Britain is almost the only country in the world where
the railway system has been constructed without State or municipal
aid--financial or material--of any kind whatever. The canals were
built by "private enterprise," and the railways which followed were
constructed on the same basis. This was recognised as the national
policy, and private investors were allowed to put their money into
British railways, throughout successive decades, in the belief and
expectation that the same principle would be continued. In other
countries the State has (1) provided the funds for constructing or
buying up the general railway system; (2) guaranteed payment of
interest; or (3) has granted land or made other concessions, as a
means of assisting the enterprise. Not only has the State refrained
from adopting any such course here, and allowed private investors to
bear the full financial risk, but it has imposed on British railways
requirements which may certainly have led to their being the best
constructed and the most complete of any in the world, but which have,
also, combined with the extortions of landowners in the first instance,
heavy expenditure on Parliamentary proceedings, etc., to render their
construction per mile more costly than those of any other system of
railways in the world; while to-day local taxation is being levied
upon them at the rate of £5,000,000 per annum, with an annual increment
of £250,000.

This heavy expenditure, and these increasingly heavy demands, can
only be met out of the rates and charges imposed on those who use the
railways; and one of the greatest grievances advanced against the
railways, and leading to the agitation for canal revival, is that
these rates and charges are higher in Great Britain than in various
other countries, where the railways have cost less to build, where
State funds have been freely drawn on, and where the State lines
may be required to contribute nothing to local taxation. The remedy
proposed, however, is not that anything should be done to reduce the
burdens imposed on our own railways, so as to place them at least in
the position of being able to make further concessions to traders, but
that the State should now itself start in the business, in competition,
more or less, with the railway companies, in order to provide the
traders--if it can--with something _cheaper_ in the way of transport!

Whatever view may be taken of the reasonableness and justice of such a
procedure as this, it would, undoubtedly, represent a complete change
in national policy, and one that should not be entered upon with
undue haste. The logical sequel, for instance, of nationalisation of
the canals would be nationalisation of the railways, since it would
hardly do for the State to own the one and not the other. Then, of
course, the nationalisation of all our ports would have to follow,
as the further logical sequel of the State ownership of the means of
communication with them, and the consequent suppression of competition.
From a Socialist standpoint, the successive steps here mentioned would
certainly be approved; but, even if the financial difficulty could be
met, the country is hardly ready for all these things at present.

Is it ready, even in principle, for either the nationalisation or
the municipalisation of canals alone? And, if ready in principle, if
ready to employ public funds to compete with representatives of the
private enterprise it has hitherto encouraged, is it still certain
that, when millions of pounds sterling have been spent on the revival
of our canals, the actual results will in any way justify the heavy
expenditure? Are not the physical conditions of our country such that
canal construction here presents exceptional drawbacks, and that canal
navigation must always be exceptionally slow? Are not both physical
and geographical conditions in Great Britain altogether unlike those
of most of the Continental countries of whose waterways so much is
heard? Are not our commercial conditions equally dissimilar? Is not
the comparative neglect of our canals due less to structural or
other defects than to complete changes in the whole basis of trading
operations in this country--changes that would prevent any general
discarding of the quick transit of small and frequent supplies by
train, in favour of the delayed delivery of large quantities at longer
intervals by water, however much the canals were improved?

These are merely some of the questions and considerations that arise in
connection with this most complicated of problems, and it is with the
view of enabling the public to appreciate more fully the real nature of
the situation, and to gain a clearer knowledge of the facts on which
a right solution must be based, that I venture to lay before them the
pages that follow.



It seems to be customary with writers on the subject of canals and
waterways to begin with the Egyptians, to detail the achievements of
the Chinese, to record the doings of the Greeks, and then to pass on
to the Romans, before even beginning their account of what has been
done in Great Britain. Here, however, I propose to leave alone all this
ancient history, which, to my mind, has no more to do with existing
conditions in our own country than the system of inland navigation
adopted by Noah, or the character of the canals which are supposed to
exist in the planet of Mars.

For the purposes of the present work it will suffice if I go no further
back than what I would call the "pack-horse period" in the development
of transport in England. This was the period immediately preceding the
introduction of artificial canals, which had their rise in this country
about 1760-70. It preceded, also, the advent of John Loudon McAdam,
that great reformer of our roads, whose name has been immortalised in
the verb "to macadamise." Born in 1756, it was not until the early days
of the nineteenth century that McAdam really started on his beneficent
mission, and even then the high-roads of England--and especially of
Scotland--were, as a rule, deplorably bad, "being at once loose,
rough, and perishable, expensive, tedious and dangerous to travel on,
and very costly to repair." Pending those improvements which McAdam
brought about, adapting them to the better use of stage-coaches and
carriers' waggons, the few roads already existing were practically
available--as regards the transport of merchandise--for pack-horses
only. Even coal was then carried by pack-horse, the cost working out at
about 2s. 6d. per mile for as much as a horse could carry.

It was from these conditions that canals saved the country--long,
of course, before the locomotive came into vogue. As it happened,
too, it was this very question of coal transport that led to their
earliest development. There is quite an element of romance in the
story. Francis Egerton, third and last Duke of Bridgewater (born 1736),
had an unfortunate love affair in London when he reached the age of
twenty-three, and, apparently in disgust with the world, he retired to
his Lancashire property, where he found solace to his wounded feelings
by devoting himself to the development of the Worsley coal mines. As a
boy he had been so feeble-minded that the doubt arose whether he would
be capable of managing his own affairs. As a young man disappointed in
love, he applied himself to business in a manner so eminently practical
that he deservedly became famous as a pioneer of improved transport. He
saw that if only the cost of carriage could be reduced, a most valuable
market for coal from his Worsley mines could be opened up in Manchester.

It is true that, in this particular instance, the pack-horse had been
supplemented by the Mersey and Irwell Navigation, established as the
result of Parliamentary powers obtained in 1733. This navigation
was conducted almost entirely by natural waterways, but it had many
drawbacks and inconveniences, while the freight for general merchandise
between Liverpool and Manchester by this route came to 12s. per ton.
The Duke's new scheme was one for the construction of an artificial
waterway which could be carried over the Irwell at Barton by means of
an aqueduct. This idea he got from the aqueduct on the Languedoc Canal,
in the south of France.

But the Duke required a practical man to help him, and such a man he
found in James Brindley. Born in 1716, Brindley was the son of a small
farmer in Derbyshire--a dissolute sort of fellow, who neglected his
children, did little or no work, and devoted his chief energies to
the then popular sport of bull-baiting. In the circumstances James
Brindley's school-teaching was wholly neglected. He could no more have
passed an examination in the Sixth Standard than he could have flown
over the Irwell with some of his ducal patron's coals. "He remained to
the last illiterate, hardly able to write, and quite unable to spell.
He did most of his work in his head, without written calculations
or drawings, and when he had a puzzling bit of work he would go to
bed, and think it out." From the point of view of present day Board
School inspectors, and of the worthy magistrates who, with varied
moral reflections, remorselessly enforce the principles of compulsory
education, such an individual ought to have come to a bad end. But he
didn't. He became, instead, "the father of inland navigation."

James Brindley had served his apprenticeship to a millwright, or
engineer; he had started a little business as a repairer of old
machinery and a maker of new; and he had in various ways given proof of
his possession of mechanical skill. The Duke--evidently a reader of
men--saw in him the possibility of better things, took him over, and
appointed him his right-hand man in constructing the proposed canal.
After much active opposition from the proprietors of the Mersey and
Irwell Navigation, and also from various landowners and others, the
Duke got his first Act, to which the Royal assent was given in 1762,
and the work was begun. It presented many difficulties, for the canal
had to be carried over streams and bogs, and through tunnels costly
to make, and the time came when the Duke's financial resources were
almost exhausted. Brindley's wages were not extravagant. They amounted,
in fact, to £1 a week--substantially less than the minimum wage that
would be paid to-day to a municipal road-sweeper. But the costs of
construction were heavy, and the landowners had unduly big ideas of the
value of the land compulsorily acquired from them, so that the Duke's
steward sometimes had to ride about among the tenantry and borrow a
few pounds from one and another in order to pay the week's wages. When
the Worsley section had been completed, and had become remunerative,
the Duke pledged it to Messrs Child, the London bankers, for £25,000,
and with the money thus raised he pushed on with the remainder of the
canal, seeing it finally extended to Liverpool in 1772. Altogether
he expended on his own canals no less than £220,000; but he lived to
derive from them a revenue of £80,000 a year.

The Duke of Bridgewater's schemes gave a great impetus to canal
construction in Great Britain, though it was only natural that a good
deal of opposition should be raised, as well. About the year 1765
numerous pamphlets were published to show the danger and impolicy of
canals. Turnpike trustees were afraid the canals would divert traffic
from the roads. Owners of pack-horses fancied that ruin stared them in
the face. Thereupon the turnpike trustees and the pack-horse owners
sought the further support of the agricultural interests, representing
that, when the demand for pack-horses fell off, there would be less
need for hay and oats, and the welfare of British agriculture would be
prejudiced. So the farmers joined in, and the three parties combined
in an effort to arouse the country. Canals, it was said, would involve
a great waste of land; they would destroy the breed of draught horses;
they would produce noxious or humid vapours; they would encourage
pilfering; they would injure old mines and works by allowing of new
ones being opened; and they would destroy the coasting trade, and,
consequently, "the nursery for seamen."

By arguments such as these the opposition actually checked for some
years the carrying out of several important undertakings, including
the Trent and Mersey Navigation. But, when once the movement had
fairly started, it made rapid progress. James Brindley's energy, down
to the time of his death in 1772, was especially indomitable. Having
ensured the success of the Bridgewater Canal, he turned his attention
to a scheme for linking up the four ports of Liverpool, Hull, Bristol,
and London by a system of main waterways, connected by branch canals
with leading industrial centres off the chief lines of route. Other
projects followed, as it was seen that the earlier ventures were
yielding substantial profits, and in 1790 a canal mania began. In 1792
no fewer than eighteen new canals were promoted. In 1793 and 1794 the
number of canal and navigation Acts passed was forty-five, increasing
to eighty-one the total number which had been obtained since 1790. So
great was the public anxiety to invest in canals that new ones were
projected on all hands, and, though many of them were of a useful
type, others were purely speculative, were doomed to failure from the
start, and occasioned serious losses to thousands of investors. In
certain instances existing canals were granted the right to levy tolls
upon new-comers, as compensation for prospective loss of traffic--even
when the new canals were to be 4 or 5 miles away--fresh schemes being
actually undertaken on this basis.

The canals that paid at all paid well, and the good they conferred on
the country in the days of their prosperity is undeniable. Failing,
at that time, more efficient means of transport, they played a most
important rôle in developing the trade, industries, and commerce of
our country at a period especially favourable to national advancement.
For half a century, in fact, the canals had everything their own way.
They had a monopoly of the transport business--except as regards road
traffic--and in various instances they helped their proprietors to make
huge profits. But great changes were impending, and these were brought
about, at last, with the advent of the locomotive.

The general situation at this period is well shown by the following
extracts from an article on "Canals and Rail-roads," published in the
_Quarterly Review_ of March 1825:--

 "It is true that we, who, in this age, are accustomed to roll along
 our hard and even roads at the rate of 8 or 9 miles an hour, can
 hardly imagine the inconveniences which beset our great-grandfathers
 when they had to undertake a journey--forcing their way through deep
 miry lanes; fording swollen rivers; obliged to halt for days together
 when 'the waters were out'; and then crawling along at a pace of 2
 or 3 miles an hour, in constant fear of being set down fast in some
 deep quagmire, of being overturned, breaking down, or swept away by a
 sudden inundation.

 "Such was the travelling condition of our ancestors, until the several
 turnpike Acts effected a gradual and most favourable change, not only
 in the state of the roads, but the whole appearance of the country;
 by increasing the facility of communication, and the transport of
 many weighty and bulky articles which, before that period, no effort
 could move from one part of the country to another. The pack-horse was
 now yoked to the waggon, and stage coaches and post-chaises usurped
 the place of saddle-horses. Imperfectly as most of these turnpike
 roads were constructed, and greatly as their repairs were neglected,
 they were still a prodigious improvement; yet, for the conveyance
 of heavy merchandise the progress of waggons was slow and their
 capacity limited. This defect was at length remedied by the opening
 of canals, an improvement which became, with regard to turnpike roads
 and waggons, what these had been to deep lanes and pack-horses.[1]
 But we may apply to projectors the observation of Sheridan, 'Give
 these fellows a good thing and they never know when to have done with
 it,' for so vehement became the rage for canal-making that, in a few
 years, the whole surface of the country was intersected by these
 inland navigations, and frequently in parts of the island where there
 was little or no traffic to be conveyed. The consequence was, that a
 large proportion of them scarcely paid an interest of one per cent.,
 and many nothing at all; while others, judiciously conducted over
 populous, commercial, and manufacturing districts, have not only amply
 remunerated the parties concerned, but have contributed in no small
 degree to the wealth and prosperity of the nation.

 "Yet these expensive establishments for facilitating the conveyance
 of the commercial, manufacturing and agricultural products of the
 country to their several destinations, excellent and useful as all
 must acknowledge them to be, are now likely, in their turn, to give
 way to the old invention of Rail-roads. Nothing now is heard of but
 rail-roads; the daily papers teem with notices of new lines of them
 in every direction, and pamphlets and paragraphs are thrown before
 the public eye, recommending nothing short of making them general
 throughout the kingdom. Yet, till within these few months past,
 this old invention, in use a full century before canals, has been
 suffered, with few exceptions, to act the part only of an auxiliary
 to canals, in the conveyance of goods to and from the wharfs, and of
 iron, coals, limestone, and other products of the mines to the nearest
 place of shipment....

 "The powers of the steam-engine, and a growing conviction that our
 present modes of conveyance, excellent as they are, both require and
 admit of great improvements, are, no doubt, among the chief reasons
 that have set the current of speculation in this particular direction."

Dealing with the question of "vested rights," the article warns
"the projectors of the intended railroads ... of the necessity of
being prepared to meet the most strenuous opposition from the canal
proprietors," and proceeds:--

 "But, we are free to confess, it does not appear to us that the canal
 proprietors have the least ground for complaining of a grievance.
 They embarked their property in what they conceived to be a good
 speculation, which in some cases was realised far beyond their most
 sanguine hopes; in others, failed beyond their most desponding
 calculations. If those that have succeeded should be able to maintain
 a competition with rail-ways by lowering their charges; what they
 thus lose will be a fair and unimpeachable gain to the public, and a
 moderate and just profit will still remain to them; while the others
 would do well to transfer their interests from a bad concern into one
 whose superiority must be thus established. Indeed, we understand that
 this has already been proposed to a very considerable extent, and that
 the level beds of certain unproductive canals have been offered for
 the reception of rail-ways.

 "There is, however, another ground upon which, in many instances, we
 have no doubt, the opposition of the canal proprietors may be properly
 met--we mean, and we state it distinctly, the unquestionable fact,
 that our trade and manufactures have suffered considerably by the
 disproportionate rates of charge upon canal conveyance. The immense
 tonnage of coal, iron, and earthenware, Mr Cumming tells us,[2] 'have
 enabled one of the canals, passing through these districts (near
 Birmingham), to pay an annual dividend to the proprietary of £140 upon
 an original share of £140, and as such has enhanced the value of each
 share from £140 to £3,200; and another canal in the same district, to
 pay an annual dividend of £160 upon the original share of £200, and
 the shares themselves have reached the value of £4,600 each.'

 "Nor are these solitary instances. Mr Sandars informs us[3] that,
 of the only two canals which unite Liverpool with Manchester, the
 thirty-nine original proprietors of one of them, the Old Quay,[4]
 have been paid for every other year, for nearly half a century, the
 _total amount of their investment_; and that a share in this canal,
 which cost only £70, has recently been sold for £1,250; and that, with
 regard to the other, the late Duke of Bridgewater's, there is good
 reason to believe that the net income has, for the last twenty years,
 averaged nearly £100,000 per annum!"

In regard, however, to the supersession of canals in general by
railways, the writer of the article says:--

 "We are not the advocates for visionary projects that interfere with
 useful establishments; we scout the idea of a _general_ rail-road as
 altogether impracticable....

 "As to those persons who speculate on making rail-ways general
 throughout the kingdom, and superseding all the canals, all the
 waggons, mail and stage-coaches, post-chaises, and, in short, every
 other mode of conveyance by land and water, we deem them and their
 visionary schemes unworthy of notice."



It is not a little curious to find that, whereas the proposed
resuscitation of canals is now being actively supported in various
quarters as a means of effecting increased competition with the
railways, the railway system itself originally had a most cordial
welcome from the traders of this country as a means of relieving
them from what had become the intolerable monopoly of the canals and

It will have been seen that in the article published in the _Quarterly
Review_ of March 1825, from which I gave extracts in the last Chapter,
reference was made to a "Letter on the Subject of the Projected
Rail-road between Liverpool and Manchester," by Mr Joseph Sandars, and
published that same year. I have looked up the original "Letter," and
found in it some instructive reading. Mr Sandars showed that although,
under the Act of Parliament obtained by the Duke of Bridgewater, the
tolls to be charged on his canal between Liverpool and Manchester were
not to exceed 2s. 6d. per ton, his trustees had, by various exactions,
increased them to 5s. 2d. per ton on all goods carried along the
canal. They had also got possession of all the available land and
warehouses along the canal banks at Manchester, thus monopolising the
accommodation, or nearly so, and forcing the traders to keep to the
trustees, and not patronise independent carriers. It was, Mr Sandars
declared, "the most oppressive and unjust monopoly known to the trade
of this country--a monopoly which there is every reason to believe
compels the public to pay, in one shape or another, £100,000 more
per annum than they ought to pay." The Bridgewater trustees and the
proprietors of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation were, he continued,
"deaf to all remonstrances, to all entreaties"; they were "actuated
solely by a spirit of monopoly and extension," and "the only remedy
the public has left is to go to Parliament and ask for a new line of
conveyance." But this new line, he said, would have to be a railway. It
could not take the form of another canal, as the two existing routes
had absorbed all the available water-supply.

In discussing the advantages of a railway over a canal, Mr Sandars

 "It is computed that goods could be carried for considerably less than
 is now charged, and for one-half of what has been charged, and that
 they would be conveyed in one-sixth of the time. Canals in summer are
 often short of water, and in winter are obstructed by frost; a Railway
 would not have to encounter these impediments."

Mr Sandars further wrote:--

 "The distance between Liverpool and Manchester, by the three lines
 of Water conveyance, is upwards of 50 miles--by a Rail-road it would
 only be 33. Goods conveyed by the Duke and Old Quay [Mersey and
 Irwell Navigation] are exposed to storms, the delays from adverse
 winds, and the risk of damage, during a passage of 18 miles in the
 tide-way of the Mersey. For days together it frequently happens that
 when the wind blows very strong, either south or north, their vessels
 cannot move against it. It is very true that when the winds and tides
 are favourable they can occasionally effect a passage in fourteen
 hours; but the average is certainly thirty. However, notwithstanding
 all the accommodation they can offer, the delays are such that the
 spinners and dealers are frequently obliged to cart cotton on the
 public high-road, a distance of 36 miles, for which they pay four
 times the price which would be charged by a Rail-road, and they are
 three times as long in getting it to hand. The same observation
 applies to manufactured goods which are sent by land-carriage daily,
 and for which the rate paid is five times that which they would be
 subject to by the Rail-road. This enormous sacrifice is made for two
 reasons--sometimes because conveyance by water cannot be promptly
 obtained, but more frequently because speed and certainty as to
 delivery are of the first importance. Packages of goods sent from
 Manchester, for immediate shipment at Liverpool, often pay two or
 three pounds per ton; and yet there are those who assert that the
 difference of a few hours in speed can be no object. The merchants
 know better."

In the same year that Mr Sandars issued his "Letter," the merchants
of the port of Liverpool addressed a memorial to the Mayor and Common
Council of the borough, praying them to support the scheme for the
building of a railway, and stating:--

 "The merchants of this port have for a long time past experienced
 very great difficulties and obstructions in the prosecution of their
 business, in consequence of the high charges on the freight of goods
 between this town and Manchester, and of the frequent impossibility
 of obtaining vessels for days together."

It is clear from all this that, however great the benefit which canal
transport had conferred, as compared with prior conditions, the canal
companies had abused their monopoly in order to secure what were often
enormous profits; that the canals themselves, apart from the excessive
tolls and charges imposed, failed entirely to meet the requirements
of traders; and that the most effective means of obtaining relief was
looked for in the provision of railways.

The value to which canal shares had risen at this time is well shown by
the following figures, which I take from the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for
December, 1824:--

  |      Canal.                   |         Shares.      | Price. |
  |                               | £ _s._ _d._          |   £    |
  |Trent and Mersey               | 75  0  0             | 2,200  |
  |Loughborough                   |197  0  0             | 4,600  |
  |Coventry                       | 44  0  0 (and bonus) | 1,300  |
  |Oxford (short shares)          | 32  0  0   "    "    |   850  |
  |Grand Junction                 | 10  0  0   "    "    |   290  |
  |Old Union                      |  4  0  0             |   103  |
  |Neath                          | 15  0  0             |   400  |
  |Swansea                        | 11  0  0             |   250  |
  |Monmouthshire                  | 10  0  0             |   245  |
  |Brecknock and Abergavenny      |  8  0  0             |   175  |
  |Staffordshire & Worcestershire | 40  0  0             |   960  |
  |Birmingham                     | 12 10  0             |   350  |
  |Worcester and Birmingham       |  1 10  0             |    56  |
  |Shropshire                     |  8  0  0             |   175  |
  |Ellesmere                      |  3 10  0             |   102  |
  |Rochdale                       |  4  0  0             |   140  |
  |Barnsley                       | 12  0  0             |   330  |
  |Lancaster                      |  1  0  0             |    45  |
  |Kennet and Avon                |  1  0  0             |    29  |

These substantial values, and the large dividends that led to them,
were due in part, no doubt, to the general improvement in trade which
the canals had helped most materially to effect; but they had been
greatly swollen by the merciless way in which the traders of those
days were exploited by the representatives of the canal interest. As
bearing on this point, I might interrupt the course of my narrative
to say that in the House of Commons on May 17, 1836, Mr Morrison,
member for Ipswich, made a speech in which, as reported by Hansard, he
expressed himself "clearly of opinion" that "Parliament should, when it
established companies for the formation of canals, railroads, or such
like undertakings, invariably reserve to itself the power to make such
periodical revisions of the rates and charges as it may, under the then
circumstances, deem expedient"; and he proposed a resolution to this
effect. He was moved to adopt this course in view of past experiences
in connection with the canals, and a desire that there should be no
repetition of them in regard to the railways then being very generally
promoted. In the course of his speech he said:--

 "The history of existing canals, waterways, etc., affords abundant
 evidence of the evils to which I have been averting. An original share
 in the Loughborough Canal, for example, which cost £142, 17s. is now
 selling at about £1,250, and yields a dividend of £90 or £100 a year.
 The fourth part of a Trent and Mersey Canal share, or £50 of the
 company's stock, is now fetching £600, and yields a dividend of about
 £30 a year. And there are various other canals in nearly the same

At the close of the debate which followed, Mr Morrison withdrew his
resolution, owing to the announcement that the matter to which he had
called attention would be dealt with in a Bill then being framed. It
is none the less interesting thus to find that Parliamentary revisions
of railway rates were, in the first instance, directly inspired by the
extortions practised on the traders by canal companies in the interest
of dividends far in excess of any that the railway companies have
themselves attempted to pay.

Reverting to the story of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway--the
projection of which, as Mr Sandars' "Letter" shows, represented
a revolt against "the exorbitant and unjust charges of the
water-carriers"--the Bill promoted in its favour was opposed so
vigorously by the canal and other interests that £70,000 was spent in
the Parliamentary proceedings in getting it through. But it was carried
in 1826, and the new line, opened in 1830, was so great a success that
it soon began to inspire many similar projects in other directions,
while with its opening the building of fresh canals for ordinary inland
navigation (as distinct from ship canals) practically ceased.

There is not the slightest doubt that, but for the extreme
dissatisfaction of the trading interests in regard alike to the heavy
charges and to the shortcomings of the canal system, the Liverpool and
Manchester Railway--that precursor of the "railway mania"--would not
have been actually constructed until at least several years later. But
there were other directions, also, in which the revolt against the then
existing conditions was to bring about important developments. In the
pack-horse period the collieries of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire
respectively supplied local needs only, the cost of transport by
road making it practically impossible to send coal out of the county
in which it was raised. With the advent of canals the coal could be
taken longer distances, and the canals themselves gained so much
from the business that at one time shares in the Loughborough Canal,
on which £142 had been paid, rose, as already shown, to £4,600, and
were looked upon as being as safe as Consols. But the collapse of a
canal from the Leicestershire coal-fields to the town of Leicester
placed the coalowners of that county at a disadvantage, and this they
overcame, in 1832, by opening the Leicester and Swinnington line of
railway. Thereupon the disadvantage was thrown upon the Nottinghamshire
coalowners, who could no longer compete with Leicestershire. In fact,
the immediate outlook before them was that they would be excluded from
their chief markets, that their collieries might have to be closed, and
that the mining population would be thrown out of employment.

In their dilemma they appealed to the canal companies, and asked
for such a reduction in rates as would enable them to meet the
new situation; but the canal companies--wedded to their big
dividends--would make only such concessions as were thought by
the other side to be totally inadequate. Following on this the
Nottinghamshire coalowners met in the parlour of a village inn at
Eastwood, in the autumn of 1832, and formally declared that "there
remained no other plan for their adoption than to attempt to lay a
railway from their collieries to the town of Leicester." The proposal
was confirmed by a subsequent meeting, which resolved that "a railway
from Pinxton to Leicester is essential to the interests of the
coal-trade of this district." Communications were opened with George
Stephenson, the services of his son Robert were secured, the "Midland
Counties Railway" was duly constructed, and the final outcome of the
action thus taken--as the direct result of the attitude of the canal
companies--is to be seen in the splendid system known to-day as the
Midland Railway.

Once more, I might refer to Mr Charles H. Grinling's "History of the
Great Northern Railway," in which, speaking of early conditions, he

 "During the winter of 1843-44 a strong desire arose among the
 landowners and farmers of the eastern counties to secure some of the
 benefits which other districts were enjoying from the new method
 of locomotion. One great want of this part of England was that of
 cheaper fuel, for though there were collieries open at this time
 in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Derbyshire, the nearest
 pits with which the eastern counties had practicable transport
 communication were those of South Yorkshire and Durham, and this was
 of so circuitous a character that even in places situated on navigable
 rivers, unserved by a canal, the price of coal often rose as high as
 40s. or even 50s. a ton. In remoter places, to which it had to be
 carted 10, 20, or even 30 miles along bad cross-roads, coal even for
 house-firing was a positive luxury, quite unattainable by the poorer
 classes. Moreover, in the most severe weather, when the canals were
 frozen, the whole system of supply became paralysed, and even the
 wealthy had not seldom to retreat shivering to bed for lack of fuel."

In this particular instance it was George Hudson, the "Railway King,"
who was approached, and the first lines were laid of what is now the
Great Northern Railway.

So it happened that, when the new form of transport came into vogue, in
succession to the canals, it was essentially a case of "Railways to the



Both canals and railways were, in their early days, made according to
local conditions, and were intended to serve local purposes. In the
case of the former the design and dimensions of the canal boat used
were influenced by the depth and nature of the estuary or river along
which it might require to proceed, and the size of the lock (affecting,
again, the size of the boat) might vary according to whether the lock
was constructed on a low level, where there was ample water, or on a
high level, where economy in the use of water had to be practised.
Uniformity under these varying conditions would certainly have been
difficult to secure, and, in effect, it was not attempted. The original
designers of the canals, in days when the trade of the country was far
less than it is now and the general trading conditions very different,
probably knew better what they were about than their critics of to-day
give them credit for. They realised more completely than most of
those critics do what were the limitations of canal construction in a
country of hills and dales, and especially in rugged and mountainous
districts. They cut their coat, as it were, according to their cloth,
and sought to meet the actual needs of the day rather than anticipate
the requirements of futurity. From their point of view this was the
simplest solution of the problem.


(Cowley Tunnel and Embankments, on Shropshire Union Route between
Wolverhampton and the Mersey.)

      [_To face page 32._

But, though the canals thus made suited local conditions, they became
unavailable for through traffic, except in boats sufficiently small
to pass the smallest lock or the narrowest and shallowest canal _en
route_. Then the lack of uniformity in construction was accompanied by
a lack of unity in management. Each and every through route was divided
among, as a rule, from four to eight or ten different navigations, and
a boat-owner making the journey had to deal separately with each.

The railway companies soon began to rid themselves of their own local
limitations. A "Railway Clearing House" was set up in 1847, in the
interests of through traffic; groups of small undertakings amalgamated
into "great" companies; facilities of a kind unknown before were made
available, while the whole system of railway operation was simplified
for traders and travellers. The canal companies, however, made no
attempt to follow the example thus set. They were certainly in a more
difficult position than the railways. They might have amalgamated, and
they might have established a Canal Clearing House. These would have
been comparatively easy things to do. But any satisfactory linking up
of the various canal systems throughout the country would have meant
virtual reconstruction, and this may well have been thought a serious
proposition in regard, especially, to canals built at a considerable
elevation above the sea level, where the water supply was limited, and
where, for that reason, some of the smallest locks were to be found.
To say the least of it, such a work meant a very large outlay, and at
that time practically all the capital available for investment in
transport was being absorbed by new railways. These, again, had secured
the public confidence which the canals were losing. As Mr Sandars said
in his "Letter":--

 "Canals have done well for the country, just as high roads and
 pack-horses had done before canals were established; but the
 country has now presented to it cheaper and more expeditious means
 of conveyance, and the attempt to prevent its adoption is utterly

All that the canal companies did, in the first instance, was to attempt
the very thing which Mr Sandars considered "utterly hopeless." They
adopted a policy of blind and narrow-minded hostility. They seemed to
think that, if they only fought them vigorously enough, they could
drive the railways off the field; and fight them they did, at every
possible point. In those days many of the canal companies were still
wealthy concerns, and what their opposition might mean has been
already shown in the case of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The
newcomers had thus to concentrate their efforts and meet the opposition
as best they could.

For a time the canal companies clung obstinately to their high tolls
and charges, in the hope that they would still be able to pay their big
dividends. But, when the superiority of the railways over the waterways
became more and more manifest, and when the canal companies saw greater
and still greater quantities of traffic being diverted from them by
their opponents, in fair competition, they realised the situation at
last, and brought down their tolls with a rush. The reductions made
were so substantial that they would have been thought incredible a few
years previously.

In the result, benefits were gained by all classes of traders, for
those who still patronised the canals were charged much more reasonable
tolls than they had ever paid before. But even the adoption of this
belated policy by the canal companies did not help them very much.
The diversion of the stream of traffic to the railways had become too
pronounced to be checked by even the most substantial of reductions
in canal charges. With the increasing industrial and commercial
development of the country it was seen that the new means of transport
offered advantages of even greater weight than cost of transport,
namely, speed and certainty of delivery. For the average trader it was
essentially a case of time meaning money. The canal companies might
now reduce their tolls so much that, instead of being substantially
in excess of the railway rates, as they were at first, they would
fall considerably below; but they still could not offer those other
all-important advantages.

As the canal companies found that the struggle was, indeed, "utterly
hopeless," some of them adopted new lines of policy. Either they
proposed to build railways themselves, or they tried to dispose of
their canal property to the newcomers. In some instances the route of
a canal, no longer of much value, was really wanted for the route of a
proposed railway, and an arrangement was easily made. In others, where
the railway promoters did not wish to buy, opposition to their schemes
was offered by the canal companies with the idea of forcing them either
so to do, or, alternatively, to make such terms with them as would be
to the advantage of the canal shareholders.

The tendency in this direction is shown by the extract already given
from the _Quarterly Review_; and I may repeat here the passage in which
the writer suggested that some of the canal companies "would do well to
transfer their interests from a bad concern into one whose superiority
must be thus established," and added: "Indeed, we understand that
this has already been proposed to a very considerable extent, and
that the level beds of certain unproductive canals have been offered
for the reception of rail-ways." This was as early as 1825. Later on
the tendency became still more pronounced as pressure was put on the
railway companies, or as promoters, in days when plenty of money was
available for railway schemes, thought the easiest way to overcome
actual or prospective opposition was to buy it off by making the best
terms they could. So far, in fact, was the principle recognised that in
1845 Parliament expressly sanctioned the control of canals by railway
companies, whether by amalgamation, lease, purchase, or guarantee, and
a considerable amount of canal mileage thus came into the possession,
or under the control, of railway companies, especially in the years
1845, 1846, and 1847. This sanction was practically repealed by the
Railway and Traffic Acts of 1873 and 1888. By that time about one-third
of the existing canals had been either voluntarily acquired by, or
forced upon, the railway companies. It is obvious, however, that the
responsibility for what was done rests with Parliament itself, and
that in many cases, probably, the railway companies, instead of being
arch-conspirators, anxious to spend their money in killing off moribund
competitors, who were generally considered to be on the point of dying
a natural death, were, at times, victims of the situation, being
practically driven into purchases or guarantees which, had they been
perfectly free agents, they might not have cared to touch.

The general position was, perhaps, very fairly indicated by the late
Sir James Allport, at one time General Manager of the Midland Railway
Company, in the evidence he gave before the Select Committee on Canals
in 1883.

 "I doubt (he said) if Parliament ever, at that time of day, came
 to any deliberate decision as to the advisability or otherwise of
 railways possessing canals; but I presume that they did not do so
 without the fullest evidence before them, and no doubt canal companies
 were very anxious to get rid of their property to railways, and they
 opposed their Bills, and, in the desire to obtain their Bills, railway
 companies purchased their canals. That, I think, would be found to
 be the fact, if it were possible to trace them out in every case. I
 do not believe that the London and North-Western would have bought
 the Birmingham Canal but for this circumstance. I have no doubt that
 the Birmingham Canal, when the Stour Valley line was projected, felt
 that their property was jeopardised, and that it was then that the
 arrangement was made by which the London and North-Western Railway
 Company guaranteed them 4 per cent."

The bargains thus effected, either voluntarily or otherwise (and mostly
otherwise), were not necessarily to the advantage of the railway
companies, who might often have done better for themselves if they had
fought out the fight at the time with their antagonists, and left the
canal companies to their fate, instead of taking over waterways which
have been more or less of a loss to them ever since. Considering the
condition into which many of the canals had already drifted, or were
then drifting, there is very little room for doubt what their fate
would have been if the railway companies had left them severely alone.
Indeed, there are various canals whose continued operation to-day, in
spite of the losses on their wholly unremunerative traffic, is due
exclusively to the fact that they are owned or controlled by railway
companies. Independent proprietors, looking to them for dividends, and
not under any statutory obligations (as the railway companies are) to
keep them going, would long ago have abandoned such canals entirely,
and allowed them to be numbered among the derelicts.

As bearing on the facts here narrated, I might mention that, in the
course of a discussion at the Institution of Civil Engineers, in
November 1905, on a paper read by Mr John Arthur Saner, "Waterways
in Great Britain" (reported in the official "Proceedings" of the
Institution), Mr James Inglis, General Manager of the Great Western
Railway Company, said that "his company owned about 216 miles of canal,
not a mile of which had been acquired voluntarily. Many of those
canals had been forced on the railway as the price of securing Acts,
and some had been obtained by negotiations with the canal companies.
The others had been acquired in incidental ways, arising from the fact
that the traffic had absolutely disappeared." Mr Inglis further told
the story of the Kennet and Avon Canal, which his company maintain at
a loss of about £4,000 per annum. The canal, it seems, was constructed
in 1794 at a cost of £1,000,000, and at one time paid 5 per cent. The
traffic fell off steadily with the extension of the railway system,
and in 1846 the canal company, seeing their position was hopeless,
applied to Parliament for powers to construct a railway parallel with
the canal. Sanction was refused, though the company were authorised to
act as common carriers. In 1851 the canal owners approached the Great
Western Railway Company, and told them of their intention to seek again
for powers to build an opposition railway. The upshot of the matter
was that the railway company took over the canal, and agreed to pay
the canal company £7,773 a year. This they have done, with a loss to
themselves ever since. The rates charged on the canal were successively
reduced by the Board of Trade (on appeal being made to that body) to
1-1/4d., then to 1d., and finally 1/2d. per ton-mile; but there had
never been a sign, Mr Inglis added, that the reduction had any effect
in attracting additional traffic.[5]

To ascertain for myself some further details as to the past and present
of the Kennet and Avon Navigation, I paid a visit of inspection to the
canal in the neighbourhood of Bath, where it enters the River Avon, and
also at Devizes, where I saw the remarkable series of locks by means
of which the canal reaches the town of Devizes, at an elevation of 425
feet above sea level. In conversation, too, with various authorities,
including Mr H. J. Saunders, the Canals Engineer of the Great Western
Railway Company, I obtained some interesting facts which throw light
on the reasons for the falling off of the traffic along the canal.

Dealing with this last mentioned point first, I learned that much
of the former prosperity of the Kennet and Avon Navigation was due
to a substantial business then done in the transport of coal from
a considerable colliery district in Somersetshire, comprising the
Radstock, Camerton, Dunkerton, and Timsbury collieries. This coal was
first put on the Somerset Coal Canal, which connected with the Kennet
and Avon at Dundas--a point between Bath and Bradford-on-Avon--and, on
reaching this junction, it was taken either to towns directly served
by the Kennet and Avon (including Bath, Bristol, Bradford, Trowbridge,
Devizes, Kintbury, Hungerford, Newbury and Reading) or, leaving the
Kennet and Avon at Semmington, it passed over the Wilts and Berks Canal
to various places as far as Abingdon. In proportion, however, as the
railways developed their superiority as an agent for the effective
distribution of coal, the traffic by canal declined more and more,
until at last it became non-existent. Of the three canals affected, the
Somerset Coal Canal, owned by an independent company, was abandoned, by
authority of Parliament, two years ago; the Wilts and Berks, also owned
by an independent company, is practically derelict, and the one that
to-day survives and is in good working order is the Kennet and Avon,
owned by a railway company.

Another branch of local traffic that has left the Kennet and Avon Canal
for the railway is represented by the familiar freestone, of which
large quantities are despatched from the Bath district. The stone
goes away in blocks averaging 5 tons in weight, and ranging up to 10
tons, and at first sight it would appear to be a commodity specially
adapted for transport by water. But once more the greater facilities
afforded by the railway have led to an almost complete neglect of the
canal. Even where the quarries are immediately alongside the waterway
(though this is not always the case) horses must be employed to get the
blocks down to the canal boat; whereas the blocks can be put straight
on to the railway trucks on the sidings which go right into the
quarry, no horses being then required. In calculating, therefore, the
difference between the canal rate and the railway rate, the purchase
and maintenance of horses at the points of embarkation must be added
to the former. Then the stone could travel only a certain distance by
water, and further cost might have to be incurred in cartage, if not in
transferring it from boat to railway truck, after all, for transport to
final destination; whereas, once put on a railway truck at the quarry,
it could be taken thence, without further trouble, to any town in Great
Britain where it was wanted. In this way, again, the Kennet and Avon
(except in the case of consignments to Bristol) has practically lost a
once important source of revenue.

A certain amount of foreign timber still goes by water from Avonmouth
or Bristol to the neighbourhood of Pewsey, and some English-grown
timber is taken from Devizes and other points on the canal to Bristol,
Reading, and intermediate places; grain is carried from Reading to
mills within convenient reach of the canal, and there is also a small
traffic in mineral oils and general merchandise, including groceries
for shopkeepers in towns along the canal route; but, whereas, in
former days a grocer would order 30 tons of sugar from Bristol to be
delivered to him by boat at one time, he now orders by post, telegraph,
or telephone, very much smaller quantities as he wants them, and these
smaller quantities are consigned mainly by train, so that there is less
for the canal to carry, even where the sugar still goes by water at all.

Speaking generally, the actual traffic on the Kennet and Avon at the
western end would not exceed more than about three or four boats a day,
and on the higher levels at the eastern end it would not average one
a day. Yet, after walking for some miles along the canal banks at two
of its most important points, it was obvious to me that the decline in
the traffic could not be attributable to any shortcomings in the canal
itself. Not only does the Kennet and Avon deserve to rank as one of
the best maintained of any canal in the country, but it still affords
all reasonable facilities for such traffic as is available, or seems
likely to be offered. Instead of being neglected by the Great Western
Railway Company, it is kept in a state of efficiency that could not
well be improved upon short of a complete reconstruction, at a very
great cost, in the hope of getting an altogether problematical increase
of patronage in respect to classes of traffic different from what was
contemplated when the canal was originally built.


(A difference in level of 239 feet in 2-1/2 miles is overcome by 29
locks. Of these, 17 immediately follow one another in direct line,
"pounds" being provided to ensure sufficiency of reserve water to work
boats through.)

  _Photo by Chivers, Devizes._]      [_To face page 42._

Within the last year or two the railway company have spent £3,000 or
£4,000 on the pumping machinery. The main water supply is derived from
a reservoir, about 9 acres in extent, at Crofton, this reservoir being
fed partly by two rivulets (which dry up in the summer) and partly
by its own springs; and extensive pumping machinery is provided for
raising to the summit level the water that passes from the reservoir
into the canal at a lower level, the height the water is thus raised
being 40 feet. There is also a pumping station at Claverton, near Bath,
which raises water from the river Avon. Thanks to these provisions, on
no occasion has there been more than a partial stoppage of the canal
owing to a lack of water, though in seasons of drought it is necessary
to reduce the loading of the boats.

The final ascent to the Devizes level is accomplished by means of
twenty-nine locks in a distance of 2-1/2 miles. Of these twenty-nine
there are seventeen which immediately follow one another in a direct
line, and here it has been necessary to supplement the locks with
"pounds" to ensure a sufficiency of reserve water to work the boats
through. No one who walks alongside these locks can fail to be
impressed alike by the boldness of the original constructors of the
canal and by the thoroughness with which they did their work. The walls
of the locks are from 3 to 6 feet in thickness, and they seem to have
been built to last for all eternity. The same remark applies to the
constructed works in general on this canal. For a boat to pass through
the twenty-nine locks takes on an average about three hours. The 39-1/2
miles from Bristol to Devizes require at least two full days.

Considerable expenditure is also incurred on the canal in dredging
work; though here special difficulties are experienced, inasmuch as
the geological formation of the bed of the canal between Bath and
Bradford-on-Avon renders steam dredging inadvisable, so that the more
expensive and less expeditious system of "dragging" has to be relied on

Altogether it costs the Great Western Railway Company about £1 to
earn each 10s. they receive from the canal; and whether or not,
considering present day conditions of trade and transport, and the
changes that have taken place therein, they would get their money
back if they spent still more on the canal, is, to say the least of
it, extremely problematical. One fact absolutely certain is that the
canal is already capable of carrying a much greater amount of traffic
than is actually forthcoming, and that the absence of such traffic is
not due to any neglect of the waterway by its present owners. Indeed,
I had the positive assurance of Mr Saunders that, in his capacity as
Canals Engineer to the Great Western, he had never yet been refused by
his Company any expenditure he had recommended as necessary for the
efficient maintenance of the canals under his charge. "I believe," he
added, "that any money required to be spent for this purpose would
be readily granted. I already have power to do anything I consider
advisable to keep the canals in proper order; and I say without
hesitation that all the canals belonging to the Great Western Railway
Company are well maintained, and in no way starved. The decline in the
traffic is due to obvious causes which would still remain, no matter
what improvements one might seek to carry out."

The story told above may be supplemented by the following extract from
the report of the Great Western Railway Company for the half-year
ending December 1905, showing expenses and receipts in connection with
the various canals controlled by that company:--


for half-year ending 31st December 1905.

          Canal.        To Canal Expenses.  By Canal Traffic.

  Bridgwater and Taunton   £1,991  2  8         £664  8  9
  Grand Western               197  7  1          119 10 10
  Kennet and Avon           5,604  0  9        2,034 18  8
  Monmouthshire             1,557  3  3          886 16  8
  Stourbridge Extension       450 19  4          765  7  1
  Stratford-upon-Avon       1,349 11  3          724  1  4
  Swansea                   1,643 15  7        1,386 14  9
                         --------------     --------------
                          £12,793 19 11       £6,581 18  1
                         --------------     --------------

The capital expenditure on these different canals, to the same date,
was as follows:--

  Brecon                      £61,217 19  0
  Bridgwater and Taunton       73,989 12  4
  Grand Western                30,629  8  7
  Kennet and Avon             209,509 19  3
  Stourbridge Extension        49,436 15  0
  Stratford-on-Avon           172,538  9  7
  Swansea                     148,711 17  6
  Total,                     £746,034  1  3

These figures give point to the further remark made by Mr Inglis at the
meeting of the Institution of Civil Engineers when he said, "It was
not to be imagined that the railway companies would willingly have all
their canal property lying idle; they would be only too glad if they
could see how to use the canals so as to obtain a profit, or even to
reduce the loss."

On the same occasion, Mr A. Ross, who also took part in the debate,
said he had had charge of a number of railway-owned canals at different
times, and he was of opinion there was no foundation for the
allegation that railway-owned canals were not properly maintained. His
first experience of this kind was with the Sankey Brook and St Helens
Canal, one of wide gauge, carrying a first-class traffic, connecting
the two great chemical manufacturing towns of St Helens and Widnes,
and opening into the Mersey. Early in the seventies the canal became
practically a wreck, owing to the mortar on the walls having been
destroyed by the chemicals in the water which the manufactories had
drained into the canal. In addition, there was an overflow into the
Sankey Brook, and in times of flood the water flowed over the meadows,
and thousands of acres were rendered barren. Mr Ross continued (I quote
from the official report):--

 "The London and North-Western Railway Company, who owned the canal,
 went to great expense in litigation, and obtained an injunction
 against the manufacturers, and in the result they had to purchase all
 the meadows outright, as the quickest way of settling the question
 of compensation. The company rebuilt all the walls and some of the
 locks. If that canal had not been supported by a powerful corporation
 like the London and North-Western Railway, it must inevitably have
 been in ruins now. The next canal he had to do with, the Manchester
 and Bury Canal, belonging to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway
 Company, was almost as unfortunate. The coal workings underneath the
 canal absolutely wrecked it, compelling the railway company to spend
 many thousands of pounds in law suits and on restoring the works,
 and he believed that no independent canal could have survived the
 expense. Other canals he had had to do with were the Peak Forest, the
 Macclesfield and the Chesterfield canals, and the Sheffield and South
 Yorkshire Navigation, which belonged to the old Manchester Sheffield
 and Lincolnshire Railway. Those canals were maintained in good order,
 although the traffic was certainly not large."

On the strength of these personal experiences Mr Ross thought that
"if a company came forward which was willing to give reasonable
compensation, the railway companies would not be difficult to deal

The "Shropshire Union" is a railway-controlled canal with an especially
instructive history.

This system has a total mileage of just over 200 miles. It extends from
Wolverhampton to Ellesmere Port on the river Mersey, passing through
Market Drayton, Nantwich and Chester, with branches to Shrewsbury,
Newtown (Montgomeryshire), Llangollen, and Middlewich (Cheshire). Some
sections of the canal were made as far back as 1770, and others as
recently as 1840. At one time it was owned by a number of different
companies, but by a process of gradual amalgamation, most of these
were absorbed by the Ellesmere and Chester Canal Company. In 1846
this company obtained Acts of Parliament which authorised them to
change their name to that of "The Shropshire Union Railways and Canal
Company," and gave them power to construct three lines of railway:
(1) from the Chester and Crewe Branch of the Grand Junction Railway
at Calveley to Wolverhampton; (2) from Shrewsbury to Stafford, with a
branch to Stone; and (3) from Newtown (Montgomeryshire) to Crewe. Not
only do we get here a striking instance of the tendency shown by canal
companies to start railways on their own account, but in each one of
the three Acts authorising the lines mentioned I find it provided that
"it shall be lawful for the Chester and Holyhead Railway Company and
the Manchester and Birmingham Railway Company, or either of them, to
subscribe towards the undertaking, and hold shares in the Shropshire
Union Railways and Canal Company."

Experience soon showed that the Shropshire Union had undertaken more
than it could accomplish. In 1847 the company obtained a fresh Act
of Parliament, this time to authorise a lease of the undertakings of
the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company to the London and
North-Western Railway Company. The Act set forth that the capital
of the Shropshire Union Company was £482,924, represented by shares
on which all the calls had been paid, and that the indebtedness on
mortgages, bonds and other securities amounted to £814,207. Under these
adverse conditions, "it has been agreed," the Act goes on to say,
"between the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company and the London
and North-Western Railway Company, with a view to the economical and
convenient working" of the three railways authorised, "that a lease
in perpetuity of the undertaking of the Shropshire Union Railways and
Canal Company should be granted to the London and North-Western Railway
Company, and accepted by them, at a rent which shall be equal to ...
half the rate per cent. per annum of the dividend which shall from time
to time be payable on the capital stock of the London and North-Western
Railway Company."


      [_To face page 48._

We have in this another example of the way in which a railway company
has saved a canal system from extinction, while under the control
of the London and North-Western the Shropshire Union Canal is still
undoubtedly one of the best maintained of any in the country.
There may be sections of it, especially in out-lying parts, where
the traffic is comparatively small, but a considerable business is
still done in the conveyance of sea-borne grain from the Mersey to
the Chester district, or in that of tinplates, iron, and manufactured
articles from the Black Country to the Mersey for shipment. For
traffic such as this the canal already offers every reasonable
facility. The Shropshire Union is also a large carrier of goods to
and from the Potteries district, in conjunction with the Trent and
Mersey. So little has the canal been "strangled," or even neglected,
by the London and North-Western Railway Company that, in addition
to maintaining its general efficiency, the expenditure incurred by
that company of late years for the development of Ellesmere Port--the
point where the Shropshire Union Canal enters the Manchester Ship
Canal--amounts to several hundred thousand pounds, this money having
been spent mainly in the interest of the traffic along the Shropshire
Union Canal. Deep-water quay walls of considerable length have
been built; warehouses for general merchandise, with an excellent
system of hydraulic cranes, have been provided; a large grain depôt,
fully equipped with grain elevators and other appliances, has been
constructed at a cost of £80,000 to facilitate, more especially, the
considerable grain transport by canal that is done between the River
Mersey and the Chester district; and at the present time the dock area
is being enlarged, chiefly for the purpose of accommodating deeper
barges, drawing about 7 feet of water.

Another fact I might mention in regard to the Shropshire Union Canal
is in connection with mechanical haulage. Elaborate theories, worked
out on paper, as to the difference in cost between rail transport and
water transport, may be completely upset where the water transport is
to be conducted, not on a river or on a canal crossing a perfectly
level plain, but along a canal which is raised, by means of locks,
several hundred feet on one side of a ridge, or of some elevated
table-land, and must be brought down in the same way on the other side.
So, again, the value of what might otherwise be a useful system of
mechanical haulage may be completely marred owing to the existence of
innumerable locks.

This conclusion is the outcome of a series of practical experiments
conducted on the Shropshire Union Canal at a time when the theorists
were still working out their calculations on paper. The experiments
in question were directed to ascertaining whether economy could be
effected by making up strings of narrow canal boats, and having them
drawn by a tug worked by steam or other motive power, instead of
employing man and horse for each boat. The plan answered admirably
until the locks were reached. There the steam-tug was, temporarily, no
longer of any service. It was necessary to keep a horse at every lock,
or flight of locks, to get the boats through, so that, apart from the
tedious delays (the boats that passed first having to wait for the
last-comers before the procession could start again), the increased
expense at the locks nullified any saving gained from the mechanical

As a further illustration--drawn this time from Scotland--of the
relations of railway companies to canals, I take the case of the Forth
and Clyde Navigation, controlled by the Caledonian Railway Company.

This navigation really consists of two sections--the Forth and Clyde
Navigation, and the Monkland Navigation. The former, authorised in
1768, and opened in 1790, commences at Grangemouth on the Firth of
Forth, crosses the country by Falkirk and Kirkintilloch, and terminates
at Bowling on the Clyde. It has thirty-nine locks, and at one point has
been constructed through 3 miles of hard rock. The original depth of 8
feet was increased to 10 feet in 1814. In addition to the canal proper,
the navigation included the harbours of Grangemouth and Bowling, and
also the Grangemouth Branch Railway, and the Drumpeller Branch Railway,
near Coatbridge. The Monkland Canal, also opened in 1790, was built
from Glasgow _viâ_ Coatbridge to Woodhall in Lanarkshire, mainly for
the transport of coal from the Lanarkshire coal-fields to Glasgow and
elsewhere. Here the depth was 6 feet. The undertakings of the Forth and
Clyde and the Monkland Navigations were amalgamated in 1846.

Prior to 1865, the Caledonian Railway did not extend further north than
Greenhill, about 5 miles south of Falkirk, where it joined the Scottish
Central Railway. This undertaking was absorbed by the Caledonian in
1865, and the Caledonian system was thus extended as far north as
Perth and Dundee. The further absorption of the Scottish North-Eastern
Railway Company, in 1866, led to the extension of the Caledonian system
to Aberdeen.

At this time the Caledonian Railway Company owned no port or harbour
in Scotland, except the small and rather shallow tidal harbour of
South Alloa. Having got possession of the railway lines in Central
Scotland, they thought it necessary to obtain control of some port on
the east coast, in the interests of traffic to or from the Continent,
and especially to facilitate the shipment to the Continent of coal
from the Lanarkshire coal-fields, chiefly served by them. The port of
Grangemouth being adapted to their requirements, they entered into
negotiations with the proprietors of the Forth and Clyde Navigation,
who were also proprietors of the harbour of Grangemouth, and acquired
the whole undertaking in 1867, guaranteeing to the original company a
dividend of 6-1/4 per cent.

Since their acquisition of the canal, the Caledonian Railway Company
have spent large sums annually in maintaining it in a state of
efficiency, and its general condition to-day is better than when it
was taken over. Much of the traffic handled is brought into or sent
out from Grangemouth, and here the Caledonian Railway Company have
more than doubled the accommodation, with the result that the imports
and exports have enormously increased. All the same, there has been a
steady decrease in the actual canal traffic, due to various causes,
such as (_a_) the exhaustion of several of the coal-fields in the
Monkland district; (_b_) the extension of railways; and (_c_) changes
in the sources from which certain classes of traffic formerly carried
on the canal are derived.

In regard to the coal-fields, the closing of pits adjoining the canal
has been followed by the opening of others at such a distance from the
canal that it was cheaper to consign by rail.

In the matter of railway extensions, when the Caledonian took over
the canal in 1867, there were practically no railways in the district
through which it runs, and the coal and other traffic had, perforce,
to go by water. But, year by year, a complete network of railways
was spread through the district by independent railway companies,
notwithstanding the efforts made by the Caledonian to protect the
interests of the canal-efforts that led, in some instances, to
Parliament refusing assent to the proposed lines. Those that were
constructed (over a dozen lines and branches altogether), were almost
all absorbed by the North British Railway Company, who are strong
competitors with the Caledonian Railway Company, and have naturally
done all they could to get traffic for the lines in question. This, of
course, has been at the expense of the canal and to the detriment of
the Caledonian Railway Company, who, in view of their having guaranteed
a dividend to the original proprietors, would prefer that the traffic
in question should remain on the canal instead of being diverted to an
opposition line of railway. Other traffic which formerly went by canal,
and is now carried on the Caledonian Railway, is of a character that
would certainly go by canal no longer, and for this the Caledonian and
the North British Companies compete.

The third factor in the decline of the canal relates to the general
consideration that, during the last thirty or forty years, important
works have no longer been necessarily built alongside canal banks,
but have been constructed wherever convenient, and connected with the
railways by branch lines or private sidings, expense of cartage to or
from the canal dock or basin thus being saved. On the Forth and Clyde
Canal a good deal of coal is still carried, but mainly to adjoining
works. Coal is also shipped in vessels on the canal for transport to
the West Highlands and Islands, where the railways cannot compete;
but even here there is an increasing tendency for the coal to be
bought in Glasgow (to which port it is carried by rail), so that the
shippers can have a wider range of markets when purchasing. Further
changes affecting the Forth and Clyde Canal are illustrated by the
fact that whereas, at one time, large quantities of grain were brought
into Grangemouth from Russian and other Continental ports, transhipped
into lighters, and sent to Glasgow by canal, the grain now received at
Glasgow comes mainly from America by direct steamer.

That the Caledonian Railway Company have done their duty towards the
Forth and Clyde Canal is beyond all reasonable doubt. It is true
that they are not themselves carriers on the canal. They are only
toll-takers. Their business has been to maintain the canal in efficient
condition, and allow any trader who wishes to make use of it so to do,
on paying the tolls. This they have done, and, if the traders have not
availed themselves of their opportunities, it must naturally have been
for adequate reasons, and especially because of changes in the course
of the country's business which it is impossible for a railway company
to control, even where, as in this particular case, they are directly
interested in seeing the receipts from tolls attain to as high a figure
as practicable.

I reserve for another chapter a study of the Birmingham Canal system,
which, again, is "railway controlled"; but I may say here that I
think the facts already given show it is most unfair to suggest,
as is constantly being done in the Press and elsewhere, that the
railway companies bought up canals--"of malice aforethought," as it
were--for the express purpose of killing such competition as they
represented--a form of competition in which, as we have seen, public
confidence had already practically disappeared. One of the witnesses at
the canal enquiry in 1883 even went so far as to assert:

 "The railway companies have been enabled, in some cases by means of
 very questionable legality, to obtain command of 1,717 miles of canal,
 so adroitly selected as to strangle the whole of the inland water
 traffic, which has thus been forced upon the railways, to the great
 interruption of their legitimate and lucrative trade."

The assertions here made are constantly being reproduced in one form
or another by newspaper writers, public speakers, and others, who have
gone to no trouble to investigate the facts for themselves, who have
never read, or, if they have read, have disregarded, the important
evidence of Sir James Allport, at the same enquiry, in reference to the
London coal trade (I shall revert to this subject later on), and who
probably have either not seen a map of British canals and waterways
at all, or else have failed to notice the routes that still remain
independent, and are in no way controlled by railway companies.






Which are not controlled by railway companies]

1. River Ouse Navigation (Yorkshire).

2. River Wharfe Navigation.

3. Aire and Calder Navigation.

4. Market Weighton Navigation.

5. Driffield Navigation.

6. Beverley Beck Navigation.

7. Leven Navigation.

8. Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

9. Manchester Ship Canal.

10. Bridgewater portion of Manchester Ship Canal.

11. Rochdale Canal.

12. Calder and Hebble Navigation.

13. Weaver Navigation.

14. Idle Navigation.

15. Trent Navigation Co.

16. Aucholme Navigation.

17. Caistor Canal.

18. Louth Canal (Lincolnshire).

19. Derby Canal.

20. Nutbrook Canal.

21. Erewash Canal.

22. Loughborough Navigation.

23. Leicester Navigation.

24. Leicestershire Union Canal.

25. Witham Navigation.

26. Witham Navigation.

27. Glen Navigation.

28. Welland Navigation.

29. Nen Navigation.

30. Wisbech Canal.

31. Nar Navigation.

32. Ouse and Tributaries (Bedfordshire).

33. North Walsham Canal.

34. Bure Navigation.

35. Blyth Navigation.

36. Ipswich and Stowmarket Navigation.

37. Stour Navigation.

38. Colne Navigation.

39. Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation.

40. Roding Navigation.

41. Stort Navigation.

42. Lea Navigation.

43. Grand Junction Canal.

44. Grand Union Canal.

45. Oxford Canal.

46. Coventry Canal.

47. Warwick and Napton Canal.

48. Warwick and Birmingham Canal.

49. Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal.

30. Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

51. Stafford and Worcester Canal.

52. Severn (Lower) Navigation.

53. Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal.

54. Lower Avon Navigation.

55. Stroudwater Canal.

56. Wye Navigation.

57. Axe Navigation.

58. Parrett Navigation.

59. Tone Navigation.

60. Wilts and Berks Canal.

61. Thames Navigation.

62. London and Hampshire Canal.

63. Wey Navigation.

64. Medway Navigation.

65. Canterbury Navigation.

66. Ouse Navigation (Sussex).

67. Adur Navigation.

68. Arun and Wey Canal.

69. Portsmouth and Arunder Canal.

70. Itchen Navigation.

      [To face page 54.

I give, facing p. 54, a sketch which shows the nature and extent of
these particular waterways, and the reader will see from it that they
include entirely free and independent communication (_a_) between
Birmingham and the Thames; (_b_) from the coal-fields of the Midlands
and the North to London; and (_c_) between the west and east coasts,
_viâ_ Liverpool, Leeds, and Goole. To say, therefore, in these
circumstances, that "the whole of the inland water traffic" has been
strangled by the railway companies because the canals or sections of
which they "obtained command" were "so adroitly selected," is simply to
say what is not true.

The point here raised is not one that merely concerns the integrity
of the railway companies--though in common justice to them it is only
right that the truth should be made known. It really affects the whole
question at issue, because, so long as public opinion is concentrated
more or less on this strangulation fiction, due attention will not
be given to the real causes for the decay of the canals, and undue
importance will be attached to the suggestions freely made that if only
the one-third of the canal mileage owned or controlled by the railway
companies could be got out of their hands, the revival schemes would
have a fair chance of success.

Certain it is, therefore, as the map I give shows beyond all possible
doubt, that the causes for the failure of the British canal system must
be sought for elsewhere than in the fact of a partial railway-ownership
or control. Some of these alternative causes I propose to discuss in
the Chapters that follow my story of the Birmingham Canal, for which
(inasmuch as Birmingham and district, by reason of their commercial
importance and geographical position, have first claim to consideration
in any scheme of canal resuscitation) I would beg the special attention
of the reader.



What is known as the "Birmingham Canal" is really a perfect network
of waterways in and around Birmingham and South Staffordshire,
representing a total length of about 160 miles, exclusive of some
hundreds of private sidings in connection with different works in the

[Illustration: Map of the Canals & Railways between


      [_To face page 56._

The system was originally constructed by four different canal companies
under Acts of Parliament passed between 1768 and 1818. These companies
subsequently amalgamated and formed the Birmingham Canal Navigation,
known later on as the Birmingham Canal Company. From March 1816 to
March 1818 the company paid £36 per annum per share on 1,000 shares,
and in the following year the amount paid on the same number of shares
rose to £40 per annum. In 1823 £24 per annum per share was paid on
2,000 shares, in 1838 £9 to £16 on 8,000, in 1844 £8 on 8,800, and from
May 1845 to December 1846 £4 per annum per share on 17,600 shares.

The year 1845 was a time of great activity in railway promotion, and
the Birmingham Canal Company, who already had a canal between that town
and Wolverhampton, proposed to supplement it by a railway through the
Stour Valley, using for the purpose a certain amount of spare land
which they already owned. A similar proposal, however, in respect to a
line of railway to take practically the same route between Birmingham
and Wolverhampton, was brought forward by an independent company, who
seem to have had the support of the London and Birmingham Railway
Company; and in the result it was arranged among the different parties
concerned (1) that the Birmingham Canal Company should not proceed
with their scheme, but that they and the London and Birmingham Railway
Company should each subscribe a fourth part of the capital for the
construction of the line projected by the independent Birmingham,
Wolverhampton, and Stour Valley Railway Company; and (2) that the
London and Birmingham Railway Company should, subject to certain terms
and conditions, guarantee the future dividend of the Canal Company,
whenever the net income was insufficient to produce a dividend of £4
per share on the capital, the Canal Company thus being insured against
loss resulting from competition.

The building of the Stour Valley Line between Birmingham and
Wolverhampton, with a branch to Dudley, was sanctioned by an Act of
1846, which further authorised the Birmingham Canal Company and the
London and Birmingham Railway Company to contribute each one quarter
of the necessary capital. The canal company raised their quarter,
amounting to £190,087, by means of mortgages. In return for their
guarantee of the canal company's dividend, the London and Birmingham
Railway Company obtained certain rights and privileges in regard to
the working of the canal. These were authorised by the London and
Birmingham Railway and Birmingham Canal Arrangement Act, 1846, which
empowered the two companies each to appoint five persons as a committee
of management of the Birmingham Canal Company. Those members of the
committee chosen by the London and Birmingham Railway Company were
to have the same powers, etc., as the members elected by the canal
company; but the canal company were restricted from expending, without
the consent of the railway company, "any sum which shall exceed the sum
of five hundred pounds in the formation of any new canal, or extension,
or branch canal or otherwise, for the purpose of any single work to be
hereafter undertaken by the same company"; nor, without consent of the
railway company, could the canal company make any alterations in the
tolls, rates, or dues charged. In the event of differences of opinion
arising between the two sections of the committee of management, the
final decision was to be given by the railway representatives in such
year or years as the railway company was called upon to make good a
deficiency in the dividends, and by the canal representatives when no
such demand had been made upon the railway company. In other words the
canal company retained the deciding vote so long as they could pay
their way, and in any case they could spend up to £500 on any single
work without asking the consent of the railway company.

In course of time the Stour Valley Line, as well as the London
and Birmingham Company, became part of the system of the London
and North-Western Railway Company, which thus took over the
responsibilities and obligations, in regard to the waterways, already
assumed; while the mortgages issued by the Birmingham Canal Company,
when they undertook to raise one-fourth of the capital for the Stour
Valley Railway, were exchanged for £126,725 of ordinary stock in the
London and North-Western Railway.

The Birmingham Canal Company was able down to 1873 (except only in one
year, 1868, when it required £835 from the London and North-Western
Company) to pay its dividend of £4 per annum on each share, without
calling on the railway company to make good a deficiency. In 1874,
however, there was a substantial shortage of revenue, and since that
time the London and North-Western Railway Company, under the agreement
already mentioned, have had to pay considerable sums to the canal
company, as the following table shows:--


  1874          £10,528 18  0
  1875                 nil.
  1876            4,796 10  9
  1877              361  7  9
  1878           11,370  5  7
  1879           20,225  0  5
  1880           13,534 19  6
  1881           15,028  9  3
  1882            6,826  7  1
  1883            8,879  4  7
  1884           14,196  7  9
  1885           25,460 19 10
  1886           35,169  9  6
  1887           31,491 14  1
  1888           15,350 10 11
  1889            5,341 19  3
  1890           22,069  9  8
  1891           17,626  2  3
  1892           29,508  4  2
  1893           31,618 19  4
  1894           27,935  8  9
  1895           39,065 15  2
  1896           22,994  0 10
  1897           10,186 19  7
  1898           10,286 13  3
  1899           18,470 18  1
  1900           34,075 19  6
  1901           62,644  2  8
  1902           27,645  2  3
  1903           34,047  4  6
  1904           37,832  5  8
  1905           39,860 13  0

The sum total of these figures is £685,265, 2s. 11d.

It will have been seen, from the facts already narrated, that for a
period of over twenty years from the date of the agreement the canal
company continued to earn their own dividend without requiring any
assistance from the railway company. Meantime, however, various
local, in addition to general, causes had been in operation tending
to affect the prosperity of the canals. The decline of the pig-iron
industry in the Black Country had set in, while though the conversion
of manufactured iron into plates, implements, etc., largely took
its place, the raw materials came more and more from districts not
served by the canals, and the finished goods were carried mainly by
the railways then rapidly spreading through the district, affording
facilities in the way of sidings to a considerable number of
manufacturers whose works were not on the canal route. Then the local
iron ore deposits were either worked out or ceased to be remunerative,
in view of the competition of other districts, again facilitated by the
railways; and the extension of the Bessemer process of steel-making
also affected the Staffordshire iron industry.

These changes were quite sufficient in themselves to account for
the increasing unprofitableness of the canals, without any need for
suggestions of hostility towards them on the part of the railways.
In point of fact, the extension of the railways and the provision of
"railway basins" brought the canals a certain amount of traffic they
might not otherwise have got. It was, indeed, due less to an actual
decrease in the tonnage than to a decrease in the distance carried
that the amount received in tolls fell off, that the traffic ceased to
be remunerative, and that the deficiencies arose which, under their
statutory obligations, the London and North-Western Railway Company
had to meet. The more that the traffic actually left the canals, the
greater was the deficiency which, as shown by the figures I have
given, the railway company had to make good.[6]

The condition of the canals in 1874, when the responsibilities
assumed by the London and North-Western Railway Company began to
fall more heavily upon them, left a good deal to be desired, and the
railway company found themselves faced with the necessity of finding
money for improvements which eventually represented a very heavy
expenditure, apart altogether from the making up of a guaranteed
dividend. They proceeded, all the same, to acquit themselves of these
responsibilities, and it is no exaggeration to say that, during the
thirty years which have since elapsed, they have spent enormous sums in
improving the canals, and in maintaining them in what--adverse critics
notwithstanding--is their present high state of efficiency, considering
the peculiarities of their position.

One of the greatest difficulties in the situation was in regard to
water supply. At Birmingham, portions of the canal are 453 feet above
ordnance datum; Wolverhampton, Wednesfield, Tipton, Dudley, and Oldbury
are higher still, for their elevation is 473 feet, while Walsall,
Darlaston, and Wednesbury are at a height of 408 feet. On high-lands
like these there are naturally no powerful streams, and such is the
lack of local water supplies that, as every one knows, the city of
Birmingham has recently had to go as far as Wales in order to obtain
sufficient water to meet the needs of its citizens.

In these circumstances special efforts had to be made to obtain water
for the canals in the district, and to ensure a due regard for economy
in its use. The canals have, in fact, had to depend to a certain extent
on water pumped from the bottom of coal pits in the Black Country, and
stored in reservoirs on the top levels; the water, also, temporarily
lost each time a canal boat passed through one of the many locks in the
district being pumped back to the top to be used over again.

To this end pumping machinery had already been provided by the old
canal companies, but the London and North-Western Railway Company, on
taking over the virtual direction of the canals for which they were
financially responsible, substituted new and improved plant, and added
various new pumping stations. Thanks to the changes thus effected--at,
I need hardly say, very considerable cost--the average amount of water
now pumped from lower to higher levels, during an average year, is
25,000,000 gallons per day, equal to 1,000 locks of water. On occasions
the actual quantity dealt with is 50,000,000 gallons per day, while
the total capacity of the present pumping machinery is equal to about
102,000,000 gallons, or 4,080 locks, per day. There is absolutely no
doubt that, but for the special provisions made for an additional
water supply, the Birmingham Canal would have had to cease operations
altogether in the summer of 1905--probably for two months--because
of the shortage of water. The reservoirs on the top level were
practically empty, and it was solely owing to the company acquiring new
sources of supply, involving a very substantial expenditure indeed,
that the canal system was kept going at all. A canal company with no
large financial resources would inevitably have broken down under the

Then the London and North-Western Company are actively engaged in
substituting new pumping machinery--representing "all the latest
improvements"--for old, the special aim, here, being the securing of a
reduction of more than 50 per cent. over the former cost of pumping. An
expenditure of from £15,000 to £16,000 was, for example, incurred by
them so recently as 1905 at the Ocker Hill pumping station. In this way
the railway company are seeking both to maintain the efficiency of the
canal and to reduce the heavy annual demands made upon them in respect
to the general cost of operation and shareholders' dividend.

For reasons which will be indicated later on, it is impossible to
improve the Black Country canals on any large scale; but, in addition
to what I have already related, the London and North-Western Railway
Company are constantly spending money on small improvements, such as
dredging, widening waterway under-bridges, taking off corners, and
putting in side walls in place of slopes, so as to give more space for
the boats. In the latter respect many miles have been so treated, to
the distinct betterment of the canal.

All this heavy outlay by the railway company, carried on for a series
of years, is now beginning to tell, to the advantage alike of the
traders and of the canal as a property, and if any scheme of State
or municipal purchase were decided on by the country the various
substantial items mentioned would naturally have to be taken into
account in making terms.

Another feature of the Birmingham Canal system is that it passes to a
considerable extent through the mining districts of the Black Country.
This means, in the first place, that wherever important works have been
constructed, as in the case of tunnels, (and the system passes through
a number of tunnels, three of these being 3,172 yards, 3,027 yards,
and 3,785 yards respectively in length) the mineral rights underneath
have to be bought up in order to avoid subsidences. In one instance
the railway company paid no less than £28,500 for the mining rights
underneath a short length (754 yards) of a canal tunnel. In other
words, this £28,500 was practically buried in the ground, not in order
to work the minerals, but with a view to maintain a secure foundation
for the canal. Altogether the expenditure of the company in this one
direction, and for this one special purpose alone, in the Black Country
district, must amount by this time to some hundreds of thousands of

Actual subsidences represent a great source of trouble. There are
some parts of the Birmingham Canal where the waterway was originally
constructed on a level with the adjoining ground, but, as more and
more coal has been taken from the mines underneath, and especially as
more and more of the ribs of coal originally left to support the roof
have been removed, the land has subsided from time to time, rendering
necessary the raising of the canal. So far has this gone that to-day
the canal, at certain of these points, instead of being on a level with
the adjoining ground, is on an embankment 30 feet above. Drops of from
10 to 20 feet are of frequent occurrence, even with narrow canals, and
the cost involved in repairs and restoration is enormous, as the reader
may well suppose, considering that the total length of the Birmingham
Canal subject to subsidences from mining is about 90 miles.

I come next to the point as to the comparative narrowness of
the Birmingham Canal system and the small capacity of the
locks--conditions, as we are rightly told, which tell against the
possibility of through, or even local, traffic in a larger type of
boat. Such conditions as these are generally presented as one of the
main reasons why the control should be transferred to the State, to
municipalities, or to public trusts, who, it is assumed, would soon get
rid of them.

The reader must have fully realised by this time that the original
size of the waterways and locks on the Birmingham Canal was determined
by the question of water supply. But any extensive scheme of widening
would involve much beyond the securing of more water.

During the decades the Birmingham Canal has been in existence important
works of all kinds have been built alongside its banks, not only in
and around Birmingham itself, but all through the Black Country. There
are parts of the canal where almost continuous lines of such works on
each side of the canal, flush up to the banks or towing path, are to be
seen for miles together. Any general widening, therefore, even of the
main waterways, would involve such a buying up, reconstruction of, or
interference with extremely valuable properties that the expenditure
involved--in the interests of a problematical saving in canal
tolls--would be alike prodigious and prohibitive.

There is the less reason for incurring such expenditure when we
consider the special purposes which the canals of the district already
serve, and, I may even say, efficiently serve. The total traffic
passing over the Birmingham Canal system amounts to about 8,000,000
tons per annum,[7] and of this a considerable proportion is collected
for eventual transport by rail. Every few miles along the canal in
the Black Country there is a "railway-basin" put in either by the
London and North-Western Railway Company, who have had the privilege
of finding the money to keep the canal going since 1874, or by the
Great Western or the Midland Railway Companies. Here, again, very
considerable expenditure has been incurred by the railway companies
in the provision alike of wharves, cranes, sheds, etc., and of branch
railways connecting with the main lines of the company concerned.
From these railway-basins narrow boats are sent out to works all over
the district to collect iron, hardware, tinplates, bricks, tiles,
manufactured articles, and general merchandise, and bring them in for
loading into the railway trucks alongside. So complete is the network
of canals, with their hundreds of small "special" branches, that for
many of the local works their only means of communication with the
railway is by water, and the consignments are simply conveyed to the
railway by canal boat, instead of, as elsewhere, by collecting van or
road lorry.

The number of these railway-basins--the cost of which is distinctly
substantial--is constantly being increased, for the traffic through
them grows almost from day to day.

The Great Western Railway Company, for example, have already several
large transhipping basins on the canals of the Black Country. They
have one at Wolverhampton, and another at Tipton, only 5 miles away;
yet they have now decided to construct still another, about half-way
between the two. The matter is thus referred to in the _Great Western
Railway Magazine_ for March, 1906:--

 "The Directors have approved a scheme for an extensive depôt adjoining
 the Birmingham Canal at Bilston, the site being advantageously central
 in the town. It will comprise a canal basin and transfer shed, sidings
 for over one hundred and twenty waggons, and a loop for made-up
 trains. A large share of the traffic of the district, mainly raw
 material and manufactured articles of the iron trade, will doubtless
 be secured as a result of this important step--the railway and canal
 mutually serving each other as feeders."

The reader will see from this how the tendency, even on canals that
survive, is for the length of haul to become shorter and shorter, so
that the receipts of the canal company from tolls may decline even
where there is no actual decrease in the weight of the traffic handled.

In the event of State or municipal purchase being resorted to, the
expenditure on all these costly basins and the works connected
therewith would have to be taken into consideration, equally with the
pumping machinery and general improvements, and, also, the purchase of
mining rights, already spoken of; but I fail to see what more either
Government or County Council control could, in the circumstances, do
for the Birmingham system than is being done already. Far more for
the purposes of maintenance has been spent on the canal by the London
and North-Western Railway Company than had been so spent by the canal
company itself; and, although a considerable amount of traffic arising
in the district does find its way down to the Mersey, the purpose
served by the canal is, and must necessarily be, mainly a local one.

That Birmingham should become a sort of half-way stage on a continuous
line of widened canals across country from the Thames to the Mersey
is one of the most impracticable of dreams. Even if there were not
the question of the prodigious cost that widenings of the Birmingham
Canal would involve, there would remain the equally fatal drawback
of the elevation of Birmingham and Wolverhampton above sea level. In
constructing a broad cross-country canal, linking up the two rivers in
question, it would be absolutely necessary to avoid alike Birmingham
and the whole of the Black Country. That city and district, therefore,
would gain no direct advantage from such a through route. They would
have to be content to send down their commodities in the existing
small boats to a lower level, and there, in order to reach the Mersey,
connect with either the Shropshire Union Canal or the Trent and Mersey.
One of these two waterways would certainly have to be selected for a
widened through route to the Mersey.

Assume that the former were decided upon, and that, to meet the
present-day agitation, the State, or some Trust backed by State or
local funds, bought up the Shropshire Union, and resolved upon a
substantial widening of this particular waterway, so as to admit of a
larger type of boat and the various other improvements now projected.
In this case the _crux_ of the situation (apart from Birmingham and
Black Country conditions), would be the city of Chester.

For a distance of 1-1/2 miles the Shropshire Union Canal passes
through the very heart of Chester. Right alongside the canal one sees
successively very large flour mills or lead works, big warehouses, a
school, streets which border it for some distance, masses of houses,
and, also, the old city walls. At one point the existing canal makes
a bend that is equal almost to a right angle. Here there would have
to be a substantial clearance if boats much larger than those now in
use were to get round so ugly a corner in safety. This bend, too, is
just where the canal goes underneath the main lines of the London and
North-Western and the Great Western Railways, the gradients of which
would certainly have to be altered if it were desired to employ larger


(The Shropshire Union Canal at the Northgate, Chester, looking East.)

      [_To face page 70._

The widening of the Shropshire Union Canal at Chester would, in effect,
necessitate a wholesale destruction of, or interference with, valuable
property (even if the city walls were spared), and an expenditure of
hundreds of thousands of pounds. Such a thing is clearly not to be
thought of. The city of Chester would have to be avoided by the through
route from the Midlands to the Mersey, just as the canals of Birmingham
and the Black Country would have to be avoided in a through route
from the Thames. If the Shropshire Union were still kept to, a new
branch canal would have to be constructed from Waverton to connect
again with the Shropshire Union at a point half-way between Chester and
Ellesmere Port, leaving Chester in a neglected bend on the south.

On this point as to the possibility of enlarging the Shropshire Union
Canal, I should like to quote the following from some remarks made by
Mr G. R. Jebb, engineer to the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal
Company, in the discussion on Mr Saner's paper at the Institution of
Civil Engineers:--

 "As to the suggestion that the railway companies did not consider
 it possible to make successful commercial use of their canals in
 conjunction with their lines, and that the London and North-Western
 Railway Company might have improved the main line of the Shropshire
 Union Canal between Ellesmere Port and Wolverhampton, and thus have
 relieved their already overburdened line, as a matter of fact about
 twenty years ago he went carefully into the question of enlarging
 that particular length of canal, which formed the main line between
 the Midlands and the sea. He drew up estimates and plans for wide
 canals, of different cross sections, one of which was almost identical
 with the cross section proposed by Mr Saner. After very careful
 consideration with a disposition to improve the canal if possible, it
 was found that the cost of the necessary works would be too heavy.
 Bridges of wide span and larger headway--entailing approaches which
 could not be constructed without destroying valuable property on
 either side--new locks and hydraulic lifts would be required, and
 a transhipping depôt would have been necessary where each of the
 narrow canals joined. The company were satisfied, and he himself was
 satisfied, that no reasonable return for that expenditure could be
 expected, and therefore the work was not proceeded with.... He was
 satisfied that whoever found the money for canal improvements would
 get no fair return for it."

The adoption of the alternative route, _viâ_ the Trent and Mersey,
would involve (1) locking-up to and down a considerable summit, and (2)
a continuous series of widenings (except along the Weaver Canal), the
cost of which, especially in the towns of Stoke, Etruria, Middlewich,
and Northwich, would attain to proportions altogether prohibitive.

The conclusion at which I arrive in regard to the Birmingham Canal
system is that it cannot be directly included in any scheme of
cross-country waterways from river to river; that by reason alike
of elevation, water supply, and the existence of a vast amount of
valuable property immediately alongside, any general widening of the
present system of canals in the district is altogether impracticable;
that, within the scope of their unavoidable limitations, those
particular canals already afford every reasonable facility to the real
requirements of the local traders; that, instead of their having been
"strangled" by the railways, they have been kept alive and in operation
solely and entirely because of the heavy expenditure upon them by the
London and North-Western Railway Company, following on conditions which
must inevitably have led to collapse (with serious disadvantages to the
traders dependent on them for transport) if the control had remained
with an independent but impoverished canal company; and that very
little, if anything, more--with due regard both for what is practical,
and for the avoidance of any waste of public money--could be done than
is already being done, even if State or municipal authorities made the
costly experiment of trying what they could do for them with their own
'prentice hands.



Of the various causes which have operated to bring about the
comparative decay of the British canal system (for, as already shown,
there are sections that still retain a certain amount of vitality), the
most important are to be found in the great changes that have taken
place in the general conditions of trade, manufacture and commerce.

The tendency in almost every branch of business to-day is for the
trader to have small, or comparatively small, stocks of any particular
commodity, which he can replenish speedily at frequent intervals as
occasion requires. The advantages are obvious. A smaller amount of
capital is locked up in any one article; a larger variety of goods
can be dealt in; less accommodation is required for storage; and men
with limited means can enter on businesses which otherwise could be
undertaken only by individuals or companies possessed of considerable
resources. If a draper or a grocer at Plymouth finds one afternoon that
he has run short of a particular article, he need only telegraph to
the wholesale house with which he deals in London, and a fresh supply
will be delivered to him the following morning. A trader in London
who wanted something from Dublin, and telegraphed for it one day,
would expect as a matter of course to have it the next. What, again,
would a London shopkeeper be likely to say if, wanting to replenish
his limited stock with some Birmingham goods, he was informed by the
manufacturer:--"We are in receipt of your esteemed order, and are
sending the goods on by canal. You may hope to get them in about a

With a little wider margin in the matter of delivery, the
same principle applies to those trading in, or requiring, raw
materials--coal, steel, ironstone, bricks, and so on. Merchants,
manufacturers, and builders are no more anxious than the average
shopkeeper to keep on hand stocks unnecessarily large, and to have so
much money lying idle. They calculate the length of time that will be
required to get in more supplies when likely to be wanted, and they
work their business accordingly.

From this point of view the railway is far superior to the canal in two
respects, at least.

First, there is the question of speed. The value of this factor was
well recognised so far back as 1825, when, as I have told on page 25,
Mr Sandars related how speed and certainty of delivery were regarded as
"of the first importance," and constituted one of the leading reasons
for the desired introduction of railways. But speed and certainty of
delivery become absolutely essential when the margin in regard to
supplies on hand is habitually kept to a working minimum. The saving in
freight effected as between, on the one hand, waiting at least several
days, if not a full week, for goods by canal boat, and, on the other,
receiving them the following day by train, may be more than swallowed
up by the loss of profit or the loss of business in consequence of
the delay. If the railway transport be a little more costly than the
canal transport, the difference should be fully counterbalanced by the
possibility of a more rapid turnover, as well as the other advantages
of which I have spoken.

In cases, again, where it is not a matter of quickly replenishing
stocks but of effecting prompt delivery even of bulky goods, time may
be all-important. This fact is well illustrated in a contribution, from
Birmingham, published in the "Engineering Supplement" of _The Times_ of
February 14, 1906, in which it was said:--

 "Makers of wheels, tires, axles, springs, and similar parts are busy.
 Of late the South African colonies have been larger buyers, while
 India and the Far Eastern markets, including China and Japan, South
 America, and some other shipping markets are providing very good and
 valuable indents. In all cases, it is especially remarked, very early
 execution of contracts and urgent delivery is impressed by buyers. The
 leading firms have learned a good deal of late from German, American,
 Belgian, and other foreign competitors in the matter of rapid output.
 By the improvement of plant, the laying down of new and costly machine
 tools, and by other advances in methods of production, delivery is now
 made of contracts of heavy tonnage within periods which not so long
 ago would have been deemed by these same producers quite impossible.
 In no branch of the engineering trades is this expedition more
 apparent than in the constructional engineering department, such as
 bridges, roofs, etc., also in steam boiler work."

Now where, in cases such as these, "urgent delivery is impressed by
buyers," and the utmost energy is probably being enforced on the
workers, is it likely that even the heavy goods so made would be
sent down to the port by the tediously slow process of canal boat,
taking, perhaps, as many days as even a goods train would take hours?
Alternatively, would the manufacturers run the risk of delaying urgent
work by having the raw materials delivered by canal boat in order to
effect a small saving on cost of transport?

Certainty of delivery might again be seriously affected in the case
of canal transport by delays arising either from scarcity of water
during dry seasons, or from frost in winter. The entire stoppage
of a canal system, from one or other of these causes, for weeks
together, especially on high levels, is no unusual occurrence, and the
inconvenience which would then result to traders who depended on the
canals is self-evident. In Holland, where most of the goods traffic
goes by the canals that spread as a perfect network throughout the
whole country, and link up each town with every other town, the advent
of a severe frost means that the whole body of traffic is suddenly
thrown on the railways, which then have more to get through than they
can manage. Here the problem arises: If waterways take traffic from the
railways during the greater part of the year, should the railways still
be expected to keep on hand sufficient rolling stock, etc., not only
for their normal conditions, but to meet all the demands made upon them
during such periods as their competitors cannot operate?

There is an idea in some quarters that stoppage from frost need not be
feared in this country because, under an improved system of waterways,
measures would be taken to keep the ice on the canals constantly
broken up. But even with this arrangement there comes a time, during a
prolonged frost, when the quantity of broken ice in the canal is so
great that navigation is stopped unless the ice itself is removed from
the water. Frost must, therefore, still be reckoned with as a serious
factor among the possibilities of delay in canal transport.

Secondly, there is the question of quantities. For the average trader
the railway truck is a much more convenient unit than the canal boat.
It takes just such amount as he may want to send or receive. For some
commodities the minimum load for which the lowest railway rate is
quoted is as little as 2 tons; but many a railway truck has been run
through to destination with a solitary consignment of not more than
half-a-ton. On the other hand, a vast proportion of the consignments
by rail are essentially of the "small" type. From the goods depôt at
Curzon Street, Birmingham, a total of 1,615 tons dealt with, over a
certain period, represented 6,110 consignments and 51,114 packages,
the average weight per consignment being 5 cwts. 1 qr. 4 lbs., and
the average weight per package, 2 qrs. 14 lbs. At the Liverpool goods
depôts of the London and North-Western Railway, a total weight of 3,895
tons handled consisted of 5,049 consignments and 79,513 packages, the
average weight per consignment being 15 cwts. 1 qr. 20 lbs., and the
average weight per package 3 qrs. 26 lbs. From the depôt at Broad
Street, London, 906 tons represented 6,201 consignments and 23,067
packages, with an average weight per consignment of 2 cwts. 3 qrs. 19
lbs., and per package, 3 qrs. 4 lbs.; and so on with other important
centres of traffic.

There is little room for doubt that a substantial proportion of these
consignments and packages consisted partly of goods required by traders
either to replenish their stocks, or, as in the case of tailors
and dressmakers, to enable them to execute particular orders; and
partly of commodities purchased from traders, and on their way to the
customers. In regard to the latter class of goods, it is a matter of
common knowledge that there has been an increasing tendency of late
years to eliminate the middleman, and establish direct trading between
producer and consumer. Just as the small shopkeeper will purchase from
the manufacturer, and avoid the wholesale dealer, so, also, there are
individual householders and others who eliminate even the shopkeeper,
and deal direct with advertising manufacturers willing to supply to
them the same quantities as could be obtained from a retail trader.

For trades and businesses conducted on these lines, the railway--taking
and delivering promptly consignments great or small, penetrating to
every part of the country, and supplemented by its own commodious
warehouses, in which goods can be stored as desired by the trader
pending delivery or shipment--is a far more convenient mode of
transport than the canal boat; and to the railway the perfect
revolution that has been brought about in the general trade of this
country is mainly due. Business has been simplified, subdivided, and
brought within the reach of "small" men to an extent that, but for the
railway, would have been impossible; and it is difficult to imagine
that traders in general will forego all these advantages now, and
revert once more to the canal boat, merely for the sake of a saving in
freight which, in the long run, might be no saving at all.

Here it may be replied by my critics that there is no idea of reviving
canals in the interests of the general trader, and that all that is
sought is to provide a cheaper form of transport for those heavier
or bulkier minerals or commodities which, it is said, can be carried
better and more economically by water than by rail.

Now this argument implies the admission that canal resuscitation, on
a national basis, or at the risk more or less of the community, is
to be effected, not for the general trader, but for certain special
classes of traders. As a matter of fact, however, such canal traffic
as exists to-day is by no means limited to heavy or bulky articles. In
their earlier days canal companies simply provided a water-road, as
it were, along which goods could be taken by other persons on payment
of certain tolls. To enable them to meet better the competition of
the railways, Parliament granted to the canal companies, in 1846,
the right to become common carriers as well, and, though only a very
small proportion of them took advantage of this concession, those that
did are indebted in part to the transport of general merchandise for
such degree of prosperity as they have retained. The separate firms
of canal carriers ("by-traders") have adopted a like policy, and,
notwithstanding the changes in trade of which I have spoken, a good
deal of general merchandise does go by canal to or from places that
happen to be situated in the immediate vicinity of the waterways. It is
extremely probable that if some of the canals which have survived had
depended entirely on the transport of heavy or bulky commodities, their
financial condition to-day would have been even worse than it really is.

But let us look somewhat more closely into this theory that canals are
better adapted than railways for the transport of minerals or heavy
merchandise, calling for the payment of a low freight. At the first
glance such a commodity as coal would claim special attention from this
point of view; yet here one soon learns that not only have the railways
secured the great bulk of this traffic in fair and open competition
with the canals, but there is no probability of the latter taking it
away from them again to any appreciable extent.

Some interesting facts in this connection were mentioned by the late
Sir James Allport in the evidence he gave before the Select Committee
on Canals in 1883. Not a yard, he said, of the series of waterways
between London and Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, part of Staffordshire,
Warwickshire and Leicestershire--counties which included some of the
best coal districts in England for supplying the metropolis--was owned
by railway companies, yet the amount of coal carried by canal to London
had steadily declined, while that by rail had enormously increased.
To prove this assertion, he took the year 1852 as one when there was
practically no competition on the part of the railways with the canals
for the transport of coal, and he compared therewith the year 1882,
giving for each the total amount of coal received by canal and railway
respectively, as follows:--

                              1852             1882

  Received by canal        33,000 tons    7,900     tons
      "    "  railway      317,000 "      6,546,000  "

The figures quoted by Sir James Allport were taken from the official
returns in respect to the dues formerly levied by the City of London
and the late Metropolitan Board of Works on all coal coming within
the Metropolitan Police Area, representing a total of 700 square
miles; though at an earlier period the district in which the dues were
enforced was that included in a 20-mile radius. The dues were abolished
in 1889, and since then the statistics in question have no longer been
compiled. But the returns for 1889 show that the imports of coal, by
railway and by canal respectively, into the Metropolitan Police Area
for that year were as follows:--

                           BY RAILWAY

                                        Tons.         Cwts.

  Midland                               2,647,554       0
  London and North-Western              1,735,067      13
  Great Northern                        1,360,205       0
  Great Eastern                         1,077,504      13
  Great Western                           940,829       0
  London and South-Western                 81,311       2
  South-Eastern                            27,776      18
  Total by Railway                      7,870,248       6

                           BY CANAL

  Grand Junction                           12,601      15
  Difference                            7,857,646      11

If, therefore, the independent canal companies, having a waterway from
the colliery district of the Midlands and the North through to London
(without, as already stated, any section thereof being controlled by
railway companies), had improved their canals, and doubled, trebled,
or even quadrupled the quantity of coal they carried in 1889, their
total would still have been insignificant as compared with the quantity
conveyed by rail.

[Illustration: "FROM PIT TO PORT."

(Prospect Pit, Wigan Coal and Iron Company. Raised to the surface,
the coal is emptied on to a mechanical shaker, which grades it into
various sizes--lumps, cobbles, nuts, and slack. These sizes then each
pass along a picking belt--so that impurities can be removed--and fall
into the railway trucks placed at the end ready to receive them. The
coal can thus be taken direct from the mouth of the pit to any port or
town in Great Britain.)

      [_To face page 82._

The reasons for this transition in the London coal trade (and the
same general principle applies elsewhere) can be readily stated. They
are to be found in the facilities conferred by the railway companies,
and the great changes that, as the direct result thereof, have taken
place in the coal trade itself. Not only are most of the collieries in
communication with the railways, but the coal waggons are generally
so arranged alongside the mouth of each pit that the coal, as raised,
can be tipped into them direct from the screens. Coal trains, thus
made up, are next brought to certain sidings in the neighbourhood of
London, where the waggons await the orders of the coal merchants to
whom they have been consigned. At Willesden, for example, there is
special accommodation for 2,000 coal waggons, and the sidings are
generally full. Liberal provision of a like character has also been
made in London by the Midland, the Great Northern, and other railway
companies in touch with the colliery districts. An intimation as to the
arrival of the consignments is sent by the railway company to the coal
merchant, who, in London, is allowed three "free" days at these coal
sidings in which to give instructions where the coal is to be sent.
After three days he is charged the very modest sum of 6d. per day per
truck. Assuming that the coal merchant gives directions, either within
the three days or later, for a dozen trucks, containing particular
qualities of coal, to be sent to different parts of London, north,
south, east and west, those dozen trucks will have to be picked out
from the one or two thousand on the sidings, shunted, and coupled on
to trains going through to the stated destination. This represents in
itself a considerable amount of work, and special staffs have to be
kept on duty for the purpose.

Then, at no fewer than one hundred and thirty-five railway stations in
London and the suburbs thereof, the railway companies have provided
coal depôts on such vacant land as may be available close to the local
sidings, and here a certain amount of space is allotted to the use
of coal merchants. For this accommodation no charge whatever is made
in London, though a small rent has to be paid in the provinces. The
London coal merchant gets so many feet, or yards, allotted to him
on the railway property; he puts up a board with his name, or that
of his firm; he stores on the said space the coal for which he has
no immediate sale; and he sends his men there to fetch from day to
day just such quantities as he wants in order to execute the orders
received. With free accommodation such as this at half a dozen, or even
a score, of suburban railway stations, all that the coal merchant of
to-day requires in addition is a diminutive little office immediately
adjoining each railway station, where orders can be received, and
whence instructions can be sent. Not only, also, do the railway
companies provide him with a local coal depôt which serves his every
purpose, but, after allowing him three "free" days on the great coal
sidings, to which the waggons first come, they give him, on the local
sidings, another seven "free" days in which to arrange his business.
He thus gets ten clear days altogether, before any charge is made for
demurrage, and, if then he is still awaiting orders, he has only to
have the coal removed from the trucks on to the depôt, or "wharf" as
it is technically called, so escaping any payment beyond the ordinary
railway rate, in which all these privileges and advantages are included.

If canal transport were substituted for rail transport, the coal would
first have to be taken from the mouth of the pit to the canal, and,
inasmuch as comparatively few collieries (except in certain districts)
have canals immediately adjoining, the coal would have to go by rail to
the canal, unless the expense were incurred of cutting a branch of the
canal to the colliery--a much more costly business, especially where
locks are necessary, than laying a railway siding. At the canal the
coal would be tipped from the railway truck into the canal boat,[8]
which would take it to the canal terminus, or to some wharf or basin on
the canal banks. There the coal would be thrown up from the boat into
the wharf (in itself a more laborious and more expensive operation than
that of shovelling it down, or into sacks on the same level, from a
railway waggon), and from the wharf it would have to be carted, perhaps
several miles, to final destination.

Under this arrangement the coal would receive much more handling--and
each handling means so much additional slack and depreciation in value;
a week would have to be allowed for a journey now possible in a day;
the coal dealers would have to provide their own depôts and pay more
for cartage, and they would have to order particular kinds of coal by
the boat load instead of by the waggon load.

This last necessity would alone suffice to render the scheme abortive.
Some years ago when there was so much discussion as to the use of a
larger size of railway waggon, efforts were made to induce the coal
interests to adopt this policy. But the 8-ton truck was so convenient
a unit, and suited so well the essentially retail nature of the coal
trade to-day, that as a rule the coal merchants would have nothing to
do with trucks even of 15 or 20 tons. Much less, therefore, would they
be inclined to favour barge loads of 200 or 250 tons.

Exceptions might be made in the case of gas works, or of factories
already situated alongside the banks of canals which have direct
communication with collieries. In the Black Country considerable
quantities of coal thus go by canal from the collieries to the many
local ironworks, etc., which, as I have shown, are still actively
served by the Birmingham Canal system. But these exceptions can
hardly be offered as an adequate reason for the nationalisation of
British canals. The general conditions, and especially the nature of
the coal trade transition, will be better realised from some figures
mentioned by the chairman of the London and North-Western Railway
Company, Lord Stalbridge, at the half-yearly meeting in February 1903.
Notwithstanding the heavy coal traffic--in the aggregate--the average
consignment of coal, he showed, on the London and North-Western Railway
is only 17-1/2 tons, and over 80 per cent. of the total quantity
carried represents consignments of less than 20 tons, the actual
weights ranging from lots of 2 tons 14 cwts. to close upon 1,000 tons
for shipment.

"But," the reader may say, "if coal is taken in 1,000-ton lots to a
port for shipment, surely canal transport could be resorted to here!"
This course is adopted on the Aire and Calder Navigation, which is very
favourably situated, and goes over almost perfectly level ground. The
average conditions of coal shipment in the United Kingdom are, however,
much better met by the special facilities which rail transport offers.

Of the way in which coal is loaded into railway trucks direct from the
colliery screens I have already spoken; but, in respect to steam coal,
it should be added that anthracite is sold in about twelve different
sizes, and that one colliery will make three or four of these sizes,
each dropped into separate trucks under the aforesaid screens. The
output of an anthracite colliery would be from 200 to 300 tons a day,
in the three or four sizes, as stated, this total being equal to from
20 to 30 truck-loads. An order received by a coal factor for 2,000 or
3,000 tons of a particular size would, therefore, have to be made up
with coal from a number of different collieries.

The coal, however, is not actually sold at the collieries. It is
sent down to the port, and there it stands about for weeks, and
sometimes for months, awaiting sale or the arrival of vessels. It must
necessarily be on the spot, so that orders can be executed with the
utmost expedition, and delays to shipping avoided. Consequently it is
necessary that ample accommodation should be provided at the port for
what may be described as the coal-in-waiting. At Newport, for example,
where about 4,000,000 tons of coal are shipped in the course of the
year (independently of "bunkers,") there are 50 miles of coal sidings,
capable of accommodating from 40,000 to 50,000 tons of coal sent there
for shipment. A record number of loaded coal trucks actually on these
sidings at any one time is 3,716. The daily average is 2,800.

Now assume that the coal for shipment from Newport had been brought
there by canal boat. To begin with, it would have been first loaded,
by means of the colliery screens, into railway trucks, taken in these
to the canal, and then tipped into the boats. This would mean further
breakage, and, in the case of steam coal especially, a depreciation in
value. But suppose that the coal had duly arrived at the port in the
canal boats, where would it be stored for those weeks and months to
await sale or vessels? Space for miles of sidings on land can easily be
found; but the water area in a canal or dock in which barges can wait
is limited, and, in the case of Newport at least, it would hardly be
equal to the equivalent of 3,000 truck-loads of coal.

There comes next the important matter of detail as to the way in which
coal brought to a port is to be shipped. Nothing could be simpler and
more expeditious than the practice generally adopted in the case of
rail-borne coal. When a given quantity of coal is to be despatched, the
vessel is brought alongside a hydraulic coal-tip, such as that shown
in the illustration facing this page, and the loaded coal trucks are
placed in succession underneath the tip. Raised one by one to the level
of the shoot, the trucks are there inclined to such an angle that the
entire contents fall on to the shoot, and thence into the hold of the
ship. Brought to the horizontal again, the empty truck passes on to a
viaduct, down which it goes, by gravitation, back to the sidings, the
place it has vacated on the tip being at once taken by another loaded


(The loaded truck is hoisted to level of shoot, and is there inclined
to necessary angle to "tip" the coal, which falls from shoot into hold
of vessel. Empty truck passes by gravitation along viaduct, on left,
to sidings.)

      [_To face page 88._

Substitute coal barges for coal trucks, and how will the loading then
be accomplished? Under any possible circumstances it would take longer
to put a series of canal barges alongside a vessel in the dock than
to place a series of coal trucks under the tip on shore. Nor could
the canal barge itself be raised to the level of a shoot, and have
its contents tipped bodily into the collier. What was done in the
South Wales district by one colliery some years ago was to load up a
barge with iron tubs, or boxes, filled with coal, and placed in pairs
from end to end. In dock one of these would be lifted out of the
barge by a crane, and lowered into the hold, where the bottom would
be knocked out, the emptied tub being then replaced in the barge by
the crane, and the next one to it raised in turn. But, apart from the
other considerations already presented, this system of shipment was
found more costly than the direct tipping of railway trucks, and was
consequently abandoned.

Although, therefore, in theory coal would appear to be an ideal
commodity for transport by canal, in actual practice it is found
that rail transport is both more convenient and more economical, and
certainly much better adapted to the exigences of present day trade in
general, in the case alike of domestic coal and of coal for shipment.
Whether or not the country would be warranted in going to a heavy
expense for canal resuscitation for the special benefit of a limited
number of traders having works or factories alongside canal banks is a
wholly different question.

I take next the case of raw cotton as another bulky commodity carried
in substantial quantities. At one time it was the custom in the
Lancashire spinning trade for considerable supplies to be bought in
Liverpool, taken to destination by canal, and stored in the mills for
use as required. A certain proportion is still handled in this way;
but the Lancashire spinners who now store their cotton are extremely
few in number, and represent the exception rather than the rule. It is
found much more convenient to receive from Liverpool from day to day
by rail the exact number of bales required to meet immediate wants.
The order can be sent, if necessary, by post, telegraph, or telephone,
and the cotton may be expected at the mill next day, or as desired. If
barge-loads of cotton were received at one time, capital would at least
have to be sunk in providing warehousing accommodation, and the spinner
thinks he can make better use of his money.

The day-by-day arrangement is thus both a convenience and a saving to
the trader; though it has one disadvantage from a railway standpoint,
for cotton consignments by rail are, as a rule, so small that there is
difficulty in making up a "paying load" for particular destinations. As
the further result of the agitation a few years ago for the use of a
larger type of railway waggons, experiments have been made at Liverpool
with large trucks for the conveyance especially of raw cotton. But,
owing to the day-by-day policy of the spinners, it is no easy matter
to make up a 20-ton truck of cotton for many of the places to which
consignments are sent, and the shortage in the load represents so
much dead weight. Consignments ordered forward by rail must, however,
be despatched wholly, or at any rate in part, on day of receipt. Any
keeping of them back, with the idea of thus making up a better load for
the railway truck, would involve the risk of a complaint, if not of a
claim, against the railway company, on the ground that the mill had had
to stop work owing to delay in the arrival of the cotton.

If the spinners would only adopt a two- or three-days-together policy,
it would be a great advantage to the railways; but even this might
involve the provision of storage accommodation at the mills, and they
accordingly prefer the existing arrangement. What hope could there be,
therefore, except under very special circumstances, that they would be
willing to change their procedure, and receive their raw cotton in bulk
by canal boat?

Passing on to other heavy commodities carried in large quantities, such
as bricks, stone, drain-pipes, manure, or road-making materials, it
is found, in practice, that unless both the place whence these things
are despatched and the place where they are actually wanted are close
to a waterway, it is generally more convenient and more economical to
send by rail. The railway truck is not only (once more) a better unit
in regard to quantity, but, as in the case of domestic coal, it can go
to any railway station, and can often be brought miles nearer to the
actual destination than if the articles or materials in question are
forwarded by water; while the addition to the canal toll of the cost of
cartage at either end, or both, may swell the total to the full amount
of the railway rate, or leave so small a margin that conveyance by
rail, in view of the other advantages offered, is naturally preferred.
Here we have further reasons why commodities that seem to be specially
adapted for transport by canal so often go by rail instead.

There are manufacturers, again, who, if executing a large shipping
order, would rather consign the goods, as they are ready, to a railway
warehouse at the port, there to await shipment, than occupy valuable
space with them on their own premises. Assuming that it might be
possible and of advantage to forward to destination by canal boat, they
would still prefer to send off 25 or 30 tons at a time, in a narrow
boat (and 25 to 30 tons would represent a big lot in most industries),
rather than keep everything back (with the incidental result of
blocking up the factory) until, in order to save a little on the
freight, they could fill up a barge of 200 or 300 tons.

So the moral of this part of my story is that, even if the canals of
the country were thoroughly revived, and made available for large
craft, there could not be any really great resort to them unless there
were, also, brought about a change in the whole basis of our general
trading conditions.



The larger proportion of the arguments advanced in the Press or in
public in favour of a restoration of our own canal system is derived
from the statements which are unceasingly being made as to what our
neighbours on the Continent of Europe are doing.

Almost every writer or speaker on the subject brings forward the same
stock of facts and figures as to the large sums of money that are
being expended on waterways in Continental countries; the contention
advanced being, in effect, that because such and such things are done
on the Continent of Europe, therefore they ought to be done here. In
the "Engineering Supplement" of _The Times_, for instance--to give only
one example out of many--there appeared early in 1906 two articles on
"Belgian Canals and Waterways" by an engineering contributor who wrote,
among other things, that, in view of "the well-directed efforts now
being made with the object of effecting the regeneration of the British
canal system, the study of Belgian canals and other navigable waterways
possesses distinct interest"; and declared, in concluding his account
thereof, that "if the necessary powers, money, and concentrated effort
were available, there is little doubt that equally satisfactory results
could be obtained in Great Britain." Is this really the case? Could
we possibly hope to do all that can be done either in Belgium or in
Continental countries generally, even if we had the said powers and
money, and showed the same concentrated effort? For my part I do not
think we could, and these are my reasons for thinking so:--

Taking geographical considerations first, a glance at the map of Europe
will show that, apart from their national requirements, enterprises,
and facilities, Germany, Belgium, and Holland are the gateways to vast
expanses producing, or receiving, very large quantities of merchandise
and raw materials, much of which is eminently suitable for water
transport on long journeys that have absolutely no parallel in this
country. In the case of Belgium, a good idea of the general position
may be gained from some remarks made by the British Consul-General at
Antwerp, Sir E. Cecil Hertslet, in a report ("Miscellaneous Series,"
604) on "Canals and other Navigable Waterways of Belgium," issued by
the Foreign Office in 1904. Referring to the position of Antwerp he

 "In order to form a clear idea of the great utility of the canal
 system of Belgium, it is from its heart, from the great port of
 Antwerp, as a centre, that the survey must be taken.... Antwerp
 holds a leading position among the great ports of the world, and
 this is due, not only to her splendid geographical situation at the
 centre of the ocean highways of commerce, but, also, and perhaps more
 particularly, to her practically unique position as a distributing
 centre for a large portion of North-Eastern Europe."

Thus the canals and waterways of Belgium do not serve merely local,
domestic, or national purposes, but represent the first or final links
in a network of water communications by means of which merchandise
can be taken to, or brought from, in bulk, "a large portion of
North-Eastern Europe." Much of this traffic, again, can just as well
pass through one Continental country, on its way to or from the coast,
as through another. In fact, some of the most productive of German
industrial centres are much nearer to Antwerp or Rotterdam than they
are to Hamburg or Bremen. Hence the extremely keen rivalry between
Continental countries having ports on the North Sea for the capture
of these great volumes of trans-Continental traffic, and hence, also,
their low transport rates, and, to a certain extent, their large
expenditure on waterways.

Comparing these with British conditions, we must bear in mind the
fact that we dwell in a group of islands, and not in a country which
forms part of a Continent. We have, therefore, no such transit
traffic available for "through" barges as that which is handled on
the Continent. Traffic originating in Liverpool, and destined say,
for Austria, would not be put in a canal boat which would first go to
Goole, or Hull, then cross the North Sea in the same boat to Holland
or Belgium, and so on to its destination. Nor would traffic in bulk
from the United States for the Continent--or even for any of our East
Coast ports--be taken by boat across England. It would go round by sea.
Traffic, again, originating in Birmingham, might be taken to a port
by boat. But it would there require transhipment into an ocean-going
vessel, just as the commodities received from abroad would have to be
transferred to a canal boat--unless Birmingham could be converted into
a sea-port.

If Belgium and Holland, especially, had had no chance of getting more
than local, as distinct from through or transit traffic--if, in other
words, they had been islands like our own, with the same geographical
limitations as ourselves, and with no trans-Continental traffic to
handle, is there the slightest probability that they would have spent
anything like the same amount of money on the development of their
waterways as they have actually done? In the particular circumstances
of their position they have acted wisely; but it does not necessarily
follow that we, in wholly different circumstances, have acted foolishly
in not following their example.

It might further be noted, in this connection, that while in the
case of Belgium all the waterways in, or leading into, the country
converge to the one great port of Antwerp, in England we have great
ports, competing more or less the one with the other, all round our
coasts, and the conferring of special advantages on one by the State
would probably be followed by like demands on the part of all the
others. As for communication between our different ports, this is
maintained so effectively by coasting vessels (the competition of which
already powerfully influences railway rates) that heavy expenditure on
canal improvement could hardly be justified on this account. However
effectively the Thames might be joined to the Mersey, or the Humber
to the Severn, by canal, the vast bulk of port-to-port traffic would
probably still go by sea.

Then there are great differences between the physical conditions of
Great Britain and those parts of the Continent of Europe where the
improvement of waterways has undergone the greatest expansion. Portions
of Holland--as everybody knows--are below the level of the sea, and
the remainder are not much above it. A large part of Belgium is flat;
so is most of Northern Germany. In fact there is practically a level
plain right away from the shores of the North Sea to the steppes of
Russia. Canal construction in these conditions is a comparatively
simple and a comparatively inexpensive matter; though where such
conditions do not exist to the same extent--as in the south of Germany,
for example--the building of canals becomes a very different problem.
This fact is well recognised by Herr Franz Ulrich in his book on
"Staffeltarife und Wasserstrassen," where he argues that the building
of canals is practicable only in districts favoured by Nature, and that
hilly and backward country is thus unavoidably handicapped.

Much, again, of the work done on the Continent has been a matter either
of linking up great rivers or of canalising these for navigation
purposes. We have in England no such rivers as the Rhine, the Weser,
the Elbe, and the Oder, but the very essence of the German scheme of
waterways is to connect these and other rivers by canals, a through
route by water being thus provided from the North Sea to the borders
of Russia. Further south there is already a small canal, the Ludwigs
Canal, connecting the Rhine and the Danube, and this canal--as distinct
from those in the northern plains--certainly does rise to an elevation
of 600 feet from the River Main to its summit level. A scheme has now
been projected for establishing a better connection between the Rhine
and the Danube by a ship canal following the route either of the Main
or of the Neckar. In describing these two powerful streams Professor
Meiklejohn says, in his "New Geography":--

 "The two greatest rivers of Europe--greatest from almost every point
 of view--are the Danube and the Rhine. The Danube is the largest river
 in Europe in respect of its volume of water; it is the only large
 European river that flows due east; and it is therefore the great
 highway to the East for South Germany, for Austria, for Hungary, and
 for the younger nations in its valley. It flows through more lands,
 races, and languages than any other European river. The Rhine is the
 great water-highway for Western Europe; and it carries the traffic and
 the travellers of many countries and peoples. Both streams give life
 to the whole Continent; they join many countries and the most varied
 interests; while the streams of France exist only for France itself.
 The Danube runs parallel with the mighty ranges of the Alps; the Rhine
 saws its way through the secondary highlands which lie between the
 Alps and the Netherlands."

The construction of this proposed link would give direct water
communication between the North Sea and the Black Sea, a distance, as
the crow flies, and not counting river windings, of about 1,300 miles.
Such an achievement as this would put entirely in the shade even the
present possible voyage, by canal and river, of 300 miles from Antwerp
to Strasburg.

What are our conditions in Great Britain, as against all these?

In place of the "great lowland plain" in which most of the Continental
canal work we hear so much about has been done, we possess an
undulating country whose physical conditions are well indicated by
the canal sections given opposite this page. Such differences of
level as those that are there shown must be overcome by locks, lifts,
or inclined planes, together with occasional tunnels or viaducts.
In the result the construction of canals is necessarily much more
costly in Great Britain than on the aforesaid "great lowland plain"
of Continental Europe, and dimensions readily obtainable there become
practically impossible here on account alike of the prohibitive cost
of construction and the difficulties that would arise in respect to
water supply. A canal connecting the Rhine, the Weser, and the Elbe, in
Germany, is hardly likely to run short of water, and the same may be
said of the canals in Holland, and of those in the lowlands of Belgium.
This is a very different matter from having to pump water from low
levels to high levels, to fill reservoirs for canal purposes, as must
be done on the Birmingham and other canals, or from taking a fortnight
to accomplish the journey from Hull to Nottingham as once happened
owing to insufficiency of water.


      [_To face page 98._

There is, also, that very important consideration, from a transport
standpoint, of the "length of haul." Assuming, for the sake of argument
(1) that the commercial conditions were the same in Great Britain as
they are on the Continent; (2) that our country, also, consisted of
a "great lowland plain"; and (3) that we, as well, had great natural
waterways, like the Rhine, yielding an abundant water supply;--assuming
all this, it would still be impossible, in the circumscribed dimensions
of our isles, to get a "length of haul" in any way approaching the
barge-journeys that are regularly made between, say, North Sea ports
and various centres in Germany.

The geographical differences in general between Great Britain and
Continental countries were thus summed up by Mr W. H. Wheeler in the
discussion on Mr Saner's paper at the Institution of Civil Engineers:--

 "There really did not seem to be any justification for Government
 interference with the canals. England was in an entirely different
 situation from Continental countries. She was a sea-girt nation, with
 no less than eight first-class ports on a coast-line of 1,820 miles.
 Communication between these by coasting steamers was, therefore,
 easy, and could be accomplished in much less time and at less cost
 than by canal. There was no large manufacturing town in England that
 was more than about 80 miles in a direct line from a first-class
 seaport; and taking the country south of the Firth of Forth, there
 were only 42-1/2 square miles to each mile of coast. France, on the
 other hand, had only two first-class ports, one in the north and the
 other in the extreme south, over a coast-line of 1,360 miles. Its
 capital was 100 miles from the nearest seaport, and the towns in
 the centre of the country were 250 to 300 miles from either Havre
 or Marseilles. For every mile of coast-line there were 162 square
 miles of country. Belgium had one large seaport and only 50 miles of
 coast-line, with 227 square miles of country to every square mile.
 Germany had only two first-class ports, both situated on its northern
 coast; Frankfort and Berlin were distant from those ports about 250
 miles, and for every mile of coast-line there were 231 square miles
 of country. The necessity of an extended system of inland waterways
 for the distribution of produce and materials was, therefore, far more
 important in those countries than it was in England."

Passing from commercial and geographical to political conditions, we
find that in Germany the State owns or controls alike railways and
waterways. Prussia bought up most of the former, partly with the idea
of safeguarding the protective policy of the country (endangered by
the low rates charged on imports by independent railway companies),
and partly in order that the Government could secure, in the profits
on railway operation, a source of income independent of Parliamentary
votes. So well has the latter aim been achieved that a contribution
to the Exchequer of from £10,000,000 to £15,000,000 a year has been
obtained, and, rather than allow this source of income to be checked
by heavy expenditure, the Prussian Government have refrained from
carrying out such widenings and improvements of their State system of
railways as a British or an American railway company would certainly
have adopted in like circumstances, and have left the traders to find
relief in the waterways instead. The increased traffic the waterways
of Germany are actually getting is mainly traffic which has either
been diverted from the railways, or would have been handled by the
railways in other countries in the natural course of their expansion.
Whatever may be the case with the waterways, the railways of Prussia,
especially, are comparatively unprogressive, and, instead of developing
through traffic at competitive rates, they are reverting more and more
to the original position of railways as feeders to the waterways. They
get a short haul from place of origin to the waterway, and another
short haul, perhaps, from waterway again to final destination; but the
greater part of the journey is done by water.

These conditions represent one very material factor in the substantial
expansion of water-borne traffic in Germany--and most of that traffic,
be it remembered, has been on great rivers rather than on artificial
canals. The latter are certainly being increased in number, especially,
as I have said, where they connect the rivers; and the Government are
the more inclined that the waterways should be developed because then
there will be less need for spending money on the railways, and for
any interference with the "revenue-producing machine" which those
railways represent.

In France the railways owned and operated by the State are only a
comparatively small section of the whole; but successive Governments
have advanced immense sums for railway construction, and the State
guarantees the dividends of the companies; while in France as in
Germany railway rates are controlled absolutely by the State. In
neither country is there free competition between rail and water
transport. If there were, the railways would probably secure a
much greater proportion of the traffic than they do. Still another
consideration to be borne in mind is that although each country has
spent great sums of money--at the cost of the general taxpayer--on the
provision of canals or the improvement of waterways, no tolls are,
with few exceptions, imposed on the traders. The canal charges include
nothing but actual cost of carriage, whereas British railway rates may
cover various other services, in addition, and have to be fixed on a
scale that will allow of a great variety of charges and obligations
being met. Not only, both in Germany and France, may the waterway be
constructed and improved by the State, but the State also meets the
annual expenditure on dredging, lighting, superintendence and the
maintenance of inland harbours. Here we have further reasons for the
growth of the water-borne traffic on the Continent.

Where the State, as railway owner or railway subsidiser, spends money
also on canals, it competes only, to a certain extent, with itself;
but this would be a very different position from State-owned or
State-supported canals in this country competing with privately-owned

If then, as I maintain is the case, there is absolutely no basis for
fair comparison between Continental and British conditions--whether
commercial, geographical, or political--we are left to conclude that
the question of reviving British canals must be judged and decided
strictly from a British standpoint, and subject to the limitations of
British policy, circumstances, and possibilities.



In some respects conditions in the United States compare with those of
Continental Europe, for they suggest alike powerful streams, artificial
canals constructed on (as a rule) flat or comparatively flat surfaces,
and the possibilities of traffic in large quantities for transport
over long distances before they can reach a seaport. In other respects
the comparison is less with Continental than with British conditions,
inasmuch as, for the last half century at least, the American railways
have been free to compete with the waterways, and fair play has been
given to the exercise of economic forces, with the result that, in
the United States as in the United Kingdom, the railways have fully
established their position as the factors in inland transport best
suited to the varied requirements of trade and commerce of to-day,
while the rivers and canals (I do not here deal with the Great Lakes,
which represent an entirely different proposition) have played a rôle
of steadily diminishing importance.

The earliest canal built in the United States was that known as
the Erie Canal. It was first projected in 1768, with the idea of
establishing a through route by water between Lake Erie and the River
Hudson at Albany, whence the boats or barges employed would be able
to reach the port of New York. The Act for its construction was not
passed, however, by the Provincial Legislature of the State of New York
until 1817. The canal itself was opened for traffic in 1825. It had a
total length from Cleveland to Albany of 364 miles, included therein
being some notable engineering work in the way of aqueducts, etc.

At the date in question there were four North Atlantic seaports,
namely, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, all of about
equal importance. Boston, however, had appeared likely to take the
lead, by reason both of her comparatively dense population and of her
substantial development of manufactures. Philadelphia was also then
somewhat in advance of New York in trade and population. The effect of
the Erie Canal, however, was to concentrate all the advantages, for
the time being, on New York. Thanks to the canal, New York secured the
domestic trade of a widespread territory in the middle west, while
her rivals could not possess themselves of like facilities, because
of the impracticability of constructing canals to cross the ranges
of mountains separating them from the valley of the Mississippi and
the basin of the Great Lakes--ranges broken only by the Hudson and
the Mohawk valleys, of which the constructors of the Erie Canal had
already taken advantage. So New York, with its splendid harbour, made
great progress alike in trade, wealth, and population, completely
outdistancing her rivals, and becoming, as a State, "the Empire
State," and, as a city, "the financial and commercial centre of the
Western Hemisphere."

While, again, the Erie Canal was "one of the most efficient factors"
in bringing about these results, it was also developing the north-west
by giving an outlet to the commerce of the Great Lakes, and during
the second quarter of the nineteenth century it represented what has
been well described as "the most potent influence of American progress
and civilisation." Not only did the traffic it carried increase from
1,250,000 tons, in 1837, to 3,000,000 tons in 1847, but it further
inspired the building of canals in other sections of the United States.
In course of time the artificial waterways of that country represented
a total length of 5,000 miles.

With the advent of the railways there came revolutionary changes
which were by no means generally appreciated at first. The cost of
the various canals had been defrayed mostly by the different States,
and, though financial considerations had thus been more readily met,
the policy pursued had committed the States concerned to the support
of the canals against possible competition. When, therefore, "private
enterprise" introduced railways, in which the doom of the canals was
foreseen, there was a wild outburst of indignant protest. The money of
the taxpayers, it was said, had been sunk in building the canals, and,
if the welfare of these should be prejudiced by the railways, every
taxpayer in the State would suffer. When it was seen that the railways
had come to stay, the demand arose that, while passengers might
travel by rail, the canals should have the exclusive right to convey

The question was even discussed by the Legislature of the State of
New York, in 1857, whether the railways should not be prevented from
carrying goods at all, or, alternatively, whether heavy taxes should
not be imposed on goods traffic carried by rail in order to check the
considerable tendency then being shown for merchandise to go by rail
instead of by canal, irrespective of any difference in rates. The
railway companies were further accused of conspiring to "break down
those great public works upon which the State has spent forty years
of labour," and so active was the campaign against them--while it
lasted--that one New York paper wrote:--"The whole community is aroused
as it never was before."

Some of the laws which had been actually passed to protect the
State-constructed canals against the railways were, however, repealed
in 1851, and the agitation itself was not continued beyond 1857, from
which year the railways had free scope and opportunity to show what
they could do. The contest was vigorous and prolonged, but the railways
steadily won.

In the first instance the Erie Canal had a depth of 4 feet, and could
be navigated only by 30-ton boats. In 1862 it was deepened to 7 feet,
in order that boats of 240 tons, with a capacity of 8,000 tons of
wheat, could pass, the cost of construction being thus increased from
$7,000,000 to $50,000,000. Then, in 1882, all tolls were abolished, and
the canal has since been maintained out of the State treasury. But how
the traffic on the New York canals as a whole (including the Erie, the
Oswego, the Champlain, etc.) has declined, in competition with the
railroads, is well shown by the following table:--[10]

  |    Year.    | Total Traffic on New York |   Percentage on   |
  |             |   Canals and Railroads.   |    Canals only.   |
  |             |           Tons.           |     Per cent.     |
  |    1860     |         7,155,803         |        65         |
  |    1870     |        17,488,469         |        35         |
  |    1880     |        29,943,633         |        21         |
  |    1890     |        56,327,661         |         9.3       |
  |    1900     |        84,942,988         |         4.1       |
  |    1903     |        93,248,299         |         3.9       |

The falling off in the canal traffic has been greatest in just those
heavy or bulky commodities that are generally assumed to be specially
adapted for conveyance by water. Of the flour and grain, for instance,
received at New York, less than 10 per cent. in 1899, and less than 8
per cent. in 1900, came by the Erie Canal.

The experiences of the New York canals have been fully shared by other
canals in other States. Of the sum total of 5,000 miles of canals
constructed, 2,000 had been abandoned by 1890 on the ground that the
traffic was insufficient to cover working expenses. Since then most
of the remainder have shared the same fate, one of the last of the
survivors, the Delaware and Hudson, being converted into a railway
a year or two ago. In fact the only canals in the United States
to-day, besides those in the State of New York, whose business is
sufficiently regular to warrant the inclusion of their traffic in the
monthly reports of the Government are the Chesapeake and Delaware
(connecting Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, and having an annual traffic
of about 700,000 tons, largely lumber); and the Chesapeake and Ohio
(from Cumberland to Georgetown, owned by the State of Maryland, and
transporting coal almost exclusively, the amount depending on the state
of congestion of traffic on the railroads).

It is New York that has been most affected by this decline in American
canals. When the railways began to compete severely with the Erie
Canal, New York's previous supremacy over rival ports in the Eastern
States was seriously threatened. Philadelphia and Baltimore, and
various smaller ports also, started to make tremendous advance. Then
the Gulf ports--notably New Orleans and Galveston--were able to
capture a good deal of ocean traffic that might otherwise have passed
through New York. Not only do the railway lines to those ports have
the advantage of easy grades, so that exceptionally heavy train-loads
can be handled with ease, and not only is there no fear of snow or
ice blocks in winter, but the improvements effected in the ports
themselves--as I had the opportunity of seeing and judging, in the
winter of 1902-3, during a visit to the United States--have made these
southern ports still more formidable competitors of New York. While,
therefore, the trade of the United States has undergone great expansion
of late years, that proportion of it which passes through the port of
New York has seriously declined. "In less than ten years," says a
pamphlet on "The Canal System of New York State," issued by the Canal
Improvement State Committee, City of New York, "Pennsylvania or some
other State may be the Empire State, which title New York has held
since the time of the Erie Canal."

So a movement has been actively promoted in New York State for the
resuscitation of the Erie and other canals there, with a view to
assuring the continuance of New York's commercial supremacy, and
giving her a better chance--if possible--of competing with rivals
now flourishing at her expense. At first a ship canal between New
York and Lake Erie was proposed; but this idea has been rejected as
impracticable. Finally, the Legislature of the State of New York
decided on spending $101,000,000 on enlarging the Erie and other
canals in the State, so as to give them a depth of 12 feet, and allow
of the passage of 1,000-ton barges, arrangements being also made for
propulsion by electric or steam traction.

In addition to this particular scheme, "there are," says Mr F. H.
Dixon, Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College, in an address
on "Competition between Water and Railway Transportation Lines in
the United States," read by him before the St Louis Railway Club,
and reported in the _Engineering News_ (New York) of March 22,
1906, "many other proposals for canals in different sections of the
country, extending all the way from projects that have some economic
justification to the crazy and impracticable schemes of visionaries."
But the general position in regard to canal resuscitation in the United
States does not seem to be very hopeful, judging from a statement made
by Mr Carnegie--once an advocate of the proposed Pittsburg-Lake Erie
Canal--before the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce in 1898.

 "Such has been the progress of railway development," he said, "that
 if we had a canal to-day from Lake Erie through the Ohio Valley to
 Beaver, free of toll, we could not afford to put boats on it. It is
 cheaper to-day to transfer the ore to 50-ton cars, and bring it to our
 works at Pittsburg over our railway, than it would be to bring it by

Turning from artificial to natural waterways in the United States, I
find the story of the Mississippi no less instructive.


      [_To face page_ 110.

This magnificent stream has, in itself, a length of 2,485 miles. But
the Missouri is really only an upper prolongation of the same river
under another name, and the total length of the two, from mouth to
source, is 4,190 miles, of which the greater distance is navigable.
The Mississippi and its various tributaries drain, altogether, an area
of 1,240,000 square miles, or nearly one-third of the territory of the
United States. If any great river in the world had a chance at all
of holding its own against the railroads as a highway of traffic it
should, surely, be the Mississippi, to which British theorists ought
to be able to point as a powerful argument in support of their general
proposition concerning the advantages of water over rail-transport. But
the actual facts all point in the other direction.

The earliest conditions of navigation on the Mississippi are well shown
in the following extract from an article published in the _Quarterly
Review_ of March 1830, under the heading, "Railroads and Locomotive

 "As an example of the difficulties of internal navigation, it may
 be mentioned that on the great river Mississippi, which flows at
 the rate of 5 or 6 miles an hour, it was the practice of a certain
 class of boatmen, who brought down the produce of the interior to New
 Orleans, to break up their boats, sell the timber, and afterwards
 return home slowly by land; and a voyage up the river from New
 Orleans to Pittsburg, a distance of about 2,000 miles, could hardly
 be accomplished, with the most laborious efforts, within a period of
 four months. But the uncertain and limited influence, both of the
 wind and the tide, is now superseded by a new agent, which in power
 far surpassing the raging torrent, is yet perfectly manageable, and
 acts with equal efficacy in any direction.... Steamboats of every
 description, and on the most approved models, ply on all the great
 rivers of the United States; the voyage from New Orleans to Pittsburg,
 which formerly occupied four months, is accomplished with ease in
 fifteen or twenty days, and at the rate of not less than 5 miles an

Since this article in the _Quarterly Review_ was published, enormous
sums of money have been spent on the Mississippi--partly with a view
to the prevention of floods, but partly, also, to improve the river
for the purposes of navigation. Placed in charge of a Mississippi
Commission and of the Chief of Engineers in the United States Army,
the river has been systematically surveyed; special studies and
reports have been drawn up on every possible aspect of its normal or
abnormal conditions and circumstances; the largest river dredges in
the world have been employed to ensure an adequate depth of the river
bed; engineering works in general on the most complete scale have been
carried out--in fact, nothing that science, skill, or money could
accomplish has been left undone.

The difficulties were certainly considerable. There has always been
a tendency for the river bed to get choked up by the sediment the
stream failed to carry on; the banks are weak; while the variation in
water level is sometimes as much as 10 feet in a single month. None
the less, the Mississippi played for a time as important a rôle in the
west and the south as the Erie Canal played in the north. Steamboats on
the western rivers increased in number from 20, in 1818, to 1,200, in
1848, and there was a like development in flat boat tonnage. With the
expansion of the river traffic came a growth of large cities and towns
alongside. Louisville increased in population from 4,000, in 1820, to
43,000, in 1850, and St Louis from 4,900 to 77,000 in the same period.

With the arrival of the railroads began the decline of the river,
though some years were to elapse before the decline was seriously felt.
It was the absolute perfection of the railway system that eventually
made its competition irresistible. The lines paralleled the river; they
had, as I have said, easy grades; they responded to that consideration
in regard to speedy delivery of consignments which is as pronounced in
the United States as it is in Great Britain; they were as free from
stoppages due to variations in water level as they were from stoppages
on account of ice or snow; and they could be provided with branch
lines as "feeders," going far inland, so that the trader did not have
either to build his factory on the river bank or to pay cost of cartage
between factory and river. The railway companies, again, were able to
provide much more efficient terminal facilities, especially in the
erection of large wharves, piers, and depôts which allow of the railway
waggons coming right alongside the steamers. At Galveston I saw cargo
being discharged from the ocean-going steamers by being placed on
trucks which were raised from the vessel by endless moving-platforms
to the level of the goods station, where stood, along parallel
series of lines, the railway waggons which would take them direct to
Chicago, San Francisco, or elsewhere. With facilities such as these
no inland waterway can possibly compete. The railways, again, were
able, in competition with the river, to reduce their charges to "what
the traffic would bear," depending on a higher proportion of profit
elsewhere. The steamboats could adopt no such policy as this, and the
traders found that, by the time they had paid, not only the charges for
actual river transport, but insurance and extra cartage, as well, they
had paid as much as transport by rail would have cost, while getting a
much slower and more inconvenient service.


  (1) Illinois Central Freight Train; 43 cars; 2,100 tons.

  (2)    "       "     Banana Express, New Orleans to Chicago; 34 cars;
      433 tons of bananas.

      [_To face page 114._

The final outcome of all these conditions is indicated by some remarks
made by Mr Stuyvesant Fish, President of the Illinois Central Railroad
Company (the chief railway competitors of the Mississippi steamboats),
in the address he delivered as President of the Seventh Session of the
International Railway Congress at Washington, in May 1905:--

 "It is within my knowledge that twenty years ago there were annually
 carried by steamboats from Memphis to New Orleans over 100,000 bales
 of cotton, and that in almost every year since the railroads between
 Memphis and New Orleans passed under one management, not a single bale
 has been carried down the Mississippi River from Memphis by boat, and
 in no one year have 500 bales been thus carried; the reason being
 that, including the charges for marine and fire insurance, the rates
 by water are higher than by rail."

To this statement Mr Fish added some figures which may be tabulated as


  |                                        |     1890    |     1900    |
  | By the Mississippi River (all sources) |  2,306,290  |    450,498  |
  | By rail                                |  3,557,742  |  6,852,064  |

  Decline of river traffic in ten years        1,855,792 tons
  Increase of rail    "      "      "          3,294,322  "

These figures bear striking testimony to the results that may be
brought about in a country where railways are allowed a fair chance of
competing with even the greatest of natural waterways--a chance, as I
have said, denied them in Germany and France. Looking, too, at these
figures, I understand better the significance of what I saw at Memphis,
where a solitary Mississippi steamboat--one of the survivals of those
huge floating warehouses now mostly rusting out their existence at New
Orleans--was having her cargo discharged on the river banks by a few
negroes, while the powerful locomotives of the Illinois Central were
rushing along on the adjoining railway with the biggest train-loads it
was possible for them to haul.

On the general position in the United States I might quote the
following from a communication with which I have been favoured by Mr
Luis Jackson, an Englishman by birth, who, after an early training on
British railways, went to the United States, created there the rôle of
"industrial commissioner" in connection with American railways, and
now fills that position on the Erie Railroad:--

 "When I was in the West the question of water transportation down the
 Mississippi was frequently remarked upon. The Mississippi is navigable
 from St Paul to New Orleans. In the early days the towns along the
 Mississippi, especially those from St Paul to St Louis, depended upon,
 and had their growth through, the river traffic. It was a common
 remark among our railroad people that 'we could lick the river.' The
 traffic down the Mississippi, especially from St Paul to St Louis
 (I can only speak of the territory with which I am well acquainted)
 perceptibly declined in competition with the railroads, and the river
 towns have been revived by, and now depend more for their growth on,
 the railroads than on the river.... Figures do not prove anything.
 If the Erie Canal and the Mississippi River traffic had increased,
 doubled, trebled, or quadrupled in the past years, instead of actually
 dwindling by tonnage figures, it would prove nothing as against the
 tremendous tonnage hauled by the trunk line railroads. The Erie
 Railroad Company, New York to Chicago, last year carried 32,000,000
 tons of revenue freights. It would take a pretty good canal to handle
 that amount of traffic; and the Erie is only one of many lines between
 New York and Chicago.

 "A canal, paralleling great railroads, to some extent injures them
 on through traffic. The tendency of all railroads is in the line of
 progress. As the tonnage increases the equipment becomes larger, and
 the general tendency of railroad rates is downwards; in other words,
 the public in the end gets from the railroad all that can be expected
 from a canal, and much more. The railroad can expand right and left,
 and reach industries by side tracks; with canals every manufacturer
 must locate on the banks of the canal. Canals for internal commerce,
 in my mind, are out of date; they belong to the 'slow.' Nor do I
 believe that the traffic management of canals by the State has the
 same conception of traffic measures which is adopted by the modern
 managers of railroads.

 "Canals affect rates on heavy commodities, and play a part mostly
 injurious, to my mind, to the proper development of railroads,
 especially on the Continent of Europe. They may do local business, but
 the railroad is the real handmaid of commerce."

By way of concluding this brief sketch of American conditions, I cannot
do better than adopt the final sentences in Professor Dixon's paper at
the St Louis Railway Club to which I have already referred:--

 "Two considerations should, above all others, be kept in mind in
 determination of the feasibility of any project: first, the very
 positive limitations to the efficiency of rivers and canals as
 transportation agencies because of their lack of flexibility and the
 natural disabilities under which they suffer; and secondly, that water
 transportation is not necessarily cheap simply because the Government
 constructs and maintains the channels. Nothing could be more delusive
 than the assertion so frequently made, which is found in the opening
 pages of the report of the New York Committee on Canals of 1899, that
 water transportation is inherently cheaper than rail transportation.
 Such an assertion is true only of ocean transportation, and possibly
 also of large bodies of water like the lakes, although this last is

 "By all means let us have our waterways developed when such
 development is economically justifiable. What is justifiable must be
 a matter of judgment, and possibly to some extent of experimentation,
 but the burden of proof rests on its advocates. Such projects should
 be carried out by the localities interested and the burden should
 be borne by those who are to derive the benefit. Only in large
 undertakings of national concern should the General Government be
 called upon for aid.

 "But I protest most vigorously against the deluge of schemes poured in
 upon Congress at every session by reckless advocates who, disregarding
 altogether the cost of their crazy measures in the increased burden
 of general taxation, argue for the inherent cheapness of water
 transportation, and urge the construction at public expense of works
 whose traffic will never cover the cost of maintenance."



I have already spoken in Chapter VII. of some of the chief differences
between Continental and English conditions, but I revert to the latter
because it is essential that, before approving of any scheme of canal
restoration here, the British public should thoroughly understand the
nature of the task that would thus be undertaken.

The sections of actual canal routes, given opposite page 98, will
convey some idea of the difficulties which faced the original builders
of our artificial waterways. The wonder is that, since water has not
yet been induced to flow up-hill, canals were ever constructed over
such surfaces at all. Most probably the majority of them would not
have been attempted if railways had come into vogue half a century
earlier than they did. Looking at these diagrams, one can imagine how
the locomotive--which does not disdain hill-climbing, and can easily be
provided with cuttings, bridges, viaducts, and tunnels--could follow
the canal; but one can hardly imagine that in England, at least, the
canal would have followed the railway.

The whole proposition in regard to canal revival would be changed if
only the surfaces in Great Britain were the same as they are, say,
between Hamburg and Berlin, where in 230 miles of waterway there are
only three locks. In this country there is an average of one lock for
every 1-1/4 mile of navigation. The sum total of the locks on British
canals is 2,377, each representing, on an average, a capitalised cost
of £1,360. Instead of a "great central plain," as on the Continent of
Europe, we have a "great central ridge," extending the greater length
of England. In the 16 miles between Worcester and Tardebigge on the
Worcester and Birmingham Canal, there are fifty-eight locks to be
passed through by a canal boat going from the Severn to Birmingham. At
Tardebigge there is a difference in level of about 250 feet in 3 miles
or so. This is overcome by a "flight" of thirty locks, which a 25-ton
boat may hope to get through in four hours. Between Huddersfield and
Ashton, on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, there are seventy-four locks
in 20 miles; between Manchester and Sowerby Bridge, on the Rochdale
Canal, there are ninety-two locks in 32 miles, to enable the boats to
pass over an elevation 600 feet above sea level; and at Bingley, on the
Leeds and Liverpool Canal, five "staircase" locks give a total lift of
59 feet 2 inches.

Between London and Liverpool there are three canal routes, each passing
through either ten or eleven separate navigations, and covering
distances of from 244 to 267 miles. By one of these routes a boat has
to pass through such series of locks as ninety in 100 miles on the
Grand Junction Canal, between Paddington and Braunston; forty-three in
17 miles on the Birmingham Canal, between Birmingham and Aldersley; and
forty-six in 66 miles on the Shropshire Union Canal, between Autherley
and Ellesmere Port. Proceeding by an alternative route, the boat would
pass through fifty-nine locks in 67 miles on the Trent and Mersey;
while a third route would give two hundred and eighty-two locks in a
total of 267 miles. The number of separate navigations is ten by Routes
I. and II., and eleven by Route III.

Between London and Hull there are two routes, one 282 miles with one
hundred and sixty-four locks, and the other 305 miles with one hundred
and forty-eight locks. On the journey from London to the Severn, a boat
would pass through one hundred and thirty locks in 177 miles in going
to the Avonmouth Docks (this total including one hundred and six locks
in 86 miles between Reading and Hanham, on the Kennet and Avon Canal);
and either one hundred and two locks in 191 miles, or two hundred and
thirty in 219 miles, if the destination were Sharpness Docks. Between
Liverpool and Hull there are one hundred and four locks in 187 miles by
one route; one hundred and forty-nine in 159 miles by a second route;
and one hundred and fifty-two in 149 miles by a third. In the case of
a canal boat despatched from Birmingham, the position would be--to
London, one hundred and fifty-five locks in 147 miles; to Liverpool (1)
ninety-nine locks in 114 miles, (2) sixty-nine locks in 94 miles; to
Hull, sixty-six locks in 164 miles; to the Severn, Sharpness Docks (1)
sixty-one locks in 75 miles, (2) forty-nine locks in 89 miles.

Early in 1906 a correspondent of _The Standard_ made an experimental
canal journey from the Thames, at Brentford, to Birmingham, to test
the qualities of a certain "suction-producer gas motor barge." The
barge itself stood the test so well that the correspondent was able to
declare:--"In the new power may be found a solution of the problem
of canal traction." He arrived at this conclusion notwithstanding the
fact that the motor barge was stopped at one of the locks by a drowned
cat being caught between the barge and the incoming "butty" boat. The
journey from London to Birmingham occupied, "roughly," six and a half
days--a journey, that is, which London and North-Western express trains
accomplish regularly in two hours. The 22-1/2 miles of the Warwick and
Birmingham Canal, which has thirty-four locks, alone took ten hours and
a half. From Birmingham the correspondent made other journeys in the
same barge, covering, altogether, 370 miles. In that distance he passed
through three hundred and twenty-seven locks, various summits "several
hundred feet" in height being crossed by this means.

At Anderton, on the Trent and Mersey Canal, there is a vertical
hydraulic lift which raises or lowers two narrow boats 50 feet to
enable them to pass between the canal and the River Mersey, the
operation being done by means of troughs 75 feet by 14-1/2 feet.
Inclined planes have also been made use of to avoid a multiplicity
of locks. It is assumed that in the event of any general scheme of
resuscitation being undertaken, the present flights of locks would, in
many instances, be done away with, hydraulic lifts being substituted
for them. Where this could be done it would certainly effect a saving
in time, though the provision of a lift between series of locks would
not save water, as this would still be required for the lock below.
Hydraulic lifts, however, could not be used in mining districts, such
as the Black Country, on account of possible subsidences. Where that
drawback did not occur there would still be the question of expense.
The cost of construction of the Anderton lift was £50,000, and the cost
of maintenance is £500 a year. Would the traffic on a particular route
be always equal to the outlay? In regard to inclined planes, it was
proposed some eight or ten years ago to construct one on the Birmingham
Canal in order to do away with a series of locks at a certain point
and save one hour on the through journey. Plans were prepared, and a
Bill was deposited in Parliament; but just at that time a Board of
Trade enquiry into canal tolls and charges led to such reductions being
enforced that there no longer appeared to be any security for a return
on the proposed expenditure, and the Bill was withdrawn.

In many instances the difference in level has been overcome by the
construction of tunnels. There are in England and Wales no fewer than
forty-five canal tunnels each upwards of 100 yards in length, and of
these twelve are over 2,000 yards in length, namely, Standidge Tunnel,
on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, 5,456 yards; Sapperton, Thames and
Severn, 3,808; Lappal, Birmingham Canal navigations, 3,785; Dudley,
Birmingham Canal, 3,672; Norwood, Chesterfield Canal, 3,102; Butterley,
Cromford, 3,063; Blisworth, Grand Junction, 3,056; Netherton,
Birmingham Canal, 3,027; Harecastle (new), Trent and Mersey, 2,926;
Harecastle (old), Trent and Mersey, 2,897; West Hill, Worcester and
Birmingham, 2,750; and Braunston, Grand Junction, 2,042.

The earliest of these tunnels were made so narrow (in the interests of
economy) that no space was left for a towing path alongside, and the
boats were passed through by the boatmen either pushing a pole or shaft
against the roof or sides, and then walking from forward to aft of the
boat, or else by the "legging" process in which they lay flat on their
backs in the boat, and pushed with their feet against the sides of the
tunnel. At one time even women engaged in work of this kind. Later
tunnels were provided with towing paths, while in some of them steam
tugs have been substituted for shafting and legging.

Resort has also been had to aqueducts, and these represent some of the
best work that British canal engineers have done. The first in England
was the one built at Barton by James Brindley to carry the Bridgewater
Canal over the Irwell. It was superseded by a swing aqueduct in
1893, to meet the requirements of the Manchester Ship Canal. But the
finest examples are those presented by the aqueducts of Chirk and
Pontcysyllte on the Ellesmere Canal in North Wales, now forming part
of the Shropshire Union Canal. Each was the work of Telford, and the
two have been aptly described as "among the boldest efforts of human
invention of modern times." The Chirk aqueduct (710 feet long) carries
the canal over the River Ceriog. It was completed in 1801 and cost
£20,898. The Pontcysyllte aqueduct, of which a photograph is given as
a frontispiece, carries the canal in a cast-iron trough a distance
of 1,007 feet across the valley of the River Dee. It was opened for
traffic in 1803, and involved an outlay of £47,000. Another canal
aqueduct worthy of mention is that which was constructed by Rennie in
1796, at a cost of £48,000, to carry the Lancaster Canal over the River

These facts must surely convince everyone who is in any way open to
conviction of the enormous difference between canal construction as
carried on in bygone days in Great Britain--involving as it did all
these costly, elaborate, and even formidable engineering works--and
the building of canals, or the canalisation of rivers, on the flat
surfaces of Holland, Belgium, and Northern Germany. Reviewing--even
thus inadequately--the work that had been already done, one ceases to
wonder that, when the railways began to establish themselves in this
country, the canal companies of that day regarded with despair the
idea of practically doing the greater part of their work over again,
in order to carry on an apparently hopeless struggle with a powerful
competitor who had evidently come not only to stay but to win. It is
not surprising, after all, that many of them thought it better to
exploit the enemy by inducing or forcing him to buy them out!

The average reader who may not hitherto have studied the question so
completely as I am here seeking to do, will also begin by this time to
understand what the resuscitation of the British canal system might
involve in the way of expense. The initial purchase--presumably on fair
and equitable terms--would in itself cost much more than is supposed
even by the average expert.

 "Assuming," says one authority, Mr Thwaite, "that 3,500 miles of the
 canal system were purchasable at two-thirds of their original cost of
 construction, say £2,350 per mile of length, then the capital required
 would be £8,225,000."

This looks very simple. But is the original cost of construction
of canals passing through tunnels, over viaducts, and up and down
elevations of from 400 to 600 feet, calculated here on the same basis
as canals on the flat-lands? Is allowance made for costly pumping
apparatus--such as that provided for the Birmingham Canal--for the
docks and warehouses recently constructed at Ellesmere Port, and for
other capital expenditure for improvements, or are these omitted from
the calculation of so much "per mile of length"? Items of this kind
might swell even "cost of construction" to larger proportions than
those assumed by Mr Thwaite. That gentleman, also, evidently leaves
out of account the very substantial sums paid by the present owners or
controllers of canals for the mining rights underneath the waterways in
districts such as Staffordshire or Lancashire.

This last-mentioned point is one of considerable importance, though
very few people seem to know that it enters into the canal question at
all. When canals were originally constructed it was assumed that the
companies were entitled to the land they had bought from the surface to
the centre of the earth. But the law decided they could claim little
more than a right of way, and that the original landowners might still
work the minerals underneath. This was done, with the result that there
were serious subsidences of the canals, involving both much loss of
water and heavy expenditure in repairs. The stability of railways was
also affected, but the position of the canals was much worse on account
of the water.

To maintain the efficiency of the canals (and of railways in addition)
those responsible for them--whether independent companies or railway
companies--have had to spend enormous sums of money in the said mining
districts on buying up the right to work the minerals underneath. In
some instances the landowner has given notice of his intention to
work the minerals himself, and, although he may in reality have had
no such intention, the canal company or the railway company have been
compelled to come to terms with him, to prevent the possibility of the
damage that might otherwise be done to the waterway. The very heavy
expenditure thus incurred would hardly count as "cost of construction,"
and it would represent money sunk with no prospect of return. Yet, if
the State takes over the canals, it will be absolutely bound to reckon
with these mineral rights as well--if it wants to keep the canals
intact after improving them--and, in so doing, it must allow for a
considerably larger sum for initial outlay than is generally assumed.

But the actual purchase of canals _and_ mineral rights would be only
the beginning of the trouble. There would come next the question of
increasing the capacity of the canals by widening, and what this might
involve I have already shown. Then there are the innumerable locks by
which the great differences in level are overcome. A large proportion
of these would have to be reconstructed (unless lifts or inclined
planes were provided instead) to admit either the larger type of boat
of which one hears so much, or, alternatively, two or four of the
existing narrow boats. Assuming this to be done, then, when a single
narrow boat came up to each lock in the course of the journey it was
making, either it would have to wait until one or three others arrived,
or, alternatively, the water in a large capacity lock would be used for
the passage of one small boat. The adoption of the former course would
involve delay; and either would necessitate the provision of a much
larger water supply, together with, for the highest levels, still more
costly pumping machinery.

The water problem would, indeed, speedily become one of the most
serious in the whole situation--and that, too, not alone in regard to
the extremely scanty supplies in the high levels. The whole question
has been complicated, since canals were first built, by the growing
needs of the community, towns large and small having tapped sources of
water supply which otherwise might have been available for the canals.

Even as these lines are being written, I see from _The Times_ of March
17, 1906, that, because the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway
Company are sinking a well on land of their own adjoining the railway
near the Carshalton springs of the River Wandle, with a view to getting
water for use in their Victoria Station in London, all the public
authorities in that part of Surrey, together with the mill-owners and
others interested in the River Wandle, are petitioning Parliament in
support of a Bill to restrain them, although it is admitted that "the
railway company do not appear to be exceeding their legal rights."
This does not look as if there were too much water to spare for canal
purposes in Great Britain; and yet so level-headed a journal as _The
Economist_, in its issue of March 3, 1906, gravely tells us, in an
article on "The New Canal Commission," that "the experience of Canada
is worth studying." What possible comparison can there be, in regard to
canals, between a land of lakes and great rivers and a country where a
railway company may not even sink a well on their own property without
causing all the local authorities in the neighbourhood to take alarm,
and petition Parliament to stop them![11]


  (Belvide Reservoir, Staffordshire, Shropshire Union Canal.)

      [_To face page 128._

On this question of water supply, I may add, Mr John Glass, manager
of the Regents Canal, said at the meeting of the Institution of Civil
Engineers in November 1905:--

 "In his opinion Mr Saner had treated the water question, upon which
 the whole matter depended, in too airy a manner. Considering, for
 instance, the route to Birmingham, it would be seen that to reach
 Birmingham the waterway was carried over one summit of 400 feet, and
 another of 380 feet, descended 200 feet, and eventually arrived at
 Birmingham, which was about 350 feet above sea level. The proposed
 standard lock, with a small allowance for the usual leakage in
 filling, would consume about 50,000 cubic feet of water, and the two
 large crafts which Mr Saner proposed to accommodate in the lock[12]
 would carry together, he calculated, about 500 tons. Supposing it
 were possible to regulate the supply and demand so as to spread that
 traffic economically over the year, and to permit of twenty-five pairs
 of boats passing from Birmingham to the Thames, or in the opposite
 direction, on 300 days in the year, the empty boats going into the
 same locks as the laden boats, it would be necessary to provide
 1,250,000 cubic feet of water daily, at altitudes of 300 to 400 feet;
 and in addition it would be necessary to have water-storage for at
 least 120 days in the year, which would amount to about 150,000,000
 cubic feet. When it was remembered that the districts in which the
 summit-levels referred to were situated were ill-supplied with water,
 he thought it was quite impossible that anything like that quantity of
 water could be obtained for the purpose. Canal-managers found that the
 insufficiency of water in all districts supplied by canals increased
 every year, and the difficulty of acquiring proper water-storage
 became enhanced."

Not only the ordinary waterway and the locks, but the tunnels and
viaducts, also, might require widening. Then the adoption of some
system of mechanical haulage is spoken of as indispensable. But a
resort to tugs, however propelled, is in no way encouraged by the
experiments made on the Shropshire Union, as told on p. 50. An overhead
electrical installation, with power houses and electric lighting, so
that navigation could go on at night, would be an especially costly
undertaking. But the increased speed which it is hoped to gain from
mechanical haulage on the level would also necessitate a general
strengthening of the canal banks to avoid damage by the wash, and
even then the possible speed would be limited by the breadth of the
waterway. On this particular point I cannot do better than quote the
following from an article on "Canals and Waterways" published in _The
Field_ of March 10, 1906:--

 "Among the arguments in favour of revival has been that of anticipated
 rapid steam traffic on such re-opened waterways. Any one who
 understands the elementary principles of building and propulsion of
 boats will realise that volume of water of itself fixes limits for
 speed of vessels in it. Any vessel of certain given proportions has
 its limit of speed (no matter what horse-power may be employed to move
 it) according to the relative limit (if any) of the volume of water
 in which it floats. Our canals are built to allow easy passage of the
 normal canal barge at an average of 3 to 3-1/2 miles an hour. A barge
 velocity of even 5 miles, still more of 6 or 7, would tend to wash
 banks, and so to wreck (to public danger) embankments where canals are
 carried higher than surrounding land. A canal does not lie in a valley
 from end to end like a river. It would require greater horse-power
 to tow one loaded barge 6 miles an hour on normal canal water than
 to tow a string of three or even four such craft hawsered 50 or more
 feet apart at the pace of 3-1/2 miles. The reason would be that the
 channel is not large enough to allow the wave of displacement forward
 to find its way aft past the advancing vessel, so as to maintain an
 approximate level of water astern to that ahead, unless either the
 channel is more than doubled or else the speed limited to something
 less than 4 miles. It therefore comes to this, that increased speed on
 our canals, to any tangible extent, does not seem to be attainable,
 even if all barges shall be screw steamers, unless the entire channel
 can be reconstructed to far greater depth and also width."

What the actual cost of reconstruction would be--as distinct from
cost of purchase--I will not myself undertake to estimate; and merely
general statements, based on the most favourable sections of the
canals, may be altogether misleading. Thus, a writer in the _Daily
Chronicle_ of March 21, 1906, who has contributed to that journal a
series of articles on the canal question, "from an expert point of
view," says:--

 "If the Aire and Calder navigation, which is much improved in recent
 years, be taken as a model, it has been calculated that £1,000,000 per
 100 miles would fit the trunk system for traffic such as is dealt with
 on the Yorkshire navigation."

How can the Aire and Calder possibly be taken as a model--from the
point of view of calculating cost of improvements or reconstruction?
Let the reader turn once more to the diagrams given opposite p. 98. He
will see that the Aire and Calder is constructed on land that is almost
flat, whereas the Rochdale section on the same trunk route between the
Mersey and the Humber reaches an elevation of 600 feet. How can any
just comparison be made between these two waterways? If the cost of
"improving" a canal of the "model" type of the Aire and Calder be put
at the rate of £1,000,000 per 100 miles, what would it come to in the
case of the Rochdale Canal, the Tardebigge section of the Worcester
and Birmingham Canal, or the series of independent canals between
Birmingham and London? That is a practical question which I will
leave--to the experts!

Supposing, however, that the canals have been purchased, taken
possession of, and duly improved (whatever the precise cost) by State,
municipalities, or public trust, as the case may be. There will then be
the almost exact equivalent of a house without furniture, or a factory
without machinery. Before even the restored canals could be adapted to
the requirements of trade and commerce there would have to be a very
considerable expenditure, also, on warehouses, docks, appliances, and
other indispensable adjuncts to mere haulage.

After all the money that has been spent on the Manchester Ship Canal
it is still found necessary to lay out a great deal more on warehouses
which are absolutely essential to the full and complete development of
the enterprise. The same principle would apply to any scheme of revived
inland navigation. The goods depôts constructed by railway companies
in all large towns and industrial centres have alone sufficed to bring
about a complete revolution in trade and commerce since the days when
canals were prosperous. There are many thousands of traders to-day who
not only order comparatively small quantities of supplies at a time
from the manufacturer, but leave even these quantities to be stored
locally by the railway company, having delivered to them from day to
day, or week by week, just as much as they can do with. A certain
"free" period is allowed for warehousing, and, if they remove the goods
during that period, they pay nothing to the railway company beyond the
railway rate. After the free period a small "rent" is charged--a rent
which, while representing no adequate return to the railway company
for the heavy capital outlay in providing the depôts, is much less than
it would cost the trader if he had to build store-rooms for himself,
or pay for accommodation elsewhere. Other traders, as mentioned in
the chapter on "The Transition in Trade," send goods to the railway
warehouses as soon as they are ready, to wait there until an order is
completed, and the whole consignment can be despatched; while others
again, agents and commission men, carry on a considerable business from
a small office, leaving all the handling of the commodities in which
they deal to be done by the railway companies. In fact, the situation
might be summed up by saying that, under the trading conditions of
to-day, railway companies are not only common carriers, but general
warehousemen in addition.

If inland canals are to take over any part of the transport at present
conducted by the railways, they will have to provide the traders with
like facilities. So, in addition to buying up and reconstructing the
canals; in addition to widenings, and alterations of the gradients of
roads and railways passed under; and in addition to the maintenance
of towing paths, locks, bridges, tunnels, aqueducts, culverts,
weirs, sluices, cranes, wharves, docks, and quay walls, reservoirs,
pumping machinery, and so on, there would still be all the subsidiary
considerations in regard to warehousing, etc., which would arise when
it became a question with the trader whether or not he should avail
himself of the improved water transport thus placed at his disposal.

For the purposes of reasonable argument I will assume that no
really sensible person, knowing anything at all of actual facts and
conditions, would attempt to revive the entire canal system of the
country.[13] I have shown on p. 19, that even in the year 1825 it was
recognised that some of the canals had been built by speculators simply
as a means of abstracting money from the pockets of foolish investors,
victims of the "canal mania," and that no useful purpose could be
served by them even at a time when there were no competing railways.
Yet to-day sentimental individuals who, in wandering about the
country, come across some of these absolutely useless, though still,
perhaps, picturesque survivals, write off to the newspapers to lament
over "our neglected waterways," to cast the customary reflections
on the railway companies, and to join their voice to the demand for
immediate nationalisation or municipalisation, according to their
individual leanings, and regardless of all considerations of cost or

Derelicts of the type here referred to are not worth considering at
all. It is a pity they were not drained and filled in long ago, and
given, as it were, a decent burial, if only out of consideration for
the feelings of sentimentalists. Much more deserving of study are
those particular systems which either still carry a certain amount
of traffic, or are situated on routes along which traffic might be
reasonably expected to flow. But, taking even canals of this type,
the reader must see from the considerations I have already presented
that resuscitation would be a very costly business indeed. Estimates
of which I have read in print range from £20,000,000 to £50,000,000;
but even these omit various important items (mining rights, etc.),
which would certainly have to be added, while the probability is that,
however high the original estimate in regard to work of this kind, a
good deal more would have to be expended before it was finished.

The remarks I have here made are based on the supposition that all
that is aimed at is such an improvement as would allow of the use of a
larger type of canal boat than that now in vogue. But, obviously, the
expenditure would be still heavier if there were any idea of adapting
the canals to the use of barges similar in size to those employed on
the waterways of Germany, or craft which, starting from an inland
manufacturing town in the Midlands, could go on a coasting trip, or
make a journey across to the Continent. Here the capital expenditure
would be so great that the cost would be absolutely prohibitive.

Whatever the precise number of millions the resuscitation scheme might
cost, the inevitable question would present itself--How is the money to
be raised?

The answer thereto would be very simple if the entire expense were
borne by the country--that is to say, thrown upon the taxpayers or
ratepayers. The problem would then be solved at once. The great
drawback to this solution is that most of the said taxpayers or
ratepayers would probably object. Besides, there is the matter
of detail I mentioned in the first Chapter: if the State or the
municipalities buy up the canals on fair terms, including the canals
owned or controlled by the railways, and, in operating them in
competition with the railways, make heavy losses which must eventually
fall on the taxpayers or ratepayers, then it would be only fair that
the railway companies should be excused from such direct increase
in taxation as might result from the said losses. In that case the
burden would fall still more heavily on the general body of the tax or
ratepayers, independently of the railway companies.

It would fall, too, with especial severity on those traders who were
themselves unable to make use of the canals, but might have to pay
increased local rates in order that possible competitors located
within convenient reach of the improved waterways could have cheaper
transport. It might also happen that when the former class of traders,
bound to keep to the railways, applied to the railway companies for
some concession to themselves, the reply given would be--"What you
suggest is fair and reasonable, and under ordinary circumstances we
should be prepared to meet your wishes; but the falling off in our
receipts, owing to the competition of State-aided canals, makes it
impossible for us to grant any further reductions." An additional
disadvantage would thus have to be met by the trader who kept to the
railway, while his rival, using the canals, would practically enjoy the
benefit of a State subsidy.

The alternative to letting the country bear the burden would be to
leave the resuscitated canal system to pay for itself. But is there any
reasonable probability that it could? The essence of the present day
movement is that the traders who would be enabled to use the canals
under the improved conditions should have cheaper transport; but if
the twenty, fifty, or any other number of millions sterling spent
on the purchase and improvement of the canals, and on the provision
of indispensable accessories thereto, are to be covered out of the
tolls and charges imposed on those using the canals, there is every
probability that (if the canals are to pay for themselves) the tolls
and charges would have to be raised to such a figure that any existing
difference between them and the present railway rates would disappear
altogether. That difference is already very often slight enough, and it
may be even less than appears to be the case, because the railway rate
might include various services, apart from mere haulage--collection,
delivery, warehousing, use of coal depôt, etc.--which are not covered
by the canal tolls and charges, and the cost of which would have to be
added thereto. A very small addition, therefore, to the canal tolls,
in order to meet interest on heavy capital expenditure on purchase and
reconstruction, would bring waterways and railways so far on a level in
regard to rates that the railways, with the superior advantages they
offer in many ways, would, inevitably, still get the preference.

The revival movement, however, is based on the supposition that no
increase in the canal tolls now charged would be necessary.[14] Canal
transport, it is said, is already much higher in this country than
it is on the Continent--and that may well be so, considering (1)
that canals such as ours, with their numerous locks, etc., cost more
to construct, operate and maintain than canals on the flat lands of
Continental Europe; (2) that British canals are still supposed to
maintain themselves; and (3) that canal traffic as well as railway
traffic is assessed in the most merciless way for the purposes of local
taxation. In the circumstances it is assumed that the canal traffic
in England could not pay higher tolls and charges than those already
imposed, and that the interest on the aforesaid millions, spent on
purchase and improvements, would all be met out of the expanded traffic
which the restored canals would attract.

Again I may ask--Is there any reasonable probability of this? Bearing
in mind the complete transition in trade of which I have already
spoken--a transition which, on the one hand, has enormously increased
the number of individual traders, and, on the other, has brought
about a steady and continuous decrease in the weight of individual
consignments--is there the slightest probability that the conditions of
trade are going to be changed, and that merchants, manufacturers, and
other traders will forego the express delivery of convenient quantities
by rail, in order to effect a problematical saving (and especially
problematical where extra cartage has to be done) on the tedious
delivery of wholesale quantities by canal?

Nothing short of a very large increase indeed in the water-borne
traffic would enable the canals to meet the heavy expenditure
foreshadowed, and, even if such increase were secured, the greater part
of it would not be new traffic, but simply traffic diverted from the
railways. More probably, however, the very large increase would not be
secured, and no great diversion from the railways would take place. The
paramount and ever-increasing importance attached by the vast majority
of British traders to quick delivery (an importance so great that on
some lines there are express goods trains capable of running from 40
to 60 miles an hour) will keep them to the greater efficiency of the
railway as a carrier of goods; while, if a serious diversion of traffic
were really threatened, the British railways would not be handicapped
as those of France and Germany are in any resort to rates and charges
which would allow of a fair competition with the waterways.

In practice, therefore, the theory that the canals would become
self-supporting, as soon as the aforesaid millions had been spent, must
inevitably break down, with the result that the burden of the whole
enterprise would then necessarily fall upon the community; and why the
trader who consigns his goods by rail, or the professional man who
has no goods to consign at all, should be taxed to allow of cheaper
transport being conferred on the minority of persons or firms likely to
use the canals even when resuscitated, is more than I can imagine, or
than they, probably, will be able to realise.

The whole position was very well described in some remarks made by
Mr Harold Cox, M.P., in the course of a discussion at the Society of
Arts in February 1906, on a paper read by Mr R. B. Buckley, on "The
Navigable Waterways of India."

 "There was," he said, "a sort of feeling current at the present time
 in favour of spending large amounts of the taxpayer's money in order
 to provide waterways which the public did not want, or at any rate
 which the public did not want sufficiently to pay for them, which
 after all was the test. He noticed that everybody who advocated
 the construction of canals always wanted them constructed with the
 taxpayer's money, and always wanted them to be worked without a toll.
 Why should not the same principle be applied to railways also? A
 railway was even more useful to the public than a canal; therefore,
 construct it with the taxpayer's money, and allow everybody to use
 it free. It was always possible to get plenty of money subscribed
 with which to build a railway, but nobody would subscribe a penny
 towards the building of canals. An appeal was always made to the
 government. People had pointed to France and Germany, which spent
 large sums of money on their canals. In France that was done because
 the French Parliamentary system was such that it was to the interest
 of the electorate and the elected to spend the public money on local
 improvements or non-improvements.... He had been asked, Why make any
 roads? The difference between roads and canals was that on a canal a
 toll could be levied on the people who used it, but on a road that
 was absolutely impossible. Tolls on roads were found so inconvenient
 that they had to be given up. There was no practical inconvenience in
 collecting tolls on canals; and, therefore, the principle that was
 applied to everything else should apply to canals--namely, that those
 who wanted them should pay for them."



Taking into consideration all the facts and arguments here presented, I
may summarise as follows the conclusions at which I have arrived:--

(1) That, alike from a geographical, physical, and economic point
of view, there is no basis for fair comparison between British and
Continental conditions; consequently our own position must be judged on
its own merits or demerits.

(2) That, owing to the great changes in British trade, manufacture, and
commerce, giving rise to widespread and still increasing demands for
speedy delivery of comparatively small consignments for a great number
of traders of every possible type, canal transport in Great Britain is
no longer suited to the general circumstances of the day.

(3) That although a comparatively small number of traders, located
in the immediate neighbourhood of the canals, might benefit from a
canal-resuscitation scheme, the carrying out of such scheme at the
risk, if not at the cost, of the taxpayers, would virtually amount to
subsidising one section of the community to the pecuniary disadvantage
of other sections.

(4) That the nationalisation or the municipalisation of British
canals would introduce a new principle inconsistent with the "private
enterprise" hitherto recognised in the case of railways, in which such
large sums have been sunk by investors, but with which State-aided
canals would compete.

(5) That, in view both of the physical conditions of our land
(necessitating an extensive resort to locks, etc., to overcome great
differences in level) and of the fact that many of the most important
of the canals are now hemmed in by works, houses, or buildings, any
general scheme of purchase and improvement, in regard even to main
routes (apart from hopeless derelicts), would be extremely costly, and,
in most instances, entirely outside the scope of practicability.

(6) That such a scheme, involving an expenditure of many millions,
could not fail to affect our national finances.

(7) That there is no ground for expecting so large an outlay could be
recouped by increased receipts from the canals, and that the cost would
thus inevitably fall upon the community.

(8) That the allegation as to the chief canals of the country, or
sections thereof, having been "captured" and "strangled" by the
railway companies, in the interests of their own traffic, is entirely
unsupported by evidence, the facts being, rather, that in most cases
the canals were more or less forced upon the railway companies, who
have spent money liberally on such of them as offered reasonable
prospect of traffic, and, in that way, have kept alive and in active
working condition canals that would inevitably have been added to the
number of derelicts had they remained in the hands of canal companies
possessed of inadequate capital for the purposes of their efficient

(9) That certain of these canals (as, for example, the Birmingham
and the Shropshire Union Canals) are still offering to traders all
reasonable facilities within the limitations of their surroundings and
physical possibilities; and that if such canals were required to bear
the expense of extremely costly widenings, of lock reconstruction, of
increased water supply, and of general improvements, the tolls and
charges would have to be raised to such a point that the use of the
canals would become prohibitive even to those local traders who now
fully appreciate the convenience they still afford.

(10) That, in effect, whatever may be done in the case of navigable
rivers, any scheme which aimed at a general resuscitation of canals in
this country, at the risk, if not at the expense, of the community,
is altogether impracticable; and that, inasmuch as the only desire
of the traders, in this connection, is to secure cheaper transport,
it is desirable to see whether the same results could not be more
effectively, more generally, and more economically obtained in other

Following up this last conclusion, I beg to recommend:--

(_a_) The desirability of increasing the usefulness of the railway
system, which can go anywhere, serve everybody, and carry and deliver
consignments, great and small, with that promptness and despatch which
are all-important to the welfare of the vast majority of industries
and enterprises, as conducted under the trading conditions of to-day.
This usefulness, some of the traders allege, is marred by rates and
charges which they consider unduly heavy, especially in the case of
certain commodities calling for exceptionally low freight, and canal
transport is now asked for by them, as against rail transport, just
as the traders of 1825 wanted the railways as a relief from the
waterways. The rates and charges, say the railway companies, are not
unreasonable in themselves, considering all the circumstances of the
case and the nature of the various services represented, while the
actual amount thereof is due, to a certain extent, not so much to any
seeking on the part of the companies to pay dividends of abnormal
proportions, akin to those of the canal companies of old (the average
railway dividend to-day, on over one thousand millions of actual
capital, being only about 3-1/2 per cent.), but to a combination of
causes which have increased unduly capital outlay and working expenses,
only to be met out of the rates, fares, and charges that are imposed
on traders and travellers. Among these causes may be mentioned the
heavy price the companies have had to pay for their land; the cost of
Parliamentary proceedings; various requirements imposed by Parliament
or by Government departments; and the heavy burden of the contribution
that railway companies make to local rates. (See p. 10.) These various
conditions must necessarily influence the rates and charges to be paid
by traders. Some of them--such as cost of land--belong to the past;
others--like the payments for local taxation--still continue, and tend
to increase rather than decrease. In any case, the power of the railway
companies to concede to the traders cheaper transport is obviously
handicapped. But if, to obtain such cheaper transport, the country is
prepared to risk (at least) from £20,000,000 to £50,000,000 on a scheme
of canal reconstruction which, as I have shown, is of doubtful utility
and practicability, would it not be much more sensible, and much more
economical, if the weight of the obligations now cast upon railways
were reduced, thus enabling the companies to make concessions in the
interests of traders in general, and especially in the interests of
those consigning goods to ports for shipment abroad, for whose benefit
the canal revival is more particularly sought?

(_b_) My second recommendation is addressed to the general trader.
His policy of ordering frequent small consignments to meet immediate
requirements, and of having, in very many instances, practically no
warehouse or store-rooms except the railway goods depôts, is one that
suits him admirably. It enables him either to spend less capital or
else to distribute his capital over a larger area. He is also spared
expense in regard to the provision of warehouse accommodation of his
own. But to the railway companies the general adoption of this policy
has meant greater difficulty in the making up of "paying loads." To
suit the exigencies of present-day trade, they have reduced their
_minima_ to as low, for some commodities, as 2-ton lots, and it is
assumed by many of the traders that all they need do is to work up to
such _minima_. But a 2-ton lot for even an 8-ton waggon is hardly a
paying load. Still less is a 10-cwt. consignment a paying load for a
similarly sized waggon. Where, however, no other consignments for the
same point are available, the waggon goes through all the same. In
Continental countries consignments would be kept back, if necessary,
for a certain number of days, in order that the "paying load" might
be made up. But in Great Britain the average trader relies absolutely
on prompt delivery, however small the consignment, or whatever the
amount of "working expenses" incurred by the railway in handling it.
If, however, the trader would show a little more consideration for the
railway companies--whom he expects to display so much consideration for
him--he might often arrange to send or to receive his consignments in
such quantities (at less frequent intervals, perhaps) as would offer
better loading for the railway waggons, with a consequent decrease of
working expenses, and a corresponding increase in the ability of the
railway company to make better terms with him in other directions. Much
has been done of late years by the railway companies to effect various
economies in operation, and excellent results have been secured,
especially through the organisation of transhipping centres for goods
traffic, and through reductions in train mileage; but still more could
be done, in the way of keeping down working expenses and improving the
position of the companies in regard to concessions to traders, if the
traders themselves would co-operate more with the railways to avoid the
disadvantages of unremunerative "light-loading."

(_c_) My third and last recommendation is to the agriculturists. I
have seen repeated assertions to the effect that improved canals would
be of great advantage to the British farmer; and in this connection
it may interest the reader if I reproduce the following extract from
the pamphlet, issued in 1824, by Mr T. G. Cumming, under the title of
"Illustrations of the Origin and Progress of Rail and Tram Roads and
Steam Carriages," as already mentioned on p. 21:--

 "To the farming interests the advantages of a rail-way will soon
 become strikingly manifest; for, even where the facilities of a
 canal can be embraced, it presents but a slow yet expensive mode of
 conveyance; a whole day will be consumed in accomplishing a distance
 of 20 miles, whilst by the rail-way conveyance, goods will be carried
 the same distance in three or four hours, and perhaps to no class of
 the community is this increased speed of more consideration and value
 than to the farmer, who has occasion to bring his fruit, garden stuff,
 and poultry to market, and still more so to such as are in the habit
 of supplying those great and populous towns with milk and butter,
 whilst with all these additional advantages afforded by a rail-way,
 the expense of conveyance will be found considerably cheaper than by

 "Notwithstanding the vast importance to the farmer of having the
 produce of his farm conveyed in a cheap and expeditious manner
 to market, it is almost equally essential to him to have a cheap
 conveyance for manure from a large town to a distant farm; and here
 the advantages to be derived from a rail-way are abundantly apparent,
 for by a single loco-motive engine, 50 tons of manure may be conveyed,
 at a comparatively trifling expense, to any farm within the line of
 the road. In the article of lime, also, which is one of the first
 importance to the farmer, there can be no question but the facilities
 afforded by a rail-way will be the means of diminishing the expense in
 a very material degree."

If railways were desirable in 1824 in the interests of agriculture,
they must be still more so in 1906, and the reversion now to the canal
transport of former days would be a curious commentary on the views
entertained at the earlier date. As regards perishables, consigned for
sale on markets, growers obviously now want the quickest transport
they can secure, and special fruit and vegetable trains are run
daily in the summer season for their accommodation. The trader in
the North who ordered some strawberries from Kent, and got word that
they were being sent on by canal, would probably use language not fit
for even a fruit and vegetable market to hear. As for non-perishable
commodities, consigned to or by agriculturists, the railway is a much
better distributer than the canal, and, unless a particular farm were
alongside a canal, the extra cost of cartage therefrom might more than
outweigh any saving in freight. If greater facilities than the ordinary
railway are needed by agriculturists, they will be met far better by
light railways, or by railway road-motors of the kind adopted first by
the North-Eastern Railway Company at Brandsby, than by any possible
extension of canals. These road-motors, operated between lines of
railway and recognised depôts at centres some distance therefrom, are
calculated to confer on agriculturists a degree of practical advantage,
in the matter of cheaper transport, limited only by the present
unfortunate inability of many country roads to bear so heavy a traffic,
and the equally unfortunate inability of the local residents to bear
the expense of adapting the roads thereto. If, instead of spending a
large sum of money on reconstructing canals, the Government devoted
some of it to grants to County Councils for the reconstruction of rural
highways, they would do far more good for agriculture, at least. As for
cheaper rail transport for agricultural commodities in general, I have
said so much elsewhere as to how these results can be obtained by means
of combination that I need not enlarge on that branch of the subject
now, further than to commend it to the attention of the British farmer,
to whom combination in its various phases will afford a much more
substantial advantage than any possible resort to inland navigation.

These are the alternatives I offer to proposals which I feel bound
to regard as more or less quixotic, and I leave the reader to decide
whether, in view of the actualities of the situation, as set forth in
the present volume, they are not much more practical than the schemes
of canal reconstruction for which public favour is now being sought.



Whilst this book is passing through the Press, I have received from
Mr Stuyvesant Fish, President of the Illinois Central Railroad
Company--whom I asked to favour me with some additional details
respecting the decline in freight traffic on the Mississippi River--the
following interesting notes, drawn up by Mr T. J. Hudson, General
Traffic Manager of the Illinois Central:--

 The traffic on the Mississippi River was established and built up
 under totally different conditions from those now obtaining, and when
 the only other means of travel and transportation was on horseback
 and by waggon, methods not suitable in view of the great distances
 and the general impassibility of the country. In those days the
 principal source of supply was St Louis--and points reached through
 St Louis--for grain, grain products, etc., excepting that vehicles,
 machinery, and iron were brought down the Ohio River from Pittsburg
 and Cincinnati by boat to Cairo, and trans-shipped there, or to
 Memphis, and trans-shipped or re-distributed from that place. The
 distributing points on the Lower Mississippi River were Memphis,
 Vicksburg, Natchez, Bayou Sara, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Goods
 were shipped to these points and re-shipped from there over small
 railroads to short distances, and also hauled by waggon and re-shipped
 on boats plying in local trade on the Mississippi River and tributary
 streams. For example, there were Boat Lines making small landing
 points above and below Memphis, and above and below Vicksburg; also
 Boat Lines plying the Yazoo and Tallahatchie Rivers on the east, and
 the White, Arkansas and Red Rivers on the west, etc.

 All the goods shipped by steamboat were hauled by waggon or dray
 to the steamboat landing, and, when discharged by the boats at
 destination, were again hauled by waggon from the landing to the
 stores and warehouses, even in those cases in which re-shipment was
 made from points like Memphis, Vicksburg, etc. When re-shipped by
 river, the goods were again hauled to the steamboat landing, and, when
 reaching the local landing or point of final consumption, after being
 discharged on the bank, were again hauled by waggon or dray, perhaps
 for considerable distances into the interior.

 While the cost of water transportation is primarily low, the frequent
 handling and re-handling made this mode of transportation more or less
 expensive, and in some instances quite costly. River transportation
 again is slow, taking longer time in transit. The frequent handlings,
 further, were damaging and destructive to the packages in the case
 of many kinds of goods. Transportation on the rivers was also at
 times interrupted or delayed from one cause or another, such as high
 water or low water, and the service was, in consequence, more or less
 irregular, thus requiring dealers to carry large stocks on which the
 insurance and interest was a considerable item of expense.

 With the development of the railroads through the country, not only
 was competition brought into play to the distributing points along the
 river, such as Memphis, Vicksburg, etc., from St Louis, Cincinnati,
 and Pittsburg, but also from other initial sources of supply which
 were not located on rivers, but were enabled by reason of the
 establishment of rail transportation to consign direct; whereas under
 the old conditions it was necessary for them to consign to some river
 point and trans-ship. What was still more important and effective in
 accomplishing the results since brought about was the material benefit
 conferred by the railroads on most of the communities situated back
 from the river. These communities had previously been obliged to send
 their consignments perhaps many miles by road to some point on the
 river, whence the commodities were carried to some other point, there
 to be taken by waggon or dray to the place of consumption--another
 journey of many miles, perhaps, by road. Progress was slow, and in
 some instances almost impossible, while only small boats could be

 Then the construction of railroads led to the development of important
 distributing points in the interior, such as Jackson, (Tennessee), and
 Jackson, (Mississippi), not to mention many others. Goods loaded into
 railroad cars on tracks alongside the mills, factories and warehouses
 could be unloaded at destination into warehouses and stores which also
 had their tracks alongside. By this means drayage was eliminated, and
 the packages could be delivered in clean condition. Neither of these
 conditions was possible where steamboat transportation was employed.
 Interior points are now enabled to buy direct, either in large or
 small quantities, from initial sources of supply, and without the
 delay and expense incident to shipment to river-distributing points,
 and trans-shipment by rail or steamboat or hauling by waggon. Rail
 transportation is also more frequent, regular, rapid and reliable; not
 to mention again the convenience which is referred to above.

 The transportation by river of package-freight, such as flour, meal,
 meat, canned goods, dry goods, and other commodities, has been almost
 entirely superseded by rail transportation, except in regard to
 short-haul local landings, where the river is more convenient, and
 the railroad may not be available. There is some south-bound shipment
 of wire, nails, and other iron goods from the Pittsburg district to
 distributing points like Memphis and New Orleans, but in these cases
 the consignments are exclusively in barge-load lots. The only other
 commodity to which these conditions apply is coal. This is taken
 direct from the mines in the Pittsburg district, and dropped into
 barges on the Monongahela River; and these are floated down the river,
 during periods of high water, in fleets of from fifty to several
 hundred barges at a time.

 There is no movement of grain in barges from St Louis to New Orleans,
 as was the case a great many years ago. The grain for export _viâ_ New
 Orleans is now largely moved direct in cars from the country elevators
 to the elevators at New Orleans, from which latter the grain is loaded
 direct into ships. There is, also, some movement north-bound in barges
 of lumber and logs from mills and forests not accessible to railroads,
 but very little movement of these or other commodities from points
 that are served by railroad rails. Lumber to be shipped on the river
 must be moved in barge-load quantities, and taken to places like St
 Louis, where it has to be hauled from the barge to lumber yards, and
 then loaded on railroad cars, if it is going to the interior, where a
 considerable proportion of the quantity handled will be wanted. Mills
 reached by railroad tracks can, and do, load in car-load quantities,
 and ship to the final point of use, without the delay incident
 to river transportation, and the expense involved by transfer or

 It is not to be inferred from the foregoing that all the distributing
 points along the river have dried up since the development of rail
 transportation. In fact, the contrary is the case, because the
 railroads have opened up larger territories to these distributing
 points, and in regard to many kinds of goods these river points
 have become, in a way, initial sources of supply as well as of
 manufacture. Memphis, for example, has grain brought to its elevators
 direct from the farms, the same as St Louis, and can and does ship
 on short notice to the many towns and communities in the territory
 surrounding. There are, also, flour and meal mills, iron foundries,
 waggon and furniture factories, etc., at Memphis, and at other
 places. Many of the points, however, which were once simply landings
 for interior towns and communities have now become comparatively

 To sum up in a few words, I should say that the railroads have
 overcome the steamboat competition on the Mississippi River, not
 only by affording fair and reasonable rates, but also because rail
 transportation is more frequent, rapid, reliable, and convenient, and
 is, on the whole, much cheaper.


[1] That canals also played their part in the transport of passengers a
hundred years ago is shown by the following items of news, which I take
from _The Times_ of 1806:--

  Friday, _December_ 19, 1806.

"The first division of the troops that are to proceed by the Paddington
Canal for Liverpool, and thence by transports for Dublin, will leave
Paddington to-day, and will be followed by others to-morrow and Sunday.
By this mode of conveyance the men will be only seven days in reaching
Liverpool, and with comparatively little fatigue, as it would take them
above fourteen days to march that distance. Relays of fresh horses for
the canal boats have been ordered to be in readiness at all the stages."

  Monday, _December_ 22, 1806.

"Saturday the 8th Regiment embarked at the Paddington Canal for
Liverpool, in a number of barges, each containing 60 men. This regiment
consists of 950 men. The 7th Regiment embarked at the same time in
eighteen barges: they are all to proceed to Liverpool. The Dukes of
York and Sussex witnessed the embarkation. The remainder of the brigade
was to follow yesterday, and Friday next another and very considerable
embarkation will follow."

[2] Illustrations of the Origin and Progress of Rail and Tram Roads,
and Steam Carriages, or Locomotive Engines. By T. G. Cumming, Surveyor,
Denbigh, 1824.

[3] A Letter on the subject of the projected Rail-road between
Liverpool and Manchester, pointing out the necessity for its adoption,
and the manifest advantages it offers to the public; with an exposure
of the exorbitant and unjust charges of the Water-Carriers. By Joseph
Sandars, Esq., Liverpool, 1825.

[4] Mersey and Irwell Navigation.

[5] Another of the speakers, Mr Gordon C. Thomas, engineer to the
Grand Junction Canal Company, said that "notwithstanding the generous
expenditure on maintenance, and the large sums recently spent upon
improvements, the through traffic on the Grand Junction was only
one-half of what it was fifty years ago, and now the through traffic
was in many cases unable to pay as high a rate as the local traffic."

[6] In the evidence he gave before the Royal Commission on Canals
and Waterways on 21st March 1906, Sir Herbert Jekyll, Assistant
Secretary to the Board of Trade, said (as reported in _The Times_ of
22nd March):--"One remarkable feature was noticeable--that, although
the tonnage carried rather increased than diminished between 1838 and
1848, the receipts fell off enormously, pointing to the conclusion
that the railway competition had brought about a large reduction in
canal companies charges. It was also noteworthy that on many canals
the decrease in receipts had continued out of all proportion to the
decrease, if any, in the tonnage carried."

[7] In Mr Saner's paper the Birmingham Canal navigations are classed
among the "Independently-Owned Canals," and Mr Saner says:--"There are
1,138 miles owned by railway companies, which convey only 6,009,820
tons per annum, and produce a net profit of only £40 per mile of
navigation. This," he adds, "appears to afford clear proof that
the railways do not attempt to make the most of the canals under
their control." But when the Birmingham Canal, with its 8,000,000
tons of traffic a year, is transferred (as it ought to be) from
the independently-owned to the railway-controlled canals, entirely
different figures are shown.

[8] The fact that coal tipped into a canal boat would have a longer
drop than coal falling from the colliery screen into railway waggons
is important because of the greater damage done to the coal, and the
consequent decrease in value.

[9] Fuller information respecting traffic conditions in Continental
countries will be found in my book on "Railways and Their Rates."

[10] The figures for the years 1860 to 1890 are taken from the "Report
of the Committee on Canals of New York State," 1900, General Francis V.
Greene, chairman; and those for 1900 and 1903 from the "Annual Report
of Superintendent of Public Works, New York State," 1903.

[11] "The St Lawrence River and the Great Lakes whose waters flow
through it into the Atlantic form a continuous waterway extending from
the Fond du Lac, at the head of Lake Superior, to the Straits of Belle
Isle, a distance of 2,384 miles.... Emptying into the St Lawrence
... are the Ottawa and Richlieu Rivers, the former bringing it into
communication with the immense timber forests of Ontario, and the
latter connecting it with Lake Champion in the United States. These
rivers were the thoroughfares in peace and the base lines in war for
the Indian tribes long before the white man appeared in the Western
Hemisphere.... The early colonists found them the convenient and almost
the only channels of intercourse among themselves and with the home
country.... The St Lawrence was navigable for sea-going vessels as far
as Montreal, but between Montreal and the foot of Lake Ontario there
was a succession of rapids separated by navigable reaches.... The head
of navigation on the Ottawa River is the city of Ottawa.... Between
this city and the mouth of the river there are several impassable
rapids. The Richlieu was also so much obstructed at various points as
to be unavailable for navigation.... The canal system of Canada ... has
been established to overcome these obstructions by artificial channels
at various points to render freely navigable the national routes of
transportation."--_"Highways of Commerce," issued by the Bureau of
Statistics, Department of State, Washington._

[12] The use of a larger type of canal boat is generally regarded
as an essential part of the resuscitation scheme. But of the narrow
boats now in active service in the canals of the United Kingdom there
are from 10,000 to 11,000. What is to be done with these? If they are
scrap-heaped, and fresh boats substituted, we increase still further
the sum total of the outlay the scheme will involve.

[13] At the Society of Arts' Conference on Canals, in 1888, Mr L. F.
Vernon-Harcourt said:--"The statistics show that great caution must be
exercised in the selection of canal routes for improvement, if they
are to prove a commercial success, and that the scope for such schemes
is strictly limited. Any attempt at a general revival and improvement
of the canal system throughout England cannot prove financially
successful, as local canals, through thinly populated agricultural
districts, could not compete with railways. These routes alone should
be selected for enlargement of waterway which lead direct from the
sea to large and increasing towns like the proposed canal from the
Bristol Channel to Birmingham, or which, like the Aire and Calder
Navigation and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, are suitably set for the
conveyance of coal and general bulky goods to populous districts. One
or two through routes to London from manufacturing centres, or from
coal-mining districts, might have a prospect of success, provided the
existing canals along the route could be acquired at a small cost, and
the necessary improvement works were not heavy."

[14] There are even those who argue that the resuscitated canals should
be toll free.


  Agriculture and canals, 16, 147-150

  Aire and Calder Navigation, 86, 132, 135

  Allport, Sir James, 37, 81

  Aqueducts, 124

  Association of Chambers of Commerce, 4, 5

  Barnsley Canal, 26

  Belgium, waterways in, 93-96, 97

  Birmingham Canal, 26, 37, 57-73, 120, 125

  Boats, size of, 32, 69, 130

  Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal, 26

  Brecon Canal, 45

  Bridgewater Canal, 13-15, 21, 23-24, 124

  Bridgewater, Duke of, 13-15, 23

  Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, 45

  Brindley, James, 14-15, 16, 124

  Brunner, Sir John T., 4

  Buckley, Mr R. B., 141

  Caledonian Railway Company, 50-54

  Canada, waterways in, 128-129

  Canals, earliest, in England, 13-22;
    canal mania, 16;
    passenger traffic, 18-19;
    shares and dividends, 21, 26, 27;
    tolls and charges, 23-25, 27-30;
    handicapped, 33;
    attitude towards railways, 34-38;
    Kennet and Avon, 38-45;
    Shropshire Union, 47-50;
    Forth and Clyde, 50-54;
    "strangulation" theory, 54-55;
    Birmingham Canal, 57-73;
    coal traffic, 84-89;
    canals and waterways on the Continent, 93-103;
    in the United States, 104-118;
    in England, 119-141;
    in Canada, 128-129;
    conclusions and recommendations, 142-150

  Capitalists, attitude of, 3

  Carnegie, Mr, 110

  Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, 109

  Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, 109

  Chesterfield Canal, 46, 123

  Child, Messrs, 15

  Coal, 13, 21, 29-30, 40, 51-53, 81-89

  Consignments, sizes of, 78

  Continental conditions, 11, 93-103, 139, 140, 141

  Cost of reconstruction, 132-136

  Cotton, raw, 89-91

  Coventry Canal, 26

  Cox, M.P., Mr Harold, 140

  Cromford Canal, 123

  Cumming, Mr T. G., 21, 147-148

  Dixon, Professor F. H., 110, 117

  Dredging, 43

  Electrical installations, 130

  Ellesmere Canal, 26, 47, 124

  Engineers and canal question, 2

  Erie Canal, the, 105-111, 116

  Fish, Mr Stuyvesant, 114-115

  Forth and Clyde Navigation, 50-54

  France, waterways in, 100, 102

  Frost on canals, 24, 30, 77

  _Gentleman's Magazine_, 26

  Geographical conditions, 11, 94-96, 98-100

  Germany, waterways in, 94, 97, 100-102

  Glass, Mr John, 129

  Government guarantee, 4

  Grand Junction Canal, 26, 39, 120, 123

  Grand Western Canal, 45

  Great Northern Railway, 31, 83

  Great Western Railway Company, 38-45, 67, 68, 70

  Grinling, Mr C. H., 30

  Hertslet, Sir E. Cecil, 94

  Holland, waterways in, 77, 94, 96

  Huddersfield Narrow Canal, 120, 123

  Hudson, George, 30

  Inglis, Mr J. C., 38-39, 45

  Jackson, Mr Luis, 115-117

  Jebb, Mr G. R., 71

  Jekyll, Sir Herbert, 62

  Kennet and Avon Canal, 26, 38-45, 121

  Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, 46

  Lancaster Canal, 26, 124

  Languedoc Canal, 14

  Leeds and Liverpool Canal, 120, 135

  Leicester and Swinnington Railway, 29

  Lift at Anderton, 122-123

  Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 21, 23-26, 28

  Liverpool merchants, petition from, 25-26

  Local taxation, 9-10, 139, 145-146

  Locks, 32, 33, 43, 50, 66, 120-121, 127

  London and North-Western Railway Company, 37, 46, 48-49, 59-71

  London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company, 128

  London County Council, 5

  Loughborough Canal, 26, 27, 29

  Macclesfield Canal, 46

  Manchester and Bury Canal, 46

  Manchester Ship Canal, 133

  McAdam, J. L., 12-13

  Mechanical haulage, 49-50, 121-122, 130-131

  Meiklejohn, Professor, 97

  Mersey and Irwell Navigation, 13, 15, 21, 24

  Mersey Harbour Board, 5

  Midland Railway, 30, 37, 67, 83

  Mining operations and canals, 46, 65-66, 126-127

  Mississippi, the, 111-117

  Monmouthshire Canal, 26, 45

  Morrison, Mr, 27-28

  Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railway Company (Great Central), 46

  Municipalisation schemes, 4-8, 135

  Nationalisation of canals, 4, 10, 135

  Neath Canal, 26

  North British Railway, 53

  North-Eastern Railway, 149

  Old Union Canal, 26

  Oxford Canal, 26

  Packhorse period, the, 12, 16, 18

  Paddington Canal, 18-19

  Physical conditions, 11, 96-99, 119

  Political conditions, 100-102

  Principle, questions of, 9-11

  Private enterprise, 9, 106, 142

  Profits on canals, 15, 16, 21, 26, 27

  Public trusts, 4-6

  Pumping machinery, 42-43, 63

  _Quarterly Review_, 17-22, 111

  Railways, position of companies as ratepayers, 7-8;
    cost of railway construction and operation, 9-10;
    effect on railway rates, 10;
    advent of, 17-22;
    Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 21, 25, 28;
    Leicester and Swinnington Railway, 29;
    Midland Railway, 30;
    Great Northern Railway, 31;
    attitude of canal companies towards, 35-38;
    control of canals, 38-56, 57-73;
    railways in Germany, 100-102;
      in France, 102;
    recommendations, 145-146

  Ratepayers, liability of, 7-8, 137

  Rates, regulation of, on railways and canals, 27-28

  Regents Canal, 129

  Rennie, 124

  Road-motors, 149

  Rochdale Canal, 26, 120, 132

  Ross, Mr A., 45-47

  Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways, 62

  Sandars, Mr Joseph, 21, 23-25, 34, 75

  Saner, Mr J. A., 38, 67, 129

  Sankey Brook and St Helen's Canal, 46

  Saunders, Mr H. J., 39, 44

  Select Committee on Canals (1883), 37

  Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation, 46

  Shropshire Union Canal, 47-50, 69-72, 120

  Somerset Coal Canal, 40

  Speed, 122, 131

  Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, 26

  Stalbridge, Lord, 86

  Stephenson, George, 30

  Stephenson, Robert, 30

  Stourbridge Extension Canal, 45

  "Strangulation" theory, 55, 143

  Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, 45

  Swansea Canal, 26, 45

  Taxpayers, how affected, 3, 5, 137

  Telford, 124

  Thames and Severn Canal, 123

  Thames steamboat service, 5

  Thomas, Mr G. C., 39

  Thwaite, Mr, 125

  Trade, changes in, 11, 40-42, 52-54, 61, 74-92, 133-134

  Traders, advice to, 146-147

  Trent and Mersey Navigation, 16, 26, 27, 49, 69, 72, 122, 123

  Troops, transport of, by canal, 18-19

  Tunnels, canal, 123

  Ulrich, Herr Franz, 97

  United States, waterways in, 104-118

  Vernon-Harcourt, Mr L. F., 135

  Walker, Colonel, F. N. T., 5

  Water-supply for canals, 24, 32, 33, 42-43, 62-64, 66, 77, 99, 127-130

  Wheeler, Mr W. H., 99

  Widenings, 66, 70, 71

  Wilts and Berks Canal, 40

  Worcester and Birmingham Canal, 26, 120, 123, 132



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