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Title: Waterways and Water Transport in Different Countries - With a description of the Panama, Suez, Manchester, - Nicaraguan, and other canals.
Author: Jeans, J. Stephen (James Stephen)
Language: English
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    in the original text.
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    in the original text.
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[Illustration: _E & F N Spon London & New York_



                            WATER TRANSPORT

                        IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES:

                      MANCHESTER, NICARAGUAN, AND
                             OTHER CANALS.

                   J. STEPHEN JEANS, M.R.I., F.S.S.,



                 E. & F. N. SPON, 125, STRAND, LONDON.
                    NEW YORK: 12, CORTLANDT STREET.


It would probably be difficult to name any subject that is of more
importance to the material interests of a country than adequate means
of transport. Without such means, nations possessed of the most
abundant natural resources in many other respects would be likely to
decay. With ample facilities of transport, however, the most limited
natural resources may be made to go a long way, and nations that are
not possessed of great natural endowments may even rise to a high place
in the economy of human industry.

Transportation facilities naturally divide themselves into the two
categories of facilities by land and facilities by water. The former
category embraces highways and railroads; the latter includes the
navigation of seas, lakes, rivers, and canals.

It is the purpose of this volume to deal with water transport only,
and more particularly that part of water transport which is carried on
by means of artificial waterways. Railway transport, therefore, will
only be incidentally referred to. Nor do we propose to expatiate to any
extent upon the navigation of seas and lakes, which is a matter quite
apart from canal and river navigation, and is usually carried on under
very different conditions.

Canals are usually ranged under one or other of three great categories,

     1. For purposes of navigation.
     2. For irrigation, and
     3. For domestic water supply.

Under the first heading there are many different descriptions of
waterways, the more important being—

     _a._ Canals intended for the purpose of connecting oceans
     or seas, such as those of Suez, Panama, the North Sea, and

     _b._ Canals for the purpose of bringing the sea to an
     inland town, such as those of Manchester and St. Petersburg.

     _c._ Canals designed to connect and complete communication
     between different rivers or lakes, like the Grand Canal of
     China, the Erie Canal, and the Welland Canal.

     _d._ Canals constructed for the purpose of enabling the
     obstructions caused by falls or cataracts on natural
     waterways to be overcome by artificial means.

As water transport by the most efficient and most economical means
practicable is the _raison d’être_ of the present work, we shall speak
for the most part of navigation canals only.

The chapters that follow will show, that canal navigation has not only
an interesting, but a very ancient history. It is, indeed, so long
since canals were first projected and constructed that it is extremely
difficult to trace their beginnings.

The Bœotian Canal, which is said to have drained the Lake Mœris
by several channels carried in tunnels through high mountainous
barriers, is of such fabulous age as to have led fiction to usurp the
place of history, and even of tradition, when describing the work at
a period of time so far back as prior to the conquest of Greece by

The celebrated canals of China have been assigned an unknown antiquity,
but trustworthy representations have led authorities to conclude that
they are scarcely older than the works in the Deccan. At all events,
they date from less than 900 years ago, a century subsequent to the
first irrigation of Valentia. In Spain, the Moors constructed canals
to connect inland places with rivers, particularly the Guadalquiver,
and connecting Granada with Cadiz. They also introduced, when they
conquered that country, their own system of irrigation, with the
customs and laws relating thereto, which are followed at the present
hour without material change.

Cresy has pointed out that Pliny’s correspondence with the Emperor
Trajan proves the importance attached to the subject of waterways.
“The consul in a letter points out such designs as were worthy the
glorious and immortal name of Trajan, ‘they being no less useful
than magnificent.’ He describes an extensive lake near the city of
Nicomedia, upon which the commodities of the country were easily and
cheaply transported to the high road, and thence were conveyed on
carriages to the sea coast at great charge and labour. To remedy this
inconvenience, he recommends that a canal should be, if possible, cut
from the lake to the sea, observing that one had already been attempted
by one of the kings of the country, but whether for the purpose of
draining the adjacent lands, or making a communication between the lake
and the river, was uncertain. These useful works, in common with all
others, fell into decay with the decline of the Roman empire. During
the disastrous period which succeeded, until the time of Charlemagne,
Europe is deficient in any examples of similar undertakings: this
sovereign commenced the projects of uniting the Rhine to the Danube,
and of opening a new communication between the German Ocean and the
Black Sea.”

The Romans were great canal-makers. They were, indeed, as their
extant works in Italy, Spain, and other countries show to this day,
very capable hydraulic engineers. But in Roman times, canals were
constructed for irrigation and water-supply purposes, rather than for
purposes of navigation. It was not until some centuries after the
decline of the Roman power that navigation canals began to attract
attention. Previous to the time when locks, sluices, and other works of
engineering art became general, canals could only be carried through
comparatively level territories. Hence we not unnaturally find that
some of the earliest canals for navigable purposes were constructed in
Holland, where the configuration of the ground is specially adapted to
their construction.

Mr. Vignoles, in his address to the Institution of Civil Engineers in
1870, remarked that, when the success of canals in the Low Countries
attracted the attention of Europe, a sort of mania arose in France
for inland navigation. Most of these were rendered abortive, and
became abandoned, “from uncertainty in the supply of water on account
of irregular rainfall, and from the pre-existing monopolies of the
millers, who appear at all times and places to have been, as they still
are, the natural enemies and thorns in the sides of the hydraulic
engineer.” Navigation on the upper branches of rivers rapidly ceased,
but concessions for canals in France were then given, the Canal de
Briare being the earliest, and next the Languedoc Canal, though neither
was finished until about forty years after their first imperfect
commencement. So early as the twelfth century, large canals had been
cut in Flanders, though the great canal from Brussels to the Scheldt
was not completed until 1560. This, however, was about a century before
Louis XIV. had finished the earliest canal in France.

Probably the first canal constructed in England was the Exeter Canal, a
comparatively short waterway, completed in 1572. But the regulation and
canalisation of rivers had been attempted long before that time. The
improvement of the navigation of the Thames was undertaken in 1423; of
the Lea, in 1425; of the Ouse (Yorkshire), in 1462; of the Severn in
1503; of the Stour (Essex), 1504; of the Humber, in 1531; and of the
Welland, in 1571.

During the seventeenth century, again, many similar works were
undertaken. The Colne, the Itchin, the Wye, the Avon, the Medway, the
Wey, the Bure, the Foss Dyke, the Witham, the Fal and Vale, the Aire
and Calder, and the Trent were all more or less canalised during the
period between 1623 and 1699.

In the next century, projects for river improvement and canal
navigation proceeded apace. In 1700, the rivers Avon and Frome were
regulated. In the following twenty years improvements were carried out
on the Dee, the Lark, the Derwent, the Frant, the Stour, the Nene, the
Kennett, the Wear, the Weaver, the Mersey and the Irwell. The Leeds and
Liverpool Canal was commenced in 1720, the Stroudwater Canal in 1730,
and the Bridgwater Canal in 1737.

From this date, until 1794, canal navigation was extended rapidly,
while Acts of Parliament were obtained for the improvement of the Ley,
the Avon, the Cart, the Blyth, the Hebble, the Stort, and the Clyde.
Between 1763 and 1800 upwards of eighty different canal projects were
put forward, and most of them were completed. The Trent and Mersey,
the Staffordshire and Worcestershire, the Droitwich, the Coventry, the
Birmingham, the Forth and Clyde, the Oxford, the Monkland, the Leeds
and Liverpool, the Chesterfield, the Bradford, the Ellesmere, the
Market Weighton, the Bude, Sir John Ramsden’s, the Gresley, the Dudley,
the Stourbridge, the Basingstoke, the Bedford, the Thames and Severn,
the Shropshire Union, the Andover, and the Cromford Canals were all
undertaken between 1767 and 1790. The following ten years, however,
may be regarded as the heyday of canal-making in England. In 1791 the
Hereford and Gloucester, the Leicester, the Manchester, Bolton and
Bury, the Leominster, the Melton Mowbray, the Neath, and the Worcester
and Birmingham Canals were commenced. Eighteen more canals were
undertaken in 1793, and twelve others in 1794.

The same year that witnessed the opening of the Stockton and Darlington
Railway, saw also the construction of the English and Bristol Channels
Canal, otherwise the Liskeard and Looe; but the number of canals
constructed since 1825 has been very limited. Eight different canals
were opened between 1826 and 1830, including the Macclesfield, the
Birmingham and Liverpool, the Avon and Gloucestershire, and the Nene
and Wisbech; but since 1830 the only canals for which Parliamentary
sanction was obtained, until the Act was passed for the Manchester Ship
Canal in 1886, were the Ellesmere and Chester Canal, and the Droitwich
Junction Canal.

Since 1830 the canals of Great Britain have been under a great ban.
The superior speed and the greater punctuality provided by railway
transport have caused them to be neglected, and, with only a few
exceptions, more or less disused. The railway system has been extended
so rapidly, and has secured the carrying trade of the country so
completely, that canals have until lately been regarded as practically
obsolete and useless. Many miles of canal navigation have passed into
the hands of the railway companies, while a considerable mileage has
become derelict.

Although the railways have secured possession of some 1700 miles of
canals in Great Britain, they do not appear to have profited much
thereby. The Great Western Railway Company owns no less than seven
canals, on which they have expended a million sterling. In 1887 one of
these canals earned 2700_l._ profit, while the other six lost 1300_l._,
besides the whole of the interest upon their capital cost.

The experience of the other railway companies has been more or less
similar to that of the Great Western. The railways have been nursed
and developed; the canals have been neglected and allowed to perish.
The railway companies have been accused of acquiring canal property in
order that they might destroy it, and thereby get rid of a dangerous
rival. This is probably not the case. The railway companies are fully
aware of the fact that water transport under suitable conditions is
more economical than railway transport. It would therefore have suited
them, at the same rates, to carry by water heavy traffic, in the
delivery of which time was not of much importance. But the canals,
as they came into their possession, were really not adapted for such
traffic without being more or less remodelled, and this the railway
companies have not attempted.

When we consider the enormous disadvantages under which the majority
of the canals of this country now labour, the great matter for wonder
is, not that they do not secure the lion’s share of the traffic, but
that they get any traffic at all. A railway is usually carried from
point to point by the most direct route possible, and the cases in
which there is any considerable diversion from the most direct route
are comparatively rare. But in laying out the canals the designers and
promoters appear to have endeavoured to take the longest instead of
the shortest route available. Thus, for example, the distance between
Liverpool and Wigan is thirty-four miles by canal while it is only
nineteen miles by railway. Again, the railway route from Liverpool to
Leeds is eighty miles, whereas by canal the distance is not less than
128 miles. If the canal rates were very much lower than the railway
rates, these differences would still be very much against them. But
there is not really much difference between them at present, the Leeds
and Liverpool Canal, which is a fairly representative one, charging a
halfpenny to twopence per ton per mile, according to the nature of the
traffic. Then again, the speed on British canals can seldom be carried
above 2½ miles per hour, not to speak of the delay in getting through
the locks, of which there are ninety-three between Leeds and Liverpool.

It would be the idlest of idle dreams to expect that the canal
system of this or any other country, as originally constructed, can
be resuscitated, or even temporarily galvanised into activity, in
competition with railways. Canals as they were built a century ago
have no longer any function to fulfil that is worthy of serious
consideration. Their mission is ended; their use is an anachronism.
They do not provide the means of cheaper transport, and they have no
other advantage to offer to the trader that would be a sufficient
equivalent for the tedium of their transport. The canals of the future
must be adapted to the new conditions of commerce. What we now require
is that our great centres of population and industry shall be made
seaports—that Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, and other places, shall
not suffer hurt because they are inland towns. The existing canals may
serve as a valuable nucleus for the new departure. Their importance
as a means to this end has already been practically recognised. The
Manchester Ship Canal Company has acquired the Bridgwater Navigation.
For the purposes of the projected Sheffield and Goole Ship Canal it
is proposed to acquire several of the old navigations, including the
Dearne and Dove Canal, the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, and other
waterways. Other improved canals have been suggested, and Mr. Samuel
Lloyd has advocated the construction of a great national canal which
would connect all the principal industrial centres of the kingdom
with each other and with the sea. There appears to be no insuperable
difficulty in the way of realising such a project. Capital alone
is wanted. Whether that essential will be forthcoming is, however,
very doubtful. Much is likely to depend on the extent to which the
Manchester Ship Canal is successful. It would be a mistake to go too
quickly. If ship canal transport is likely to be a means of salvation
to British trade and commerce, we shall not be much the worse if we
wait for it a little longer. It is not well to do anything that would
tend to destroy or discount the value of the vast railway property
of this country. The traders have long been trying to “agree with
their adversary,” in so far as they have differences with the railway
companies; and if the latter are duly reasonable, the future may still
be theirs.

It has been objected that a canal could not provide large
manufacturers, mine owners, or others who now enjoy the advantages of
sidings, giving direct connection with the railway system upon which
their works or mines are situated, with the same facilities as they are
now possessed of. This, however, is a mistake. The fact is that a wharf
may be provided almost as easily and as cheaply as a railway siding.
On some canals, as for example on the Birmingham system, the different
works along the route of the canal have been supplied in almost every
case with wharves, until they are now counted by hundreds.

Broadly stated, the problem that now presses for solution amounts to
this—In what way can we best take advantage of the well-ascertained
fact that under ordinary conditions a ton of goods can be transported
about 2000 miles by water for the same cost that it can be sent 100
miles on land? It is no unusual thing to find that a ton of goods can
be transported 40 miles by steamer for one penny, making allowance for
every charge.[1] It is not, of course, pretended that goods can be
carried by inland navigation for anything like this rate. But it has
been well established that even on canals, with all the disadvantages
of slow speed, limited depth, small boats, frequent locks, and other
drawbacks, the transport of heavy traffic can be effected for less
than one-sixth of a penny per ton per mile, which is not one-half
of the lowest rates at which the railways of Great Britain carry
mineral traffic at the present time. It is necessary to add that canal
companies do not, in Great Britain at least, carry for anything like
the low rate stated, except perhaps on the Weaver Navigation, which is
quite exceptional.

An important question that naturally occurs to any one who has studied
the history of canal navigation in foreign countries is that of how far
it is the duty of the State to take such waterways under its control.
This is really a political problem, which scarcely belongs to that part
of the subject which we have undertaken to consider. It may, however,
be observed that in the United States, in France, and in one or two
other countries, canals have been acquired by the State, and made
as free of tolls as the rivers. This, of course, affords to canal
transport in those countries a striking advantage over the system in
Great Britain. It has been calculated by a high authority[2] that
an expenditure of 12,000_l._ per mile would be required to put the
inland navigations of England into good order, and to adapt them
generally for larger traffic, with steam-tugs and barges or boats of
sufficient size. This would mean for the 3000 miles of canal already
constructed an expenditure of 24,000,000_l._ It is calculated that
about 20,000,000_l._ have already been expended upon our waterways,[3]
so that the total outlay, after the expenditure suggested by Sir John
Hawkshaw, would be about 44,000,000_l._ If the State were to borrow
this sum, it could procure it, no doubt, at 3 per cent., which would
mean that the total annual burden entailed upon the country by the
freeing of the canals would be 920,000_l._, or only a 1/125 part of
our total national expenditure. This is certainly a small price to pay
for so desirable an object. But upon the proposal as just stated there
are two important remarks to be made—the first, that the suggested
expenditure of 12,000_l._ per mile would only give us canals adapted
for the navigation of large barges or vessels of not more than 150
to 200 tons, whereas what is chiefly required is internal water
communication that would enable an ordinary merchant steamer to sail
right up to Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford, and other large towns; the
second, that no such maritime ship canal has hitherto been constructed
for less than 120,000_l._ per mile, including all contingencies.[4]
The raising of this sum is a very different item from the raising of
12,000_l._ per mile. The most serious objection, however, would be the
outcry on the part of the railway interest that the Government was
entering into competition with private enterprise. This, of course,
would be no new thing. The New York State canals compete with the
railways, which are private property, and so do the canals of France.
The duty of the State stops at providing the waterway. It does not,
of course, undertake transportation. That business is left, like the
same business on the railways, to private enterprise. The canals
might, therefore, if acquired by the State, be regarded as so many
additional miles of navigable rivers possessed by the country, or so
many more miles of seaboard provided for the benefit of towns that have
hitherto been shut out from direct maritime advantages. Canals are,
indeed, entitled to be regarded in the same light as a common turnpike
road. The State would hardly be likely to permit private ownership in
turnpikes. The community at large are taxed for their maintenance,
and there has never been any serious contention that it should be
otherwise. The time has come when it behoves us to consider whether
canals should not be similarly controlled and administered, since they
are, without doubt, as necessary for the transport of goods as turnpike
roads are for the passage of vehicles and pedestrians.

As to the reasons that have led the author to undertake the publication
of the present volume, a remark or two may be permitted. In 1875 he
undertook the preparation of a work[5] on the growth of the railway
system up to that time for the Directors of the North-Eastern Railway,
on the occasion of their celebration at Darlington of the Jubilee
of the Stockton and Darlington line—the first passenger railway
constructed in this country on which locomotives were employed. In
inquiring into the history of that railway, he was struck with the
importance that was attached half a century before to the possession
of canal navigation, and with the great facilities that it afforded
to the districts through which it was carried. Since then he has from
time to time had occasion to look into the same subject, and especially
so in 1882, when he was required to give evidence before the Select
Committee on Railway Rates and Fares,[6] as to the differences that
exist on English and Continental railways in the charges made for the
transport of heavy traffic. He found also that, notwithstanding the
lower rates of transport on Continental railways, very great importance
was attached to the maintenance, in a high state of efficiency, of the
waterways of all other countries in Europe except our own, and that in
most other countries the State specially charged itself with the duty
of seeing that this was effectually done. It was but a short step from
the acquisition of this knowledge to the natural endeavour to ascertain
why English canals were not deemed equally important to the trade and
commerce of the greatest of commercial nations. The results of that
inquiry are set forth in the following pages; but the author has not
been content to examine the economic side of the case alone. Finding
not only that the canals of the world had a most interesting history,
which has never hitherto been set forth in the form of a continuous
narrative, but that one of the most remarkable movements of the
present time was a demand for artificial waterways, in order to reduce
both the time and the distance now required for the intercourse of
different important centres of our planet, and give inland towns a more
direct connection with the sea, he has devoted much research to the
investigation of the origin and growth of these enterprises, and has
set down the results in as interesting and useful a form as he could.

A good deal of attention has been given in this work to the subject
of isthmian canals. It has been suggested that a “ship and barge”
railway would be an improvement upon both railways and canals in
the joint advantages of economy and speed of transport This is an
“American notion,” which has not yet, so far as we are aware, been put
in practice, although it was put forward by the late Captain Eads,
in the form of a project for a ship railway across the isthmus of
Techuantepec, as the true solution of isthmian transit. It has been
claimed that such a railway “can be operated and maintained at less
cost than the canal, employ a rate of speed five times as great as is
possible in the canal, can be operated for the whole twelve months of
the year instead of six—or during the lake navigation, like the ship
canal—will require no breaking bulk, and through freight can be hauled
over it at 2½ cents per bushel of wheat,” i.e. for a distance of about
340 miles.[7] On the other hand, however, no one appears to have
seriously prosecuted this enterprise since the decease of its gifted
author, while two ship canals have been promoted across the American

In the appendix will be found a large mass of information as to
the extent of the British canal system, and the dates at which the
principal canal and river navigations were executed. Some data as to
the extent and character of the principal river systems have also been
introduced in tabular form. It is not pretended that this latter
information is by any means complete. The merest epitome of the rivers
and river systems of all the countries of the world would itself fill a
volume; but it is hoped that the most essential data have been supplied
with sufficient fullness and accuracy.

In the best interests of British commerce and industry, we cannot do
better than attempt to follow the excellent counsel given by Ald.
Bailey, of Manchester, when he urged[8] that we should “make England
to the world what London is to England: make every part of the verge,
fringe, shore, creek, bay, river, and inlet of our map as equal as
possible in relation to distance from the shores of foreign countries;
increase the value of the silver streak, double the coast line,
resuscitate the ancient ports, extend some more inland, make Britain
narrower, shorten the distance from coast to coast, from sea to sea,
and increase the setting of Shakespeare’s

   ‘Fortress built by nature for herself,
    This little world—
    This precious stone set in a silver sea.’”


[1] Mr. Bailey, in his interesting address to the Manchester
Association of Foremen Engineers, in 1886, stated that he had
found this to be the cost of transport with a vessel of 2360 tons,
including interest, depreciation, and insurance.

[2] Sir John Hawkshaw, in his evidence before the Select Committee on
Canals, 1883.

[3] The total expenditure has been variously stated. Smiles, in his
‘Lives of the Engineers,’ puts it at one figure, while it was stated
before the Select Committee on Canals at another.

[4] The actual cost of construction of the Suez Canal was about this
amount, but the additional expenses incurred, and in the majority
of cases necessary to such an enterprise, brought the cost up to
200,000_l._, which was also the average cost of the Amsterdam
Ship Canal. The Manchester Ship Canal is estimated to cost some
250,000_l._ a mile.

[5] ‘Jubilee Memorial of the Railway System,’ Longmans.

[6] Report of Select Committee.

[7] ‘Transactions of the American Institute of Civil Engineers,’ vol.
xiv. p. 48.

[8] Address to the Manchester Association of Engineers.



    INTRODUCTION AND OUTLINE                     iii

                               SECTION I.

                               CHAPTER I.
    THE TRANSPORTATION PROBLEM                     1

                              CHAPTER II.
    ENGLISH RIVERS                                23

                              CHAPTER III.
    THE ENGLISH CANAL SYSTEM                      40

                              CHAPTER IV.
    THE WATERWAYS OF SCOTLAND                     63

                               CHAPTER V.
    THE WATERWAYS OF IRELAND                      74

                              CHAPTER VI.

                              CHAPTER VII.
    THE WATERWAYS OF FRANCE                       93

                             CHAPTER VIII.
    THE WATERWAYS OF GERMANY                     116

                              CHAPTER IX.
    THE WATERWAYS OF BELGIUM                     134

                               CHAPTER X.
    THE WATERWAYS OF HOLLAND                     145

                              CHAPTER XI.
    THE WATERWAYS OF ITALY                       153

                              CHAPTER XII.
    THE WATERWAYS OF SWEDEN                      164

                             CHAPTER XIII.
    THE WATERWAYS OF RUSSIA                      172

                              CHAPTER XIV.

                              CHAPTER XV.

                              CHAPTER XVI.
    THE WATERWAYS OF CANADA                      216

                             CHAPTER XVII.

                             CHAPTER XVIII.
    CHINESE WATERWAYS                            232

                              CHAPTER XIX.
    THE WATERWAYS OF BRITISH INDIA               237

                              SECTION II.
                              SHIP CANALS.

                              CHAPTER XX.
    THE SUEZ CANAL                               245

                              CHAPTER XXI.
    THE PANAMA CANAL                             274

                             CHAPTER XXII.
    THE NICARAGUAN CANAL                         314

                             CHAPTER XXIII.
    THE MANCHESTER SHIP CANAL                    329

                             CHAPTER XXIV.
    THE ISTHMUS OF CORINTH CANAL                 346

                              CHAPTER XXV.
    THE RIVER THAMES                             353

                              SECTION III.
                         TRANSPORT AND WORKING.

                             CHAPTER XXVI.
    RAILWAYS AND CANALS                          364

                             CHAPTER XXVII.

                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

                             CHAPTER XXIX.

                              CHAPTER XXX.

                             CHAPTER XXXI.
    SPEED OF TRANSPORT                           435

                             CHAPTER XXXII.

                            CHAPTER XXXIII.

                             CHAPTER XXXIV.
    CANAL BOATS                                  460

                             CHAPTER XXXV.


        NAVIGATION IN ENGLAND UP TO 1852                475

        COMPANIES                                       478

        IN ENGLAND AND WALES                            485


        AMERICA                                         490

    INDEX                                                    495






       “Of all inventions, the alphabet and the printing
      press alone excepted, those inventions which abridge
      distance have done most for civilisation.”

The history of transportation is largely, and of necessity, the
history of material progress. It is hardly possible to conceive of
the prosperity of a people to whom the most precious possessions that
the arts and sciences have bestowed upon mankind for the purposes
of commerce were unknown. Such a people could, no doubt, exist, and
perhaps maintain a considerable amount of rude health. But, like
the aborigines of an unsettled and uncultivated territory, they
would find themselves shut out from participation in the advantages
which civilisation confers upon mankind. They would be exclusive,
uncultivated, ignorant, incapable of great effort, limited in their
capacity for enjoyment, subject to the constant danger of famine, and
without the command of those amenities which have created such a gulf
between the “rude forefathers of the hamlet” and the happy possessors
of all that civilisation can bestow.

Only a very perfunctory acquaintance with the physical configuration of
our planet is required, in order to show that the natural arrangement
of land and water is not the most convenient that could be devised for
the purposes of commerce and travel. The oceans and seas do not afford
in all cases the most direct and desirable routes between one part of
the world and another. Rivers of otherwise gigantic dimensions are now
and again found to be possessed of rocky and shallow beds that are
unsuited to navigation except by the tiniest craft. Promontories are
projected into “the waste of waters,” compelling the navigator to sail
for hundreds or thousands of miles further than “the crow flies” in
order to reach his destination. Every here and there an isthmus is
found to divide waters that appear as if they were intended by Nature
to be joined together.

The same remarkable absence of facilities for promoting the
requirements of commerce is apparent on land as on water. The surface
of the earth, and the divisions of land and water, appear to have
been left by Nature in such a condition as to tax the highest powers
and capacities of man. The knowledge of roads, of bridges, of canals,
has been laboriously acquired and slowly applied. The aboriginal
inhabitants of a country usually care for none of these things.
Beasts of burden are seldom used in the most primitive conditions of
existence, and, without these, roads are not so much of a necessity.
Man, however, found out, in course of time, that it suited his
interests and his convenience to establish a system of interchange
of commodities. The simple and self-contained habits of the trapper
and the hunter gave place to a more composite order of being. Then it
was that the primeval forest, the jungle, the morass, and the prairie
became rectangulated with roadways over which traffic could be rudely
transported on the backs of mules, horses, or other beasts of burden.
As exchange and barter extended, the pack-horse was found inefficient.
He could only perform a very limited day’s work, whether measured by
quantity or by distance. For transport over great distances he was
virtually useless. In the absence of any other system of transport,
districts near the sea, or placed on navigable rivers with easy access
to the ocean, became developed at the expense of other districts that
had equal, and perhaps greater, facilities otherwise except those of
transport. A notable case in point is that of the coal trade. For
many years the export coal trade of this country was limited to an
area within 12 miles of convenient ports, because coal could not be
transported beyond that distance except at a virtually prohibitory cost.

A hundred and thirty years ago, England was in a very different
position to that which she occupies to-day. So, also, was the rest
of the world. The woollen trade was the greatest of our national
industries. The cotton industry was just beginning to take a firm root
The quantity of coal produced in Great Britain was estimated at five
or six millions of tons per annum. The quantity of iron produced was
believed to be about 100,000 tons. The only coalfield that had been
developed to any extent was that of Durham and Northumberland. The
working of coal far from the seaboard was impossible on a large scale,
because there were no means of transportation that would allow of
anything being carried more than a few miles, unless it were of the
highest value. The cotton, woollen, silk, and other textiles were made
by hand-looms, and for the most part in the private dwellings of the
workers. The modern factory system had not come into being.

The condition of the roads, even so late as the middle of the
eighteenth century, was in a very large number of cases a matter for
just and serious complaint. Lord Hervey wrote from Kensington in 1736
that the road between that village (at that time) and London had become
so bad that “we live here in the same solitude as we would do if cast
on a rock in the middle of the ocean, and all the Londoners tell us
that there is between them and us an impassable gulf of mud.” In London
itself the pedestrians who made use of the public thoroughfares had to
walk on the ordinary round paving-stones which are still employed in
some towns for the centre of the road, pavements being unknown. The
streets were lit with oil-lamps sufficiently to make darkness visible,
gas not having been introduced. The common highway was also the common
sewer. The ruts in the thoroughfares, even in the streets of London,
made it dangerous to employ vehicles, which, indeed, except in the form
of sedan-chairs, had not yet come to be largely employed.

But these dangers and troubles, manifest and inconvenient though they
were, by no means exhausted the list. In the absence of a proper
system of police, and with streets enveloped in darkness, there was
serious danger incurred in stirring abroad after nightfall. The public
thoroughfares were infested by bands of footpads and robbers. The main
streets of London were the worst off, and so serious was the danger
of going out at night that it was the rarest thing to find any one
stirring after dark. So far was this system carried that robberies
took place in broad daylight. Even such public places as Piccadilly
and Oxford Street were not exempted from the common danger. Horace
Walpole relates that he was robbed in this way, with Lord Eglinton,
Lady Albemarle, and others. Those who had to travel to the adjacent
villages of Paddington and Kensington were afraid to proceed alone. It
was therefore customary to wait until a sufficiently numerous band had
been collected to enable the pedestrians to resist any possible attack
of footpads. The Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens, then the chief places
of amusement in the vicinage of the metropolis, had to employ patrols
to keep the way clear to London.

As in the metropolis, so in the provinces. The roads, both in the towns
and outside them, were in many cases as bad as bad could be. Their not
unusual condition was that of “a narrow hollow way, little wider than
a ditch, barely allowing of the passage of a vehicle drawn by horses
in a single line.” This deep, narrow road was flanked by an elevated
causeway, covered with flags or boulder stones, along which the traffic
of the locality was carried on the backs of single horses, so that “it
is difficult to imagine the delay, the toil, and the perils by which
the conduct of the traffic was attended.” Under these circumstances,
“there were towns, even in the same county, more widely separated for
all practical purposes than London and Glasgow in the present day.”[9]
Business was done slowly, and involved so great an expenditure of
time and trouble that prices were necessarily high. News travelled
more slowly still, and it was sometimes months before the people who
lived at the extremities of the island knew what had happened in the

The reader who desires to obtain a graphic and eloquent account of
the circumstances of England previous to the canal era could not do
better than consult Macaulay, who, in the famous third chapter of
his ‘History,’ has devoted a considerable amount of space to the
consideration of the social and economic changes that had come over
the country since 1685. The description given of the condition of
the people in that year might almost be literally applied to their
condition in the middle of the eighteenth century. The population had
increased, it is true, and commerce had been developed in the interval.
But the facilities for rapid and economical transportation had not been
materially altered for the better. The great mass of the people were as
ignorant, as superstitious, as shiftless as in the seventeenth century.
Their sanitary surroundings were as unwholesome, their industrial
pursuits as improvident, their habits as deplorable, their hardships
as irksome, their discomforts and inconveniences as tiresome. From
this remarkable record of the days of our forefathers we quote the
following passages as being specially germane to the subject under

“It was by the highways that both travellers and goods generally
passed from place to place; and those highways appear to have been
far worse than might have been expected from the degree of wealth and
civilisation which the nation had even then attained. On the best lines
of communication the ruts were deep, the descents precipitous, and
the way often such as it was hardly possible to distinguish, in the
dusk, from the unenclosed heath and fen which lay on both sides. Ralph
Thoresby, the antiquary, was in danger of losing his way on the great
North Road between Barnsley Moor and Tuxford, and actually lost his way
between Doncaster and York. Pepys and his wife, travelling in their own
coach, lost their way between Newbury and Reading. In the course of the
same tour they lost their way near Salisbury, and were in danger of
having to pass the night on the Plain. It was only in fine weather that
the whole breadth of the road was available for wheeled vehicles. Often
the mud lay deep on the right and the left, and only a narrow track
of firm ground rose above the quagmire. At such times obstructions
and quarrels were frequent, and the path was sometimes blocked up
during a long time by carriers, neither of whom would break the way.
It happened, almost every day, that coaches stuck fast, until a team
of cattle could be procured from some neighbouring farm to tug them
out of the slough. But in bad seasons the traveller had to encounter
inconveniences still more serious. Thoresby, who was in the habit of
travelling between Leeds and the capital, has recorded in his Diary
such a series of perils and disasters as might suffice for a journey to
the Frozen Ocean or to the Desert of Sahara.[10]

“The markets were often inaccessible during several months. It is said
that the fruits of the earth were allowed to rot in one place, while
in another place, distant only a few miles, the supply fell far short
of the demand. The wheeled carriages were in this district generally
pulled by oxen. When Prince George of Denmark visited the stately
mansion of Petworth, in wet weather, he was six hours in going nine
miles, and it was necessary that a body of sturdy hinds should be on
each side of his coach in order to prop it. Of the carriages which
contained his retinue several were upset and injured. A letter from
one of the party has been preserved, in which the unfortunate courtier
complains that, during fourteen hours, he never once alighted, except
when his coach was overturned and stuck fast in the mud.”

A story is told of an old stage-coach driver who, finding that his
occupation had been seriously interfered with by the modern innovation
of railways, thought he would strike a blow for the old system by
attacking the railway in a vulnerable part. “Consider,” he argued,
“what happens in case of a collision. If two stage coaches come into
collision, and there is an upset, why, there you are. But in a railway
collision, where are you?” In those days stage coaches did not enjoy
the immunity from disaster that they do in these, when macadamised
roads enable them to roll along almost as if they were on a billiard
table.[11] When the canal system was being fairly started in England,
only one stage coach ran between London and Edinburgh, starting once a
month from each city, and taking ten days for the journey in summer,
and twelve days in winter. It took fourteen days to travel between
London and Glasgow. In 1760 it took three days to travel from Sheffield
to London, and in 1774 Burke travelled from London to Bath with what
was described as “incredible speed” in twenty-four hours.

Much of the discomfort, the high range of prices, the general existence
of poverty, the limited extent of commercial operations, in the early
part of the eighteenth century was no doubt due to the imperfect
development of the modern processes of manufacture and distribution—to
the production of textiles by the old hand-loom, of iron by the
old-fashioned type of blast-furnace, of steel by the costly cementation
process, of clothing without the aid of the sewing-machine, and of
agricultural crops without any of the mechanical aids to husbandry that
are now so general and so conducive to economical working. But the
high cost of transport had also much to answer for. Before the period
of Macadam, it cost 2_s._ 6_d._ per mile to transport coal by the old
pack-horse on an ordinary road. At this rate, it would have cost from
10_l._ to 15_l._ to transport a ton of coals from the Midland coalfield
to London, a service which is now performed for 6_s._ to 7_s._ per ton.
With only the old pack-horse facilities it would have cost an almost
incredible sum to have performed the same service which the railways
now render to the people of the United Kingdom in the transport of
minerals and merchandise.

While the knowledge of the arts, and especially of the arts that relate
to transportation, were in so backward a state, it was inevitable
that the prices of commodities should be high, and their interchange
limited. Having to pay so much for the articles that they did not grow
or produce themselves, the people of England, in the middle of the
eighteenth century, were extremely poor, as a rule, and had very little
chance to increase their wealth. The wages of the working classes
were very low. A shilling a day was deemed to be excellent earnings.
In Scotland the wages of a day labourer were only 5_d._ per day in
summer and 6_d._ in winter. The price of bread was ordinarily much
higher than it is at the present time.[12] The prices of clothing and
of the usual requisites for domestic comfort and convenience were very
much more than at the present day. The rates of wages were hardly
enough to enable the great mass of the people to keep body and soul
together. Butchers’ meat was all but unknown, even among those who were
tolerably well off.[13] Plain homespun was almost the only description
of clothing that was worn. Shops were hardly known in the smaller
towns or villages, and the country people were mainly supplied with
such requirements as they were able to indulge in, outside of their
own productions, by hawkers, who carried packs everywhere, as they
sometimes do in remote country places in our own day. In localities
where coal was not produced, it was not to be purchased for love or
money, unless at seaport towns, and the fuel ordinarily used was either
turf or wood.

From this condition of things England was largely rescued in the latter
part of the eighteenth century by the introduction and development
of internal waterways. This movement gave a remarkable stimulus to
commercial and industrial progress. It enabled raw materials to be
transported at about one-tenth of what they had formerly cost, and
facilitated the interchange of commodities between the different parts
of the kingdom to an extent previously undreamt of.

It is remarkable what a large crop of important discoveries and
inventions were made about the time that canals began to be generally
used as waterways. Robinson’s project for working steam locomotives
on common roads was put forward the year after Brindley commenced
the Bridgwater Canal. In the same year the manufacture of thread and
gauze was commenced at Paisley, and Jedediah Strutt made his first
improvement on the stocking loom. Two years later Arkwright obtained
his first patent for the spinning-frame, and Watt made his first
experiments on the power of steam with Papin’s digester. It was in 1762
that the production of Wedgwood ware was first begun, and the same year
witnessed a notable development of the linen manufacture of Ireland,
while in 1763 Hargreaves the weaver produced his spinning-jenny in his
house adjoining the print works of the first Sir Robert Peel. These are
but a few of the concurrent and collateral movements of the period. Of
the measure in which they were aided by internal transport we shall
have more to say by and by.

An examination of the geography of European countries will disclose
the fact that the United Kingdom is almost unique in regard to its
possession of a magnificent coast-line, studded with harbours and
docks, and approached by a large number of navigable rivers, which
afford easy communication with the sea. If we compare our facilities
with those of Germany, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Italy, or indeed
any other European country, we cannot fail to be struck with their
enormous superiority. Scarcely any part of the United Kingdom is more
than a hundred miles distant from a good harbour. In many European
countries there are important towns that are very much further, while
some countries, like Switzerland, have no seaboard at all, and others,
like Austria, besides having very few ports worthy of the name, are
landlocked on more sides than one.

Again, let us look at the recent history of European politics. Do we
not find that a more extensive seaboard is the ruling passion of such
nations as Germany and Russia, whose outlets are few and inconvenient?
The half-suspected designs of Germany upon Holland, and of Russia
upon Turkish and Chinese territory, have been mainly ascribed to
this ambition. To obtain such an outlet for the Asiatic part of her
dominions, Russia is at the present moment laying down a railway across
Siberia, which will give her a closer connection with China than the
Chinese seem to care for, and is likely, in the opinion of some shrewd
politicians, to eventuate in her obtaining possession of a large slice
of the Celestial Empire. The neutralisation of certain prominent
waterways is, moreover, regarded as a matter of so much importance,
that costly and protracted wars have been undertaken with a view to
that end, nor would it be difficult to trace a connection between the
passion for more ports and the costly armaments which have now for many
years threatened the peace and impoverished the resources of Europe.

Nevertheless, with a command of the sea that makes us at once the
envy and the despair of rival nations, and has placed our shipping
supremacy on such a pinnacle of power and prosperity as the world has
never before been acquainted with,[14] we still require to pay more
for reaching our ports, relatively to the distance traversed, than
any other nation in Europe, and very much more than either the United
States of North America, or our own possessions of India and Canada.
It is not too much to say that if we possessed the same transportation
rates as some of these countries, our trade with the rest of the world
would be much greater than it is; while if we had the same distances to
traverse as in these countries, at the existing railway rates of our
own, competition in neutral markets with the low-rate countries of the
Continent would be impossible.

In making these statements we impute no blame and make no reflections.
We are only concerned to state the simple truth. It may be that the
railway companies in this country cannot afford to carry goods at
cheaper rates. That is their look-out. They have undoubtedly incurred
vast expense in providing the most ample and the most admirable
facilities of transport, short of the all-important item of its cost.
In no other country do we find such a splendid service. No other
country has better roads nor more capable administration, nor quicker
and more reliable dispatch, nor greater conveniences for traffic of
all kinds. Unfortunately, also, in no other country have the railways
been so costly; so that for the same volume of traffic English railways
require to have higher rates, in order that the charges on capital may
be met.[15] But why should trade suffer, and freighters find themselves
_in extremis_, because British railways have made cheap rates all but
impossible? There is sure to arrive, sooner or later, a point—which in
England is seldom far distant—when railway rates become prohibitive.
That point has almost been reached when traffic can be delivered in
England from the heart of Belgium at 5_s._ per ton, as compared with
10_s._ and 12_s._ per ton for railway transport between the Midlands
and the metropolis. The real question now is—Can nothing be done
to remedy this state of things, not in a spirit of hostility to the
railways, which may have done their best, but with a view to the
preservation and increased development of British trade and industry?
The nation is either hopelessly at the mercy of railway boards, or it
is not. Our trade and manufactures are either compelled to pay every
year an undue proportion of their hard earned receipts to railway
shareholders, or they are not. If they are not—if there is a way of
escape from this bondage—it is well that the nation should know what
it is, and how best to take advantage of it. This is mainly the purpose
of some of the chapters which follow.

Up to the period of the first Canal Acts, English waterways were
under the control of the State, or of authorities appointed by the
State for the conservancy of navigation; and that such an arrangement
was, on the whole, not without its advantages, is proved by the
fact already referred to, viz.: that in the middle of the eighteenth
century the advantages with regard to water carriage enjoyed by
England enabled her to outstrip other countries in the development
of her manufactures. With the construction of the first canal began
the era of private enterprise in respect of inland navigation, which
owes its existence, as it is hardly necessary to remark here, to the
genius of Brindley, and to the unflagging determination of the Duke of
Bridgwater—whose efforts in the cause of progress were, like those
of Stephenson, and the pioneers of railway enterprise after them, at
first strenuously opposed by the public, and almost entirely neglected
by the State.

The turning point of public opinion, as regards both canals and
railways, was the discovery that money might be made out of them.
Brindley’s grand project of uniting the four great ports of Liverpool,
Hull, Bristol, and London by a system of main waterways from which
subsidiary branches might be carried to the contiguous towns, had been,
to a large extent, successfully accomplished at the end of the first
quarter of the present century, and when canals began to pay dividends,
the nation began to admit their public utility. In a very few years
after Brindley’s death in 1772, an immense number of navigation Acts
received the sanction of Parliament, canals began to be freely quoted
“on ’Change,” and, in 1790, “the canal mania” began.[16] The _Gazette_
of August, 1792, contained notices of eighteen new canals, and the
premiums of single shares in companies had reached such figures as
155_l._ (Leicester), 350_l._ (Grand Trunk and Coventry), and 1170_l._
(Birmingham). Canals began to be used for passenger traffic; and we
read in the _Times_ of 19th December, 1806, of troops being despatched
from London to Liverpool by the Paddington Canal, _en route_ for
Ireland, a mode of transport which the writer pointed out would enable
them to reach Liverpool “in only seven days!” In the four years ending
1794, some 81 canal and navigation Acts were obtained, of which 45
were passed in the latter two years, authorising an expenditure of
over 5,000,000_l._ No less than 1,200,000_l._ was spent upon the
construction of the 130 miles of waterway connecting Liverpool, by way
of Skipton, with the Aire and Calder at Leeds (a work begun in 1770,
but not completed till 41 years afterwards); and when the last canals
in England were completed, in 1830, the total amount that had been
expended upon our waterways was about 14,000,000_l._ Out of some 210
rivers in England and Wales, 44 in England have hitherto been made
navigable.[17] The Thames, the Severn, and the Mersey are connected
by 648 miles of river and canal, the Thames and Humber by 537 miles,
the Severn and Mersey by 832 miles, and the Mersey and Humber by 680
miles; the Fen waters have an extent of 431 miles, and the remaining
canals of England and Wales amount to 1204 miles.[18] This fine system
of waterways, with a total length of 4332 miles, furnishes no less than
21 through routes for traffic between London and the manufacturing
districts, but, as it is scarcely necessary to observe, a very large
portion of it has ceased to be of any practical value, while the
utility of that which is still available to the public is constantly
diminishing, through the neglect due to the impoverished condition of
many of the canal companies and other causes.

In the eyes of engineers, the defects of natural geography were made to
be corrected by their skill, experience, and ingenuity. Peninsulas and
isthmuses, whether large or small, appear to be designed only for the
purpose of being pierced with artificial waterways. Hydraulic engineers
are the high priests of science, whose mission it is to publish the
banns of marriage between seas and oceans, and complete the nuptials
in a way that no man may put asunder. By their sacerdotal functions,
the Mediterranean has been married to the Red Sea, the Caspian to
the Black Sea, the North Sea to the Atlantic, the Adriatic to the
Archipelago, and the Atlantic almost to the Pacific, while we have
seen many unions of less distinguished members of the great maritime
family. The importance of these alliances to the trade, the wealth, the
intercourse, the facility of intercommunication, and the general
convenience of the world, not to speak of strategical and political
considerations, affecting individual nations, can hardly be
over-estimated. But much still remains to be done. The high contracting
parties are in some cases coy and bashful, requiring more effective
wooing before they can be won. The prospective matchmakers must not
forget that

   “It’s not so much the lover who woos
    As the gallant’s way of wooing.”

There is a personal history belonging to the development of canal
navigation of a much more engrossing interest than can usually be
claimed for so unromantic a type of institutions. The annals of that
history extend over many centuries. They reach back even to the times
of ancient Egypt, the cradle of the sciences, and were contemporaneous
with the building of the Pyramids. Menes, who lived 2320 years before
the Christian era, constructed water-courses, which were simply canals,
for carrying off the superfluous waters that reduced the greater
part of Egypt in his time to the condition of an extensive marsh.[19]
Sesostris, 1659 B.C., undertook the cutting and embanking of
canals on a more extensive scale, carrying them at right angles with
the Nile, as far as from Memphis to the sea, for the quick conveyance
of corn and merchandise.[20] Ptolemy II. (Philadelphus) completed a
canal, which had been commenced and continued by several previous
sovereigns, and which is said[21] to have afforded a connection with
the sea;[22] while even at this early date, gates or sluices were
constructed, which opened to afford a passage through the Egyptian
canal to the sea.[23]

In Roman times, again, Julius Cæsar, Caligula, and Nero were
canal-makers, having each in his day attempted to unite the Ionian Sea
with the Archipelago, through the isthmus of Corinth—an undertaking
which is only in our own day being consummated. The emperor Trajan was
also greatly interested in canals, as his correspondence with Pliny
proves, while all the principal Roman consuls and generals appear to
have possessed some knowledge of hydraulics, and applied that knowledge
to useful purpose.

Charlemagne attempted to unite the Rhine with the Danube, and to
establish water communication between the German Ocean and the Black
Sea. Leonardo da Vinci was equally great as a canal-maker and a painter,
having constructed some of the earliest canals in Italy. The Doges
of Venice, “the City in the Sea,” naturally paid much attention to
the same subject, which was, indeed, essential to their convenience,
security, and prosperity.

It is to the credit of many of the sovereigns of France that they have
sought to promote the security and welfare of their country by similar
means. Henry II. employed Adam de Crapone, about 1555, to cut the Canal
of Charolais; and Henry IV. continued the work. Louis XIV. engaged an
Italian to construct one of the greatest of the French canals—that
of Languedoc, which is elsewhere referred to. In more recent times
Napoleon Buonaparte and Napoleon III. have interested themselves
actively on behalf of canal navigation; and it appears to have been by
a mere chance that the latter did not become a canal administrator in
Central America, where he took a keen interest in the proposed ship
canal across the isthmus of Nicaragua.

If we cast our eyes over the rest of the European Continent we shall
find that wherever artificial waterways have been provided, Royal or
Imperial encouragement has assisted in the operation. Peter the Great
and Catherine attached the utmost importance to the development of
Russia by this means. In Sweden, Gustavus Vasa and his successors were
equally solicitous, in a country full of natural waterways, that these
should be utilised and connected by artificial means.

A system that has been instrumental in giving to Europe such towns as
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Venice, which has facilitated the progress of
commerce in a hundred different directions, which was practically the
only means of transport for nearly a century in all the chief countries
of the world, and which still makes provision for the interchange of
commodities at a cheaper rate than any other; which has involved the
expenditure of hundreds of millions, and has found employment for vast
numbers of well-remunerated _employés_; which abridges distance and
time, and brings into closer contact different districts and countries,
seas and oceans; which has engaged the attention of the greatest
potentates and princes of recorded history, and has in all times been
deemed a fit subject for the exercise of kingcraft; which, in our more
prosaic age, brings us cheap food, cheap coal, and cheap commodities
generally—such a system is one that can hardly be lightly esteemed,
even now, notwithstanding that its waning light has been eclipsed
by the brilliance of that other system which has been so marked a
development of our nineteenth century civilisation.

Canal engineering, besides, has a very remarkable record, and has
achieved many notable triumphs. These have hardly received the
attention to which their importance entitles them. It is true that no
canal has been carried, like the Callao, Lima, and Oroya railroad, in
Peru, to the height of nearly sixteen thousand feet above the level of
the sea.[24] It has, however, on the Languedoc and other canals been
found easily feasible to carry a canal to a height of 600 to 1000 ft.
above the sea. Canal engineers have not, perhaps, pierced the Alps with
a tunnel ten miles in length, as on the Saint-Gothard Railway; but they
have carried a tide-water canal from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea,
and they have essayed to perform the same feat through the Cordillera.
Hydraulic engineering has, next to railway engineering, been the most
remarkable manifestation of the applied science of modern times, and in
canal construction it has attained some of its most successful results.

Sufficient credit, moreover, has hardly been given to the canal system
for the important part which it has taken in opening up the resources
of different countries, and thereby bringing about the remarkable
development of commerce and industry which has been so marked a feature
of our own times. The Act for the construction of the Bridgwater Canal
was obtained in 1759, previous to which time the internal commerce of
the country, as we have seen, was carried on by pack-horses or waggons,
on common turnpike-roads. Mr. Wood has calculated[25] that the average
cost of conveying heavy goods on macadamised turnpike-roads by this
system was 8_d._ per mile, while light goods cost 1_s._ per ton per
mile. As that calculation applies to a time when wages, fodder, and
other items involved in the expense of such transport, were lower than
now, it is a fair assumption that it will be at least as much to-day,
and for facility of reckoning we may take the average at the convenient
and fairly likely figure of 10_d._ per ton per mile over all. Now, the
total quantity of merchandise carried on the railways of the United
Kingdom in 1887 was about 269 millions of tons. No evidence exists as
to the total mileage over which this vast tonnage was carried, or, as it
is expressed in railway phraseology, of the ton-mile traffic. But if we
assume that the average charge for traffic carried by railway in 1887
was 1_d._ per ton per mile, the total movement would be represented by
the enormous figure of 8962 millions of ton-miles. To have carried the
same traffic under the system of transport that preceded the canals
would have been impossible, but it would have cost the country, if
it had been practicable, no less a sum than 373½ millions sterling,
which is about one-third of the estimated amount of our national
income from all sources. But this, after all, is not the most curious
part of the calculation. In order to understand how impossible our
present transport system would have been under the old _régime_, we
must assume that a horse is capable, under ordinary circumstances, of
carrying one ton about ten miles a day. Working for 300 days a year,
therefore, he would be able to carry a total weight of about 3000 tons
one mile in the course of twelve months. To undertake the same work as
that performed by our railways would therefore require close on three
million horses, or, practically, the whole of the horses that exist in
the United Kingdom at the present time, for every purpose, including

It was while we were depending exclusively upon this expensive and
tedious system of conveyance, when the internal development of the
country was rendered all but impossible by the heavy expense of
bringing produce to the sea, and when our export trade was consequently
of the most restricted dimensions, that canals came to the rescue. They
worked a marvellous change in the trade of the country—a change which
can, perhaps, be best illustrated by the ordinarily dry, but in this
case almost thrilling, returns of our exports and imports. Burke, in
one of his greatest speeches,[26] spoke of a total exportation of the
value of 14½ millions, and a total importation of 9½ millions sterling,
as an index of extraordinary prosperity. In another equally great
oration[27] he said, speaking of the fact that we were then exporting
rather over six millions a year to our colonies, that “when we speak of
the commerce with our colonies, fiction lags after truth; invention is
unfruitful, and imagination cold and barren.” What would he have said
had he lived to see, as we have done, our exports reach the vast total
of 250 millions a year, with nearly 90 millions of exports to our
colonies? Canals certainly did not complete this revolution, but they
had a very important share in giving it a start. Between the time
when the canal system was commenced, about 1760, and the end of the
first canal period, which may be put at 1838, the export trade of the
country advanced from 14 millions to about 50 millions per annum. This
is poor progress, compared with what has since been attained, through
the development of the steamship, the railway, the telegraph, and other
modern adjuncts of commerce, but it was deemed as remarkable for that
day as we consider our subsequent progress to be in ours.

It is practically impossible to arrive at a correct estimation of the
tonnage of goods of different kinds that goes to make up the inland
and the external trade of this country. We know that the railways
of the United Kingdom annually carry about 280 millions of tons of
minerals and merchandise (according to the Board of Trade returns),
but a considerable part of this tonnage is duplicated, in consequence
of passing over more than one railway. Of the total tonnage carried by
railway, the greater part probably goes no farther. It is consumed on
the spot, like the coal traffic of London and the minerals supplied
to our great ironmaking centres. But a very much larger quantity is
carried from inland centres to seaports, and thence shipped for places
of consumption at home and abroad. The coastwise carrying trade of
the United Kingdom is now represented by 60 million tons a year. The
foreign shipping trade amounts to over 70 million tons a year. Only a
comparatively small proportion of these quantities is consumed at the
ports of shipment. The greater part is carried farther by railway, thus
breaking bulk twice—once in moving it from the ship to the railway
wagon, and again in removing it from the railway wagon. Much of it has
to be carried from the ship in barges, and thence transferred to the
railway. All this means loss of time, loss of money, and deterioration
of quality, which adequate water facilities should do much to obviate.

There is no class of property that has undergone a more remarkable
range of vicissitudes than canal ownership. In the early years of
the present century, the value of canal companies’ shares was much
higher than that of any railway property has been since that time. The
price of some canal shares rose to a hundred times their nominal or
par value. Enormous dividends were often paid. In other cases, where
the navigation had been neglected, the properties were very lightly
esteemed, and yielded unsatisfactory results. The Fossdyke Navigation
in Lincolnshire was leased about 1840, by the Corporation of Lincoln,
to a Mr. Elison for nine hundred and ninety-nine years, at 75_l._ a
year! Six years later the executors of the lessee leased it to the
Great Northern Railway Company for 9575_l._[28] The Loughborough Canal
shares, which were once worth 4500_l._, are now scarcely worth 100_l._;
and a still more notable decline is that of the Erewash Canal, whose
shares, now quoted at about 50_l._, were once worth fully 3000_l._

There are three great epochs in the modern history of canal navigation,
each marked by characteristics peculiar to itself, and sufficiently
unlike those of either of the others to enable it to be readily
differentiated. They may be thus described:—

1. The era of waterways, designed at once to facilitate the transport
of heavy traffic from inland centres to the seaboard, and to supersede
the then existing systems of locomotion—the wagon and the pack-horse.
This era commenced with the construction of the Bridgwater Canal
between 1766 and 1770, and terminated with the installation of the
railway system in 1830.

2. The era of interoceanic canals, which was inaugurated by the
completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, and is still in progress.

3. The era of ship-canals intended to afford to cities and towns remote
from the sea, all the advantages of a seaboard, and especially that of
removing and despatching merchandise without the necessity of breaking

The second great stage in the development of canal transport is of
comparatively recent origin. It may, in fact, be said to date only from
the time when the construction of a canal across the Isthmus of Suez
was proved to be not only practicable as an engineering project, but
likewise highly successful as a commercial enterprise. Not that this
was by any means the first canal of its kind. On the contrary, as we
have shown elsewhere, the ancients had many schemes of a similar kind
in view across the same isthmus. The canal of Languedoc, constructed
in the reign of Louis XIV., was for that day as considerable an
undertaking. It was designed for the purpose of affording a safe
and speedy means of communication between the Mediterranean and the
Atlantic Ocean; it has a total length of 148 miles, is in its highest
part 600 ft. above the level of the sea, and has in all 114 locks and
sluices. In Russia, canals had been constructed in the time of Peter
the Great, for the purpose of affording a means of communication
between the different inland seas that are characteristic of that
country. The junction of the North and Caspian Seas, of the Baltic and
the Caspian, and the union of the Black and the Caspian Seas, had all
been assisted by the construction of a series of canals which were
perhaps without parallel for their completeness a century ago. In
Prussia a vast system of inland navigation had been completed during
the last century, whereby Hamburg was connected with Dantzic, and the
products of the country could be exported either by the Black Sea or by
the Baltic. In Scotland the Forth and Clyde Canal, and the Caledonian
Canal, were notable examples of artificial navigation designed to
connect two seas, or two firths that had all the characteristics of
independent oceans; and the Erie Canal, in the United States, completed
a chain of communication between inland seas of much the same order.

But, although a great deal had been done in the direction of
facilitating navigation between different waters by getting rid of the
“hyphen” by which they were separated anterior to the date of the Suez
Canal, this grand enterprise undoubtedly marked a notable advance in
the progress of the world from this point of view. The work was at once
more original and more gigantic than any that had preceded it—so much
so that in this country, as we have elsewhere shown, it was generally
discredited. Probably no other canal previously constructed had cost
anything like the same large sum that was set aside for that of Suez.
The canal of Languedoc, constructed in the seventeenth century, is
stated to have cost fourteen millions of livres. The Erie Canal had
cost five million seven hundred thousand dollars (1,140,000_l._).
The Caledonian Canal cost 1,035,460_l._ The Amsterdam Canal cost
about the same amount. The Suez Canal, however, was estimated to cost
8,000,000_l._ to 10,000,000_l._, or nearly ten times as much as the
largest canals constructed up to that time. Nowadays this would not be
regarded as a large sum for such a purpose. We have got accustomed to
big figures. A hundred millions sterling is not an uncommon capital for
a railway company. The Manchester Canal, only some thirty miles long,
is estimated to cost about eight millions sterling, and more than sixty
millions have been sunk at Panama. But so little faith was felt in the
success of the Suez Canal, with such a large expenditure, that it was
seriously maintained in the “Edinburgh Review” that, “were it to become
the great highway of nations between the West and the East—even the
Gates of the East, as it has been the fashion to call it—and were all
the local advantages predicted for Egypt to be derived from it, still,
on account of the enormous expense of construction and maintenance, it
would not pay.”

While these views were entertained about a waterway that promised to
become the general and almost exclusive means of communication between
the West and the East, between Great Britain and her Australasian
and Indian possessions, it is not much a matter for surprise that
other projects of a similar character remained in abeyance. But the
Suez Canal once completed and successful, other ship canal schemes
came “thick as autumnal leaves in Vallombrosa.” Several of these were
eminently practical, as well as practicable. The Hellenic Parliament
determined on cutting through the tongue of land which is situated
between the Gulfs of Athens and Lepantus, known as the Isthmus of
Corinth. This isthmus divides the Adriatic and the Archipelago, and
compels all vessels passing from the one sea to the other to round Cape
Matapan, thus materially lengthening the voyages of vessels bound from
the western parts of Europe to the Levant, Asia Minor and Smyrna. The
canal is now an accomplished fact. Another proposal was that of cutting
a canal from Bordeaux to Marseilles, across the South of France, a
distance of some 120 miles, whereby these two great ports would be
brought 1678 miles nearer to each other, and a further reduction,
estimated at 800 miles, effected in the distance between England and
India. The Panama Canal (projected in 1871, and actually commenced
in 1880) is, however, the greatest enterprise of all, and in many
respects the most gigantic and difficult undertaking of which there is
any record. The proposed national canal from sea to sea, proposed by
Mr. Samuel Lloyd and others for Great Britain, the proposed Sheffield
Ship Canal, the proposed Irish Sea and Birkenhead Ship Canal, and the
proposed ship canal to connect the Forth and the Clyde, are but a few
of many notable examples of the restlessness of our times in this
direction. All these canals are intended to economise time and space,
which has become the greatest desideratum of our age. By fulfilling
this mission they facilitate commerce, cheapen the cost of commodities,
bring nations into closer touch, and materially lengthen the sum of
work and knowledge that can be crowded into the average span of human

We are now in the very throes of the revolution that appears to be
destined, before it closes, to secure for most of the great inland
centres of population a large share of the advantages that result from
being on the seaboard. The location of many of our large towns is
difficult to understand. Their prosperity, in spite of their location,
is still more unintelligible, on the first blush. Very few of our
great cities are on the seaboard. London is over 60 miles from the
Nore. Paris is 227½ miles from the sea at Havre, and Berlin, Vienna,
and Madrid are each over or nearly 200 miles. In England we have such
towns as Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, and Birmingham, situated at long
distances from shipping facilities, and flourishing in spite of that
disadvantage. But the fact has been recognised as a disadvantage, none
the less. Manchester, less unfavourably situated than some of the towns
we have named, has resolved to “burst its birth’s invidious bar” by
the construction of the ship canal that is now being proceeded with.
Sheffield has initiated a project with the same end in view. The people
of Birmingham and the Midlands generally appear to have made up their
minds to have direct communication with the Bristol Channel. In regard
to all of these towns canal facilities of an inferior kind already
exist. These, however, are now held to be quite unequal to the demands
of modern commerce. They do not give to any town the position of a
seaport, and that is the main requirement. The time has gone past when
barges of forty or fifty tons, plying on a canal 60 to 80 feet wide,
could be seriously put forward as contributing essentially to this end.
The canal system of a hundred years ago has been put to the trial, and
has been found wanting. We now carry millions where we then carried
hundreds and thousands of tons.

The great commercial characteristics of our time are to have things
done on a large scale, with the utmost practicable facility, and at the
lowest possible cost. The existing canal system is quite out of touch
with these desiderata. It “cumbereth the ground,” and must be got rid
of. But the waterways that still survive may in many cases be made the
nucleus of a new and better system, under which the great inland towns
of Lancashire, Staffordshire, and Yorkshire may find their lines cast
in more satisfactory maritime places.

There are not a few people who regard the canal system almost as they
might regard the Dodo and the Megatherium. It is to them an effete
relic of a time when civilisation was as yet but imperfectly developed.
It is placed on the shelf of their memories and sympathies much as the
old hand-loom, or the earliest forms of metallurgical processes, might
be; and if by accident an old canal happens to cross their path, it is
regarded with the same sort of curiosity as would be bestowed upon the
Great Wall of China or the Pyramids of Egypt.

Canals do, indeed, belong to the past. In this respect they are
entitled to be regarded with interest, and even with veneration. The
Cnidians, according to Herodotus, the Bœtians, according to Strabo,
the Babylonians, according to Ptolemy, and the Romans, according to
Pliny, were all skilled in the art of canal-making, and employed
their skill to good purpose. From those times until these the
waterways of art have supplemented those of nature as handmaidens of
trade and commerce, as fertilisers of the soil, and as military and
strategical highways. That canals also belong to the present, Egypt,
the American isthmus, Manchester, Corinth, and other places, fully
prove; and, unless we greatly err, they are no less the heritage of
the future.


[9] Smiles’s ‘Lives of the Engineers,’ vol. i. p. 180.

[10] Judging from the diary of Mr. Justice Rokeby, which has been
recently printed by Sir Henry Peek, in the time of William and Mary
going circuit was arduous work, and the arrangements for reaching the
scene of his labours occupied almost as much of a Judge’s attention
as the execution of the Royal commission when he arrived. Mr. Justice
Rokeby, according to this record (as abridged in the _Times_),
usually travelled in a four-horse coach with his chamber clerk,
while his groom or valet attended him on a saddle-horse, which also
carried the Judge’s “portmantle.” Generally both coach and horses
were hired for the occasion, the rate appearing to be about 22_s._
for each travelling day, and 12_s._ for each resting day. Sometimes
the learned Judge economised by “putting a pair of his own horses to
the wheel,” and had his own coachman to drive. But more than once
it was necessary to take six horses in the coach, and occasionally
a couple of servants on saddle-horses were in attendance. In the
spring of 1692-93, “after the circuits were all settled and the term
ended—viz. February 25—there fell a very great snow, which occasioned
the King to issue out a proclamation, March 2, 1692-3, to alter all
the circuits to later days but only the Norfolk and Oxford circuits,
which continued upon their first appointment.” Mr. Justice Rokeby,
being unlucky enough to be going on the Norfolk circuit, derived no
benefit from the postponement, but “by reason of the badness of the
ways was forced to take six horses,” so that he was “out of purse” on
the circuit above 52_l._ The previous summer the waters were out, and
travelling in the valley of the Thames was no easy matter. “I began
my journey into this circuit (the Oxford) from London,” says the
Judge, “on Monday, June 27, and baited at Maidenhead, but the waters
were so great upon the road that at Colebrook they came just into the
body of the coach, and we were forced to boat twice at Maidenhead,
and we boated the coach, and at the second time we boated ourselves,
but the coach came through the water, and it came very deep into
the body of it, and that night we lay at Henley-upon-Thames, where
we were forced to boat the coach again.” For years afterwards we
read that the way from Oxford to Gloucester was so bad that it
took 14 hours to accomplish the distance, though it was not more
than 33 miles, while there was a “very bad and shaking way” from
Monmouth to Hereford; and at an earlier stage of the circuit the
Judge chronicles his safe arrival at High Wycombe from London with
the pious but significant ejaculation, “Thanks be to God!” Sometimes
the Judges, apparently, hired a coach between them, but Mr. Justice
Rokeby had a little difference with his brother Judge, Mr. Justice
Eyre, on his second circuit, concerning the division of expenses, and
this probably led to his making independent carriage arrangements
subsequently. On this occasion Mr. Justice Rokeby was called back to
town at an early point of the circuit, and Mr. Justice Eyre declined
to take on the coach, but finished the circuit on horseback, and it
was his demand to be paid a share of the expenses of his saddle-horse
which led to the difference of opinion.

[11] The difference between macadamised and ordinary roads, in the
cost of conveyance, not to speak of comfort, is extraordinary.
Nicholas Wood estimated that the transport of coal by the old pack
horse was reduced from about 2_s._ 6_d._ to 8_d._ per ton on a good
road of this description.

[12] According to the tables in Adam Smith’s ‘Wealth of Nations’
(Book i. chap. xi.) the average price of wheat between 1637 and 1700
was 2_l._ 11_s._ 0⅓_d._ per quarter; from 1700 till 1764 it was 2_l._
0_s._ 6-9/32_d._ per quarter.

[13] Even so late as 1794, Hepburn, in his ‘General view of the
Agriculture and Economy of East Lothian,’ stated that, not long
before, not a single bullock was slaughtered in the butcher market at
Haddington except at a special time.

[14] The writer has shown, in articles published in the _Times_ on
January 5th, 1887, and again on January 2nd, 1888, what are the
extent and the distinguishing features of this supremacy.

[15] The average cost per mile of the railways in England and Wales
is about 50,000_l._, as against 12,700_l._ in the United States,
21,000_l._ in Germany, 25,300_l._ in Belgium, 27,500_l._ in France,
and 20,000_l._ in Holland.

[16] See a paper read before the British Association at Birmingham,

[17] Report of House of Lords Committee on Conservancy Boards, 1877.

[18] Report of Select Committee on Canals, 1883.

[19] Herodotus, lib. ii. c. lxlix.

[20] Diodorus Siculus, lib. i. c. iv.

[21] Strabo, lib. xvii.

[22] Diodorus Siculus, lib. i. c. i.

[23] Cresy’s ‘Encyclopædia of Civil Engineering,’ c. iv.

[24] The railway starts from Callao at a height of 448 ft. above sea
level, and at 104½ miles distance it passes through the summit tunnel
at a height of 15,645 ft. above that level.

[25] ‘Practical Treatise on Railroads,’ third edition, p. 684.

[26] Observations on a late publication ‘The Present State of the
Nation,’ Bohn’s series, vol. i. p. 198.

[27] Speech on conciliation with America, Ibid., pp. 461-62.

[28] The navigation had, however, been deepened in the interval
for drainage purposes, largely at the expense of the Land Drainage
Commissioners, which caused a considerable increase of traffic.



   “Rivers, arise; whether thou be the son
    Of utmost Tweed, or Ouse, or gulphy Don,
    Or Trent, who, like some earth-born giant, spreads
    His thirty arms along the indented meads;
    Or sullen Mole, that runneth underneath;
    Or Severn swift, guilty of maiden’s death;
    Or rocky Avon, or of sedgy Lee;
    Or coaly Tine, or ancient hallowed Dee;
    Or Humber loud, that keeps the Cythian’s name;
    Or Medway smooth, or royal-towered Thame.”

One of the earliest pioneers of inland navigation was Wm. Sandys,
of Ombersley Court, in Worcestershire, who, in 1636, applied for
Parliamentary powers to make the river Avon navigable for boats and
barges, from the Severn at Tewkesbury to the city of Coventry. Part
of the work which was executed in pursuance of the powers so obtained
exists to the present time. In 1661 Sandys sought for Parliamentary
authority to make the Salwarp navigable from the Severn to his own town
of Droitwich, and to make navigable the rivers Wye and Lug, and the
brooks running into the same in the counties of Hereford, Gloucester,
and Monmouth.

Our great rivers, the Thames, Severn, Trent, Ouse, &c., were the
recognised means of transit long before the time of the Romans, who
were so far advanced in inland navigation as to cut canals of forty
miles in length, as instanced in the Caerdyke, between Peterborough and
Lincoln (though now filled up), as also to build docks, as shown in the
old dock walls, &c., still standing at the outfall of the Trym into the
Avon below Bristol.

The Fossdyke navigation from Lincoln to the Trent is also of Roman
origin, and probably an extension of the Caerdyke, on their route to
York. Torksey, at the junction with the Trent, was a Roman town and
fort, and continued possessed of many privileges, down to the Norman
period, on condition that the knights who held it should carry the
King’s Ambassadors, as often as they came that way, down the Trent
in their own barges, and conduct them to York. This is recorded in
‘Domesday Book.’ Itchin Dyke to Winchester was also cut by the Romans.

It is usual to date the first beginning of canal navigation in England
from the time when Brindley constructed the famous canal between
Worsley and Salford for the Duke of Bridgwater. This, no doubt, was
the first important artificial navigation throughout. But Sandys had
practically undertaken canal construction about a hundred years before.
The Act of Parliament which sanctioned the various enterprises that he
had projected, authorised him to construct new channels, and to set
up, in convenient places, “locks, wears, turnpikes, penns for water,
cranes, and wharfs, to lay timber, coals, and all other materials that
shall be brought down;” to have and use “a certain path, not exceeding
four feet in breadth, on either side of the said rivers and passages,”
for the “towing, pulling, or drawing-up of their barges, boots,
leighters, and other vessels passing and repassing them, or any part
of them, by strength of men, horses, lines, ropes, winches, engines,
or other means convenient;” and “to dig, carry, trench, or cut, or
make any trench, river, or new channel, or wharf,” &c., after having
arranged with the “respective Lords, owners, or occupiers of the said

Sandys, however, did not succeed in carrying out the intended
navigation between the cities of Hereford and Bristol as he proposed.
He attempted to make the Wye navigable by locks and weirs on the
pound-lock system, which did not suit its rapid current. The enterprise
was accordingly abandoned, after a trial of several years.

In 1688 the project of making the Wye navigable was revived. It was
now proposed to abandon the pound-lock system, to purchase and remove
all the mill-weirs and fishing-weirs between Hay, in Herefordshire,
and the sea, and to deepen the channels of the shallow streams. The
weir-owners rose in opposition to these proposals, and for several
years the subject was the occasion of a bitter controversy. When the
Bill was applied for in 1695, the city of Hereford, and thirty-two
parishes in the county, petitioned in its favour; while the towns of
Ross and Monmouth, and thirteen parishes, petitioned against it. The
Bill, however, ultimately became law,[30] and although, owing to the
uncertainty of its depth and current, the Wye was never adapted for
regular navigation, it was so far improved that throughout the
eighteenth century it was of great service to the county of Hereford.[31]

One of the earliest to advocate river improvements in Britain was
Andrew Yarranton, an original genius, who had ideas and plans quite
a hundred years in advance of his times.[32] He occupied himself with
many different projects designed to effect improvements in means
of communication, and in developing the resources of the country
generally. At one time serving as a soldier, at another engaged in the
manufacture of iron; now planning how to provide employment for the
poor, and again studying how to bring about more economical processes
of husbandry, Yarranton made a special hobby of the improvement of
navigation, undertaking surveys of the principal rivers in the West of
England at his own cost, and urging upon the people the importance of
opening up the facilities of communication thereby available to them.

In 1665 Yarranton proposed to the burgesses of Droitwich to deepen
the small river Salwarp, so as to connect that town, now an important
centre of the salt industry, with the river Severn. He was offered
terms to carry out his plans, but the offer does not appear to have
been good enough.[33]

In 1666 Yarranton proposed to make the river Stour navigable between
Stourport and Kidderminster, and to connect it with the river Trent by
a navigable canal. He carried out this work so far as to make the river
navigable from Stourbridge to Kidderminster; but his scheme was not
completely adopted for lack of means. He says that he “laid out near
1000_l._,” and “carried down many hundred tons of coal,”[34] although,
on account of the novelty of his enterprise, it was greatly ridiculed.
At a later date Yarranton proposed to connect the Thames and the
Severn by means of an artificial cut, “at the very place where, more
than a century after his death, it was actually carried out by modern

Although the proprietors in what was called the “Old Quay Company”
had obtained an Act of Parliament in 1733 for improving by weirs and
cuts the rivers Mersey and Irwell, between Runcorn and Manchester, the
first association incorporated for making a regular navigable canal in
England was not till more than twenty years later, six centuries after
the first canals in Italy and Flanders, and a hundred years subsequent
to some of the chief canals of France being in operation. It is but
fair to add that England carried the movement further than most other

It is unnecessary to enter into the history of the development of the
navigable resources of the rivers of the United Kingdom during the last
two centuries, even if it were possible, which, of course, it is not
in a work of this description. The dates when the several principal
navigation works were undertaken will be found set out in Appendix I.
But we may, nevertheless, bestow some consideration upon the principal
steps that have brought about the remarkable facilities that England,
Scotland, and, to a less extent, Ireland, respectively enjoy at the
present time in the matter of internal transport. The Clyde, the
Tyne, the Tees, the Wear, and other prominent English rivers have
been transformed from shallow brawling streams, some of them easily
fordable at all states of the tide, into magnificent waterways, capable
of bearing on their bosoms the largest vessels afloat. This work has
necessarily involved great engineering capacity, a large expenditure,
and a judicious administration of their powers and resources by the
public bodies through whom it has been carried to completion.


On the Liverpool side of the Mersey there are sixty docks and
basins of the ordinary type, having a total water area of 368 acres
and 25 miles of quay berthing. On the Birkenhead side, there are
164½ acres of docks, with 9½ miles of quayage, three graving docks,
having a total length of 2430 feet, and every facility for loading and
unloading ships.

The total expenditure incurred on this enormous provision for shipping
has been upwards of twenty millions, and the total annual revenue of
the Mersey dock estate is about a million and a half sterling.

The entire length of the Mersey is 56 miles. For the first 37 miles
of this distance, the river has a tortuous course, ill-adapted for
navigation, and passes through an almost exclusively agricultural
country. From Runcorn to the sea, the form of the river is that of a
bottle, of which the wide expanse between Runcorn and Liverpool forms
the body, and the narrow part opposite Liverpool the neck. Through this
neck there annually passes nearly twenty million tons of shipping,
including entrances and clearances.

The unassisted efforts of nature have hitherto maintained the navigable
channels of the Mersey, so that the conditions of navigation remain
practically uniform. The bar, however, is gradually moving in a seaward
direction, while maintaining its general form and characteristics. In
Liverpool Bay there is a great range of tide, which insures a depth
of at least 30 feet over the bar once in every twelve hours, even on
the lowest neaps. Some two or three million cubic yards of upland
water every twelve hours are discharged into the estuary, chiefly by
the Mersey and the Weaver, which, with 710 million cubic yards on a
high spring tide, maintains the normal capacity of the estuary, and
counteracts the process of silting. Some 17,300 acres of a deposit of
sand in the estuary are above the low-water mark. Through this the
upland water forms and maintains a channel in its course to the sea,
and any serious exclusion of this tidal water would be likely to so far
injure the sea channels as to interfere with the trade and shipping of
the port.

The Mersey is the outlet for several important canal navigations,
including the Weaver Navigation Canal, near Weston Point, the
Bridgwater Canal at Runcorn, the Sankey Canal at Widnes, the Shropshire
Union Canal at Ellesmere, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at the Docks,
and the Manchester Ship Canal, now under construction, at Eastham. The
position of these several canals in relation to the river may be traced
in a map accompanying a paper read by Mr. Lyster, the engineer, before
the Institution of Naval Architects. These canals are important factors
in assisting the growth of the trade of the Mersey. The Leeds and
Liverpool is, however, the only canal that has a direct connection with
the Liverpool Docks.

By this canal Liverpool has water communication with the important town
of Leeds, and thence, by the Aire and Calder Canal, with Hull and the
other ports on the Humber. By the Shropshire Union Canals the Mersey is
connected with the network of canals in the Midland Counties and with
the River Severn.

In Camden’s time Liverpool must have been a very obscure place. The
author of ‘Britannia’ dismisses it almost in a sentence, observing that
“from Warrington, the River Mersey, spreading abroad, and straightwaies
drawing in himselfe again, with a wide and open outlet, very commodious
for merchandise, entereth into the Irish Sea, where Litherpoole, called
in the elder ages Lipen-poole, common Lirpoole, is seated, so named, as
it is thought, of the water spreading itself in manner of a poole.”

With the exception of the Thames—which it rivals, and with which for
a number of years past it has run a neck-to-neck race—the Mersey is,
so far as its volume of business is concerned, the most important river
in the world. This, however, is an attainment of comparative modern
origin. The first wet dock was constructed at Liverpool, in 1708-9,
on the site now occupied by the Custom House. In the latter part of
the same century several other docks were constructed. The dock estate
has now an area of 1078 acres, the whole of which is appropriated to
basins, docks, quays, and premises worked in connection therewith.


The history of the navigation of the river Weaver, which adjoins the
Mersey in Cheshire, supplies a notable example of what may be made of
an originally insignificant and tortuous stream in order to adapt it
for the requirements of commerce. The river has been canalised between
Northwich and Chester, twenty miles of the navigation being artificial
navigation, and the other thirty miles being river proper.

In 1721 three Cheshire gentlemen obtained the first Act of Parliament
for making the river Weaver navigable. The depth then provided for was
only 4 feet 6 inches, and boats of more than 40 to 50 tons could not

About the year 1760, the navigation was carried down so as to enable
vessels to enter at nearly all tides, and in 1810 the river was further
improved by the Weston Canal, which is four miles long, enabling
vessels of much deeper draught to enter without navigating a dangerous
part of the old river. This canal forms a junction with the Bridgwater
Docks at Weston Point, and a dock was formed in connection with it so
as to enable vessels to wait for the tide.

In 1830 the depth was increased to 7 feet 6 inches, with locks 88 feet
long and 18 feet wide, capable of taking cargoes of 100 to 150 tons.
There were at this time eleven single locks on the river, not including
the entrances to the Mersey. About 1860, a second set of locks, having
10 feet of water on the sills, and 100 feet long by 22 feet wide, was
placed by the side of the existing locks, and the number was reduced to
nine pairs. The larger size, owing to the vessels being built almost to
the shape of the lock, were capable of passing vessels with nearly 320
tons on board.

This continued until about seventeen years ago, when it was decided to
replace these locks by some of very much larger dimensions, and also to
greatly reduce the number. With this object, locks were built at Dutton
and Saltersford near the site of existing locks, and of sufficient
height of walls to enable the two ponds above to be thrown into one,
thus doing away with the four smaller locks. The same has been done at
Hunts, and, more recently, at Valeroyal, above Northwich. The locks at
Dutton and Saltersford are entirely built of masonry, having limestone
sills and rubbling courses, with the intermediate part sandstone. All
the work on the river is of this description, with the exception of the
Hunts and Valeroyal large locks, which are built of concrete.

When these improvements are completed there will be only four locks on
the twenty miles of navigation, the larger of each pair of locks being
220 feet long, by 42 feet 6 inches wide, and having 15 feet of water
on the sills. Most of the river is now dredged to 12 feet, there only
being 10-feet bars at certain points. The ordinary width is about 95 to
100 feet at water level, and 45 feet at the bottom. More than a million
tons of salt annually pass down the Weaver to the Mersey.


This noble river, from Newcastle to the sea, is one of the greatest
triumphs of modern engineering. Good old Camden quaintly remarks, that
“where the wall (Roman) and the Tine almost met together Newcastle
sheweth itself gloriously, the very eye of all the townes in these
parts, ennobled by a notable haven, which Tine maketh, being of that
depth that it beareth very tall ships, and also defendeth them, that
they can neither easily be tossed with tempests nor driven upon
shallows and shelves.”[36]

No better example of what has been done within recent years in the way
of providing additional facilities for the wants of British shipping,
could be quoted than the case of the Tyne. That river is the natural
outlet of the great northern coalfield. It is also the outlet for a
very great trade in chemicals, engineering, iron and steel, and other
industrial products. But in order to adapt it for the purposes of
its large and rapidly-growing commerce, it was necessary not only to
provide several docks—the more important of which, the Northumberland
and the Coble Dene, cost 352,000_l._ and 528,000_l._ respectively—but
it was also requisite to expend over 1,300,000_l._ in dredging the bed
of the river, so as to provide access for the largest size of vessels,
to expend nearly three-quarters of a million on other river works,
to construct North and South Piers at a cost of over 820,000_l._;
and to incur a total outlay considerably exceeding 4,000,000_l._ The
effect of these improvements and structural works has been that the
Tyne has been transformed from “a series of shoals, with a narrow and
generally serpentine channel between and past them, through which
vessels of about 15-ft. draught could get up at high-water spring
tides, whilst at low-water it was a not uncommon occurrence for small
river steamers, drawing from 3 to 4 ft. of water, to be aground on
their passage between Shields and Newcastle for three or four hours,”
to a magnificent navigable highway, that admits vessels of 3000 tons
and upwards at all states of the tide with perfect safety. At the time
that the great work was commenced, and for many years afterwards,
the revenue from shipping dues was quite insufficient to enable any
substantial progress to be made, and the trade grew so rapidly that
it became imperative to either borrow money in order to carry out the
required works, or allow the shipping to seek other ports, where better
facilities were provided. The works to the end of 1882 had, therefore,
to be chiefly carried out by the aid of borrowed money. As a matter of
fact, only 426,000_l._ was expended out of income, while 3,673,000_l._
was borrowed. The results, however, appear to have justified the
course. The annual income from dues and tolls has grown, within twenty
years, from 91,000_l._ to over 251,000_l._

The Tyne Improvement Commission, chiefly under the presidency of Sir
Joseph Cowen, have deepened the river to a uniform depth of nearly 30
feet, built training walls, dredged the bar, built new channels, and
otherwise revolutionised the old order of things. The results have been
extremely striking. In 1888 14,668 vessels, having a total tonnage of
6,734,000 tons, cleared from the Tyne ports; while 6093 ships, having
1,662,000 tons register, entered the same ports. The people of Tyneside
are proud of their river, as well they may be.


Preston is a busy town and port in the county of Lancashire, situated
on the river Ribble, about seventeen miles from the sea. The navigation
of the port has hitherto been confined to coasting vessels drawing
about 14 feet of water. The amount of shipping entering the port has
been under 30,000 tons a year. The Ribble rises in the West Riding of
Yorkshire, at the east foot of Whernside, and arrives at Preston after
a course of fifty-seven miles. With its tributaries it drains about 800
square miles of land, a great part of which is moorland. The annual
rainfall over this district averages about 37 inches. Below Preston,
the channel of the river opens out into a broad sandy estuary, four or
five miles in width, the whole of which is covered at high water of
spring tides, and the greater part of which is dry at low water. The
course of the river, after it leaves the trained portion, is along the
northern shore of this estuary to Lytham, whence the main navigable
channel, called “The Gut,” bends in a south-westerly direction between
the Salt-house and the Horse-shoe banks to the Irish Sea. The width of
the estuary between the two forelands on the coast, Stanner Point on
the north, and Southport on the south, is five miles. The sands extend
four miles seaward beyond this line, and are uncovered at low water.
The depth at low water spring tides on the bar, or the portion of the
navigable channel with deep water, is four feet. Beyond this the depth
seawards rapidly increases, from 20 feet immediately beyond, till,
at the Nelson buoy—which is two miles beyond the bar, and the first
buoy belonging to the Ribble navigation—the depth is six fathoms. The
depth above the bar along the Gut channel, which is rather tortuous
and narrow, being shown on the Admiralty chart as less than a quarter
of a mile wide, varies from 4 to 24 feet. This channel is buoyed out
with eight buoys, which are shifted as the channel varies. There are
three other channels between Lytham and the sea, called, respectively,
the South Channel, the Penfold, and the North Channel. These are more
or less navigable; but the Gut is the main sea-fairway. From Lytham a
shallow channel runs near the shore for about a mile to “The Dock,”
where ships can lie at anchor. Thence it winds towards the Wage through
the sands. This channel is continually shifting its course, owing to
gales and freshets. From this point the river has been trained by
rubble-stone training walls, put in about thirty-four years ago, which
continue for seven miles up to Preston. These walls rise seven feet
above low water, and are 300 feet apart at the top. Spring-tides rise
24 feet at the bar, and neaps 17 feet, and at Preston the rise is 10
feet and 4 feet 6 inches. The project of constructing a dock at Preston
has been agitated for some years, and has been strongly advocated
by Mr. Garlick, M.I.C.E., who was the engineer to the Navigation
Commissioners. It was considered that by providing deep-water
accommodation to the town, its trade and prospects would be greatly
increased, having regard to the large manufactories by which it is
surrounded, the immense population in the immediate neighbourhood, and
the nearness of the Wigan coalfield. This work is now in progress,
including the division of the river; the estimated cost being about


This famous river is navigable up to Welshpool, a distance of 155 miles
by water, from the mouth of the Bath Avon river. The extreme branch
of this river may be traced for about 45 miles above Welshpool, to
Plinlimmon Hill, and numerous other branches extend for great distances
into the country on both sides. The whole of this great length of
navigation was, till lately, unimproved by art, the river having no
locks, weirs, or other erections throughout its whole length, for
surmounting the numerous shallows and irregularities which the current
over variable strata had formed in its bed. The first or lowest 42
miles of this river, extending to the city of Gloucester, are very wide
for a great part of the way, and have a most rapid tide; but the last
28 miles are so crooked, that ships are said to be often several days
in passing it; on which account, a ship canal, calculated for vessels
of 300 tons burthen, was in the year 1793 projected and begun between
Gloucester and Berkeley, of 18¼ miles in length, for avoiding these 28
miles of the river. From Gloucester to Worcester the distance is 30
miles by the course of the stream, the rise in this length being 10
feet, or at the rate of 4 inches a mile; from Worcester to Stourport
the distance by water is 13 miles, and the rise 23 feet, or at the rate
of 1 foot 9 inches per mile; from Stourport to Bridgnorth it is 18
miles, and the rise 41¾ feet, or 2 feet 4 inches per mile on the
average; and from Bridgnorth to the new town at the junction of the
Shropshire canal, called Coalport, the distance is about 7 miles, and
the rise about 19 feet, being a rate of about 2 feet 8 inches per mile.
William Reynolds, the founder of Coalport, caused an account to be
daily registered of the depth of the stream in the bed of the Severn at
that place, between the 7th of October, 1789, and the 23rd of December,
1800, of which Mr. Telford has given the particulars, except on twelve
occasions when the river had overflown its bounds and covered the usual
marks (on Sundays during some part of the time), the intervals of frost
in which the river was frozen over, and for three short intervals,
when, unfortunately, the experiment was by some accident suspended.
During all the months of January, in the above period of eleven years,
ending the 6th of October, 1800, the river does not appear to have
exceeded the depth of 16 feet, that being the greatest depth at any
time recorded; and several times, when no depths are inserted to the
great floods, it is stated in the table that the water was above all
the marks. Besides these, there were thirty-two smaller floods, or
times when the water had risen, and was falling again for some days
after; the highest of these had a depth of 13 feet (5th January, 1790),
the lowest 4 feet, and the mean of the whole of these floods is 7½
feet. In the months of February there were two of these overflowings,
one of which (11th February, 1795) followed a frost and continued for
five successive days: nineteen floods, the two highest of which were
equal (17th and 20th February, 1799) to 12 feet.


On the Witham, for a distance of thirty miles, between Boston and
Lincoln, the river is practically a canal. The tide is stopped by
a sluice at Boston, and a weir and locks had to be constructed at
Bardney and Lincoln. The inland water is held up to a constant height
on the sill of this sluice by penstocks, for the purposes of the
navigation. The navigation having been taken over by the Great Northern
Railway Company, the works are maintained in efficient condition; but
the obligation imposed by the original Act of holding up the water
seriously affects the drainage. The river Slea, from Sleaford to the
Witham, was made into a canal in 1792. The navigation on this river
having almost entirely ceased, the company was dissolved by an Act of
Parliament. The Bane, another affluent of the Witham, was also
canalised, forming a navigation from the Witham to the town of
Horncastle; but the dues obtained are insufficient to maintain the
works in proper order.


On the Nene, which is canalised from Peterborough to Northampton, the
navigation is reduced to a few barges. The constant floods on this
river are ascribed in a great measure to the defective condition of the
works. The proprietors of the navigation, on whom was cast the duty of
maintaining the river, no longer have the funds, and there is nobody
to take their place. The same thing has occurred on the Ouse between
Earith and Bedford.

On some of the affluents of these rivers, which, under legislative
powers granted last century, had been converted into “navigations,” the
proprietors have obtained Acts of Parliament relieving them of their
rights and liabilities, and there is now no jurisdiction over these
rivers, or anybody responsible for removing shoals or cutting weeds.
The beds of these streams have consequently become shallow, and they
are no longer capable of acting as efficient arterial drains. Thus,
on the Ivel, an affluent of the Ouse, the navigation trust, created
in the reign of George II., was abolished in 1876. The river is said
to have since diminished one-half in width, and one-half in depth,
and the bottom is being gradually raised to the level of the land. In
like manner, the Lark, another canalised affluent, has almost entirely
silted up since the navigation of the river ceased. The Ouse itself,
above Earith, is obstructed by numerous shoals, and an enormous growth
of weeds. These were originally kept down by the constant passage
of the vessels, and the shoals were removed by the trustees of the


The improvements that have been carried out for the purpose of opening
up the navigation of the river Tees, although less considerable than
those carried out for some of the larger rivers of Great Britain, are
yet entitled to take rank as among the most notable river engineering
achievements of the century. They are also among the most recent. It
was not until 1852 that the Act was passed creating the Tees Navigation
Commission. At that time there were three or four channels in the
estuary, all of them very shallow. The shifting sandbanks caused great
trouble and not a little danger to navigation, and the depth of water
near to Middlesbro’ did not admit of the passage of vessels of large
size. Since then, about twenty miles of low water training walls have
been erected for the purpose of confining the navigable channel. The
volume of water and its scour have thereby been much increased. The
river has been continuously dredged in order to secure a depth of
water that would allow of the passage of vessels of large tonnage into
the Middlesbro’ Docks. About 23 million tons of material have been
dredged from the bed of the river, and the channel has been generally
straightened and widened. Breakwaters have been constructed on both
sides, one of them, called the North Gare, being about two miles and a
half long. A remarkable feature of the work is that these breakwaters
have been constructed of slag, obtained from the blast-furnaces in the
neighbourhood. Some millions of tons of slag have been employed in this
way, the ironmasters having paid to the Conservancy Commissioners a
small sum for removing the slag, the disposal of which had been a great
source of difficulty previous to this application.

As a result of the works that have been carried out for the improvement
of the navigation of the Tees, the shipping trade of the river, and
especially of the port of Middlesbro’, has greatly increased. The main
element in this development has been the growth of the iron industry;
but the second element has undoubtedly been the increased facilities
for navigation. The popular impression about Middlesbro’ is that only
a single house stood in 1830, where there is now a busy town of more
than 70,000 inhabitants. This may or may not be a legend, but there is
no doubt about the fact that in 1850 there were only from two to three
feet of depth on the bar of the Tees, where it was possible to wade
across at low water; whereas now there is about 20 feet of water, and a
harbour of refuge has been provided in which ships can ride in safety
whatever the condition of the usually stormy seas outside.


This river has been partly canalised, in order to afford a means
of communication between Warrington, Manchester, and other large
towns, and Liverpool, but it was only adapted for light craft and
has consequently fallen largely into disuse. The Mersey and Irwell
Navigation was acquired by the Bridgwater Company, and has now, with
the rest of the Bridgwater property, passed under the control of the
Manchester Ship Canal Company.


This river, which has its rise in the district that unites Durham and
Westmoreland, falls into the North Sea at Sunderland after a course
of thirty miles. The river is under the jurisdiction of the Wear
Commissioners from about nine miles from the bar to the sea. Over this
distance very considerable improvements have been carried out during
the last half century. These improvements have resulted in making the
Wear one of the foremost shipbuilding rivers in the United Kingdom, and
have given it the second place in the coal-shipping trade. The revenue
of the Wear Trust, which only averaged about 14,000_l._ a year between
1840 and 1850, has within recent years amounted to about 130,000_l._ a
year. One of the most extensive works undertaken on the river, besides
graving docks, wharves, &c., and the deepening of the bed, was the
construction of a lock at the sea outlet, designed to obviate the
detention of screw-colliers when waiting for the tide. This lock is 481
feet in length by 90 feet in breadth, and has a depth of 29½ feet at
ordinary spring tides. The present docks can accommodate 200 ships of
large size, drawing up to 24 feet of water. The area of the docks is
over 78 acres, and they are fitted with nineteen coal spouts, at which
15,000 tons of coal can be shipped daily.

In this chapter we have dealt with a few only of the more notable
examples of river improvement in modern times. The list might be almost
indefinitely extended. There is hardly a brawling mountain torrent
between Land’s End and John o’ Groat’s that has not been reclaimed,
deepened, widened, or otherwise improved upon by the art and the genius
of the engineer. Nor has the work been confined to modern times. The
Romans are known to have constructed embankments for the control of
British rivers during the period of their occupation, although for
something like 1000 years afterwards their example was not followed.
The engineers and the local authorities of the nineteenth century have
done much to redeem this reproach. The improvement and conservancy of
rivers have now been reduced to a science, founded mainly upon the
following general principles[37]:—

    1. That the freer the admission of the tidal water, the
    better is the river adapted for all purposes, whether of
    navigation, drainage, or fisheries.

    2. That its sectional area and inclination should be made to
    suit the required carrying power of the river throughout its
    entire length, both for the ordinary flow of the water and
    for floods.

    3. That the downward flow of the upland water should be
    equalised as much as possible throughout the entire year; and

    4. That all abnormal contaminations should be removed from
    the streams.

Our tidal rivers are undoubtedly one of the chief sources of our
maritime supremacy. For this reason it is of the utmost importance
that they should be kept in good repair, free from unnecessary
obstructions, and well adapted to the purposes of navigation. As it is,
however, this is not always the case. The chief reason for existing
maladministration, where it exists, is the absence of a uniform system
of control. The Thames, for example, has been hitherto controlled
partly by the Thames Conservancy and partly by the Metropolitan Board
of Works. The Great Sluice, at Boston, in Lincolnshire, was constructed
in 1764 by Smeaton, for the purpose of stopping the flow of the tide
in the river Witham, and converting the upper part of the river into a
fresh-water canal as far as Lincoln. As, however, the control of the
river is divided—one body dealing with the tidal part from the Grand
Sluice to the sea, and the other with the canal and drainage of the
land above—each opposes the schemes of the other, and the navigation
has been ruined.[38]

There is one course whereby this condition of things, where it
exists, may be prevented. It has been suggested that a new Government
Department should be created, with entire charge of and control over
all estuaries and navigable channels, and presided over by a member of
the Cabinet. The interests at stake are sufficiently large to justify
this.[39] They are as vital to our commerce and industry as any matter
now dealt with by the State, affecting our material well-being, and
they are every year increasing in extent and importance. As regards
the principal rivers—the Mersey, the Tyne, the Tees, the Clyde,
and the Wear especially—they are now controlled in accordance with
the recommendation made by the Duke of Richmond’s Select Committee,
that “each catchment area should be placed under a single body of
conservators, who should be responsible for maintaining the river, from
its source to its outfall, in an efficient state.” There are other
rivers, however, that are administered rather in the interest of the
landed proprietors than in that of navigation, and where these two come
into conflict the State should have powers that would enable the public
interest, which is both national and international, to be effectually

The following table gives the area and length of some of the chief
rivers of England:—

                                 Area.     Length.
                                Miles.      Miles.
    Coquet                        240        40
    Wansbeck                      126        22
    Blyth                         131        16
    Tyne                        1,130        34
    Wear                          456        45
    Tees                          708        79
    Esk                           147        21
    Humber                     10,500        ··
    Hull                          364        20
    Foulness                      133        14
    Derwent                       794        64
    Ouse                        1,842        40
    Aire and Calder               815        78
    Don                           682        57
    Trent                       4,052       147
    Ancholme                      244        25
    Ludd                          139         7
    Withern Eau                   189        13

                                Area.      Length.
                               Miles.       Miles.
    Bure                         348         45
    Yare                         880         48
    Blyth                         79         17
    Alde                         109         24
    Deben                        153         27
    Orwell                       171         16
    Stour                        407         45
    Colne                        192         24
    Crouch                       181         15
    Roding                       317         33

           OTHER RIVERS.
                                Area.      Length.
                               Miles.       Miles.
    Witham                     1,079         40
    Welland                      760         42
    Nene                       1,077        100
    Great Ouse                 2,667        143
    Wissey, or Stoke             243         28
    Nar, or Setchy               131         25

Many of the above rivers are not navigable for vessels of any size,
and are therefore not of much value to the transportation resources
of the country. In the majority of cases, also, the character of the
waterways, as regards locality, water-supply, &c., would not justify
any large expenditure in adapting them for purposes of transport.


[29] A.D. 1661, Anno. 14 Car. Reg. ii.

[30] 7 and 8 Gul. III.

[31] Papers relating to the History and Navigation of the Rivers Wye
and Lug. By John Lloyd, junr.

[32] Andrew Yarranton was born in the parish of Astley,
Worcestershire, in the year 1616. He wrote a work which is well known
to economists, entitled ‘England’s Improvement by Land and Sea, or
How to beat the Dutch without Fighting,’ describing observations
that he had made during his travels in Holland, Saxony, and other

[33] Smiles states that Yarranton was offered 250_l._ and eight salt
vats at Upwich, valued at 80_l._ per annum, with three quarters of
a vat in Northwich for 21 years, in payment for the work. It is
interesting to compare these terms with those on which some of our
modern streams have been deepened and improved.

[34] Yarranton’s ‘Improvement by Land and Sea.’

[35] ‘Industrial Biography,’ by S. Smiles, p. 65.

[36] ‘Britannia,’ Holland’s Translation, 1637.

[37] Address of the President of Section G, British Association
Meeting at Dublin, 1878.

[38] Paper on “River Control and Management,” by J. C. Hawkshaw,
‘British Association Report for 1878.’

[39] The following figures give the tonnage of the entrances and
clearances in the foreign trade (including British possessions) of
the principal rivers in 1888:—

                          River. │ Entrances. │ Clearances. │ Total.
                                 │    tons    │    tons     │   tons
    The Thames                   │  7,471,000 │  5,471,000  │ 12,942,000
     ”  Mersey                   │  5,368,000 │  4,941,000  │ 10,309,000
     ” Clyde (Glasgow only)      │    994,000 │  1,154,000  │  2,148,000
     ” Tyne                      │  2,818,000 │  4,392,000  │  7,210,000
     ” Tees (Middlesbro’ only)   │    681,000 │    555,000  │  1,236,000
     ” Humber                    │  1,897,000 │  1,503,000  │  3,400,000



   “Of famous cities we the founders know,
    But rivers, old as seas to which they go,
    Are nature’s bounty; ’tis of more renown,
    To make a river than to build a town.”

The general circumstances under which artificial navigation came to be
adopted in our own and other countries have already been set forth to a
limited extent. We have now to consider the special circumstances that
have led to the adoption of particular routes and particular means of
transport, as well as to make some attempt to indicate the conditions
under which canals may be used with advantage.

The routes that are provided by canal navigations are usually either
local or national—local, when they only connect two inland centres;
national, when they afford access from manufacturing or agricultural
centres to the sea. In the earlier history of the canal system both of
these ends were kept in view. It was just as important to bring raw
materials from their place of production to the centres of consumption
as to connect the centres of manufacture with the outer world.

About the middle of the last century, the cost of goods by road,
between Manchester and Liverpool, was 40_s._ per ton; whilst, by the
Mersey and Irwell route, the water rate was 12_s._ per ton. After the
opening of the Bridgwater Canal the cost was reduced to 6_s._ per ton,
and a better service was given than either of the previous routes had

Again, the cost of carriage on coal by pack-horse from Worsley to
Manchester, which had been 6_s._ to 8_s._ per ton, was reduced to 2_s._
6_d._ per ton on the same canal. In fact, the Duke bound himself not to
exceed that freight, although the old Mersey and Irwell Company still
held to their toll of 3_s._ 4_d._ for all the coal the Duke sent by
their route.

The costs of transports throughout the country were on a similar scale,
except where held in check by the river traders, who, whilst competing,
had still an interest in high freights. From Manchester to Nottingham
the charge was over 6_l._ per ton; to Leicester, over 8_l._, and so on.
These rates were reduced to 2_l._ and 2_l._ 6_s._ 8_d._, respectively,
after the opening of the Trent and Mersey Canal, which also reduced the
cost of transport between Manchester and Hull to less than 2_l._, per
ton, owing to the back-carriage secured from that port, together with
the tide service of 80 miles up the Humber and the Trent.

The real commercial prosperity of England dates from this period
of canal development and enterprise. Raw materials, manufactures,
and produce, were easily transported at a reasonable cost between
Liverpool, Manchester, Staffordshire, Nottingham, and places on the
route to Hull and Northern Europe. These advantages were extended to
the Severn route by the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Act,
which was obtained during the year 1766, and by the navigation of the
Soar to Leicester.[40]

In 1761 it was estimated that the quantity of traffic carried between
the two great cities of Lancashire—Manchester and Liverpool—was about
40 tons per week, or about 2000 tons a year. The cost of transport,
as we have just seen, was upwards of 1_s._ per mile. It is calculated
that the traffic now carried on between the two towns is not less than
ten million tons, and the cost of transport is stated at from 3_s._ to
8_s._ per ton. But the present conditions of transport are nevertheless
regarded as unsatisfactory, and hence the movement for the construction
of the Ship Canal, which is expected to carry traffic for less than
one-half of the amount charged by the railway companies.

When the public mind became fully alive to the importance of providing
internal means of transport by water, there were not wanting those
who were able to provide the ability and the experience necessary to
execute the plans proposed. The history of the Bridgwater Navigation
has been so fully related by Smiles,[41] that nothing which we could
say here would materially enhance the interest of the story. For all
practical purposes, this was the first great artificial waterway in
England. It was, indeed, so remarkable a work for the time that we
shall briefly recapitulate its history.

In 1758 the Duke of Bridgwater got his first Act of Parliament,
which awakened a general ardour for similar improvements among the
landowners, farmers, merchants, and manufacturers of the kingdom, and
although there was not a Louis XIV. nor a Colbert to encourage them,
engineers were found fully equal to Riquet, so that England, though
late, began to make good use of the resources she possessed in her
inland provinces.

The history of the Bridgwater canal may fairly be said to occupy, in
relation to the annals of internal navigation, much the same place
that the Liverpool and Manchester Railway does in relation to the
development of the railway system. It is necessary to review some of
the circumstances connected with this enterprise in order that the
actual position of transport at that time may be understood.

Although an Act of Parliament had been obtained many years previously
for the purpose of making the Mersey and the Irwell navigable from
Liverpool to Manchester, the facilities thereby provided were defective
and unsatisfactory in the extreme. The freight charged for water
transport between the two towns was 12_s._ per ton, when the navigation
was available, but this was not always at command. Boats could not
pass between the lowest lock and Liverpool without the assistance of
a spring tide. There were many fords or shallows in the Irwell, over
which boats could not pass at all “except in great freshes, or by
drawing extraordinary quantities of water from the locks above.” The
consequence was that most of the traffic between the two towns was
carried on by road, at a much higher cost for rather over thirty miles.
The new navigation, although it promised to reduce this charge to 6_s._
per ton, to abridge the distance by nine miles, to provide wharfage
that was not already available, and to give transportation facilities
at all times, was strongly denounced and opposed. It was argued that
the canal would cut through and separate the land in the possession of
several gentlemen along the proposed line of route, that a great number
of acres would be covered with water and for ever lost to the public,
that the canal could confer no advantage not already secured by the
Irwell and the Mersey, that the taking from those streams of the water
required for the canal would greatly prejudice, if it did not totally
obstruct, the old navigation in dry seasons, and that the property of
the old navigation should not be prejudiced without full compensation
being made to the proprietors.[42]

A letter written in 1767,[43] at Burslem, states that “gentlemen come
to see our eighth wonder of the world—the subterraneous navigation,
which is cutting by the great Mr. Brindley, who handles rocks as
easily as you would plum-pies, and makes the four elements subservient
to his will. He is as plain a looking man as one of the boors of the
Peake, or one of his own carters, but when he speaks all ears listen,
and every mind is filled with wonder at the things he pronounces to
be practicable. He has cut a mile through bogs, which he binds up,
embanking them with stones which he gets out of other parts of the
navigation, besides about a quarter of a mile into the hill Yelden; on
the side of which he has a pump, which is worked by water, and a stove,
the fire of which sucks through a pipe the damps that would annoy the
men who are cutting towards the centre of the hill.”

The Bridgwater Canal has had a very remarkable career. It was sold by
Lord Ellesmere to the Bridgwater Navigation Company for 989,612_l._,
including plant valued at 150,000_l._ In 1886, the Bridgwater
Navigation Company sold the canal to the Manchester Ship Canal Company
for 1,710,000_l._ The Bridgwater Canal was followed, after a few years,
by a number of similar undertakings.

We cannot pretend in this chapter to write the history of the canal
movement; but we may, nevertheless, rapidly pass in review some of
the prominent features of that movement, the better to illustrate the
development of canal navigation, and to show how it came to be such as
it is.

About the year 1769 we find that the counties of Lancashire,
Staffordshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire, and Warwickshire, were
greatly exercised concerning the proposal to cut a canal between
the Mersey and the Humber by way of Harecastle, Stoke, Burton, and
Wilden, near which latter place it was intended to effect a junction
with the Trent. Branches were proposed to Birmingham, Lichfield,
Tamworth, and Newcastle-under-Lyme. The canal, it was expected, would
develop the trade in white flint ware, “which is as strong and sweet
as Indian porcelain;” in the noted quarries of Swithland slate, in
Leicestershire, “a beautiful and durable covering for houses;” in
limestone, “on which the village of Breden, in Leicestershire, is
situated;” and “in that sort of iron ore, commonly called ironstone,
proper for making cold-short iron, and which, when mixed with the red
ore from Cumberland, makes the best kind of tough or merchant
iron.”[44] It is somewhat curious, at this time of day, to find that
the facilities which it would offer for the exportation of corn were
put forward as one of the principal arguments in favour of the new


In the year 1755, the Liverpool Corporation authorised a survey to be
made with a view to the construction of a line of navigation between
Liverpool and Hull. Brindley made a survey of the same route three
years later, and he, in turn, was followed by Smeaton. Brindley’s plans
were ultimately adopted. He proposed to complete the canal “as far
north as Harecastle, purchase the land, erect locks, make towing paths,
build bridges, and defray every expense, except that of obtaining the
Act of Parliament, for 700_l._ per mile,” but beyond Harecastle it
was estimated that the works would cost 1000_l._ a mile.[46] Brindley
proposed to make the canal 12 feet wide at the bottom, and three feet
deep on an average, with a depth of 30 inches at the fords. The boats
designed to be worked on the canal were 70 feet long, 6 feet wide,
drawing 30 inches of water, and carrying 20 tons. Their cost was stated
at 30_l._ each.[47]

It is interesting to record that when the proposal to construct a canal
from Liverpool to Hull was under consideration, about the middle of
the last century, one of the arguments used in its favour was that it
would enable American iron to be brought cheaper to the manufacturing
towns from the ports of Liverpool and Hull, and so contribute to
lessen the consumption of foreign European iron, “to the great profit
of this nation in general, and our own ironworks in particular”;
while it was even suggested that, in order to develop this branch of
business between our then American colonies and the mother country, a
bounty should be offered on the import of American pig-iron, thereby
contributing to “clear the lands in America,” and “to preserve the
woods in England.”

The project to construct a new waterway through the manufacturing
districts between Liverpool and Hull was strenuously opposed by a
number of Cheshire gentlemen, who were the owners of the Weaver or
Northwich Navigation, and who proposed to carry that waterway to
Macclesfield, Stockport, and Manchester. In 1765, a plan was submitted
for extending the navigation of the Weaver from Winsford Bridge, in
Cheshire, to the river Trent, in the county of Stafford, there joining
the Trent and the Severn by canals, and thereby “opening an inland
communication between the great ports of Liverpool, Bristol, and Hull.”

In view of the attention that has recently been given to the salt
industry, it may be stated that the transport of that commodity was
one of the principal reasons offered for the construction, in 1769,
of a canal between Liverpool and Hull, _viâ_ Cheshire. At that time
manufactured salt was carried on horseback “to almost all parts of
Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire,
and Lincolnshire,” and it was stated that “so great is the home
consumption of this article, that from the saltworks of Northwich
alone, a duty of 67,000_l._ was last year paid into the Exchequer. At
Northwich and Wisford are annually made about 24,000 tons.”[48]


The Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which was commenced in 1770 and
completed in 1816, is one of the most important lines of navigation in
the United Kingdom, connecting, as it does, the Irish Sea at Liverpool
with the German Ocean at Hull. The works were extended over a period
of about forty-one years, and cost altogether 1,200,000_l._ The course
of the canal from Leeds is _viâ_ the Abbey of Kirkstall, Calverley,
Woodhouse, Apperley Bridge, Shipley, Bingley, Skipton, Burnley,
Blackburn, Wigan, and so on to Liverpool. It is the longest canal in
Great Britain, and in some respects, the most remarkable. It has many
important works of art on its course, the summit level of which is
reached at an elevation of 411 feet above the Aire at Leeds, 41 miles
from that town. At Foulridge there is a tunnel 1640 yards in length, 18
feet high, and 17 feet wide. Near to this tunnel are two reservoirs for
the supply of the canal. They cover an area of 104 acres, and store up
12,000 cubic yards of water. The canal is carried on aqueducts across
the Aire, the Colne Water, the Brown, the Calder, the Henbarn, the
Derwent Water, and the Roddlesworth Water. The total length of the
navigation is 127 miles, and the total lockage 844 feet 7½ inches,
while the canal basin at Liverpool is 56 feet above low-water mark
on the river Mersey. The canal has several important feeders or


The Kennet and Avon Canal starts from the port of Bristol and runs to
Bath, Dundas (for the Somersetshire Coal Canal), Bradford-on-Avon,
Semington (for the Wilts and Berks Canal), Devizes, Honeystreet,
Pewsey, Burbage, Hungerford, Newbury, Reading, where it joins the
Thames for Henley, Marlow, Maidenhead, Windsor, Staines, and London.
The distance from Bristol to Bath is 15 miles, from Bath to Newbury 57
miles, from Newbury to Reading 18½ miles, and from Reading to London 74

The river Avon, from Bristol to Bath, will admit of barges being worked
carrying 90 tons when the water is high, but in low water this weight
would be reduced to 50 or 60 tons, in consequence of the want of
cleansing and dredging. This part of the navigation is under an Act of
Parliament, 10 Queen Anne, 1711, and is to be free and open for ever
upon payment of toll.

The canal from Bath to Newbury (under an Act of Parliament of George
III.) has been constructed for vessels drawing five feet of water,
measuring 14 feet wide, and according to the present soundings on the
lock-sills, vessels of that draught ought now to navigate the canal,
but they are not able to do so from the great accumulation of mud,
which is seldom less than one foot in thickness, and generally two feet
or more. This not only prevents the barges from using the canal for
carrying full cargoes, but necessitates the employment of extra towing
power. One horse would tow a barge 2 to 2½ miles an hour, if the canal
were kept in proper working order. At the present time two or more
horses are required to do what ought to be only the work of one. Many
of the lay byes throughout the canal were originally made to enable
vessels to turn; nearly all of these are now of no use, owing to their
being full of mud and weeds, consequently barges have often to go long
distances beyond their proper destination in order to turn. Owing to
the accumulation of mud on the sides of the canal, barges can only
pass one another with great difficulty, causing much loss of time.
The gearing of the paddles of most of the locks is very insufficient
and out of repair. On all properly managed navigations, dredgers are
kept almost constantly at work cleansing out the mud, which rapidly
accumulates, but on this canal there are none. The only men employed on
the canal are a few labourers to clean out the weeds with rakes, which
are deposited on the towing-paths, and allowed to remain for months,
thus obstructing the use of the paths. The pounds between the locks at
Devizes are nearly all full of mud and weeds.

The construction of the new port of Sharpness, opened in 1874, is due
to the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal Company, which constructed at
the small promontory of that name, about midway between Avonmouth and
Gloucester, a large tidal basin, 350 feet by 300 feet, a lock 320 feet
long, with three pairs of gates of large size, and a discharging dock
2200 feet long, and occupying an area of 13½ acres. The entrance to
the docks from the Severn is 60 feet wide, and the depth at high water
averages 26 feet.

The canal company, by this provision, has been able to retain for
Gloucester a great deal of the shipping which formerly, although
chartered for that city, has, owing to the old canal entrance being
too small, been obliged to discharge at one of the South Wales ports.
Almost simultaneously with this step, the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal
Company purchased the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, thereby enabling
water communication to be opened up with the heart of the Midlands.


The Ellesmere Canal, in North Wales, consists of a series of
navigations proceeding from the river Dee in the vale of Llangollen.
One branch passes northward, near the towns of Ellesmere, Whitchurch,
Nantwich, and the city of Chester, to Ellesmere Port on the Mersey;
another in a south-easterly direction, through the middle of Shropshire
towards Shrewsbury on the Severn, and a third in a south-westerly
direction, by the town of Oswestry, to the Montgomeryshire Canal,
near Llanymynech; its whole extent, including the Chester Canal,
incorporated with it, being about 112 miles. The heaviest and most
important part of the works occurred in carrying the canal through the
rugged hill country, between the rivers Dee and Ceriog, in the vale of
Llangollen. From Nantwich to Whitchurch the distance is 16 miles, and
the rise 132 feet, involving nineteen locks; and thence to Ellesmere,
Chirk, Pont Cysylltan, and the river Dee, 1¾ mile above Llangollen, the
distance is 38¼ miles, and the rise 13 feet, involving only two locks.
The latter part of the undertaking presented the greatest difficulties,
as, in order to avoid the expense of constructing numerous locks,
which would involve serious delay and heavy expense in working the
navigation, it became necessary to contrive means for carrying the
canal on the same level from one side of the respective valleys of the
Dee and the Ceriog to the other, and hence the magnificent aqueducts
of Chirk and Pont Cysylltan, characterised by Phillips as “among the
boldest efforts of human invention in modern times.”

The Chirk Aqueduct carries the canal across the valley of the Ceriog,
between Chirk Castle and the village of that name. At this point
the valley is above 700 feet wide; the banks are steep, with a flat
alluvial meadow between them, through which the river flows. The
country is finely wooded. Chirk Castle stands on an eminence on its
western side, with the Welsh mountains and Glen Ceriog as a background;
the whole composing a landscape of great beauty, in the centre of which
Telford’s aqueduct forms a highly picturesque object.

The aqueduct consists of ten arches of 4 feet span each. The level of
the water in the canal is 65 feet above the meadow, and 70 feet above
the level of the river Ceriog.

The proportions of this work far exceeded anything of the kind that
had up to that time been attempted in England. It was a very costly
structure; but Telford, like Brindley, thought it better to incur a
considerable capital outlay in maintaining the uniform level of the
canal than to raise and lower it up and down the sides of the valley
by locks at a heavy expense in works, and a still greater cost in time
and water. The aqueduct is an admirable specimen of the finest class of
masonry, and Telford showed himself a master of his profession by the
manner in which he carried out the whole details of the undertaking.
The piers were carried up solid to a certain height, above which they
were built hollow with cross walls. The spandrels also, above the
springing of the arches, were constructed with longitudinal walls, and
left hollow. The first stone was laid on the 17th of June, 1796, and
the work was completed in the year 1801.


The Aire and Calder Canal, in Yorkshire, which is connected with the
Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Leeds Bridge, and thence communicates with
the Mersey at Liverpool, was originally constructed with locks 60 feet
long by 15 feet wide, and with a depth of 3 feet 6 inches. It has been
subsequently twice reconstructed in all its main features. In 1820, the
diversion between Knottingley and Goole was constructed, with locks 72
feet long, 18 feet wide, and with 7 feet depth of water; but this being
found inefficient, the whole of the works between Goole and Leeds, on
the Aire branch of the navigation, and Wakefield on the Calder, have
been again reconstructed, with locks of 215 feet long, 22 feet wide,
and 9 feet on the sills. In addition to this, the undertakers have
purchased and improved the Barnsley Canal, and also, to some extent, as
lessees, they have extended their improvements to the Calder and Hebble
Navigation. From time to time, the port of Goole, which forms a part
of the Aire and Calder Navigation, has been improved, and its capacity
enlarged, new docks and entrance-locks have been built, and the channel
has been generally improved.

The accompanying diagrams show the lines of canal communication
between the Severn at Bristol and the Thames, and between the ports of
Liverpool, Goole, and Hull. They give the length and profile of each
canal, and require but little explanation.

The Aire and Calder Canal has been in many respects one of the most
remarkable in England. Its original capital was 150,000_l._, but it
is now stated to amount to 1,697,000_l._ The difference has mainly
resulted from accumulations of profit. After deducting the cost of
maintenance, the sum available for distribution in 1888 was 85,000_l._
The gross yearly income is now as large as the original capital.


A glance at the canal map of England and Wales (p. 57) will show that
in the Midlands there are many existing canals, some of which are
still utilised to a large extent. The more important of these are the
Worcester and Birmingham, the Birmingham, and the Dudley Canals. The
first of these was constructed under an Act obtained in 1791, which
authorised the raising of a capital of 180,000_l._ for the purpose.
The length of the canal is 29 miles, and it has 6 feet depth of water
and 42 feet of top width. The canal is exceptional in passing through
no less than five tunnels in its course—the first at West Heath, the
second at Tardebigg, the third at Shortwood, the fourth at Oddingley,
and the fifth at Edgbaston. There is also a fall of 428 feet in 15
miles by 71 locks, which are 15 feet wide and 18 feet long, to the
level of the Severn. Priestley wrote of the canal that it was “the
channel for supplying Worcester and the borders of the Severn down to
Tewkesbury and Gloucester with coal, and, in return, conveys the hops
and cider of that part of the country northwards, and more particularly
affords a ready means for the export of the Birmingham manufactures,
through the port of Bristol, to any part of the world.”



The general direction of the Dudley Canal is nearly north-west by
a crooked course of 30 miles in Worcestershire, a detached part of
Shropshire, and Staffordshire; it is situate very high; its two ends
are on the eastern side of the grand ridge, while its middle, by means
of two very long tunnels, is on the western side of the same. The
communication of this canal with the Stourbridge Canal, by the Black
Delph branch, and the terminating canals, occasions a considerable
carrying trade thereon. This canal commences in the Worcester and
Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak, and terminates in the old Birmingham
at Tipton Green. From near Dudley there is a branch of two miles to
the Stourbridge Canal at Black Delph in Kingswinford; there is another
branch of 1¼ mile to near Dudley town, and a branch from this last of
three-quarters of a mile to the Dudley collieries. From the Worcester
and Birmingham Canal to the Black Delph branch 10½ miles are level,
thence to near the entrance of the Dudley Tunnel, about three-quarters
of a mile, there is a rise of 31 feet by five locks, thence through the
tunnel it is level, and thence again in the last one-eighth of a mile a
fall of 13 feet is overcome by two locks to the old Birmingham Canal.
The Black Delph branch has a fall of 85 feet by nine locks to the
Stourbridge Canal; the Dudley branch has a rise of 64 feet in the first
three-quarters of a mile, the remainder being level. The depth of water
in this canal is 5 to 6 feet; the width of the locks on the Black Delph
branch is 7 feet. To near Lapal, or Laplat, the canal passes through
a tunnel 3776 yards long; at Gorsty Hill it passes through another of
623 yards, under a collateral branch of the Grand Ridge; and at Dudley
there is another tunnel of 2926 yards in length, near the summit-level
of the canal. The arch of this last tunnel has a height of 13½ feet. At
Cradley Pool a large reservoir exists for supplying the lockage of
the Black Delph branch. It is provided, that level cuts may be made
from this canal towards any coal-mine to the extent of 2000 yards. A
stop-lock is erected at the junction with the Worcester and Birmingham
Canal, by which either company has a power of preventing the other
from drawing off their head of water. The Black Delph branch was
first executed, and this was then united with the Dudley part of the
canal, which had been constructed by Lord Dudley and Ward; these were
completed and in use before the extension or main length to Selly
Oak was designed. The company was authorised to raise a capital of
229,100_l._, the amount of the shares being originally 100_l._ each.
Owing to the different Acts under which the parts of the canal were
progressively undertaken, the rates of tonnage differ considerably.


The principal artificial waterways in Wales are the Swansea Canal,
about 19 miles in length, which was opened in 1798, and which connects
the harbour of Swansea with the various copper and other works between
that point and Pen Tawe; the Neath Canal, which is about 14 miles in
length, and which, commencing near Abernant, and terminating at Neath
river harbour, with a branch to a short canal called the Briton Canal,
near Giant’s Grave, Pill; the Aberdare Canal, which, about 6½ miles
in length, connects the Glamorganshire Canal with Aberdare, and runs
through a district of great mineral and manufacturing resources; and
the Glamorganshire Canal, which in a total length of 25 miles has a
rise of about 611 feet, and which, commencing on the east side of the
Taff river, and near its entrance into Penarth harbour, terminates
in the town of Merthyr Tydfil. The canal was opened between Merthyr
and Cardiff in 1794, and at the end of the canal, which terminates in
the Taff river, there is a sea-lock, with a floating dock, capable of
admitting vessels of considerable tonnage.

In May 1885 the Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canals, in South Wales,
were transferred to the Bute Dock Company, who formally commenced
working them in September 1887. The old system of conducting the
traffic on these canals was to charge toll rates, but the Marquis of
Bute has adopted the system of charging through rates from any place on
the Bristol Channel to Cardiff.

There are many continuous lines of water communication between
different commercial points of importance in England, as, for example,
between London and Liverpool, Liverpool and Hull, Birmingham and
London, Leeds and Liverpool, &c.; but it often happens upon such
through routes that there are great differences in the sizes of the
locks, which are shorter or narrower at one point than at another.
Thus, for example, between the Derbyshire district and London, the
canal communication is in the hands of seven different companies, with
four different gauges at least, the effect of which is to limit the
carrying capacity of the boats to the very low maximum of 24 tons. A
considerable number of canal boats continue to navigate these through
routes in spite of all these drawbacks, but they have very little
encouragement to do so, inasmuch as the different canal companies
impose different rates of toll, the aggregate of which comes to almost,
if not quite, as much as would be paid to the railway companies for
the service. It is hopeless to expect to see this condition of affairs
quite remedied until all these through routes pass into the hands of
the same companies. It has been computed by capable engineers that an
average expenditure of 10,000_l._ or 12,000_l._ would enable the canal
system of England to become efficient, and it is probable that before
long this expenditure will be found worth while.

According to the most recent returns available, the canal mileage owned
by the principal railway companies in England and Wales, and the number
of employés thereon, were as under:—

                                       │   Miles of   │ No. of Employés
                                       │ Canal Owned. │   thereon.
    Great Western                      │    258       │     270
    London and North-Western           │    488       │     214
    Midland                            │     50       │     ···
    Manchester, Sheffield,             │              │
         and Lincolnshire              │    180½      │     538
    North Staffordshire                │    121       │     263
    Caledonian                         │     60       │     340

The total number of employés on the canals of England and Wales in 1884
was 1479 for 1333 miles owned, being an average of little more than one
employé to the mile. On the railways of England and Wales for the same
year the number of employés was 310,568 for 18,000 miles worked, being
an average of 17·2 employés per mile. As, however, there are no returns
of canal traffic available, we cannot say how the two sets of figures
compare in the matter of results.

While several new canal projects are in process of incubation the
existing canal property of the United Kingdom, which has cost not less
than sixty millions sterling, has been allowed to go to rack and ruin
by reason of defects and neglect that are quite inexcusable, and which
seriously prejudice not only the canals themselves, but the trade and
commerce of the country as a whole.

The unsatisfactory condition of the waterways of the United Kingdom is
sufficiently proved by a few returns that were presented to the Select
Committee on canals[50] (1883). At that date there were fifty-seven
canals in England and Wales belonging to independent companies,
twenty-seven canals and navigations under public trusts, forty-five
owned or controlled by railway companies, and fourteen that were either
derelict, or had been converted into railways.

Of the canals under the control of independent companies, a
considerable number were in anything but a flourishing condition, and
most of them, apparently, because they entirely failed to meet the
requirements of commerce.

So far as mere mileage is concerned, the waterways of England,
including canals and canalised rivers, are really of very considerable,
if not sufficient extent, as the following figures show:—

    Owned by public trusts               927¼
    Independent canals                  1445¼
    Guaranteed and owned by railways    1333
    Derelict                             118½
    Ownership not known                   36¾

Besides these, there have been about 120 miles of canals converted
into railways. But these canals are of very limited use, because of
the haphazard and unsystematic way in which they have been laid out.
Scarcely any two canals have a common gauge, and upon the same canal
several gauges of locks may often be found.

The four great industrial rivers of England, and the four most
important maritime outlets, are connected with each other by 650 miles
of inland waterway. The Thames and the Humber, the Severn and the
Mersey, and the Severn, Mersey and the Humber, ought to be placed in
communication with each other by as perfect a system of waterways as
it is possible to provide. But this desirable end has been frustrated
by railway action. In the first group, 175 miles of canal have been
acquired by railway companies; in the second group, 490 miles; and in
the third group, 360 miles. It has been computed that the average cost
of the canals in the first group was 5000_l._, and in the second group
9000_l._ per mile. The railways that connect the same four maritime
points have a total mileage of about 9500 miles, and an aggregate
capital of about 360 millions.

The history of British canals, with all the most interesting
information bearing upon their extent, capacity, and traffic, has
been written by Priestley in a work that is to this day the standard
authority on the subject. The same subject has been dealt with very
extensively in Rees’s ‘Cyclopædia,’ under the heading of “Canals.” With
these sources of information open to all the world, it would be quite
supererogatory to go into much detail relative to these waterways of
Great Britain, except in so far as they are of cardinal importance, or
are likely to exercise an influence in the future development of canal
navigations. It will be understood, therefore, that in these notes no
attempt is made to afford minute details of the different canals dealt
with; while many of the canals that have either been abandoned, or have
become the property of railway companies, or have otherwise ceased to
be of public importance, have been entirely disregarded.

It is an axiom in water transport that the larger the vessel employed,
within certain limits, the more inexpensive is the cost of the service
performed. It has been calculated[51] that at the present time, the cost
of transporting fifty tons of material between London and Liverpool,
a distance of 180 miles, is 25_l._, or 10_s._ per ton exclusive of
tolls. But then the boats employed are only 25-ton craft, which take
eight days on the journey, with one day to load, and one day to
unload, making, with two spare days, twelve days in all. If, however,
large craft were substituted, capable of carrying 120 tons each, and
towed by a steam barge carrying 90 tons—making a total load of 450
tons—the cost would be reduced to about 2_s._ 6⅕_d._ per ton, or about
one-fourth of the existing cost, and the time occupied by the journey
would be lessened by two days. In both cases profit is included, at the
rate of 25 per cent.

In order, however, to have this substitution generally effected, a
large number of the existing canals would require to be deepened and
widened. The size of the craft suggested for the more economical trip
would be 84 feet by 12 feet by 6 feet 3 inches draft. A smaller vessel
would not answer the purpose. Now, there are comparatively few canals
that would at the present time admit of the passage of such craft, and
in some cases waterways that are nominally adapted for even larger
boats, are in such an imperfect condition of repair that they are not
suited for use. The canals of the independent companies that profess to
be adapted for vessels of this size, and the size of craft which they
severally admit, are—

                                   │ Length of │
                Canal.             │Navigation.│   Size of Craft.
                                   │  miles.   │  ft. in.     ft. in.
    Aire and Calder                │   80      │  212  0   by  22  0
    Bridgwater                     │   97      │   84  0    ”  15  0
    Bude[52]                       │   35½     │  104  0    ”  29  6
    Gloucester                     │   16      │  163  0    ”  29  6
    Leicester and Northampton      │   24      │   88  0    ”  15  6
    Louth                          │   11¾     │   87  6    ”  15  6
    Medway Navigation              │    7¾     │   86  0    ”  23  0
    Regent’s and Hertford Union    │   10¼     │   90  0    ”  15  0
    Stort                          │   13½     │  100  0    ”  13  6
    Thames and Medway              │    9      │   94  8    ”  22  8
    Trent River                    │   72      │   90  0    ”  15  0
                Total[53]          │  306¾     │

Here then we have only 306¾ miles of canal suited to the passage of
craft 84 feet by 12 feet, including the river Trent, which, of itself,
contributes 72 miles to the total. In other words, only about twenty
per cent. of the total independent waterways of the country can admit
craft that would enable them to realise the full value of economical
transport. Of the remainder, a great part of the navigations vary from
60 to 75 feet in width, so that presumably they could be adapted for
the larger sizes of craft without very material expense.


The canals and navigations managed by public trusts are in a decidedly
better position. Commencing with the noble Severn, which, for a great
part of its canalised course of forty-four miles, admits craft 270
feet by 35 feet, there are the Thames (from London Bridge), the Lea,
the Weaver, and the Wye, which are suited to craft of considerable
dimensions, but these for the most part can hardly be described as
canals proper.

The canals that have passed into the possession of the railway
companies are not, as a rule, so well adapted for navigation as those
controlled by independent companies. On the face of it, indeed, there
is a presumption that the railways could not have acquired the property
if it had been as it should have been. The only railway canals that are
capable of admitting craft exceeding 84 feet in length are the Kennet
and Avon, 85 miles long; the Grantham Canal, 33½ miles long; and the
Nottingham Canal, 15 miles in length—about 133 miles in all. Out of
a total of 1333 miles of the derelict and converted canals, only the
Melton Mowbray, 14¾ miles in length, was adapted for the larger size of

The preceding map shows the canals in England and Wales that are in the
hands of independent owners or public trusts, and in the possession of
railway companies, respectively.

Under the circumstances stated, it is perfectly evident that the canals
of England and Wales have not had a fair chance. Out of a total of
over 4000 miles of canal and river navigations, the proportion that is
suited to craft of 200 tons burden is almost fractional. With such a
size of vessel, cheap transport is difficult.

Between London and Birmingham the following canals form a system of

                                      │ Length │
                 Canal.               │of Navi-│     Size of Locks.
                                      │ gation.│
                                      │ miles. │ ft.   ft. in.   ft. in.
   Grand Junction, between Brentford  │  92    │ 80 by 14   6 by  4   6
      and Braunston                   │        │
   Oxford, between Braunston and      │   5½   │      no lock.
      Napton Warwick and Napton,      │        │
         between  those places        │  13½   │ 72 by  7     by  4   0
   Warwick and Birmingham             │  21½   │ 72 by  7     by  4   0
                                      │ 132½   │
                                      │        │
   Paddington Arm of the Grand        │        │
      Junction                        │  13½   │
                                      │ 146    │

The diagram on the next page shows the section of the line of canal
navigation between the Mersey and the Thames by way of Birmingham, the
total distance being 260 miles. It will be observed that the system is
an extensive one, embracing no fewer than twelve different waterways,
the more important of which are the Trent and Mersey, and the Grand
Junction canals.


The principal advantages afforded by canals are thus concisely stated
by General Rundall:—

     1. They admit of any class of goods being carried in the
    manner and at the speed which proves to be most economical
    and suitable for it, without the slightest interference with
    any other class.

     2. The landing or shipment of cargo is not necessarily
    confined to certain fixed stations, as is obligatory on
    railways, but boats can stop at any point on their journey
    to load and unload, and discharge their cargoes direct over
    the ship’s side.

     3. The dead weight to be moved in proportion to the load is
    much less.

     4. The capacity for traffic is practically unlimited,
    provided the locks are properly designed.

     5. There is no obligation to maintain enormous or expensive
    plant or establishments, as all those can, and would be,
    provided by separate agencies and distinct capital. Thus a
    large outlay in first cost and subsequent maintenance of
    rolling stock is avoided.

     6. There is an almost total absence of risk, and the
    reduction of damage to cargo in transit, and consequently of
    insurance, to a minimum.

On the other hand, the defects, besides those of original construction,
in existing British canals, are:—

     1. A total absence of unity of management. For example, on
    one of the routes from London to Liverpool there are seven
    different canals and navigations; on another also there are
    nine, and on a third ten different companies.

     2. A want of uniformity of gauge in the locks, as well as in
    the canals themselves.

     3. With few exceptions they are not capable of being worked
    by steam.

     4. An unequal system of tolls.

     5. The many links in the communications in the hands of the
    railways paralyses any unity of action, and renders any
    scheme of amalgamation between the several lines impossible.

If a restoration, or an extension of its ancient water lines, is to be
undertaken in Great Britain, it is essential that it should be devised
on the most improved principles. The chief points requiring attention
are the dimensions to be given to the main lines, with the best
relative proportion of width to depth; uniformity of gauge in the locks
or lifts, which should be so designed as to ensure changes of
level being overcome in the quickest time; the remodelling of the
cargo boats; the use of the electric light for night navigation; a
readjustment of the rates of toll; and suitable provision for loading
and discharging cargo.

The works of the canal and river engineer are of the most varied,
difficult, and onerous character. He has to deepen the beds of rivers,
so as to secure uniform depths and absolute immunity from dangers
of projecting rocks, reefs, or sandbanks. He has to divert the beds
of torrential streams, and construct new channels, as has been done
with the Thames, the Danube, the Tees, and many other rivers. He
has to overcome the obstacles to navigation presented by cataracts
like Niagara, St. Anthony’s, and other falls, by laying down a new
waterway, where locks or lifts will overcome the differences of level
or gradient represented by the cataracts. He has to feed artificial
waterways in such a fashion that they are never short of water. He has
to carry canals under mountains by tunnels, and through valleys by
aqueducts. He has to raise the level of his waterways for navigation
or for irrigation by barrage works, like those that are now being
carried out on the Nile at Damietta and Rosetta. He has to overcome
the differences of level in inland seas, as has been done by the St.
Mary’s Falls and Welland Canals on the American continent. He has to
join together seas that have been sundered by Nature, as in the case of
the Suez, Corinth, Panama, Nicaragua, and other canals. He has to build
training-walls, close passes, direct and confine currents, throw dams
across minor channels, concentrate low-water flows, rectify shifting
sandbars, equalise and distribute water-power, cleave through mountains
(as in the case of the Culebra Col, on the line of the Panama Canal),
raise rivers to the level of lakes, and lower lakes to sea-level
(as in the case of the proposed Nicaraguan Canal), and to deal with
many other phenomena that appear to the ordinary mind to be so many
impossibilities. The engineering history of some rivers is an epitome
of engineering achievements. The case of the Mississippi river, in
the United States, is a notable case in point. That splendid highway,
with its navigation of some 15,000 miles, and its infinite number of
tributaries, each of them a noble river in itself, has been regulated,
canalised, and otherwise improved at a hundred different points along
its course, with results that are notable in the annals of engineering
precedents. Most of our rivers, lakes, and canals have gone through the
same process. It has been the work of the engineer, and that alone,
which has conferred upon them the advantages possessed by our great
maritime highways at the present day. The extent of that work, and the
means whereby it has been accomplished, are the noblest memorial of
nineteenth century science.

One of the most important applications of canal navigation has been
in enabling the navigation of important rivers to be continued, where
Nature had interposed a barrier in the form of impassable cataracts or
otherwise. Examples of this sort are the Welland Canal between Lake
Erie and Ontario, which provides a navigation parallel to the Niagara
river, rendered impassable by the Falls of that name; the Des Moines
Canal, which overcomes the barrier interposed by the Des Moines Rapids,
on the Mississippi; the canal that overcomes, in the same way, the
difference of level in the Mississippi caused by the St. Anthony’s
Falls[54] near Minneapolis; and the Gotha Canal, which overcomes the
difficulties of Trolhätta Falls on the Gotha river in Sweden.

These achievements and responsibilities have not been carried so far in
Great Britain as in some other countries. The existing canal system of
that country is more primitive than that of any other leading European
State, and it is very much more imperfectly developed than those of
Canada and the United States. The Manchester Canal project, described
at a later stage of this work, will do something to wipe away this


[40] ‘Journal of the Society of Arts,’ 1888.

[41] ‘Lives of the Engineers.’

[42] An excellent summary of these and other matters connected with
the early history of this enterprise is given in a little work
published in 1766, entitled “The History of Inland Navigation.”

[43] ‘History of Inland Navigations.’

[44] This refers to the South Staffordshire mine, which is hardly
worked now. The iron trade of that period was chiefly carried on in
Staffordshire, and nothing except a little charcoal iron was made
in the Cumberland district, where the annual production, including
Furness, is now over a million and a half tons per annum.

[45] It was thought a great thing that over five million quarters of
corn were exported from Great Britain in the five years ending 1750.

[46] ‘The History of Inland Navigations,’ &c., London, 1769.

[47] Ibid., p. 58.

[48] In the same district over a million tons are now annually sent
down the river Weaver.

[49] A detailed description of this Navigation is given in
Priestley’s ‘Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals, and
Railways of Great Britain,’ p. 385.

[50] Appendix to Report, p. 206.

[51] Report of Canal Committee of 1882, Appendix No. 9, p. 230.

[52] This, however, is not a canal of uniform size, and part of it
will only admit vessels 63 ft. by 14 ft. 7 in.

[53] This total does not include the Thames and Severn, the Wey, and
the Wisbech canals, because each of these has two dimensions, the
smaller of which is too limited to admit the passage of large craft,
and they are therefore unsuited, without trans-shipment of traffic,
for the purpose in view.

[54] At these falls 790,000 cubic feet of water drops from a height
of 75 feet every minute, giving some 112,000 horse-power, which is
utilised in manufactures of different kinds.



                         “Former things
    Are set aside, like abdicated kings.”

Scotland has a number of rivers of the first importance, especially
the Clyde, the Tay, the Dee, and the Tweed. It has a large number of
smaller streams, most of them, however, having too tortuous a course,
too impetuous a flow, or too shallow a bed, to be used to any extent
for purposes of navigation. This remark does not, of course, apply to
the numerous lakes or lochs of Scotland, but these are, for the most
part, either situated in inaccessible regions, or in localities where
there is not trade enough to provide any considerable amount of traffic.

The Clyde is pre-eminently distinguished for the extent of its traffic,
and for the improvements that have made it what it is.

Camden does not say much as to the condition of the Clyde in his time,
and he is almost equally reticent about Glasgow. “The river Glotta
or Clwyd,” he says, “runneth from Hamilton, by Bothwell ... and so
straight forward, with a readie stream, through Glasgow, in ancient
times past a Bishop’s seat ... now the most famous town of merchandise
in this tract.” In Camden’s time the other qualifications of Glasgow
appear to have been that it had “a pleasant site, and apple trees, and
other like fruit trees, much commended, having also a very fine bridge
supported with eight arches.”

It is upwards of 300 years since the Magistrates and Town Council of
Glasgow made the first attempts to improve the Clyde, then a shallow,
brawling stream, which could easily be crossed on foot even opposite
Glasgow, and was only suitable for the navigation of herring boats, and
similarly small craft. In 1768 an engineer, named Golborne, contracted
the river by the construction of rubble jetties, and the removal of
sand and gravel shoal by dredging, &c.

From 1781 till 1836, the works carried on for the further improvement
of the river under the direction, consecutively, of Golborne, Rennie,
and Telford, consisted chiefly in the shortening of some, and the
lengthening of other of Golborne’s jetties, the construction of
additional jetties, the connecting of the outer ends of these jetties
by half-tide training walls on both sides of the river, so as to
confine the water and increase the ebb scour, and the removal of hard
shoals by dredging.

It was not till 1836 that the river from Glasgow to Port Glasgow was
treated as a whole, and a true appreciation shown of its future by the
Clyde Trustees’ then Engineer Logan, in the laying down of river lines,
which, with some slight modifications and expansions, have up till now
formed the limits of the river’s improvements.

Parliamentary plans on these lines approved of by James Walker,
Consulting Engineer to the Trustees, were submitted to and sanctioned
by Parliament in 1840; but so inadequate was the appreciation of the
depth required, that 20 ft. at high water neap tides was recommended by
Logan as the extreme depth of the river and harbour, and a clause in
the Act empowering the deepening to proceed until every part thereof
shall have attained at least a depth of 17 ft. at high water neap tides.

The depth in the harbour of Glasgow at the present time is from 25 ft.
to 29 ft, and in the river from 27 ft. to 29 ft. at high water neaps,
high water springs being about 2 ft. higher. The average tidal range of
spring tides at Glasgow is 11 ft. 2 in., and at Port Glasgow 10 ft.;
and of neaps at Glasgow 9 ft. 2 in., and at Port Glasgow 8 ft. 3 in.

While jetties and training walls, or parallel dykes, performed a
useful part in the early improvement of the river, it is to persistent
dredging that the enormous increase in the magnitude of the river since
1840 is due.

The early dredging was performed by large rakes, or porcupine ploughs,
as they were called, because they were provided with strong iron teeth,
wrought by hand capstans, which drew the material from the bed of the
river on to the banks.

Hand-wrought, and subsequently horse-wrought, dredges, with small
buckets on a ladder, succeeded the plough, and in 1824 the first steam
dredger was started on the river. It dredged, however, only to 10 ft
6 in. Now several of the dredges employed can work in 35 ft. depth of

Mr. Deas, the engineer to the Clyde Trust, has stated[55] that it is
due to the application of steam power to dredges, and the subsequent
adoption of steam hopper barges for carrying the dredged material to the
sea, that the rapid enlargement not only of the Clyde and the Harbour
of Glasgow, but of the Tyne, the Tees, and several other similar rivers
in recent years are due. But for the introduction of the latter, it
would have been physically, financially, and otherwise impossible to
have disposed, within so limited a time, of the enormous quantities of
material which have been dredged from these various rivers and harbours.

Up till 1862, all the material dredged from the river Clyde and harbour
of Glasgow was loaded on punts holding eight cubic yards, and deposited
on the alveus or foreshores, or the low-lying land adjoining the river.
Many acres were thus reclaimed, to the great gain of the riparian
proprietors, to whom the Trustees required to hand over the ground free
of cost. The adoption of steam hopper barges, holding from 240 to 320
cubic yards each, removed these obstacles, and enabled the deepening,
widening, and straightening of the river and harbour to be proceeded
with more rapidly, without seriously obstructing the navigation with
steam tugs and trains of punts. The result has been that while in
1861 the total quantity dredged and deposited on land was 593,176
cubic yards, the total quantity dredged in 1887 was 1,319,344 cubic
yards, only 64,000 cubic yards of which was deposited on land. The
total quantity dredged during the forty-two years ending 1888 amounted
to 32,027,834 cubic yards, the quantity in the first twenty-one
years being 9,091,544 cubic yards, and in the last twenty-one years,
22,936,290 cubic yards.

In 1755, the Clyde at Glasgow was only 15 in. deep at low water, and
3 ft 8 in. at high water, while the depth at Marlinford, three miles
below the harbour, was 18 in., and at Erskine, or Kilpatrick Sands,
about eight miles below, and at Dumbuck Ford, ten miles below, only
2 ft. at low water. In 1781, the depth at Dumbuck Ford was 14 ft. at
low water; it is now 20 ft. In 1806, Telford reports that on February
14th of that year the _Harmony_, of Liverpool, came up with ordinary
spring tide, drawing 8 ft. 6 in. of water; but up till 1812, the river
from the harbour downwards to Bowling was so shallow, that the _Comet_
required to leave Glasgow and Greenock, respectively, at or near high
water to prevent it grounding in the river. Now, vessels drawing 23 and
24 ft. of water pass up the river almost daily. The Clyde Trust, who
are charged with the control of the river, had expended thereon, up to
the middle of 1887, upwards of eleven and a half millions sterling, and
had, besides, contracted a debt of over four and a half millions. The
accompanying diagram will show the depths of the channel in Glasgow
harbour at different dates, but the whole of the river has been dredged
constantly from that city down to Port Glasgow, a distance of nearly
twenty miles, and the bed of the river between these points is now
virtually level throughout.


The shipping industry has, in consequence, enormously increased. In
1888, 8428 vessels, of 1,891,000 tons, entered, and 8053 vessels, of
1,444,000 tons, cleared from Glasgow in the coasting trade; while the
total number of all vessels that entered in the same year was 8217,
with 2,416,000 tons register, the clearances being 8738 vessels, with
2,787,000 tons.


This, the most important Canal in Scotland, commences in Grangemouth
harbour, in the small river Carron, about two miles, by the low-water
channel, above its mouth in the estuary of the Forth. The general
direction of the canal is that of west by south. It at first runs a
considerable way on one level along the south side of the Carron, with
which it again communicates by a cut from it at Bainsford, to that
river at the Carron Iron Works.


The main line then passes to the north-west of Falkirk, and thence to
Bonny Bridge, proceeding by the south side of Kilsyth, and along the
south bank of the river Kelvin, and over the Logie Water by a stone
aqueduct at Kirkintilloch. It then reaches Hamilton Hill about two
miles from the north-west quarter of the city of Glasgow, to which
there is a branch of two miles, and three quarters, communicating with
a branch from the Monkland Canal at Port-Dundas Basin. The main line
now proceeds Westerly, crossing the Kelvin by an aqueduct, and then
runs along the side of the Clyde, till it at length locks down to that
river at Bowling Bay. The main line is 35 miles long, 56 feet wide at
top, 27 feet at bottom, and 10 feet deep. In 10¾ miles from Grangemouth
to the summit, it rises 156 feet by 20 locks. The summit-level
continues about 16 miles, and from it to the Clyde there is a descent
of 156 feet by 19 locks. Each lock is 74 feet long by 20 feet wide.

At lock No. 16 from Grangemouth, this canal connects with the
Edinburgh, and Glasgow Union Canal.

Instead of having the eastern extremity of this canal in the Carron,
it was originally intended to have had it considerably farther east,
or lower down the Forth, in the deeper water at Borrowstounness.
This would have been an improvement, but probably one not so easily
executed. The work was once really begun, and afterwards abandoned,
chiefly, it is presumed, from the difficulty of passing over the river
Avon, without raising the canal a good deal for several miles along
the low carse lands. The remains of a bungled aqueduct bridge for this
purpose were lately to be seen on the banks of that river.

The present canal joining the Forth and the Clyde was begun in 1768,
but it was suspended in 1777, and not resumed until after the close of
the American war. It was completed in 1790. It was built on a larger
scale than any of the English Canals up to that time. Originally the
canal was about 8 ft. 6 in. deep, but its banks were afterwards raised,
and the depth of water was increased to 10 feet. In completing this
canal many serious difficulties were encountered. These, however,
were successfully overcome; and though unprofitable for a while,
it afterwards, for many years, yielded a handsome return to its
proprietors, the dividend having been at one time about 28 per cent. on
the original stock. Swift boats were established on this canal in 1832,
and the waterway is historically interesting as having been the scene
of some of the earliest experiments in steam propulsion.

Reference has been made elsewhere to the proposals now under
consideration with a view to the construction of another canal from the
Forth to the Clyde. Should these proposals be carried out, the future
of the existing Forth and Clyde Canal could hardly fail to be overcast,
but as the canal is now virtually the property of the Caledonian
Railway Company, that would not probably be greatly felt.


There are two canals that are in the same locality as the Forth and
Clyde, already alluded to, but of greatly subordinate importance. The
Monkland serves the important iron and coal mining and manufacturing
districts in the West, of which Airdrie and Coatbridge are the
principal centres, and gives access therefrom to the Clyde. The Union
Canal is really a feeder to, and branch of, the Forth and Clyde Canal,
some distance further east.

The Union Canal joins the Forth and Clyde Canal near Falkirk, and
stretches thence to Edinburgh, being 31½ miles in length. It is 40 feet
wide at the top, 20 at the bottom, and 5 deep, It was completed in
1822, but has been, in all respects, a most unprofitable undertaking.
For many years the proprietors have not received any dividend, and
their prospects, we understand, are not improving.

A canal intended to form a communication between Glasgow, Paisley,
and Ardrossan was commenced in 1807, but only that portion connecting
Glasgow with Paisley and the village of Johnston has hitherto been
finished. This part is about 12½ miles long, the canal being 30 feet
broad at top, 18 at bottom, and 4½ deep. It was here that the important
experiments were originally made on quick travelling by canals, which
demonstrated that it was practicable to impel a properly constructed
boat, carrying passengers and goods, along a canal at the rate of 9 or
10 miles an hour, without injury to the banks.


A valley remarkable for its uniformity, straightness, and depth,
and extending from sea to sea, between two parallel ranges of steep
mountains, divides the Highlands of Scotland into two nearly equal
parts. The general direction of this chasm is from north-east to
south-west, making an angle of about 35 degrees with the meridian; and,
besides being entered at each extremity by an arm of the sea, viz., by
the Moray Firth on the north, and Loch Linnhe on the south, the rest
of its bottom is for the most part occupied by a series of rivers and
lakes. The remarkably elongated form and contiguity of these lakes had
long ago suggested the facility of forming an inland communication
between the Atlantic Ocean and the German Sea. In order to accomplish
this important object, it seemed sufficient to connect these lakes and
the firths by several short canals amounting together to 23 miles, and
thereby obtain a navigable line to an extent of more than 100 miles;
and this was farther recommended by the summit-level only rising 94½
feet above the sea.

So far back as the year 1773, this line had been surveyed by James
Watt, who reported favourably of it, and proposed that the lakes should
be connected by a canal of a very moderate size. Nothing further,
however, was done till early in the present century, when the subject
was taken up by Government, and new surveys were made by Messrs. Jessop
and Telford, who recommended a canal of such dimensions as should admit
frigates of thirty-two guns, and the greater part of merchant ships,
particularly that class which trade between the Baltic and the ports of
Ireland and the west coast of Britain; thus avoiding, it was hoped, a
tedious, and often dangerous navigation by the Orkneys. The dimensions
proposed by Telford, and mainly adhered to, were a width of 50 feet at
bottom, 120 feet at top, and 20 feet deep; the locks from 170 to 180
feet long, and 40 wide, with a depth of 20 feet of water besides the
lift, or rise. The canal has, however, only been excavated to the depth
of 15 feet in the summit-level, though the width has been increased to
122 feet at the top, with such a break in the slope that there is on
each side a horizontal shelf 6 feet broad at the depth of 2 feet under
the surface of the water. The design in this break in the slope of the
sides is to keep large vessels from approaching too close to the edge
of the canal, and destroying the upper part of the banks, either by
contact or by the eddy produced between the vessel and the sides of the
canal. On the north, the Caledonian Canal commences with a sea lock at
Clach-na-Carry, in a sheltered bay of Loch Beauly, which is the more
inland part of the Moray Firth. The sea-lock here is about two miles
north-west of Inverness, and three-quarters of a mile west of the Ferry
of Kessock, which is near the mouth of the river Ness. In order to have
sufficient depth of water at ordinary neap-tides, it was necessary,
on account of the flatness of the shore, to place this lock 400 yards
within sea-water mark, an operation attended with difficulty on account
of the softness of the bottom. This lock is 170 feet long, 40 wide,
with a lift of 8½ feet; and proceeding from it, the canal is formed by
embankments till it passes the sea-mark, where another lock of the same
size, with a lift of 6 feet, is built on firm ground. On the south of
this is the Muirton basin, 967 yards long and 162 yards broad, with a
wharf for the trade in that quarter, being about a mile from Inverness.
At the southern extremity of this basin is a swivel or swing bridge
for the public road between Beauly and Inverness; and then four locks,
which, however, from their being connected, have only five double
gates in the whole. These raise the canal 32 feet, which puts it on
the ordinary summer level of Loch Ness. Each lock is 180 feet between
the gates, and 40 feet wide. The canal thence proceeds until it meets,
and runs along the north-west bank of the river Ness to the small lake
Doughfour, which is about 2100 yards long, and from 5 to 9 fathoms
deep, and is 6½ miles from Clach-na-Carry. It communicates with Loch
Ness by the pass of Bona Ferry. The intended line of canal being on the
west side of the river Ness, which in three different places approached
close to the steep sides of the hills on the west, it was necessary
to alter the course of that river, so as to obtain room for the canal
without cutting into the hills. At the entrance to Loch Doughfour is a
regulating, or guard-lock, without any lift, to prevent any overflow
from the lake. It is 170 feet long, and 40 wide. It was necessary to
deepen this small lock in several places by dredging, and to raise it
6 feet to the level of Loch Ness by a weir, and embankment. The next
part of this navigation, and by far the most extensive lake in it, is
Loch Ness, a fine sheet of water about 24 miles long, and from 1 to 1½
miles broad. Its depth is so great that it never freezes, being from 5
to 129 fathoms, and along the middle it averages 100. It affords good
anchorage at each end, and also in a few bays, although the sides of
this lake are generally straight. It was proposed to introduce buoys
for more convenient moorings. There are nowhere in it either rocks or
banks detached from the shore.

Loch Ness receives the river Oich in its western shore not far from
its southern extremity, and a little south of this the canal leaves
the lake, whilst almost quite at the southern end stand the fort and
village of Fort Augustus. From this the canal ascends 40 feet by five
locks, and at Callachie, about 2½ miles further on, it rises 8 feet
by another lock. Three miles more bring it to Loch Oich, where a
regulating lock raises it 30 inches, so as to be even with that lake,
which is on the summit level.

To obtain a proper line for the canal upon the south-east side of the
river Oich, the channel of that river has been somewhat altered. Loch
Oich, which forms the summit-level of this navigation, is about 3¾
miles long, and on an average a quarter of a mile broad. In one place
in the middle, and at both ends, it had to be deepened by dredging.
The water which falls into this lake, particularly from the river
Garry, affords at all times an ample supply for the canal. Between Loch
Oich and the next lake in the line, Loch Lochy, there is no natural
communication. The interval is about 1¾ miles, and rises 20 feet
above the Loch Oich, which, with the depth of the canal, required a
cutting of 35 feet. Loch Lochy, which was 21 feet 9 inches lower than
Loch Oich, has been raised about 12 feet by an embankment to avoid
rock-cutting, and the canal descends to it 9 feet 9 inches by two
locks, one of which is also a regulating, or guard lock. Loch Lochy is
10 miles long, and averages one in breadth. In some places it is 76
fathoms in depth. About half a mile of the course of the river Lochy
had to be shifted into a new bed to make room for the canal, which, now
in its last stage, proceeds from the lake for 8 miles along the
north-west bank of that river over a rugged surface to the shore of
Loch Eil, which is the more inland part of the Firth, called Loch
Linnhe. A little south of Loch Lochy there is a regulating lock; and
about a mile from Loch Eil there are eight connected locks, called
Neptune’s Stairs, by which the canal descends 64 feet. At Corpach shore
it falls 15 feet by two locks, and, after expanding into a basin 250
yards long and 100 broad, it finally descends 7 feet 9 inches by the
sea-lock into Loch Eil near Fort William.

The entire length of this navigation is 60½ miles, and that of
the artificial part, including Loch Doughfour, is 23 miles. There
are in all twenty-eight locks. This canal has, as yet, been a
most unprofitable speculation, not even paying the expense of its

Before leaving the waterways of Scotland, it may be interesting to
remark that inland navigation occupied a good deal of attention from
James Watt,[56] although the great mechanician did not accomplish so
much in this direction as his contemporary, Brindley. Watt was employed
in 1767 to make a survey for a canal of junction between the rivers
Forth and Clyde, by what was called the Lomond passage, and attended
Parliament on the part of the subscribers, where the Bill was lost. An
offer was then made to him of undertaking the survey and estimate of
an intended canal for the Monkland Collieries to Glasgow, and these
proving satisfactory the superintendence of the execution was confided
to him. This was quickly followed by his being employed by the Trustees
for Fisheries and Manufactures in Scotland to make a survey for a canal
from Perth to Forfar, through Strathmore; and soon afterwards by the
Commissioners of the Annexed Estates, to furnish a report and estimate
of the relative advantages of opening a communication between the
Forth of Clyde and the western ocean, by means of a navigable canal
across the isthmus of Crinan,[57] or that of Tarbert. Business of this
description crowded upon him; and surveys, plans, and estimates, were
successively undertaken by him for the deepening of the river Clyde,
the rendering navigable of the rivers Forth and Devon, and the water of
Leven; the making of a canal from Machrihanish Bay to Campbeltown, and
of another between the Grand Canal and the Harbour of Borrowstounness.
But the last and greatest work of the kind upon which Watt was employed
was the survey and estimate of the line of the canal between Fort
William and Inverness, since executed, as we have seen, by Telford,
upon a larger scale than was at that time proposed.

Estuaries hardly come within the scope of the present work, otherwise
the Forth Bridge, recently opened by the Prince of Wales, would
demand and deserve an extended notice. That remarkable engineering
achievement, due to the genius of Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin
Baker, is likely for a long time to remain a unique _tour de force_ as
a means of communication between the opposite shores of an arm of the
sea, and opens up a vista of possibilities in regard to transport that
were undreamt of until recently.


[55] Paper read in 1888 before the Institution of Naval Architects.

[56] James Watt was born at Greenock on the 19th January, 1736, and
died at Heathfield on the 25th August, 1819. His great invention was
the steam engine; but he was an almost universal genius, having been
almost equally at home in many branches of antiquity, metaphysics,
medicine, and etymology, architecture, music, and law, the modern
languages, and German logic and poetry.

[57] This canal has since been carried out, and now forms an
important link in the chain of communication between the west of
Scotland and Inverness, viâ the “Royal,” or West Coast route.



   “Such was the Boyne, a poor inglorious stream,
    That in Hibernian vales obscurely strayed,
    And, unobserved, in wild meanders played.”

If there is one country more than another that ought to be possessed of
ample and complete water communication, that country is surely Ireland.
Surrounded on all sides by the sea, with a population greatly inured to
the conditions of living upon or by the water, it should have at once
the cheapest and the most comprehensive system of water transport in
the world. This, however, is far from being the case. Neither in point
of rivers, nor in point of canals, does Ireland compare favourably with
Scotland, not to speak of the much more abundant resources of England.
The actual waterways that are of real importance besides the Liffey,
are the Earne and Shannon rivers, and the Grand Canal. About these
we shall say as much as may be necessary to indicate their general

It has been said that the unfortunate Earl of Strafford, from having
seen the utility of inland navigation in the Low Countries, first
suggested the improvement of river navigation in Ireland. In 1703
the first Act of Parliament was passed for rendering the Shannon
navigable, and many improvements were projected. Nothing, however,
was effected, although a useless expenditure of 140,000_l._ was made
on the Shannon and Boyne in the year 1758. Various other large sums
were afterwards granted, and frittered away in partial improvements
of the Shannon, Boyne, Barrow, and Newry rivers, besides the Grand,
Royal, Kildare, Naas, and Lough Earne navigations.


The Shannon river forms the most important feature in the inland
navigation of Ireland. For the first 144 miles of this waterway, from
the head of Lough Allen to the sea below Limerick, the Shannon is like
a series of rivers and lakes. Issuing from Lough Allen, it passes
Leitrim, Carrick, Tarmonbury, &c., and then enters, at Lanesborough, a
very irregularly-shaped and extensive sheet of water, called Lough Ree,
about 17 miles in length. Leaving it, the river, now greatly augmented,
passes Athlone, and then winds by Shannon Bridge and Banagher to
Portumna, near which it expands into Lough Derg, another narrow lake,
23 miles long, with deep bays and inlets. From the southern extremity
of this lake it flows on to Limerick. In this extent of navigation
we have first Lough Allen, 10 miles; thence to Lough Ree, 43; Lough
Ree itself, 17; thence to Lough Derg, 36; Lough Derg, 23; thence to
Limerick, 15; making together 144 miles. The mean height of Lough Allen
above the sea at Limerick is about 143½ feet, being on an average about
a foot of declivity per mile. Instead of the natural fall, however, the
water has been reduced by means of locks to a series of level pools.
The estuary or firth of the Shannon extends south-west about 70 miles
beyond Limerick to its mouth, which is finally about 8 miles wide
between Loop Head and Kerry Head, at the Atlantic.

The direction of the Shannon from Lough Allen to Limerick, though
generally south by south-west, is very circuitous, and broken by many
streams, islands, and rocks. The soundings are as various, and both
banks are liable to be overflowed by the river to a great extent;
and the large expanse of the lakes would require a different sort of
vessel from those which navigate the river. The works which have been
constructed to overcome the natural difficulties of the navigation
are either insufficient or in a state of decay; and it seems to be
generally admitted that very little real good can be effected until
the natural obstructions are removed, the number of lakes reduced, and
the channel deepened and improved in various parts; though it is still
doubted if the navigation would even then be suitable for anything but
steam-vessels. The Shannon connects with the Royal Canal at Tarmonbury,
and with the Grand Canal at Shannon harbour, near Banagher. At Shannon
Bridge it receives on the west its principal tributary, the Suck; on
the east, the Inny, the Upper and Lower Brosna, Mulkerna, Maig, Fergus,

The Shannon river connects the tide water of the Atlantic in Limerick
with Dublin by two canals, the Grand and the Royal. It passes by the
towns of Limerick, Killaloe, Portumna, Banagher, Shannon Bridge,
Athlone, Lanesboro’, Yarmon, Roosky, Drumsna, Carrick, Leitrim, and

The expenditure on the river up to 1878 was 800,738_l._ The average
cost of maintenance was 3300_l._, and the total receipts from tolls
during the previous five years was 9510_l._, being an average yearly
receipt of 1902_l._ This sum, deducted from the average expenditure
of 3300_l._, left a net yearly loss of 1398_l._ At this average rate
for the previous thirty years the money loss by the Shannon navigation
amounts to 41,940_l._

The depth of water for this navigation, over 7 feet to 10 feet, is
maintained by eight wholly immovable weir-mounds. These weir-mounds
cause inundations, damaging 24,000 acres of land. This damage during
the last thirty years amounts to more than 100,000_l._ In the section
between Limerick and Athlone, 68 miles, the average receipts of tolls
for the five years ending 1878 was 1274_l._ Out of that sum an engineer
and eighteen lock-keepers had to be paid 686_l._, together with
repairs, which left from 300_l._ to 400_l._ a year profit.

In the section above Athlone, about 80 miles, the average receipt of
tolls in the same five years was 197_l._, against the annual expenses
of repairs and the salaries of an engineer and ten lock-keepers,
amounting to 385_l._

The interests of the Shannon drainage do not, in Mr. Lynam’s view,[58]
require to diminish the minimum depth of water under 5½ feet on the
lock sills. These interests require merely that the surface of the
river and lakes shall be kept within a range of 5½ feet to 8½ feet on
the sills of all locks from Athlone to Limerick. The bye-laws made by
the Board of Works for the Shannon limit the draught of boats to 4 feet
10½ inches. The river and locks are maintained by the weir-mounds at
levels that rarely are less than 7½ feet on the lock sills, and rise in
floods to 9 feet.

The Earne and Shannon rivers have three features which render them,
in Mr. Lynam’s opinion, peculiarly easy to regulate their floods, and
prevent inundations. They have large superficial areas of lakes. Their
channels between the lakes are wide and deep, so capacious as to carry
their floods with an inclination of less than an inch a mile. Their
floods rise slowly, 4 inches to 8 inches in twenty-four hours, very
rarely rising 1 foot in twenty-four hours. On the Shannon, all the
mill-weirs and fish-weirs have been purchased and removed, and all the
shoals have been deepened at a cost of 529,716_l._ The lakes in the
Lough Earne basin have an area of about 50,000 acres. The shoals and
straits, which obstruct the river and cause the inundations, have
an aggregate length of merely 6 miles. Only one mill-weir (which is
the only fish-weir) exists, and it is at the outlet, where there is
a fall of 12 feet. The Shannon basin has lakes of the superficial
area of 87,000 acres. In the length, from the Battle Bridge above
Carrick-on-Shannon to Killaloe Bridge, of 128 miles, the lakes occupy
50½ miles; the broad, deep channel extends for 73½ miles; the confined
portions of the channel occupy merely 4 miles; the portions of the
channel confined so as to be visible obstructions are but 2 miles long.
Neither mill-weir nor fish-weir stands in the way of the current. The
floods scarcely ever rise 1 foot in twenty-four hours. The great floods
are but 4 feet where deepest on the lands, and generally but 2 feet
deep, and merely 18 inches deep over large areas. Many damaging floods
are not more than 6 inches deep on the land.

From Lough Allen to the tide of the Atlantic Ocean at Limerick, a
length of 149 miles by the sinuosities of the river, the Shannon has
been made navigable for steamers with a depth of 6 feet of water. The
river lies naturally in eight separate levels, but the lowest, at
Limerick, is very small, and detached from the others by a length of 5
miles and a fall of 90 feet. The upper level, at the outlet from Lough
Allen, has a fall of 20 feet in 6 miles. The lowest level, between
Castleconnell and Killaloe, contains only 641 acres of lowland, rarely
flooded in summer or autumn, and rarely covered by more than 1½ foot of
water. To preserve the land from summer and autumn floods the surface
of the floods must be lowered 2 feet nearly. A permanently solid
embankment, used during many years for a navigation horse tow-path,
extends along one side of the river, the only openings being four
culverts for side drainage.

On the other side of the river there exists a natural ridge, which is
a little higher than the highest floods. It is not continuous, but
interrupted in five places. These circumstances are held by Mr. Lynam
to “render it very easy to protect the lowlands from all floods.” Very
favourable sites exist for back-drains to carry off rain-water and
springs. The 641 acres of lowlands may be thus protected from summer
and autumn floods at a cost of 6000_l._, being 10_l._ per acre. This
would allow of winter irrigation also, which the occupiers of the lands
particularly require. The system of river embankments is much objected
to as dangerous, and properly so, when it is proposed to make high
embankments. In this case the required embankments are in existence for
seven-eighths of the required length, so permanently solid as to be
absolutely safe, and the small portions to be built need not be more
than 3 feet to 5 feet high. The obstructions are a rock-shoal near the
middle of the length, an old bridge with narrow arches and thick piers,
and a shoal of solid limestone rock at the outlet.


_The Barrow River_ has been rendered navigable from the tideway below
St. Mallins up to where it is joined by the Grand Canal at Athy Bridge,
a distance of 43 miles, falling 172 feet. But from Athy to the mouth of
the Barrow, in the estuary of Waterford Harbour, and through that to
St. George’s Channel, the distance exceeds 60 miles.

_The Blackwater River_, county Cork, is navigable from its mouth at
Youghall up as far as the tide reaches, or at most to Cappoquin.

There is another, and smaller Blackwater, connected with the Tyrone
Canal, and flowing into Lough Neagh.

_The Boyne River_ is navigable from the Bay of Drogheda for 22 miles,
up to Trim, in the last 7 miles of which it ascends from Navan 189 feet
by means of locks, which are from 80 to 100 feet long and 15 feet wide.

_The Corrib River and Lough_, or Lake, form a navigable line,
commencing at the mouth of that river, in Galway Bay, and extending
from Galway town in a north-westerly direction for about 24 miles.

_The Earne River and Lough_, or Lake, are navigable through the lake
from the upper part, where the river enters it, below Belturbet, till
it leaves it again at Enniskillen, where it is obstructed by weirs;
but below the isle on which that town is built the river again expands
into the lower part of the lake, through which it is also navigable.
Thus far the entire distance is about 30 miles, and the navigation is
terminated by a fall, from which the river has a rapid course of 9
miles to Donegal Bay.

It has been proposed to construct a canal from Lough Earne, beginning
near Belturbet, and to follow along the valleys of the Finn and
Blackwater to Lough Neagh.

_The Fergus River_, county Clare, is navigable from its mouth, in the
Shannon, up to Ennis, the county town.

_The Foyle River_ is navigable for 10 miles from its mouth, in the
estuary of Lough Foyle, below Londonderry, up to Strabane.

_The Lagan Navigation_ commences in the tideway at Belfast, and
proceeds mostly by the course of the rivers as far as Lisburn, from
which it is continued by a canal by Hillsborough and Moira to Lough
Neagh. The total length is 28 miles.

_The Lee River_ is navigable in the tideway up to the city of Cork, and
for small craft somewhat farther. Below Cork, however, the navigation
is principally an arm of the sea called Cork Harbour.

_The Liffey River_ is navigable from its mouth in Dublin Bay for about
3 miles up to Carlisle Bridge, at the farther end of the city of
Dublin. From the south side of this navigable part proceeds the Grand
Canal, and from the north side the Royal Canal, of which we shall
presently speak.

_The Limerick Navigation_ commences at that city, and proceeds in a
north-easterly direction, partly in the Shannon and partly by canals,
for 15 miles, to Killaloe, at the south end of Lough Derg.

_The Moig River_, county Limerick, is navigable from its mouth in the
Shannon to near Adare.

_The Moy River_, county Mayo, is navigable for about 5 miles, from
Killala Bay up to Ballina.

_The Neagh Lough_, or Lake, being about 20 miles long and 10 broad,
is generally of sufficient depth to be navigable to a considerable
extent in every direction. It communicates with Belfast by the Lagan
Navigation, with the Tyrone Collieries by the Blackwater, with Antrim
by the Antrim river, and southward with the sea by the Newry Navigation.

_The Newry Navigation_ commences in the tideway of Lough Fathom, 3
miles below Newry, which it passes, and proceeds 16 miles by a canal
to the Upper Bann River, in which it continues to Lough Neagh. The
entire length is about 30 miles, generally in a northerly direction.
This, which has always been a very imperfect navigation, was the first
executed in Ireland.

_The Slane, or Slaney River_, is navigable from its mouth in Wexford
Haven, for 14 miles, to Enniscorthy.

_The Suir, or Sure River_, unites with the Barrow in the estuary called
Waterford Harbour, about 5 miles below the town, and is navigable from
that up to Carrick for sloops, and to Clonmel for barges. At the town
of Waterford the largest ships lie afloat in 40 feet water.

_The Tyrone Colliery Canal_ commences at the south-west extremity of
Lough Neagh, proceeding by a short cut across the isthmus of Maghery to
the Blackwater River, and, following it a short way, passes by another
cut of 3 miles to the Colliery Basin, from which a railway extends to
the mines.


The Grand Canal was begun in 1765 by a body of subscribers; but they
could not have completed the work without very large advances from
Government. The canal commences at Dublin and stretches in a westerly
direction, inclining a little to the south, to the Shannon, with which
it unites near Banagher, a distance of 85 statute miles, and thence
on the west side of the river to Ballinasloe, 4 miles distant. But,
exclusive of the main trunk, there is a branch to Athy, where it joins
the Barrow, a distance of about 27 miles, and there are branches to
Portarlington, Mount Mellich, and some other places. There is also
a westerly branch, more recently constructed, from the Shannon to
Ballinasloe, about 14 miles in length. The total length of the canal,
with its various branches, is about 164 English miles. Its summit
elevation is 230 feet above the level of the sea at Dublin. It is 40
feet wide at the surface, from 24 to 20 feet at the bottom, has 6 feet
depth of water, and cost, in all, about 2,000,000_l._ The tonnage on
this canal for the eight years ending with 1837 varied from 215,000 to
237,000 tons, while the tolls varied from 33,000_l._ to 38,000_l._ The
highest part of the canal rises 298 feet above sea level.

Two errors are said to have been committed in the formation of the
Grand Canal; it was framed on too large a scale for that time, and
it was carried too far north. Had it been 4 or 4½ feet, instead of 6
feet deep, its utility would have been but little impaired, while its
expense would have been very materially diminished.

But the greatest error was in the direction of the canal. Instead
of joining the Shannon about 15 miles above Lough Derg, it should
have joined it below Limerick, and conversely would have avoided the
difficult and dangerous navigation of the upper Shannon. The canal
would then have passed through a comparatively fertile country, and it
would not have been necessary to carry it across the bog of Allen, in
which, says Mr. Wakefield, “the company have buried more money than
would cut a spacious canal from Dublin to Limerick.” The main line of
the Grand Canal is 89 miles long, but there are branches to Naas, Mount
Mellick, Portarlington, and other places. On the main line there are
six locks, each 70 feet by 14½ feet.


The Royal Canal was undertaken in 1789. It stretches westwards from
Dublin to the Shannon, which it joins near Tormanbury. Its entire
length is about 92 miles, exclusive of a branch of 5 miles, from
Kilashee to Longford; its highest elevation is 307 feet above the
level of the sea. At the bottom it is 24 feet wide, and it has 6 feet
depth of water. It had cost, exclusive of interest on stock, loans,
&c., advanced by Government, in February 1823, 1,421,954_l._ The tolls
produced in 1826 25,148_l._, the expenses of the canal for the same
year being 11,912_l._, leaving only 13,236_l._ net. The canal has paid
dividends over a number of years, although not on a high scale.

This canal seems to have been wrongly planned, for throughout its whole
course it is nearly parallel to, and not very distant from, the Grand
Canal. There are consequently two large canals where there ought not
to be more than one. It is probable that one canal of comparatively
small dimensions would have been quite enough for all the business of
the district, though it were much greater than it is, or is likely to

Besides the above there are some other canals, as well as various river
excavations in Ireland, but hardly one of them yields a reasonable
return for the capital expended upon it. They have almost all been
liberally assisted by grants of public money, and their history, and
that of the two canals now adverted to, has been said to strikingly
corroborate the caustic remark of Arthur Young, that “a history of
public works in Ireland would be a history of jobs.”


[58] ‘The Engineer,’ Oct. 11, 1878.



   “Where of late the kids had cropt the grass,
    The monsters of the deep now take their place.”


One of the most notable features of the engineering and commercial
development of to-day is the movement, elsewhere alluded to, for making
ship canals with the view of converting inland towns into seaports. The
Manchester Ship Canal, now well advanced towards completion, undoubtedly
gave the first impulse and has since supplied the impetus to this
movement. Whether the movement will proceed much farther than plans
and prospectuses remains to be seen. But at the present moment the
principal proposals affecting the United Kingdom are—

     1. The construction of a National canal, passing right
    through from the Bristol Channel to the Humber on the one
    side, and from the Thames to the Mersey on the other.

     2. The conversion of the existing waterways into a ship
    canal, between Sheffield and Goole.

     3. The construction of a ship canal between the Forth and
    the Clyde.

     4. The construction of a canal from the Irish Sea to
    Birkenhead through Wallasey Pool and the Wirral Peninsula.

     5. The construction of a ship canal between the Mersey and
    the city of Birmingham, connecting with the Manchester Ship
    Canal and the Mersey, by way of the Weaver Navigation.

     6. A canal to connect the city and district of Birmingham,
    with the river Trent, and thereby with the North Sea.

     7. An improved waterway between the Midlands and the Thames.

     8. The improvement of the Wiltshire and Berkshire canal, so
    as to give better inland water transport between Bristol and


The most probable, and at the same time one of the most important of
the foregoing proposals, is that designed to connect the Forth with the
Clyde, thereby enabling vessels of considerable tonnage to pass from
the one sea to the other, without passing round the further extremity
of the island. There is already a canal between the two seas, but this
waterway is too contracted to be of much use for vessels of any size,
and it is not, therefore, proposed to utilise the existing canal in the
new scheme.

The greatest height of the present canal is 141 feet. It is crossed by
about 30 drawbridges, and passes over 10 considerable aqueducts, and 30
small ones, the largest being that over the Kelvin, at Maryhill, near
Glasgow. The canal is supplied with water from eight reservoirs, which
cover 721 acres. The original cost of the canal was about 300,000_l._,
and 50 years after its opening the annual revenue amounted to about
100,000_l._, and the expenditure to about 40,000_l._ In 1869, the canal
passed into the possession of the Caledonian Railway Company, when,
with the adjoining Monkland Canal, it was valued at 1,141,000_l._ The
Caledonian Company undertook to pay an annuity of 91,333_l._, being a
guaranteed dividend of six and a quarter per cent. It was, however,
like many other similar arrangements made by railway companies in Great
Britain, a very bad bargain for the new proprietors, since the profits
from the working of the canal are now much less than they were.

Messrs. Stevenson, of Edinburgh, who have been consulted as to the most
practicable route for the proposed canal, have recommended that the
canal proper should begin at Alloa on the Forth, where vessels would
be raised by a lock to the level of Loch Lomond, 13 feet above high
water, which would be the summit level of the canal. The canal would
proceed thence along the valley of the Forth to Loch Lomond, through
that loch to Tarbet, and would afterwards be carried along the narrow
neck of land to Loch Long, or, alternatively, across to the opposite
shore of Loch Lomond, near Arden, and thence into the Forth of Clyde,
near Helensburgh. The average depth of cutting is stated at 47 feet,
but there would be a heavy cutting, some three miles long and 203 feet
deep on an average, which the engineers propose to make a tunnel,
with 150 feet of headway. The estimated cost of the work is about
8,000,000_l._, or much the same as the cost of the Manchester Ship
Canal. The traffic is calculated at 9,516,000 tons, and it is estimated
that at 1_s._ 6_d._ per ton, this traffic would yield a gross annual
income of 713,748_l._ which would be sufficient to yield 8 per cent.
after deducting working expenses, &c. It is proposed to make the canal
30 feet deep, and 72 feet wide at the bottom.

And the route has been recommended for the proposed ship canal, which
is termed the direct route, and which is 27 miles shorter from Greenock
than the proposed Loch Lomond route _viâ_ Tarbet. This route would
start from the Clyde at a point near to Whiteinch, join the line of the
present Forth and Clyde Canal near Maryhill, and thereafter proceed
in the same direction to the junction of the canal with the Firth
of Forth. The shorter route would, however, be the most difficult,
inasmuch as there is a very steep hill immediately after leaving the
Clyde, between Whiteinch and Maryhill. The height to be surmounted
here is not less than 150 feet; and for a ship canal, which ought to
be a tide-level waterway, in order to be satisfactory, this would be a
serious drawback.

It is contended that, being the shortest route between America and the
Baltic, the Continent, and the east coast of Scotland and England, the
through traffic would be considerable. This may be true, but the gain
in time would be reduced materially by the fact that vessels in coming
off the Atlantic would be required to sail up the long forth (Clyde),
and would probably require, particularly if deeply laden, to wait on
the tide to get to Bowling, which is some distance up the river, or
the channel would need to be deepened and broadened, thus adding to
the cost. For channel steamers going from Ireland, or the west coast
of Scotland, England or Wales to the east coast or the Continent, the
canal would be a decided benefit, for not only would their voyage be
shortened, but the rocky and dangerous coast of the north of Scotland
would be avoided. The canal would pass through the coal and oil
districts of Scotland, a fact which has been adduced in favour of the

Another consideration which carries much weight is the facility gained
for the rapid passage of battleships from one shore to another,
rendering defence in time of war more effective.


The town of Sheffield, with a population of some 300,000, and extremely
important and diversified industries, has hitherto been practically
landlocked. There is, however, a system of canals actually in existence
which gives communication with the sea. This system embraces the
Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, 4 miles long; the Dun Navigation, 28¼
miles; the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, 12¾ miles; and the Dearne and
Dove Canal, 14 miles, giving a total of 59 miles of navigation.

In this chain of communication the most important link is the Dun River
Navigation, which begins near the village of Tinsley, and proceeds
thence by the Tinsley Cut, which was made to avoid a bend in the river,
under powers of the Act of 12th George I. There are several other cuts
in the river which have been constructed at various times, their total
length, from Mexborough Church to the Dearne river, being not less
than 2220 yards. The river has passed through the hands of Vermueden,
who, in the reign of Charles I., used it to drain the low lands in the
vicinity of Hatfield Chase. The total rise of the Dun Navigation, by
sixteen locks, from low-water mark in the river, is 92¼ feet. Writing
in 1831, Priestley stated that “the Dun Navigation is of the utmost
importance for exporting the produce of the extensive coal and iron
works which abound at its western extremity; also, the vast quantity
of manufactured iron goods and cutlery which is annually produced in
the populous town and neighbourhood of Sheffield.” This, however, was
before the present system of railways was completed, and before the
waterways on this route fell into the hands of their great rivals.
Not more than half a million tons now annually pass through the port
of Keadby, which is the connecting point between the Dun Navigation
and the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, the latter being a continuation
thereof, and the river Trent.


    Sheffield to Goole, _viâ_ Dutch river      40¼ miles.

        ”         ”       ”   Trent and Ouse   35    ”]

It is not proposed to do more than improve the existing navigations to
the extent of enabling them to take barges with a carrying capacity of
700 tons, and sea-going steamers capable of carrying 300 to 400 tons,
whereas at present they cannot carry boats of more than 80 tons. Such
vessels could carry coal cargoes from the South Yorkshire collieries
situated upon this waterway, and London or any other large consuming
centre on the British shores. The existing waterways are, however,
in the hands of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway
Company, which, of course, will have to be consulted as to their
acquisition. The accompanying diagram shows the route of the proposed
improved navigation.


A company was established in 1888 for the purpose of cutting a canal,
through the Wallasey Pool, from the Irish Sea to Birkenhead, The
object of this undertaking is to improve the approach to the port
of Liverpool, which is at present greatly prejudiced by the shifty
channel, the numerous sandbanks on either side of the bar, and the
risks and delays that are thereby entailed. The scheme is not a new
one entirely. On the contrary, Telford, Nimmo, and Robert Stephenson,
in 1838, reported upon a kindred project, and estimated its cost at
1,400,000_l._ The sum named, however, was too much for the promoters to
raise, and a modified plan was submitted, calculated to cost about half
the money. The Corporation of Liverpool, however, opposed the scheme,
and privately bought up the land on either side of the Wallasey Pool,
with a view to frustrate its accomplishment. Telford’s plans have,
however, quite recently been revived, and it is now proposed to make a
cut from an arm of the Wallasey Pool—which, running for about half
a mile inland, has, notwithstanding the enormous extension of dock
accommodation all around, been left in its natural condition—to the
west end of the Leasowe embankment, near Dove Point, whence a tidal
channel would be formed through the foreshore to the Rock Channel, the
ancient entrance to the port of Liverpool. This tidal channel would
be protected by a breakwater running from the Leasowe embankment to a
point in the Rock Channel west of the Dove Spit. An outer breakwater
would also run in an easterly and south-easterly direction for a
distance of 5000 feet, sheltering the greater part of the Rock Channel,
which is to be dredged for upwards of a mile to a depth of 30 feet
below low-water mark. The scheme does not appear to be either difficult
or costly, but as it is objected to by the Corporation of Liverpool
and by the Mersey Harbour Board, it may not come to maturity. That it
would, if carried out, be a great convenience to the many thousands who
annually arrive at or depart from Liverpool for the United States and
other countries, is sufficiently manifest.


The Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal was acquired by some capitalists
towards the close of 1889, with a view to working it in competition
with the Great Western Railway between London and Bristol. The canal in
question leaves the Kennett and Avon Canal at Semington, a few miles
on the Bristol side of Devizes, and proceeds thence through Melksham,
Wootton Bassett, Swindon, and Challow to the Thames at Abingdon.
Although the Kennett and Avon Canal, which joins the Thames at Reading,
is 23 miles shorter between London and Avonmouth, it labours under
the disadvantage of rising to a much greater height, and therefore
requiring twenty-eight additional locks. It is also proposed to develop
the Thames and Severn Canal, which is connected by a short branch from
Swindon, through Cricklade, with the Wiltshire and Berkshire.

During the year 1888 attention was called to a project for the union
of the Bristol and English Channels by a ship canal, running from
Stolford, near Bridgwater, which has the advantage of being opposite
Cardiff, _viâ_ Bridgwater, Taunton, and Exeter, to Langstone Point, on
the west side of Exmouth Bight, where the southern harbour would be

This route is described as offering every facility for the work, the
chief elevation, White Ball Hill, which is 536 feet high, being turned
by following the course of the old Great Western Canal. A part of the
existing canals, or their remains, and the floating basin at Exeter,
with its 5½ miles of canal to the Exe, are intended to be acquired, and
the deepest cutting on the whole system will not exceed 200 feet. The
canal would be on the level of the sea, taking its supply chiefly from
that source, with sea-locks only at each end. The dimensions proposed
are: length, 62 miles; width at surface, 125 feet, at bottom, 36 feet;
and depth 21 feet, the figures being much the same as those of the ship
canal from Amsterdam to the Helder, which admits loaded vessels of 1000
to 1500 tons, drawing 18 feet. Coal from South Wales and adjoining
fields would be likely to provide a large revenue for a short cut to
the English Channel, and thence to London, say 355 miles, in order to
better compete with the North of England. The cost of the scheme has
been set down at 3,080,000_l._


Of all the towns in the United Kingdom that labour under the
disadvantage of being remote from the sea, none are so entirely
excluded from sea competition as the capital of the Midlands.
Birmingham is unlike most of the other cities and towns of the country
in this respect, that it is neither built upon a navigable river, nor
upon any other waterway that would be likely to secure for traders some
relief from their almost abject dependence upon railway transport. And
yet the town and district of Birmingham are not altogether without
the means of water transport. The locality is, in point of fact, the
centre of a network of canals, which, if they were properly adapted
to its requirements, would place it in direct communication by water
with all the principal ports and markets in the kingdom. By the
Birmingham, Warwick and Birmingham, Warwick and Napton, Oxford, Grand
Junction, and Regent’s Canals it is placed in communication with the
metropolis, although the distance is 163½ miles, as against only 100
miles by the shortest railway route. It has two similar routes to the
great port of Liverpool—the first by the Birmingham, Staffordshire
and Worcestershire, North Staffordshire, and Bridgwater Canals, and
the river Mersey; the second route by the same route as regards the
Birmingham Canal, and thence _viâ_ the Staffordshire and Worcestershire
Canal for a mile and a quarter, until the Shropshire Canal is broached,
when the route is continued over this waterway for a distance of 68
miles, until the Mersey is reached. The distance by the first of these
routes is 106½, and by the second only 89¼ miles, against 90 miles
by railway. Hull is in water communication with Birmingham by way of
the Birmingham, the Coventry, and the North Staffordshire Canals,
and thence by the open navigation of the Trent and the Humber for a
distance of 120½ miles. Finally, Birmingham has three separate water
routes to the Severn ports, all of them terminating in the Gloucester
and Berkeley section, after traversing the Severn for 30 to 44
miles—the entire distance being 86 miles in two cases, and 95 miles in
another. The nearest means of getting at the sea available at present
to the people of Birmingham is, therefore, 86 miles. But neither this
nor any of the other routes indicated are of any real value to the
Midlands, owing to the limited size of the canals, and the difficulty
of working them as an unbroken chain of communication. Thus, taking
the water route to London, the three first canals—the Birmingham, the
Warwick and Birmingham, and the Warwick and Napton—have locks only
72 feet long by 7 feet broad and 4 feet draft. On the section of the
Oxford Canal to be passed over, only 5 miles in length, there is no
lock, but on the Grand Junction Canal, which has to be traversed for
a distance of 101 miles, the locks are 14 feet by 6 feet by 4 feet 6
inches, and on the Regent’s Canal, where the transport terminates,
the locks are 90 feet by 15 feet by 5 feet. The same condition of
things applies to the physical characteristics of the waterways
between Birmingham and Liverpool. Hull might be more readily reached
if only the Trent were a little deeper, but as the average draft of
the locks on that waterway does not exceed 3 feet 6 inches, it is
clear that no vessel of large size could navigate it, and to dredge
it to a reasonable depth for the whole distance of 102 miles would
be a most serious undertaking. The most promising means of reaching
the sea are therefore those provided by the Severn route. The river
itself is available for the greater part of the distance on this route
in one case, after traversing 26 miles of canal on the Birmingham,
Stourbridge, and Staffordshire and Worcestershire systems. The average
depths of the locks on the Severn over the 44 miles that it has to be
navigated by this route is about 6 feet, while they are 99 feet long
and 20 feet wide. These dimensions would allow of the passage of really
good-sized boats, but as it is, with the broken gauge of the other
canals, no boat can pass through to the Severn loaded beyond 33 tons.
Another matter that seriously militates against the water facilities of
Birmingham is that the different canals are, of course, under different
administrations, and each authority levies tolls capriciously and
disproportionately to the distance traversed and facilities afforded.
Thus, it was given in evidence before the Canal Committee of 1883[59]
that the Birmingham Canal Company charged in respect of bricks 11¼_d._
per ton for 6¾ or 7 miles, whereas the adjoining Warwick Canal Company
charged 6½_d._ for 37¼ miles, and the Grand Junction Canal Company only
charged 1_s._ 4½_d._ for 101 miles.

At different times during the last two or three years proposals have
been put forward, having for their object to place Birmingham in direct
connection with the sea, either—

     1. By a ship canal, that would enable vessels of 200 tons at
    least to proceed to the Bristol Channel.

     2. By a canal that would enable canal boats to navigate the
    lower Trent to the North Sea; and

     3. By the construction of an improved canal, between the
    Midlands and London.

Each of these routes has been canvassed and considered over the last
few years; and it is probable that some really effectual steps will
be taken before long, in order to realise the long cherished and
most desirable end of giving Birmingham a satisfactory outlet to the
sea. The people of the Midlands have really been more active in this
direction than those of any other locality. But they have apparently
sought too much from the State and trusted too little to themselves.
The Birmingham Town Council, in 1888, appointed a committee, with
instructions either to get clauses introduced into the Railway Rates
Bill, then under consideration, or to introduce a separate measure with
a view to the formation of Canal Trusts, &c. In May of 1889, again, the
Midlands sent a deputation to the Board of Trade, in order to urge upon
that department, the desirability of improving the canal communication,
between the Midlands and the sea. Besides this, the traders and
manufacturers of Birmingham, have met and passed resolutions, calling
upon the Government to inquire into the canal system without delay,
with a view to its acquisition by the State. More real good would be
done if the money were subscribed, to open up a first class waterway
to the sea, as has been done, with so much spirit, by the people of
Lancashire. Whether this waterway should connect with London, with
Bristol, or with the Mersey, or whether it would be worth while to
incur the expenditure required to connect all three, is a matter that
would have to be very carefully considered.

As regards the proposal to provide an improved canal, between London
and Birmingham, it is suggested that it should have a minimum top width
of 45 feet, and a depth of 8 feet. The number of locks proposed is 90
instead of 154, but by adopting a partially new route, so as to avoid
the depression in crossing the valley of the Avon, at Warwick, the
number may be reduced to 75. The time of transit between Birmingham
and London would thereby be shortened by 12 hours, and it is estimated
that the additional facilities afforded for the passage of steam-tugged
trains of boats, would enable the cost of haulage to be reduced nearly
one-half. The carrying capacity of the improved canal has been put at
two millions of tons annually, and the cost of the improvements at
a million and a quarter. A committee of traders in the Midlands has
recently had this project under consideration.


[59] Report, Q. 251.



Within recent years, the advocates of water transport in Great Britain
and other countries, have been accustomed to point to France as a
notable example of the advantages of improving and extending the
internal navigations of a country. It is true that no nation has done
more with this end in view. From first to last, France has expended a
larger sum on canal navigation than any other nation. Her system of
water transport is also in some respects more complete than that of any
other country, having been designed and carried out upon a systematic
plan, which permits of the ways of water communication being connected
with each other, and with the chief centres of population and industry.
The waterways of France, are, moreover, mainly owned by, or under the
control of the State, which has instituted elaborate inquiries from
time to time into the subject of their development and utilisation.
It cannot, nevertheless, be claimed for the canals of France, as a
rule, that they present any unusual economic or engineering features,
although they provide for a low cost of transport, of which we shall
have more to say when we come to deal especially with that branch of
our subject.

A glance at a canal and river map of France, is sufficient to show that
in the more important parts of the country, there is a very excellent
system of communication by water. Between Dunkerque, Gravelines, and
Paris, there is a large traffic carried to the latter city, through an
elaborate system of main and lateral canals. The river Seine connects
Paris with the ports of Havre and Rouen. From the Belgian frontier,
quite a network of canals connect with Paris; and on the German
frontier, near Nancy, the Canal de la Marne au de Rhin gives access to
the capital, both by the Marne river to the Seine, and by the Oise,
through the Aisne canal.

On the Mediterranean seaboard, the Canal du Midi connects with the
Canal des Etangs and the Canal de Beaucaire, and thence by the Rhone
and Saône, the Canal du Centre, the Canal de Briare, the Canal de Loing,
and the Seine to Paris, taking Lyons, Chalons, Dijon, Nivers, and other
important towns _en route_. In the south of France, the only important
canal is that of the Midi, which connects Bordeaux with Cette; and
on the west, the ports of Brest and St. Nazaire are connected with
the main line of communication already described—the former by the
Canal de Nantes à Brest, and the latter by the Loire river, the Canal
Noyers du Berry, and the Canal d’Orleans. It is, however, on the north
that the canal system has its greatest development, and especially
on the Belgian frontier. The system has been contrived to meet the
requirements of all the populous places on the line of route, so that
it is very far from having been arranged to save time and distance.
This, however, is no disadvantage in cases where density of traffic
was the point to be kept in view. Some of the canals have at one end
no outlet or through communication. The Canal du Berry, for example,
terminates abruptly at Montluçon, the Canal de Roanne à Dijon at
Roanne, and the Canal de l’Ourcq at Port-aux-Perches, but this is very
exceptional. The system is generally designed to enable one waterway to
give immediate access to another, so that through routes are the most
characteristic and valuable feature which it presents.

The very elaborate statistics which the French people make it their
business to collect relative to all their mundane affairs enable us
to obtain information as to the character of the traffic on French
waterways, and the conditions of its movement, that are not accessible
for most other countries. In order that some light may be thrown upon
the problem of “how they manage these things in France,” we have been
at some pains to get together the most important _data_ bearing on the

_Imprimis_, then, it appears that the total tonnage carried on the
canals of France in 1887—there are no returns yet issued for a later
year—was 21,050,180 tons. As this traffic was carried for a total
distance of 1762 millions of miles, it follows that the average
distance over which each ton was carried was 84 miles.

It is interesting to compare these returns with the corresponding
returns for the French railways, which carried 80,360,000 tons for a
total distance of 6801 millions of miles, giving an average transport
or lead of 84½ miles per ton.

There are no detailed returns at command of the amount of expenditure
at which the traffic on the waterways of France has been carried on. In
the nature of the case, indeed, there could hardly be such information,
seeing that the rivers, and to a large extent the canals as well, are
free of tolls, and the expenses of haulage will vary in every case,
according to the means employed, and other determining circumstances.
On the French railway system, however, the average rate charged for
the transport of goods per ton per mile amounted in 1887 to less than
0·9_d._, taking the eight great companies as a whole.[60]

Roughly, therefore, the average distance over which each ton was
transported on the waterways and railways of France was almost exactly
the same, but the railways carried almost four times as much traffic
as the waterways. This difference applied almost as much to heavy as
to light traffic. The total quantity of coal and coke carried on the
waterways was 5,964,000 tons, while on the railways it amounted to
22,395,000 tons, being again nearly four times as much.

The total length of the canals of France in 1887 was 4759 kilometres,
or 2998 miles. The average number of tons carried for each mile of
canal constructed was, therefore, 4005. The railways of France had,
at the same time, a length of 28,922 kilometres, or 18,095 miles, and
the average number of tons carried per mile was about 4400. The French
waterways, therefore, had a somewhat less density of traffic than the

Many of the canals of France, however, have almost ceased to be used,
and their traffic has become so small that it is hardly worth reckoning.

In the case of Paris, the second largest city in Europe, the total
quantity of traffic brought within the municipal bounds for the use of
the inhabitants amounted, in 1886, to 9,412,589 tons, of which 60 per
cent. was received by railway and 40 per cent. by waterways. Of the
traffic sent out from Paris, amounting to 2,989,000 tons, 80 per cent.
was despatched by rail, and 20 per cent. by water.[61] In reference to
the traffic entering Paris, it would seem as if the waterways competed
with some measure of success with the railways, but as regards the
traffic sent out from Paris, the railway is by no means so successful.

The waterways that give access to Paris are mainly the High Seine, the
Low Seine, and the Canal de l’Ourcq. The Seine carried 1,979,000 tons
to Paris in 1886, as compared with 1,791,000 tons carried on the canals
as a whole.

These are the broad general facts of the situation in which Paris is
placed as regards her supplies of food, fuel, and other requirements.
The details of the movement of this traffic are equally interesting,
but we have no space to devote to them here. We may, however, remark
that from every part of the empire, from Belgium and the Ardennes, from
the north and the east, from Marseilles on the one hand and from Rouen
and Havre on the other, the traffic on which Paris is dependent from
day to day is carried as well by waterways as by railways. From the
coal basins of the Nord and of the Pas-de-Calais the waterways carry
almost as much fuel to Paris as the railways; from the basins of the
Loire and of the Centre they carry much more. Belgium, again, sends
a large proportion of the total quantity of coal that she supplies
to Paris by water, but German and English coal is received mainly by

It would be interesting to compare the quantities of merchandise and
food supplies of all kinds received by water and by rail in different
large centres of population, but the materials do not exist for a
very exact comparison over a wide area. In no English city can such
materials be obtained, inasmuch as no record is available of the
different quantities that constitute the transit trade; but in several
German cities there are more accurate materials at command, and the
following figures show how the import traffic of Paris compares with
that of some German towns for the year 1887:—

     Tonnage brought into │  By Rail.  │  By Water.
                          │     tons.  │    tons.
    Paris                 │  5,647,000 │  3,765,000
    Berlin                │  3,504,000 │  3,348,002
    Hamburg               │  1,191,000 │  3,221,000
    Cologne               │  1,132,000 │    314,000
    Magdeburg             │  1,650,000 │  1,118,000
                  Total   │ 13,124,000 │ 11,766,000

During the year 1886 the traffic of the port of Paris amounted to a
total of 5,455,000 tons, which was transported in 35,291 boats. The
boats thus carried an average of about 155 tons.[63] This, however, was
composed of a considerable range of variations, the boats from the
Sambre, on the canal of that name, carrying an average of 216 tons,
while those on the canals of the Aisne and the Ardennes only carried
about 55 tons. On the Seine, from Oise to Paris, the average size of
the boats was 166 tons.

More than a fourth of the water-traffic entering Paris belongs to the
Ourcq Canal, which is connected with the Marne and with the Seine, both
above and below Paris, by means of the St. Martin and the St. Denis
Canals. These and the Ourcq Canals belong to the Municipality of Paris,
which has recently increased the width of the swing bridge across the
canal from 25½ to 50 feet, and has provided an uniform depth of 10½ feet

According to an interesting statement issued by the French Minister of
Public Works in 1880,[64] the length of the canals then constructed in
France was 2882 miles, of which 2248 miles were described as principal
lines, and cost about 10,300_l._ per mile, while 634 miles were
secondary lines, and cost 7200_l._ per mile. The total amount expended
on canals of both categories was about thirty-three millions sterling.

There were besides, 4598 miles of rivers which had been adapted, by
canalisation or otherwise, for purposes of navigation, at a total
cost of about 11½ millions sterling. About 1398 miles of river routes
were classed as principal lines, and upon these an expenditure of
7,918,000_l._ had been undertaken, or about 5700_l._ per mile. About
3200 miles more were classed as secondary lines, and had been improved
for navigation at a total cost of 3,561,000_l._, or 1113_l._ per mile.
On both canals and rivers the total amount expended had been over 44
millions sterling. Besides this, however, 190 miles of additional
waterways had, up to 1880, been constructed and improved, at an
additional cost of 3,400,000_l._, and were described as new waterways;
and it may be added that, up to the same date, about 19¾ millions
sterling had been expended on the ports of France, especially those
of Havre (3,300,000_l._), Marseilles (2,800,000_l._), St. Nazaire
(1,100,000_l._), and Bordeaux (960,000_l._).

These figures appear large, but while it may very well be that the
amount expended upon canals _pur et simple_ has been greater in France
than in our own and other countries, the expenditure upon the rivers of
France and upon the improvement of ports and harbours is very greatly
below that incurred in our own country. At Liverpool alone the sums
expended in this direction from first to last will probably exceed the
total amount expended upon the harbours of France up to the present
time. France is, however, so fully aware of the importance of providing
good shipping facilities, that she has quite recently undertaken a
large expenditure in improving the harbours of Havre and Calais,
canalising the Seine, and other similar works.

At the end of 1886, there were thirty-one chief canals in operation in
France having a total length of 3267 kilometres, and 1446 kilometres of
smaller canals, making a total of 4713 kilometres. The canals varied
in their volume of annual traffic from over 3½ millions of tons each
on the Deûle (Haute) canal, 63 kilometres in length, and on the St.
Quentin canal, 93 kilometres in length, to 243,700 tons on the _Latéral
à la Garonne_, 204 kilometres in length. The total traffic carried
on the canals from year to year has been remarkably constant.[65] The
canals have, moreover, carried a considerably larger quantity of
traffic than the rivers of France, notwithstanding that the latter have
a total length of 7825 kilometres, or 66 per cent. more, and that one
or two of them, especially the Aisne and the Oise have been specially

The waterways of France are classified by basins, and according to the
statistics published for 1886, the number of waterways in each basin
with the number of vessels of all kinds making use of them, and the
number of tons transported were as under:—


                   │        │              │ Number of │
                   │ Number │ Total Length │  Vessels  │  Tons of
     Basin of the  │   of   │      in      │ employed  │  Traffic
                   │ Lines. │  Kilometres. │ in 1886.  │  carried.
    Aa             │    1   │       29     │   12,778  │ 1,308,564
    Adour          │    9   │      257     │   19,903  │   423,666
    Charcute       │    8   │      301     │   20,169  │   239,069
    Escaut         │    8   │      219     │   42,242  │ 8,184,233
    Garonne        │   25   │     1752     │   30,952  │ 1,096,482
    Loire          │   22   │     1660     │   17,669  │ 1,084,542
    Moselle        │    6   │      231     │    1,601  │   200,980
    Rance          │    1   │       16     │    1,832  │    66,498
    Rhone          │   22   │     1731     │   25,799  │ 2,358,675
    Sambre         │    1   │       54     │    2,589  │   580,761
    Seine          │   18   │     1191     │  102,117  │18,843,313
    Vilaine        │    4   │      151     │    4,450  │   216,601
    Vire and Taute │    3   │      113     │    6,494  │   111,207

We may now appropriately follow up the more general information already
afforded by some details as to the history and topography of the chief
canals and river works in France.


_Briare_, &c.—The canal of Briare was begun in the time of Henry
IV. and the Duke of Sully, and was completed under Louis XIII. and
Cardinal Richelieu. Its length is eleven French leagues, and it forms
a communication between the Loire and the Loing, which is one of the
tributaries of the Seine. Under Louis XIV. another canal was drawn from
the Loire, near Orleans, which flowed to meet the first canal of
Briare, near Montargis; and as in summer there was an insufficiency
of water in the Loing to supply a considerable navigation, under the
minority of Louis XV. they determined to run another canal along the
banks of the river to the vicinity of the Seine, which is, properly
speaking, the continuation of the old canal of Briare. In this canal
there are, in all, forty-two sluices; and in that of Orleans, twenty.
In the reign of Louis XV., and under the inspection of the celebrated
Belidor, the canal of Picardie was carried out, forming a junction
between the Somme and the Oise, which afterwards enters the Seine about
five leagues from Paris.

_Languedoc._—The famous canal of Languedoc, better known as the Canal
du Midi, which forms a communication from the Mediterranean Sea to
the Garonne and the Ocean is one of the best known in France. By this
canal, for many years, boats have passed in a few days from the one sea
to the other, traversing valleys and hills, and ascending to the height
of 600 feet above the level of the two seas. The harbours of Bordeaux
and Marseilles formerly avoided, by this means, a circuitous route
of communication of several hundred miles. This great undertaking,
projected under three other kings, was at last perfected in the reign
of Louis XIV., after a labour of fourteen years, at an expense of
eleven millions of livres, without reckoning the additional expense of
two millions more, incurred in re-establishing the harbour of Cette.
Andressi first suggested the plan, and Riquet directed almost the
whole of its execution. He began the work in 1666. The canal begins
at a lake nearly four miles in circumference, which, collecting the
waters of Mont Noir, conveys them at Naurose into a reservoir, of very
considerable extent, whence the waters are distributed to the right
until they meet the Garonne near Toulouse, and to the left as far as
the Lake of Tau, which is near the port of Cette. The breadth of the
canal is 30 feet, its length is rather over 125 miles, which equals
50½ French leagues. Nearly a sixth part of the canal is carried over
mountains deeply excavated; and, at a spot called the Mal Pas, it
crosses a rock cut into the form of an arch, eighty toises in length,
four toises in width, and four and a half in height. It has one hundred
sluices, and a great number of aqueducts and bridges.



Admiral Lord Clarence Paget undertook, in 1881, a canal voyage through
this Canal, of which he has supplied some interesting particulars. The
yacht, the _Miranda_, was 85 feet over all, 11 feet beam, and 4 feet 8
inches draught of water. She carried 6½ tons of coal, equal to about
eight days’ consumption, at full speed.

“Originally,” writes Lord Clarence, “the canal, which immortalised its
constructor, P. P. Riquet, was only intended to connect the head waters
of the Garonne at Toulouse with the Mediterranean, and it was opened
with great pomp and ceremony by Louis XIV. in 1681, but it was soon
found inadequate to the purposes required, as the Garonne was subject
to all sorts of vicissitudes of drought and floods.

“It was not, however, till our own times that the ‘Canal Latéral,’
between Toulouse and near Bordeaux, has been completed, and, curiously
enough, just at the moment when the railway between Bordeaux and Cette
has almost entirely absorbed the traffic. So here is this magnificent
canal, with its 99 locks and its viaducts and bridges comparatively
unused, save by an occasional barge loaded with wine. Nevertheless, it
is kept in admirable order, and the passage can be made, with certain
precautions, without any difficulty.

“A pleasant, though not very picturesque voyage of thirty miles of
river, brought us to the entrance of the canal. It was necessary to
put on our canal screw before entering, so we laid the vessel on
the ground, and entered on the following tide, through the lock,
which is double, or rather twin, so that two vessels can pass at the
same time. The dimensions of this, and indeed all the locks, are as
follows:—Length, 28 metres; breadth, 5·80 metres; depth, 1·60 metres.
The height of the bridges varies, but no vessel is allowed to pass
which is higher above the level of the canal than 2·72 metres.

“Thus, it will be seen that we had about six feet of length, and five
feet of width, to spare, one foot of height, and one foot under our
bottom; nor is this by any means too large a margin, since, however
well a vessel may be steered, and however quickly stopped, it is
impossible at all times, particularly if there be a strong breeze, to
ensure her entry into the locks with exactly sufficient speed. Moreover
it is quite necessary that a boat should be afloat, to make a rope fast
to the shore, where the canal has very sharp curves, as is the case in
the old part of it, between Toulouse and Cette; and inasmuch as the
boat cannot be hoisted up to davits or inboards, it will be manifest
that room must be left for her in the lock. We had just room under the
stern for one 13 feet boat athwart. The safe passage through the first
lock and under the first bridge caused us pleasant anticipations.

“We were satisfied to have accomplished our first lock, and made fast
opposite the house of the ‘Chef du Section,’ of which there are seven
on the canal. He and his lady paid us a visit, as did the curé and
principal inhabitants of La Reole. Next morning, the 28th, we fairly
tackled the business, and accomplished that day eleven locks, stopping
at Buzet. It would be tedious to describe our daily routine, and I
need only remark that we took advantage of all the daylight—at this
season only about 8½ hours—and accomplished some 35 to 40 miles per
day, always ascending, till we arrived at Toulouse on the sixth day.
This ‘Canal Latéral’ follows much the course of the Garonne. It is
a splendid work, and is kept in beautiful order. The grand features
are the bridges which carry the canal across the Garonne and other
rivers. There are three, but by far the grandest and most interesting
is that at Agen, where we found ourselves in mid-air, with the river,
the railway, the high road, and part of the town far beneath us. The
centre arch is a hundred feet high. After leaving Agen, the scenery
became picturesque, and sometimes grand; but to really enjoy this trip
it should be taken before the fall of the leaf. The whole length of the
canal is lined on either side by poplar, plane, and other trees, many
of them of great height, so as almost to shade the vessels passing. The
locks are admirably managed, and it is surprising how little delay they
cause—always supposing that there is no vessel to take precedence; but
whether by chance, or that orders had been sent on to keep the road
clear, we were rarely detained, and the average time in passing through
was about five minutes. As we approached Toulouse, the air became keen
and the nights frosty. Our ‘Chef du Section,’ who always accompanied
us, informed me that some years since the canal was frozen up in the
middle of December, and we consequently delayed as little as possible,
and only spent a couple of days at Toulouse, which I regretted, as,
besides being a pretty town, it is especially interesting as being the
grand central depot of the canal, and the junction with the old ‘Canal
du Midi,’ a name which has outlived the original title of Louis XIV.,
who christened it ‘Canal de Languedoc.’ Here, or rather a few miles to
the eastward, are the numerous reservoirs and alimentary canals which
bring the waters from the ‘Montagnes Noires.’ We could not stop to see
them in detail, but could trace their outline far away in the distance.

“When the celebrated engineer, Vauban, came to inspect these works, he
was astonished, and exclaimed that one thing was wanting only, namely,
a monument and statue to the founder. This has since been rectified,
and a grand obelisk is visible at the source of the canal. The story
of Pierre Paul Riquet is that of many, nay, of most, great patriots.
He met with scant assistance from the Government, and strenuous
opposition from his countrymen; he was treated as a madman, and died
of a broken heart before the great work was finished. His career seems
to have been very similar to that of an illustrious man of our own
day—Lesseps—save and except that the latter, happily, has been spared
to see the final achievement of his splendid work.[67] He had, however,
one attribute which is not common among inventors—he knew how to
strike a bargain; and his contract still enriches several families, his
descendants, especially the Caramans.

“On December 5th, we arrived at the summit of the canal, and it was
interesting to observe the alimentation going both ways. Here the whole
character and structure of the works change; instead of many miles of
straight reaches of uniform width of about 100 feet, the canal becomes
tortuous to a degree which is almost absurd, but which is accounted for
by the fact that, in Riquet’s day there was no law ‘d’expropriation,’
and he had to make a bargain with every little landowner for permission
to pass through his grounds, and being in many cases refused, he had to
cut away in another, and often opposite direction. The locks here are
also peculiar, being oval-shaped, to admit of two abreast; the effect
of this is, that although on the map, Toulouse is at least two-thirds
of the distance from Bordeaux to Cette, it is, by the canal, not quite

“These sharp curves are inconvenient, as it is necessary to turn the
comers very slowly, for fear of running into vessels coming in the
opposite direction, and often they are so very acute as to necessitate
stopping the engines and using poles, and sometimes ropes, to get round
the comers.

“Another peculiar feature of this part of the canal is the constant
recurrence of multiple locks. On the first approach to double, treble,
quadruple, and even quintuple locks, one feels somewhat like going over
a precipice, but this soon wears off, and in reality, the ground is got
over quicker than with single locks.

“The famous octuple lock at Béziers only required half-an-hour to
accomplish, and it is one of the most wonderful features of this canal,
it is like going down a steep ladder from the top of a cliff to the
valley below. Our passage must have been a source of amusement to the
natives, judging by the crowds which met us at each stopping place.
I never could quite understand the exact cause of this. I asked M.
Moffre, to whom I have already alluded as the obliging and amiable
chief, but he did not satisfy me by saying, ‘It is the first steam
yacht we have had, except one which belongs to the Emperor of Austria,
and which passed through five years ago.’ ...

“From Carcassone we descended rapidly by multiple locks to the plain
of Agde, having always as a grand background to the south the range
of the Pyrenees, but this plain is anything but picturesque, being
rocky and barren. Here we pass what the ignorant and misguided people
of Riquet’s days thought would be a barrier to his great work. A
sharp spur of the ‘Montagnes Noires’ here juts out into the plain,
which looks like ‘thus far, no farther,’ but he was equal to the
task, and set to work to tunnel an imitation of the only tunnel
existing in those days, the grotto of Pausillipo at Naples, which
he visited on purpose, and it is exactly similar and about the same
length. Who does not remember the odd mysterious passage, high enough
to pass a line-of-battle ship through? A part, unfortunately, has
given way, and necessitated arching the roof, which has somewhat
marred the effect, but it is still interesting and imposing. From
here, a sharp descent through several multiple locks, brings us to
the level of the Mediterranean, whose blue waters are seen in the
distance; and on Saturday, the 10th of December, being our fourteenth
day since leaving Bordeaux, we emerged from the canal into the
Etang du Thau, at the mouth of which is Cette, giving access to the

_The Crapponne Canal._—The authority to construct this canal was
conceded to Adam de Crapponne, an eminent engineer in the year 1554.
It takes its water through sluices, from the river Durance, near St.
Estève-Ianson, at an altitude of 492 feet above sea level. There the
river varies from 600 to 6500 feet in width, and the bed consists of a
succession of sand and gravel banks, and alluvial deposits, intersected
by numerous branches, which shift at every flood. Such a state of
things cannot be considered as constituting the bed of the river,
in the ordinary acceptation of the term, and to have constructed
a permanent and fixed barrage across the river, to lead the water
through the sluices, would not only have been a costly work at that
time, but also one of considerable difficulty. Crapponne constructed,
therefore, what are termed “barrages volants” across the river. These
are formed where the depth of the water is about two feet, by stakes
with fascines, and filled in with stones. In the deeper parts of the
river, which may be sometimes 12 to 15 feet, “chevalets” are driven in
place of stakes. These consist generally of trunks of trees cut near
the point of the bifurcation of the principal branches, and which are
placed closer together in proportion to the depth. The “chevalets”
are bound by cross-pieces and supported by fascines. These “barrages
volants” are always placed obliquely to the current of the river, for
the purpose of causing the fascines to press against the stones or the
“chevalets.” Such “barrages volants” need continual repair, but their
cost is comparatively trifling. It is mostly a question of labour, as
the material employed is cheap.

The average cost of maintenance of the barrage for the Crapponne
canal is about 500_l._ per annum. This system, adopted by Crapponne
more than 300 years ago, has never been changed, and has been found
by experience to answer its purpose of diverting the Durance waters
through the sluices into the canal in all seasons, and the same system
is adopted for some other irrigation canals. The Crapponne Canal, is
the main canal from the river Durance to Lamanon, and is 14¼ miles in
length. At Lamanon the canal has two main branches, one flowing south
towards Salon and St Chanas, and the other to the west towards Arles.
The total length of the canal is about 77 miles, not comprising the
whole development of the branch to Arles, which is a special property,
independent of the original canal.

The quantity of water supplied by the canal, is as follows:-The main
canal is 26 feet wide, and 6·5 feet deep; the mean velocity is 5 feet
per second. The branch to Salon is 10 feet wide, and 6·5 feet deep; the
mean velocity is 6·5 feet per second. The branch to Arles is 16·5 feet
wide, and 3·28 feet deep; the mean velocity is 5·3 feet per second. The
branch to Istres is 6·6 feet wide, and 3·3 feet deep; the mean velocity
is 6·6 feet per second.

_The Alpines Canal._—This canal, which was commenced in 1773, takes
its water, for the main channel, from the Durance at Mallemort, and for
the west branches, near Chateaurenard. The main canal is considered one
of the best in Europe as regards its utility. The system consists of
more than 194 miles of canal, disposing of 770 cubic feet of water per
second, which, with the west branches of the canal, irrigates more than
20,000 acres. The branches to Carascon and Barbentane, have generally
an inclination of 1 in 2000. In some portions of the former branch, the
inclination is 1 in 4500; in other portions 1 in 1250, while over some
of the aqueducts it is as much as 1 in 154. The widths at the bottom of
the west branch canal vary from 7·8 to 9·2 feet, and for a branch to
Barbentane, between 5·2 and 6·2 feet. The inclinations of the slopes
varies from 1 to 1, to 1½ to 1, in ordinary cuttings and embankments.
The west branches of the canal have passed through considerable
financial difficulties, and are now managed by an independent company.

In order to develop irrigation, numerous syndicates have been formed,
as some of the land was held in small parcels by proprietors and
farmers who had neither the funds nor the power, in opposition to
intervening landowners, to obtain branches to conduct the water from
the main irrigating canal to their properties. The price charged for
the water is regulated by the price charged for corn on the basis of
1·66 bushel per acre irrigated. The quantity of water given at the
above rate, is fixed about 0·57 gallon per acre per second, supposed
to flow continuously during the irrigation season, commencing on the
1st of April and terminating on the 1st October of each year, which is
equal to covering the ground for the total number of irrigations to a
depth of 66½ inches, and with 22,130 cubic yards of water. In 1874,
the cost of irrigation was equivalent to about 11_s._ 6_d._ per acre,
being the price of 1·66 bushel of corn. The price has recently been
reduced to about 8_s._ per acre, for three irrigations required during
the season for such crops as corn and olive orchards. The same reduced
price per acre is also charged for inundating vineyards during the
autumn, as a preventive to the phylloxera.

_Lens la Deûle Canal._—Lens, a town of 11,800 inhabitants, and the
capital of the coalfields of the Pas-de-Calais, has recently been
connected with the existing system of navigable waterways by a canal,
which passes near a great number of pits belonging to the companies of
Lens and of Courriéres, the most important of the district, and serves
the Liévin mines, which previously possessed no water communication.
The probable traffic on this canal has been estimated at 290,000 tons,
with a prospect of future increase. The canal starts a little beyond
Lens, and passes close to the town; and after a course of 4 miles 7
furlongs it joins the Souchez Canal at Harnes. This canal, about 2
miles 1 furlong in length, was constructed about 1862, and connects
the Lens Canal with the Deûle Canal a little beyond Courriéres. The
total fall of the Lens Canal is 31 feet 10 inches, which is effected
by three locks, the first by a fall of 8¼ feet and the other two of
11 feet 9½ inches. It has a bottom width of 17¾ feet in the straight
portions, and in the curved portions the width at the bottom is
regulated according to the formula (17¾ × 1246/R) feet; and its depth
is 7¼ feet for an available draught of 6½ feet. Crossing places, 31
feet wide at the bottom and 360 feet long, have been formed about every
5 furlongs; and places for barges to wait in have been constructed of
the same width, at the commencement and end of the canal, 2300 and
1800 feet long respectively. Above the third lock the canal traverses
fissured chalk for a distance of 1640 feet, and has accordingly been
lined with concrete up to 1 foot above the water level at a cost of
2_l._ per yard; and where the canal passes over a marsh, filled up with
stones from the pits, for about 330 feet, it has been cut off from
the marsh by a puddle-trench carried down into a substratum of clay
13¾ feet below the water-level. The locks are of the ordinary type,
17 feet wide, 126⅓ feet available length, and 8¼ feet in depth, with
sluices in the gates; and the gates have iron ribs and a wooden skin,
and cost on the average 4_l._ per square yard. The canal is fed by the
river Souchez only 620 feet from its commencement. The discharge of
the river during the long drought of the summer of 1886 did not fall
below 4·6 cubic feet per second, whilst the traffic on the canal only
required 2½ cubic feet per second, allowing for losses from evaporation
and leakage. There is, therefore, an ample supply for other purposes,
and for increased demands for traffic. The canal was begun on the 1st
of February, 1885, and was opened for traffic on the 30th of October,
1886. The works, including land, cost 74,000_l._, or 15,206_l._ per

_The Marne Canal._—The original canal was constructed between the
years 1838 and 1853. It commences by a junction with the Upper Marne
Canal at Vitry le Français, and terminates by a junction with the river
Ill and the Rhine Canal, near Strasburg, thus connecting the valleys of
the Seine and the Rhine, and also the intervening rivers, which include
the Maas, Moselle, Soar, &c. Its length between Vitry and Strasburg is
193½ miles, and it crosses the four watersheds dividing the catchment
basins of the Marne, Maas, Moselle, Soar, and Rhine; there are,
however, only two summit reaches, as the divides between the Maas and
Moselle, and the Soar and the Rhine, are tunnelled through at Fory and
Arzweiler, respectively. There are altogether five tunnels, with a
total length of 5½ miles.

The level of the water above the sea is, at Vitry, 332·62 feet; at the
Mauvages summit tunnel, through the Marne-Maas divide, 922·75 feet; at
Nancy, 648·10 feet; at the Vosges summit level, 873·93 feet; and at
Strasburg, 444·18 feet. There are 177 locks on the canal, and the mean
rise of each is 8·60 feet.

Some years since it was contemplated to increase the water supply, but
the improvements were delayed by the Franco-German war, which resulted
in a transfer to Germany of the Alsatian portion of the canal, and also
of one of the most important sources of supply, viz. the river Soar.
To render the system independent of this latter portion, in 1874 the
construction of the East Canal was authorised. This commences at Givet,
on the Belgian frontier, joins the Rhine-Marne Canal at Troussey, and
again leaving the latter canal at Toul, follows the course of the Upper
Moselle to Epinal, where it branches off in a south-westerly direction
to its termination at Port-sur-Saône. The depth of water in this canal
was fixed at 6 feet 6 inches.

The Rhine-Marne Canal had originally a depth of 5 feet 3 inches, a
bottom breadth of 32 feet 10 inches, and sides sloped at 1½ to 1. This
depth has been increased to 6 feet 6 inches, the canal bed has been
cleaned and lined with concrete 6½ inches to 8½ inches thick, where
necessary, and the headways of the bridges and tunnels has been raised
to 12 feet 2 inches above the new water-level. Through the Mauvages
tunnel a chain has been laid, and all the traffic is worked by two
chain steam-tugs with fireless boilers (Francq’s patent).

The most important of the new works are those for the additional
supply of water. They comprise pumping-stations at Pierre-la-Treiche
and Valcourt, near Toul, at both of which the pumps are actuated by
turbines, and a steam-pumping station at Vacon, as well as ducts for
conveying the water from the pumping-stations to the canal, and an
impounding reservoir at Paroy.

    The total amount of water required annually for the
       Rhine-Marne canal is                               1,364,620,000

    The total amount of water required annually for the
       East canal is                                        748,340,000
                              Total                       2,112,960,000
    In addition to which there is the Meurthe branch,
       requiring                                            462,210,000
                 Making a grand total of                  2,575,170,000

Besides the above artificial sources, the canals are fed by springs at
Vacon, and by the Moselle, &c.

The arrangements at Pierre-la-Treiche and at Valcourt are nearly
similar. There are two turbines, actuating force pumps, capable of
raising from 143 to 198 gallons per second to a height of 131 feet 3
inches, through a line of cast-iron pipes of 2 feet 7½ inches diameter,
delivering into an open duct connecting with the east end of the Pagny
Reach of the canal. This duct commences at Pierre-la-Treiche, and is 8¼
miles long, and feeds both canals.

    The cost of these works was                             51,920
    Of which the pumping station at Pierre-la-Treiche cost  15,616
    And the pumping station at Valcourt                     26,908

The steam pumping-station at Vacon is near the west end of the Pagny
Reach. The pumps are 250 H.P., and capable of lifting 8,804,000
gallons per twenty-four hours to a height of 121 feet 4 inches, or
110 gallons per second. The water is conveyed into a duct, which also
carries the water from the Vacon springs, and empties into the Pagny
Reach. The reservoir at Paroy has an area of 180 acres, and contains
376,371,000 gallons. The dam is 1378 feet long, and 18 feet 3 inches
high; the cost of construction was 20,800_l._ The canal traffic in
1884 amounted to 634,936 tons.[68]

_The Canalisation of the Moselle._—The French Government, in the
period from 1836 to 1860, undertook the regulation of this river from
Frouard to the Prussian frontier by means of works parallel to the
existing river-bed, and by embankments; but sandbanks and shoals were
nevertheless deposited which impeded the navigation, and led to the
proposal, in 1860, to erect a series of sluices and movable weirs
extending from Frouard to Thionville, which would, if constructed,
entail an estimated outlay of 11½ millions of francs, the total
distance being 92 kilometres, and the minimum depth of water to be
maintained being set down as 1·6 metre. Owing to the opposition of
some of the Communes, who dreaded the injury to their land by the
alterations in the water-level, the plans were modified, and only
certain reaches of the river, where the riparian conditions were
favourable, were kept up by weirs and locks, side-channels fed from the
main stream being constructed to connect these deepened sections.

_The Proposed Mediterranean and Biscay Canal._—The project for
connecting the Mediterranean and the Bay of Biscay by a ship canal
has often been under discussion, and would, no doubt, if carried out,
prove of considerable utility. Not only would such a canal shorten by
several days the distance between the principal ports on the North Sea
and the eastern basin of the Mediterranean—thereby bringing England
into closer contact with the far Orient—but there would be a greater
security to shipping, as a result of avoiding the stormy coasts of
Spain and Portugal during the winter months. The proposed canal has
been variously named the “_Canal de deux Mers_,” the “_Canal du Midi_,”
&c., but it would practically be identical with the Languedoc Canal
already described, and by means of which boats of small size are even
now passed between the two seas.[69]

The route proposed for the Mediterranean and Bay of Biscay Ship Canal
is from Bordeaux to Cette by Agen, Montauban, Toulouse, Carcassonne,
and Béziers. The canal, after following largely the course of the
Garonne, from Bordeaux, would tap the Dorpt, the Lot, the Aveyron, and
the Tarn, whence it would draw its water supply. From Toulouse, the
canal would follow the course of the South Canal, and would thence
proceed by Béziers, to the Lake of Thau, which would be transformed
into an inland port. The financial and other difficulties in the way
of the project have, however, proved insurmountable up to the present
time. Both the City of Bordeaux, which is the port chiefly interested,
and the Government of France have declined to aid in the realisation of
the project; and the State has even refused to grant the necessary
concession for its construction, on the ground that its cost would be
quite out of proportion to its utility, that it would isolate a large
portion of French territory, and that costly works would have, in any
case, to be provided by the Government at both ends of the canal.

It is pointed out,[70] on the other hand, and with some force, that in
the case of a maritime war between France and England, the proposed
Atlantic and Mediterranean Canal would allow of vessels reaching the
former sea without passing Gibraltar. Brest and Toulon could also be
brought into more rapid activity, and the concentration of troops could
be more readily effected. A plan and profile of the proposed route
appears at p. 101.

_The Rhone Canals._—At the mouth of the Rhone artificial waterways of
considerable importance have been provided for navigation purposes, the
chief of which, the St. Louis Canal, has a draught of water of 19⅔ feet
at low sea-level; its width is 100 feet at the bottom, and 207 feet at
the surface of the water.

The channel into the sea is 200 feet wide, at the bottom, from the
shore out to the 4-metre (13 feet) line, and 656 feet wide from the
4-metre (13 feet) line to the 6-metre (20 feet) line. The canal is
separated from the Rhone by a lock having a depth of water of 24½ feet,
a depth of 72 feet, and an available length of 525 feet. Below the
lock, at the commencement of the canal, a basin has been excavated, 30
acres in area, and with 20 feet depth of water. The works were begun in
1863, and finished in 1873.

The St. Louis Canal is a work of far greater importance, as regards
navigation, than the results anticipated from the improvement of the
mouth of the Rhone, to vessels finding a sufficient depth to get up to
Arles. This depth was restricted to 6½ feet at low-water level. The
St. Louis Canal Works afford access to the Rhone for vessels up to 20
feet draught, and provide these vessels with a harbour, opening into a
sheltered bay, in which they are able with ease to load and discharge
their cargoes.

The project of the St Louis Canal was from the first assailed by the
partisans of the embankment works, as well as by those who considered
that the proper expedient was to enlarge the canal from Arles to Bouc.
It was urged that the canal would soon be silted up by deposits from
the Rhone, both at the sea end and also at the lock. The canal from
Arles to Bouc was constructed in 1802, but as it has only a depth of 6½
feet and a width of 26¼ feet on the locks, it has not been available
for the craft usually navigating the Rhone since steam navigation was

_General Features of French Canals._—The general characteristics of
the principal canals of France will be understood from the following
table, which gives the number of locks, the length of the locks, and
their average width and depth on fifteen of the principal canals in
the country, as recorded in the Government Reports on the French

      STATEMENT showing the number of Locks, with their length,
       width, and average depth, on the chief Canals in France.

                              │         │          │         │ Average
                              │  Number │  Length  │  Width  │  Depth
             Canals.          │    of   │   of     │   of    │   of
                              │  Locks. │  Locks.  │  Locks  │  Locks.
                              │         │ metres.  │ metres. │ metres
    De la Deûle               │    1    │   38·70  │   ..    │   ..
    Meuse                     │   26    │   45     │   5·70  │   2·42
    De la Sambre              │   38    │   37·60  │   5·20  │   2·34
    De l’Est                  │   33    │ 38 to 45 │ 5·20 to │   2·60
                              │         │          │   5·70  │
    De l’Aisne de la Marne    │   24    │   35     │   5·20  │   2·68
    St. Quentin               │   35    │   34     │ 5·20 to │   2·29
                              │         │          │   6·40  │
    De l’Ourcq                │   10    │ 38·80 to │ 5·20 to │   ..
                              │         │      63  │   6·20  │
    De Briare                 │   43    │   33     │   5·20  │   2·87
    Du Muernais               │  116    │   33     │   5·10  │   2·07
    Du Rhone au Rhin          │   73    │   30     │ 5·13 to │   2·23
                              │         │          │   5·30  │
    De Neufosse               │    6    │ 34·80 to │   5·20  │   2·67
                              │         │    36·53 │         │
    De l’Aire                 │    1    │   37·95  │   5·20  │   2·00
    De la Somne               │   23    │    45    │   6·30  │   2·49
    De l’Oise et à l’Aisne    │   35    │    34    │ 5·20 to │   2·29
                              │         │          │   8·40  │
    De la Haute Marne         │   34    │ 25 to    │   5·20  │   3·10
                              │         │    38·50 │         │

The French Assembly adopted, in August 1879, a law which decreed that
the principal lines of canal communication ought to have a depth of
2 metres, and locks not less than 38 metres 50 long, by 5 metres 20
wide. In the South of France the only canals that conform to these
requirements are those of the Midi and the Aulize; in Central France,
the Canal du Centre, the Canal Roanne à Dijon, the Canal du Berry,
and the Canal du Rhone au Rhin. The Canal de Bourgogne, the Canal de
Briare, and the Canal d’Orleans, are also up to these requirements. In
the north of France, and on the Belgian frontier, it may be said that
all the waterways are of the required minimum dimensions.

Paris is the natural centre of the French canals. Barges find their way
there from the ports of Dunkirk, Gravelines, Calais, and Havre, large
quantities of coal, iron, and wheat being carried, and in the fall of
the year the cargoes of numerous timber vessels are made into rafts and
floated to their destination. Of late years, however, the increasing
quantities of planks and deals sawn in the north, are loaded into the
barges. The important coal and iron districts of Belgium, at Mons and
Charleroi, provide a good deal of freight for Paris, which goes _viâ_
Condé from the former, and _viâ_ Landrecies from the latter, the two
routes uniting at La Fere, whence the Seine, at Conflans, is reached
by descending the river l’Oise. The river Rhine is communicated with
at Saarbruck and Strasburg; Switzerland at Bâle, and the important
ports of Marseilles and Cette by the Yonne, the Burgundy Canal, and
the rivers Saône and Rhone. The western ports of Nantes, Brest, and
Bordeaux have also canal communication with Paris.

The large _péniches_ of 270 tons, which are about 116 feet long, 16
feet beam, bluff at bow and stem, and almost flat bottomed, draw 1·80
metres when loaded. They are usually worked by two men and the wife of
the captain. The value of these craft, with their equipments, is from
10,000 to 15,000 francs, and they are always insured against damage
or loss. In all rivers and places with the slightest risk, the use of
pilots is compulsory.

During the latter part of 1888, the French Chambers had under
consideration a proposal to reimpose the tolls that were formerly
levied on canals and navigable rivers, but which, within recent years,
have been removed. It was contended that the waterways, exempt from
tolls, were likely to be dangerous rivals to the railways. The railway
interest clamoured accordingly for what they called fair play. The
Budget Commission, however, refused to entertain the idea of resuming
the canal tolls, holding, as expressed by their spokesman, that “by
developing the waterways, and thereby serving industry in the cheap
transport of raw materials which were incapable of bearing a high
charge for carriage, production would be increased, and the traffic of
the railways in manufactured goods would be proportionately augmented.”

A considerable amount of light has been thrown upon the circumstances
of the internal navigation of France by a census that was recently
taken of the boats employed upon the navigable rivers and canals. This
census showed that, at the end of 1887, there were employed on the
national waterways no fewer than 15,730 vessels, having a total tonnage
capacity of 2,724,000 metrical tons, or an average of 173 metrical tons
per vessel. Of these boats, 933, with a total tonnage of 342,933, or
an average of 370 tons per vessel, had a length of 38 metres 50 and
over; 4863 boats, having a total tonnage of 1,415,904 metrical tons,
or an average of rather under 300 tons each, had a length of 33 metres
to 38 metres 50; while 9934, with a total tonnage of 965,000 tons,
or an average of 96 tons, were less than 33 metres in length. Of the
15,730 vessels employed in the inland navigation of France, 14,252 were
found to have been constructed in the country, 1017 in Belgium, 339 in
Germany, and 122 in other countries. It would thus appear that France
retains in her own hands the shipbuilding involved in the navigation of
her own waterways. Finally, it appears that 8537 boats, with a total
tonnage of 1,632,000 tons, were employed on the canals, and 7203 boats,
with a tonnage of 1,092,000 tons, on the rivers.

It would take up far too much of our time and space if we were to
attempt to speak of the resources of the principal rivers of France,
and of the means that have been taken by the State to maintain and
improve them. Much has been done in this direction within recent years,
and more is proposed in the near future. Until quite recently, if not
actually up to the present time, the cost of transporting a ton of coal
from Cardiff or Newcastle to Paris has been about 16 francs, being 9
francs to Rouen, and 6 francs from Rouen to Paris, with 1 or 1½ francs
for unloading into river boats at Rouen. The consumption of coal in
Paris is from 2½ to 3 million tons a year, and it has been argued that
the cost of this coal could be reduced to the consumers by some 6
francs if Paris were converted into a seaport by improving the Seine.
One objection offered to this proposal is that it would interfere with
the French collieries in the Nord and the Pas-de-Calais, if so obvious
an advantage were given to English coal; and to meet this difficulty it
has been proposed to have another special canal from those districts,
which would start from St. Denis or Creil, and would communicate by two
branches with Antin and Lens. It is argued that the cost of conveying
coal from the north to Paris by this means would not exceed 2 to 2½
francs, or 4 francs less than at the present time.


[60] This does not include the six small companies, whose united
lines only make up 217 kilometres, nor the _reseau de l’Etat_, which
has 2164 kilometres more. Over the latter system the number of
tons carried one mile was 133 millions, and the receipts therefrom
amounted to about 12 millions of francs, which corresponds to an
average of 0·91_d._ per ton per mile, showing that the independent
companies carry traffic cheaper than the State lines.

[61] ‘Bulletin du Ministère des Travaux Publics,’ Tome xviii. p. 329.

[62] The proportions of the total coal supply of 3,065,800 tons
received by Paris in 1886 were contributed thus:—

                 │ By Water. │ By Rail.
                 │   tons.   │    tons.
    French coal  │  839,200  │  889,700
    Belgian  ”   │  402,300  │  557,200
    English  ”   │   26,700  │  191,100
    German   ”   │   26,400  │  133,200
          Totals │ 1,294,600 │ 1,771,200

[63] It is interesting to compare, or rather contrast, this with
the traffic of the port of London, where, in 1888, the entrances of
shipping amounted to close on 12½ millions of tons, carried in 49,213
vessels, the average tonnage being over 700 tons.

[64] ‘Album de Statistique Graphique.’

[65] Traffic on French canals:—1883, 11,975,000 tons; 1884,
11,936,000 tons; 1885, 11,102,000 tons; 1886, 12,027,000 tons.

[66] Traffic on French rivers:—1883, 8,873,000 tons; 1884, 8,936,000
tons; 1885, 8,353,000 tons; 1886, 8,950,000.

[67] Lord Clarence Paget here refers, of course, to the Suez Canal,
since the Panama Canal, which is dealt with elsewhere in this volume,
is in quite a different category.

[68] These details are abstracted from the ‘Minutes of Proceedings of
the Institution of Civil Engineers,’ vol. 86, p. 419, _et seq._

[69] Lord Alfred Paget’s paper, originally published in the ‘Journal
of the Society of Arts,’ giving an account of a yacht voyage which he
made over this canal, has already been referred to.

[70] M. E. Couillard in ‘Annales Industrielles,’ June, 1887.



   “How many spacious countries does the Rhine,
    In winding banks and mazes serpentine,
    Traverse, before he splits on Belgia’s plain,
    And, lost in sand, creeps to the German main.”
                                      _Sir R. Blackmore._

There is perhaps no country that enjoys greater facilities of transport
than Germany, relatively to its area, its population, and its commerce.
This happy condition of things is due, partly to the fostering care of
a paternal government, which has taken transportation under its special
care, and controls by far the larger part of the ways of communication
both by land and water; partly to the competition, at low rates of
freight, between railways, rivers, and canals; and partly to the close
attention which has been given by traders, economists, and engineers
to the problems that determine the ultimate economy of transport under
different conditions. With a railway system that has now been completed
to the extent of 25,000 miles, with 17,000 miles of rivers, and with
1250 miles of canal navigation that is soon likely to be considerably
increased, the German Empire offers facilities for the study of the
transportation problem that entitle it to the serious attention of
all who are interested in the matter. This is all the more obvious
that Germany, although possessed of very moderate natural resources
otherwise, has attained a front rank among commercial nations.

_River Systems._—The chief river systems of Germany are those of the
Rhine, draining an area of 76,000 square miles, and having a course
of 850 miles; the Elbe, which drains an area of 55,000 square miles,
and is, next to the Rhine, the most important of the German rivers;
the Oder, which has a drainage basin of 50,000 square miles, and
a course of 550 miles; the Vistula, which rises in the Carpathian
mountains, 2000 feet above sea level, has a drainage area of 74,000
square miles, and a length of 600 miles; the Niemen, which has a
drainage area conterminous with that of the Düna, and of about the
same extent, i. e., 35,000 square miles; the Weser, which has a
drainage area of 18,000 square miles, and a course of 355 miles; with
the Ems and one or two smaller streams. The flow of the chief streams
is as follows:—

              River.                          Sea.

    The Danube                           The Black Sea.
    Rhine, Elbe, and Weser               The North Sea.
    Vistula, Oder, Memel, and Pregel     The Baltic.

Of the Danube we shall speak at some length when we come to deal with
the waterways of Austria, to which that river mainly belongs. But most
of the other rivers of Germany have been more or less canalised, and we
shall therefore refer to some of the changes thereby effected in river

_The Rhine._—The lowest velocity of the Rhine is 2·62 feet per second;
the highest 11·15 feet per second, and, at Düsseldorf, 5·24 to 6·56
feet, with 9·84 feet mean-water on the Cologne gauge. The width of the
river at St. Goar is 180 yards, and the depth 98 feet; at Düsseldorf it
is 275 yards wide, and 72 feet deep. These are the two greatest depths
of the river. In the Rheingau and the Lower Rhine, the width increases
to about 770 yards. At Wesel the proportion of volume of low and high
water is 1·14.

The steamers now employed to navigate the Rhine are constructed for
cargoes of about 800 tons. The first improvement-works were carried out
from 1847 to 1850; in 1868, with low water equal to 4·92 on the Cologne
gauge, the channel from Bingen to Coblenz was clear to an equal minimum
depth of 6·56 feet; from Coblenz to Cologne 8·2 feet; and from Cologne
to Rotterdam, 9·84 feet.

In 1874, the 8·2 feet channel was extended from Cologne to St. Goar.
With the improvement works, the width of the river channel is now from
100 to 160 yards; below Cologne it expands to 330 yards. The cost of
the works has been as under:—


    Previous to 1851                                    650,000
    1881-1861                                           225,000
    1861-1879                                           475,000
    The remaining works are to be completed within
         eighteen years at an estimated cost of       1,100,000
    Making the total expenditure                     £2,450,000

Down to Cologne the banks rise above water level. Further seawards the
ground is low-lying, and dykes have to be employed. These commence near

The traffic carried on the Rhine is very considerable, especially
between the Dutch ports and the Westphalian manufacturing districts.
It embraces large quantities of coal, iron ore, iron and steel
manufactures, &c., and the cost of its transport compares favourably
with railway rates.

The navigable length of the Rhine is 435 miles, and on this length it
has a yearly traffic of about 5500 vessels, averaging some 200 tons
each. The Rhine has a greater density of traffic than the Danube, on
which only some 800 vessels are employed, also averaging some 200
tons; but the Danube, which is navigable to Regensburg, 281 miles
from Vienna, has a much longer navigation. It is believed that chain
traction could be carried as far as Ulm, which is 131 miles farther.

_The Ems._—This river has a limited interior communication, the tide
flowing for not more than 15 to 20 miles. The Ems takes its rise only
in the territory of Münster, receiving the river Hase, a little above
Meppen, and the Söste at Leer, and it is navigable at no great distance
in its current. It then runs by the Dollart, a sort of bay betwixt
Emden and the Dutch coast, into the North Sea, in two branches; one
called the eastern, the other the western Ems, forming betwixt them the
island of Borcum. Formerly the river passed close by Embden, from a
cut being made to force the current of the river that way, but, being
neglected, it has taken its course by the coast of Gröningen. A narrow
channel from Embden is, however, kept clear, in consequence of four
sluices in the town, which are opened whilst the ebb tide continues.

The Ems has enjoyed a considerable degree of celebrity, not so much
from its extent as from its local advantages, and from the political
situation of Holland. It enjoys a free navigation by its neutrality, it
is under the protection of Prussia, and it is contiguous to Delfzyl,
an excellent entrance into Holland, by a canal which runs through the
northern provinces, by the city of Gröningen, into the Zuyder Zee. It
thus communicates with all Holland and Flanders, the trade of which
countries, and some parts of Germany and France, were formerly largely
carried on by it.

_The Mosel._—The canalisation of the Mosel from Frouard to
Diedenhofen, nearly 57 miles, is a portion of an intended navigable
communication from Louisenthal, on the Rhine-Marne canal system, to
Saar-Kohbenbecken, on the Saar. From Frouard to Arnaville, about 25
miles, it was carried out by the French Government between 1867 and
1870; and from Arnaville to Metz by the Prussian Government, under Herr
J. Schlichting, between 1872 and the present time. The canalisation
from Metz to Diedenhofen, and the proposed connection between the Nied
canals of the Mosel, the Saar, and the Maas, remain to be completed. As
the main object of this canalisation was to provide a navigable passage
for craft having a draught of 5·9 feet, the minimum depth of water was
fixed at 6·56 feet. The bottom width of the canal is 39·4 feet.

Of the 25·15 miles of river dealt with by the French, only 3·14 miles
were rendered navigable. The remainder of the main course adapted for
navigation consisted of four portions of canal, in all 17 miles in
length. In addition there were 1·25 mile of short canals, connecting
the main course with the Mosel. Corresponding to the canals there are
four movable weirs in the Mosel at Custines, Marbache, Dieulouard,
and Pont-à-Mousson, which maintain the necessary water-level in dry
seasons. The fall from the Rhine-Marne Canal at Frouard to the Mosel
system is 26·25 feet, and the fall from Frouard to Amaville is 48·6
feet, overcome by six locks. The cost of these 20 miles of navigable
channel is stated by the French engineers to have been 208,000_l_.
The German works recently executed include a continuation of the main
canal from Arnaville to Novéant, where it debouches into the Mosel for
a length of 1·05 mile; the canalisation of the Mosel itself thence to
Jouy-aux-Arches, 3·38 miles long, where a movable weir maintains the
water-level in this reach; and a main canal thence to Metz on the right
bank of the river, 5·55 miles long. The branch canals are comparatively
independent of the above. One of them is situated on the left bank at
Ars, and consists of a rectification of a side channel of the river,
2·54 miles long, intended solely for the use of the iron foundries
of that town; a feeder of this, being on low-lying ground, requires
special protective embankments. The other, 1258 yards long, connects
the main canal with a basin at the railway terminus at Metz. The
portion of the Mosel from the embouchure of the Ars branch canal down
to the island of Vaux is made into a navigable basin for the use of
the foundries, a movable weir at the latter place giving the necessary
increased depth of water.

_The Rhine and Danube Canal._—In 1834 an elaborate report was made
by C. T. Kleinschrod, of Munich, relative to the feasibility of
constructing a canal to connect the Rhine and the Danube.[71] The
proposal was to proceed from the Rhine by way of the Main as far as
Bamberg, and there commence a canal which should proceed by Nüremberg
to Keeheim, where it would effect a junction with the Danube. The total
length of the artificial waterway between these two points, Bamberg and
Keeheim, was stated at 23⅓ German miles. The writer of the pamphlet
made an elaborate estimate of the probable cost of the undertaking,
which had the support of the King of Bavaria, and it was demonstrated
that at that time, when there were hardly any railways in Germany, it
would be attended with a great economy of transport. Owing, however,
to the competition of railways, and the extent to which they soon
afterwards met the requirements of the country, the project was not
entirely successful. The canal was completed in 1844. It is 110 miles
long and 7 feet deep.

The Danube, which is practically navigable from the town of Regensburg,
281 miles westward of Vienna, and the Black Sea, is the chief important
waterway of Austria. Communication is obtained with Prussia by the
Danube-Oder canal, and it is now proposed to establish a communication
between this canal and the Elbe, in which case, traffic could be
carried from Vienna to Hamburg by water all the way. It has been
suggested to have communication made between the Danube and the Rhine
either by Dilligen, 31 miles below Ulm, _viâ_ Königsbronn, 1640 feet
above sea-level, to the Neckar, and from Cannstadt to Mannheim, and
alternatively by Kehlheim, Nuremburg, and Bamberg, an ascent of 1375
feet to the Main, whence Mayence would be reached _viâ_ Frankfort.

_The Oder and the Elbe Canal._—At an early period in the history
of European trade, the desirability of having the Oder and the Elbe
connected by an artificial waterway was discussed. This was even more
of a desideratum about a century and a half ago than it is to-day. At
that time, Stettin, which is built on the west side of the Oder, about
46 miles from its mouth, was perhaps the leading commercial city in
Germany, having a large trade with England, France, and other countries
on the west, with Scandinavia, and with the Baltic countries. The
importance of joining such a port with Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, and
with other cities either upon or near to the Elbe, was manifest.

The first canal built for this purpose was that of Plaven, completed in
1745. This canal joined the Havel with the Elbe at Parcy. It is about
twenty English miles in length, 40 to 50 feet in width, and has three
sluices. It reduces by more than one half the length of the navigation
between the Oder and the Elbe. About the same time the canal of Finow
was constructed to connect the same rivers by the Finow and the Havel.
There are thirteen sluices on this canal. Another canal, called the
Frederick William, joins the Oder and the Spree above Frankfort, and,
uniting with the Havel near Brandenburg, connects the latter with the
Elbe. It is fifteen English miles long, and has ten sluices.

_The Holstein Canal_ was begun in 1777, and was completed on the 4th
of May, 1785, but was opened in 1784. The cost of the undertaking was
2,512,432 rix dollars. There are six sluices, which cost 70,000 rix
dollars each. This canal, on the side of the Baltic, commences about
three English miles north of Kiel, at a place called Holtenau, where
there is a sluice, another at Knoop, and a third at Rathmansdorf, till
it comes to the Flemhude Lake, which is the highest point; and from
this lake, on the side of Rendsburg, there are three other sluices—one
at Königsford, another at Kluvensiek, and the last at Rendsburg. These
are on what is called the Upper Eyder, and the Lower Eyder is from
Rendsburg to its mouth, running by Tonningen, below which place it
falls into the sea between Eyderstadt and Dithmarschen. The distance is
about 100 English miles, and vessels must either sail or tide it, or
both; whilst from Rendsburg to Holtenau, nearly at the mouth of Kiel
Bay, upon the Baltic, it is only about 25 English miles, which can be
navigated in all weathers, except during a strong frost, as horses can
be had, if required, at fixed rates. The vessels are let through a
sluice in little more than eight or ten minutes each. For each sluice
they pay only 4 schillings Danish, or about so many pence English. The
surface breadth of this canal is 100 feet, and at the bottom 54 feet
Danish measure, and the depth is at least 10 feet throughout. Vessels
can pass through the sluices 100 feet in length, 26 feet in breadth,
and 9 feet 4 inches draught of water, Danish measure, and which, for
the regulation of the British merchant and shipowner, as well as the
master, it may be observed, corresponds in English measure to vessels
of 95 feet 4 inches length; 24 feet 9 inches breadth; and 9 feet depth.

An increase and improvement of the waterways of Germany is looked
upon as a pressing present necessity by many, and provision has been
made for the commencement of three great canals—the connection of
the Baltic with the North Sea, of the Spree with the Oder, and of the
Ems with the Rhine. The first mentioned is to be built chiefly from
military considerations, so that the German ironclads can get from Kiel
to the Atlantic. The two others are to be constructed for commercial
purposes. In connection with these there will also be canals built from
the Rhine to the Elbe, and from the Oder to the Silesian Mountains.
The agricultural interest very strongly opposed the Spree-Oder and
Ems-Rhine Canal, because they feared the foreign grain would be more
plentifully brought into the empire thereby, but their opposition was
not successful.

Besides these works the river Weser is being deepened, and a new
channel has been constructed between Bremen and the sea—a distance of
about 50 miles.

_The North Sea and Baltic Ship Canal._—This new ship canal is to be
international as well as national in its character. It will reduce
the sea passage, as compared to the Sound route, by 237 sea miles,
shorten the journey of sailing vessels by at least three days, and that
of steamers by about twenty-two hours in normal weather, and these
advantages are to cost the shipowners 9_d._ per registered ton when
the canal is navigable. About 35,000 vessels pass through the Sound
annually. It is, moreover, intended to strengthen the offensive and
defensive power of Germany. It may, however, be remarked that Count
Moltke never from the first gave the plan his cordial support from a
strategical point of view, maintaining then, as now, that the money
which the canal is to cost would have been more judiciously spent if
employed to strengthen the national navy.

The Baltic Ship Canal begins at Holtenau, a small village just north
of the royal dockyard of Kiel, on the Baltic, and enters the Elbe
15 miles above the North Sea, near Brunsbütte. It will have a total
length of 75 to 80 kilometres, as seen on the sketch-map at page 125.
Its width is to be, on the water surface, 60 metres; on the bottom,
26 metres; its depth is to be 8½ metres, and its total cost 156
million marks, as estimated. The canal may be looked upon as a mere
cutting, in which the water-level is to be that of the Baltic Sea,
and there will only be flood-gates or sluices where it enters the
river Eider and at its termination in the Elbe; these will be, as a
matter of fact, open all the year round. For the convenience of the
Royal Marine, rather extensive works will be carried out at the Elbe
embouchure, consisting of large and small locks, and eventually a
floating basin for at least four large armour-clads, besides coaling
stations at either end of the canal. The four railways crossing the
canal, as well as the two main post roads, will be carried over it by
means of iron swing-bridges; and steam and manual pontoons will serve
for the other various crossing-points of the canal. There are no
engineering difficulties to contend with, excepting perhaps a boggy
portion not very remote from the Elbe. The highest point of cutting
is about 24 kilometres distant from the Elbe, and here it will be
30 metres distant from the bottom level of the canal, otherwise the
ground to be removed is mostly sand or sandy loam.

This canal will unite the Gulf of Kiel with the mouth of the Elbe, and
will run by way of Rendsburg to a point midway between Brunsbüttel and
St. Margarethen, a few miles below Hamburg. It will, when completed,
be 61 miles long, 196 feet broad at the water level, 85 feet broad at
the bottom, and 28 feet deep, and it will have but two locks—one at
each end. The canal will take in the largest warship that has been or
will be constructed in Germany, and will, moreover, take her at all
states of the tide and in less than eight hours it will be possible
for her to proceed by it from Kiel to the Elbe, or _vice versâ_. The
canal, therefore, will enable Germany to regard with some degree of
indifference the possession of the mouths of the Baltic. She will
always have her own entrance into that sea, and will be in a position
at very short notice either to reinforce her squadrons there with ships
from the North Sea, or to draw ships thence to reinforce Kiel and the
Elbe. It is proposed to supplement this strategical waterway by means
of a further canal, which shall traverse Hanover from Neuhaus, on
the Elbe, opposite Brunsbüttel, to Bremerhaven, at the mouth of the
Weser. It will then be possible for the whole voyage between Kiel and
Wilhelmshaven to be performed in what are practically inland waters.
This last section of canal is, indeed, necessary for the thorough
completion of the scheme of coast defence; for the position of Great
Britain at Heligoland renders a blockade by her of the mouths of the
Elbe and Weser comparatively easy, unless provision be made for the
safe concentration at will, either at Brunsbüttel or at Wilhelmshaven,
of a fairly formidable fleet.

The Eyder, which divides Schleswig from Holstein, flows through
territory to be regarded as permanently German into the North Sea
at Tönning. From Rendsburg, to which place the Eyder is navigable, the
Eyder or Schleswig-Holstein canal was dug towards the close of the last
century to Kiel Bay, on the Baltic. It is from 10 to 11 feet deep, and
has locks. Vessels, though of no great burden, can thus at present pass
from the one sea to the other. As soon as Prussia occupied the Danish
Duchies, proposals were entertained by it for an increase of the depth
and width of this canal. Its maintenance, as it is necessitates a large
expenditure on dykes, and the contemplated improvements, of which
the charge would fall wholly or mainly on Prussia, must inevitably
be exceedingly costly. When they were fully carried out, they might
not answer the commercial needs of the chief centres of German trade,
and might even divert custom from them. Hamburg wants a canal nearer
to its end of the peninsula. It will be likely to attain its wish by
the measure which has now been sanctioned by the Imperial Parliament.
By this scheme the two German seas will be united at points most
convenient for the accommodation of the entire Empire.

In addition to the Eyder Canal, a second but more indirect water
communication between the Baltic and North Seas has existed for five
hundred years in the Steckenitz Canal, by which the Hanse city of
Lübeck connected the Steckenitz and Delvenau with the Elbe. But this is
not the route which wins engineering or political favour. The line most
strongly supported is from Kiel, south-westwards to Brunsbüttel, at the
mouth of the Elbe, opposite Cuxhaven. It would satisfy the demands of
Hamburg, which, though it seems to be jealous of Altona, practically
embraces within the limits of its port the whole Elbe estuary. Kiel
has a rising commerce which is likely to be greatly expanded by the
undertaking. In the eyes of German statesmen, the plan has commended
itself as giving the principal war harbour of the Empire an independent
outlet to the North Sea. The Northern Powers might, as things now
are, if hostile, seal up the German Navy in the Baltic. They hold the
keys, and could convert the sea into a lake. Whatever the German naval
strength at Bremerhaven, on the Elbe, and at Kiel, it could be cut in
half, and prevented from co-operating at the discretion of Scandinavia.

This is, as we have seen, a reason of the highest State for undertaking
the new waterway. German ships, unprovided with a waterway between the
German Ocean and the Baltic, have been exposed to extraordinary risks.
This fact alone is, in the eyes of Germany, a sufficient reason for
such an enterprise. But there are also the equally cogent reasons of
trade, and the preservation of shipping and human life.


The Kattegat and Skager Rack are computed to cost Germany a yearly
loss of five hundred lives by wreck, and half a million sterling. The
pecuniary damage through the trade which is turned back, and does not
dare to defy the peril, must be much more considerable. Germany at
large has finally to defray the major part of these charges, positive
and negative. The saving of them is likely to yield very ample interest
on the seven or eight millions to be spent. Venerable Lübeck would
alone have cause to murmur at a work which threatens it with more
grievous competition than even now it has to meet from the competition
of Kiel for the Baltic trade. A writer in the _Times_ has, however,
pointed out that Lübeck, though it has fallen behind in the race with
Hamburg, has its own intrinsic sources of prosperity, and is not likely
to let them slip. The one real drawback to the attractions of the
project is the unaccommodating character of a North German winter. Ice,
which seriously obstructs the navigation of the tidal rivers, would
be harsher still to the sluggish surface of a fresh-water canal in

The North Sea and Baltic Canal will be of the following
dimensions:—Breadth at surface 200 feet; at bottom 85 feet. Depth 27
feet 10 inches.

This size will allow the heaviest ships in the German navy to make
use of the waterway, and it is estimated that 18,000 ships out of the
35,000 that annually pass the Sound, will use the canal, which will
shorten the distance between the Baltic and London by 22 hours; Hull
by 15 hours; Hartlepool by 8 hours; Newcastle-on-Tyne by 6 hours; and
Leith by 4 hours. It is expected to affect the English coal trade with
Baltic ports, by giving readier access to German coal ports, and in
addition to saving time in transit, it will relieve vessels from the
danger of doubling the Skaw. The work is likely to be completed in 1893
or 1894.

The cost of the canal is estimated at between seven and eight millions
sterling, of which 2½ millions are to be provided by Prussia.

It is the inevitable result of every new addition to the transportation
facilities of a country to benefit more or less some places at
the expense of others. The North Sea Canal is likely to prove
disadvantageous, as we have seen, to the ancient city of Lübeck, in
consequence of a diversion of its traffic. To meet this drawback, it has
been proposed to construct a new canal through Holstein, connecting the
Trave with the Elbe. Negotiations have been carried on between Lübeck
and Prussia, with this end in view. The canal would be 72 kilometres in
length, and is estimated to cost 18 millions of marks (900,000_l._).
With this canal, Lübeck is expected to retain its considerable trade
with North-eastern Europe.

_The Rhine-Ems Canal._—The proposed Rhine-Ems Canal is expected, by
bringing the Rhine and the Ems into more direct connection with the
Westphalian coalfield, to bring German into very close competition
with English coal at the North Sea and Baltic ports. The plan is a
very old one, and was resuscitated some thirty years ago, but nothing
came of the project till three sessions ago, when the Chambers voted
a large sum to carry it out under Government, provided the interested
country districts through which the canal was to pass, beginning at
Dortmund, would acquire the requisite land through which the canal was
to be cut, and hand it over for the common good. The money has been
coming in since by driblets, slowly and reluctantly, from one township
and the other, but at last it seems probable that it will ultimately
be subscribed, and for this eventuality English coalowners must be
prepared. A glance at a map will show that from Dortmund to Emden, and
thence through the North Sea and Baltic Canal, a direct route to the
East seaports will be opened up; and as the Westphalian coal can then
be placed at Emden at the same price as the English at one of the east
coast shipping ports, and the distance from Emden to the Baltic by the
new ship canal is twenty-three hours less than from Hull, twenty-seven
from Hartlepool, thirty from Newcastle, and thirty-six from Leith, it
is evident that a sharper rivalry may be established. If the ship canal
be not used, the difference in time between Emden and the Baltic will
be less by thirty-eight hours from Hull, thirty-six from Newcastle,
thirty-five from Hartlepool, and forty from Leith. No steps have yet
been taken with regard to the continuation of the canal from Dortmund
to the Rhine, which would then open up a new and shorter waterway from
South Germany and Switzerland to the Baltic.

_The Dortmund and Emden Canal_ is designed to develop the communication
between the Westphalian coalfield and the harbour at the mouth of the
Ems, and comprises (1) the completion of the canal direct from the
collieries, and joining the Ems at Papenburg, and (2) the improvement
of the navigation at Emden harbour. The canal follows, at the outset,
the Emscher valley to Henrichenburg, whence it is intended to construct
a branch of about 5 miles to the Rhine; the length of this section
being about 9¼ miles, with a fall of about 45·3 feet. The section of
38 miles past Münster, is unbroken by locks, but falls of 50 feet to
Bevergern, whence the previously existing Haulken Canal is followed
as far as Meppen. The fall from Bevergern to Papenburg is 130·9 feet:
and the distance 68 miles; the total fall from Dortmund to Emden being
226·2 feet, with twenty-six locks.

From Papenburg the Ems is navigable for the largest barges; but at
Oldersum, about 6 miles from the mouth of the river, the channel
becomes exposed to northerly storms, and from this point, therefore, a
new cut, closed from the river by a lock, joins the new harbour, which,
however, is yet unfinished, and is capable of considerable extension.
The dimensions of the work are:—

             _Canal._              │         _Locks._
                           ft. in. │                        ft.  in.
    Width of bed           52   0  │ Length                 220   0
      ”   at water level   78   0  │ Clear width of gates    28   3
    Depth                   6   6  │ Depth on sill            8   3

                               EMDEN CANAL.
                              │      │                 │ Total Cost
                              │Length│ Cost of Works.  │ (including
            Section.          │ in   │                 │       land).
                              │      │  Per  │ Total.  │ Per  │ Total.
                              │      │ Mile. │         │ Mile.│
                              │      │   £   │     £   │  £   │     £
   Dortmund to Henrichenburg  │   9¼ │ 26,082│  243,000│34,373│  320,500
                              │      │       │         │      │
   Branch to Herne (5 miles)  │   .. │ 17,468│   84,500│21,574│  104,500
                              │      │       │         │      │
   Henrichenburg to Bevergern │  59½ │ 18,354│1,092,500│20,608│1,228,500
                              │      │   ..  │   37,500│  ..  │   37,500
                              │      │       │         │      │
   Bevergern to Papenburg     │  68  │ 14,973│1,019,500│15,939│1,093,000
                              │      │       │         │      │
   River (Ems) from Papenburg │      │       │         │      │
     to Oldersum              │  19½ │       │         │      │
                              │      │       │         │      │
   Eldersum to Emden          │   5¾ │ 25,760│  147,000│28,738│  164,000
                              │      │       │         │      │
   Emden Harbour              │    ¾ │   ..  │  295,000│  ..  │  295,000
   Total distance, Dortmund   │      │       │         │      │
     to Emden Harbour         │ 162¾ │   ..  │2,919,000│  ..  │3,233,000

The aqueducts, by which the canal is carried over the Lippe and Stever
valleys, having also a depth of 8 feet 3 inches, the canal can at any
time be dredged to this depth throughout. The navigation can be worked
by steam-power, and when the harbour is completed, so that the coal
can be brought direct from the collieries, the freight charges will
probably be reduced to 2_s._ 3_d._ or 2_s._ 6_d._ per ton, as against
3_s._ 6_d._, the lowest now charged. The preceding table is a statement
of the details of this undertaking.

_Scheldt and Rhine Canal._—For a considerable time past, a canal has
been in course of construction between the Scheldt and the Rhine. The
undertaking has been jointly promoted by Holland, Belgium, and Germany.
The two former countries are said to have completed their part of the
new waterway, but the German section of the work has been allowed
to stagnate for lack of support, and in 1887 the Frankfort Chamber
of Commerce applied to the German Government for assistance, with a
view to its completion. At the present time, the Rhine is one of the
most important waterways in Europe in reference to the extent of its
traffic. The port of Rotterdam is, however, the only one open by this
route, while the new canal would give access to the magnificent port
of Antwerp, whence cheaper freights are obtained to North America than
from any other European port.

_Oder and Upper Spree Navigation._—The old Friedrich-Wilhelm Canal,
constructed over two hundred years since, was till recently the only
means of water communication through this district; but the dimensions
of the channel, as well as the locks, were too small for present
requirements, and in preference to reconstructing the whole work,
it was decided to cut another channel, joining the Oder a few miles
further from Frankfurt. The country traversed is easier than in the
case of the Ems, and as the Oder does not take such large vessels as
the Ems, the dimensions of the canal are smaller; the limit being for
400 ton barges:—

              _Canal._             │         _Locks._
                           ft. in. │                       ft. in.
    Width of bed           46   0  │ Length                180  0
      ”   at water level   76   0  │ Clear width of gates   28  3
    Depth                   6   6  │ Depth of sill           8  3

The total length of this navigation is stated at 54½ miles, and the
cost is estimated at 11,592_l._ per mile.

It is now proposed to connect the North Sea at Hamburg with Vienna, and
thence, by the Danube, with the Black Sea and the Orient generally, by
a canal from Kosel to the Danube. The Prussian canal system now allows
of water transport all the way from Hamburg to Breig, whence the
canalisation of the Oder to Kosel, now being carried out, will be
completed in 1894. Prussia would continue the canal thence to the
Austrian frontier if it was completed to the Danube, 273 kilometres
further, by others, and efforts have recently been made to bring this

This navigation improvement will bring the coalfields of Eastern
Silesia into direct communication with Berlin.

In 1885, a project was brought forward in Prussia for the construction
of a canal that would join the Rhine, the Ems, the Weser, and the Elbe.
The length of this waterway was estimated at 181¼ miles, the depth at
6 feet, 8 inches, and the width at 53 feet, 4 inches at the bottom,
and 80 feet on the water-line. The canal is intended to accommodate
vessels not exceeding 500 tons burden. The outlay proposed for this and
collateral canals was estimated at 4,050,000_l_.


The quantity of traffic carried on the waterways of Germany has been
calculated at 11,797,000 tons, of which North Germany furnished
11,249,000 tons, and Southern Germany 548,000 tons.[72]

This, however, does not include the Rhine and the Main, which would
raise the figures for North Germany to about 16½ millions of tons,
while other waterways in Southern Germany bring up the traffic in that
division of the empire to about three millions of tons, being a total
for both divisions of about twenty millions of tons in round figures,
or approximately the same traffic as the waterways of France in the
same year.

Dealing only with those waterways of Germany, in which the
transportation of traffic is regularly carried on, and disregarding
the streams or canals that are practically unused for this purpose,
it appears that the total length of internal navigation in Germany
is about 3384 miles,[73] but it is important to remark that about 18
millions of the 20 millions of tons of traffic carried annually on
these waterways make use of only 2360 miles, or 69 per cent. of the
whole, leaving a million and a half to two millions of tons for the
remaining 31 per cent.

The latest returns at command appear to show that the waterways of
Germany were used by 17,885 sailing ships, of a total tonnage of
1,625,000 tons, or an average of 90 tons each; and by 830 steam ships,
of a total tonnage of about 33,000, being an average of 53 tons per

The total number of vessels employed in carrying merchandise, on the
waterways of Germany, in the form of tugs, kedges, and steamers, in
addition to the above, is given as 483, having an indicated horse-power
per boat varying from an average of 280 on the Rhine to one of only 53
on the Oder.

It is clear from these returns that the waterways of Germany employ
a large number of very small craft. It is equally clear that under
these circumstances, the cost of transport cannot be so cheap as it
otherwise would be. If the average tonnage of all the vessels employed
under steam is only 53 tons, there must be a number of very small craft
indeed employed on the other waterways, in order to make up for the
considerably larger average of the vessels employed on the Rhine.

In Germany, as in France and Belgium, it is chiefly traffic of the
heavy kind that makes use of the waterways. About 28 per cent. of
the total traffic carried on the canals and rivers of the Empire
takes the form of coal and coke. On the Rhine, almost one-half of the
total traffic carried is mineral, but on the Elbe, mineral traffic
only constitutes 18 per cent. of the whole. But on this, and the
other waterways as well, timber, stone, clay, and lime, are carried
in considerable quantities, as well as vegetables and leguminous
plants.[74] It is estimated that eight millions of tons of traffic in
Germany use both waterways and railways, and on the Rhine alone over
five millions of tons are carried in this way.

The average traffic carried per mile on the Rhine is not less than 7400
tons. On the 2484 miles of waterways that are regularly navigated in
Germany, the density of traffic is about 7200 tons per mile. On the
railways of Germany, however, the density of goods traffic only amounts
to about 4864 tons per mile. The French waterways have a density
of 7246 tons per mile, as against a density of 4500 tons on their
railways. It is impossible to speak of the density of the traffic on
English waterways, inasmuch as no regular returns are collected of the
canal business of Great Britain; but as the canals have for the most
part been allowed to get very much out of repair, it is safe to assume
that the existing water transport will not compare favourably with the
traffic carried by railway.

An interesting statement has recently been compiled, showing the
quantities of traffic carried on the railways and waterways of Germany,
to and from the principal centres of population. It appears from this
return that the total quantity of traffic carried by water to and from
Berlin, Hamburg, Magdeburg, Mannheim, and one or two other cities
of importance, compares not unfavourably with rail transport. The
particulars are given in the table on the following page.

It is the practice in Germany for the Government to maintain the inland
navigations, charging only 6_s._ for lockage. This allows of very cheap
transport—so much so, indeed, that it is stated that between Hamburg
and Berlin, notwithstanding that the railway rates are extremely low,
all heavy traffic is carried by barges or steamers.

On the fourteen principal waterways in Germany, including the Oder,
the Spree, the Elbe, the Rhine, and the chief canals, the 17½ million
tons of traffic carried in 1887 was transported in 132,863 boats that
were full and 35,989 boats that were not full. The average tonnage
carried on the same waterways between 1881 and 1885 was 14,318,000
tons. As compared with the vessels employed, and the tonnage carried,
in preceding years, there was an advance of 15·4 per cent. in the
number of the boats, and of 22·7 per cent. in the amount of traffic


                    │ Number  │    Tons of Goods Carried.   │ Number of
         Cities.    │   of    ├─────────┬─────────┬─────────┤ Tons per
                    │ Inhabi- │   By    │    By   │  Total. │ Head of
                    │   tants.│  Rail.  │  Water. │         │ Population
                    │         │         │         │         │
    Berlin          │1,200,000│3,504,000│3,348,000│6,852,000│ 5·71
                    │         │         │         │         │
    Breslau         │  270,000│1,237,000│  350,000│1,587,000│ 5·88
                    │         │         │         │         │
                    │         │         │     [75]│         │
    Hamburg         │  410,000│1,191,000│3,221,000│4,442,000│ 10·7
                    │         │         │         │         │
    Magdeburg       │         │         │         │         │
     (including     │         │         │         │         │
      Buckau and    │  165,000│1,650,000│1,118,000│2,768,000│ 16·7
      Neustadt)     │         │         │         │         │
                    │         │     [76]│         │         │
    Dresden         │  220,000│1,411,000│  534,000│1,945,000│ 8·8
                    │         │         │         │         │
                    │         │         │     [77]│         │
    Bremen          │  112,000│  776,000│  184,000│  960,000│ 8·5
                    │         │         │         │         │
    Ports of        │         │         │         │         │
     Rhine—         │         │         │         │         │
     (Rhurort,      │         │         │         │         │
      Duisburg,     │   70,000│5,427,000│4,107,000│9,554,000│ 136·0
      and Hochfeld) │         │         │         │         │
                    │         │         │         │         │
    Cologne         │         │         │         │         │
     (including     │  160,000│1,132,000│  314,000│1,634,000│ 10·0
      Deutz)        │         │         │         │         │
                    │         │         │         │         │
    Mannheim and    │         │         │         │         │
     Ludwigshafen   │   75,000│1,776,000│2,041,000│3,817,000│ 50·0

In the year 1878 it was announced that over 1045 miles of new canal
navigation had been ordered throughout Germany, in addition to the 1289
miles then open, and the 4925 miles of navigable rivers available.[78]
This fact sufficiently indicates the great importance that is attached
in Germany to adequate water communication, and it is all the more
notable that very few countries are possessed of equally cheap railway


[71] Those who are interested in perusing this Report will find
it contained in a volume of pamphlets in the Library of the Royal
Statistical Society.

[72] The different river basins contributed the following

         Basins.                     Tons.
    The Elbe                       7,767,000
    The Vistula, Niemen, &c.       2,227,000
    The Oder                         861,000
    The Weser and Ems                394,000
    Lake of Constance                338,000
    The Danube                       210,000
                  Total           11,797,000

[73] The distribution of this navigation is as follows, according to

       Basin.    Miles of Navigation.
    The Rhine         931
    The Elbe          870
    The Oder          497
    The Weser         280
    The Danube        248
    The Ems           196
    Other waterways   372
            Total    3384

[74] On the railways of Germany in 1886 coal traffic was 48·5 per
cent. of the whole; timber, 5·8 per cent.; stone, 7·5 per cent.;
and grain 6·2 per cent. About 84·7 per cent. of the whole was heavy
traffic. The total railway traffic was about 5½ times that of the
total water traffic of the empire.

[75] Not including sea tonnage.

[76] Exclusive of arrivals and departures by rail from Dresden and

[77] Exclusive of arrivals and departures by rail from Dresden and

[78] Report of Messrs. Meyer and Werneigh.



The little kingdom of Belgium enjoys the advantage of having both a
complete railway system and an excellent system of canal transport.
There is, indeed, no country in Europe where the conditions of
economical transportation have been more closely and more effectually
studied. To this fact is largely to be attributed the unique position
which Belgium holds among the industrial nations of the world. With
limited coal resources, which are much behind those of some other
European countries, alike as regards their quality and the economical
conditions under which they can be mined; with iron ore supplies that
are almost exhausted, and which only meet her own consumption to a
very limited extent; with hardly any other mineral resources worth
speaking of, excepting only certain deposits of zinc ores, Belgium
has relatively a larger industrial population than any other country
in Europe, and enjoys a degree of prosperity that is rare even in
countries more liberally endowed with Nature’s gifts.

Belgium possesses twenty-nine different canals or canalised waterways,
of which three—the Escaut, the Lys, and the Meuse—are each over 100
kilometres in length. The total length of the waterways of Belgium in
1885 was 1634 kilometres, or 1013 miles. The total number of tons of
traffic carried on the Belgian waterways was 31,362,000, and the total
number of tons transported one kilometre was 726,359,000, so that the
average length of transport per ton was 23·2 kilometres.[79] There are,
however, cases in which the average length of lead is much under this
figure, as for example that of the “Raccordement à Gand,” where it is
only 1·8 kilometre. For a number of years past the canal traffic has
been tolerably steady, but between 1879 and 1884 there was a decrease
of absolute quantity, although not of the kilometric tonnage.

_The Belgian Ship Canals._—Belgium has two excellent ship canals—one
from Terneuzen to Ghent, and the other from Ostend to Bruges. The
improvement of the ship canal from Ghent to Terneuzen was begun in
1874, and concluded in 1879. Originally the canal had many bends,
which rendered navigation difficult, and it was also of too limited
dimensions to admit the large size of craft that was desired. The depth
of the canal up to 1873 was 14 feet 4 inches, and its width was 98 feet
6 inches at the water-level. The improvement works then undertaken were
designed to increase the depth to 21 feet 3 inches, and the width to
103 feet 9 inches on the water-level.

There is much traffic in the Upper Scheldt from Antwerp to Ghent, the
water being tidal to the latter town, with a depth of 6 to 8 feet,
working the river with the tide. The Terneuzen Canal is 35 kilometres
in length, and is used by some twenty steamers from England weekly,
taking coals, pig iron, and other articles, and loading manufactured
iron and other goods from all parts of Belgium. The inland harbour at
Ghent has been much enlarged of late, and the lock has been removed,
thus rendering access more easy. It is now a waterway of ample depth
and great width, with locks at Terneuzen on the Scheldt, and at Sas van
Gent, near the Belgian frontier. There is a pilot station at Terneuzen,
the men taking their turns to and from Ghent. English coal may be
bought for 15 to 18 francs a ton at Ghent, being carried at a very
low freight for want of cargo on the outward voyage. Vessels of the
following dimensions can use this canal:—Length, 110 metres; breadth,
11·50 metres; and draught, 5·85 metres. Their speed _en route_ when
exceeding 2·75 metres draught, is 145 metres a minute; when under 1·50
metres draught, 250 metres a minute.

The enormous difference that results to the prosperity of a city from
the possession of facilities for the navigation of vessels is well
illustrated in the case of the old town of Bruges in Belgium, as
compared with that of her rival Antwerp. Nay, the point is forcibly
brought home by the history of Bruges herself.

This “Venice of the North” lay formerly near the sea, on a gulf of
large extent and considerable depth; she was easily accessible, not
only to the ordinary run of vessels, but even to the largest of ships.
That her port of Damme was large is evident from the fact that in 1213
Philip Augustus, at the head of 1700 sail, closed in it with the allied
English and Flemish fleets. This fact alone will give an idea of the
importance of Bruges harbour, then one of the largest in Europe. As
long as these means of communication with the sea remained open, Bruges
maintained her commercial power. The successive accumulations of clay
in the Zwyn and in the havens of Damme and Sluys, the outer ports
of Bruges, were the causes of the lamentable state of things which

About the beginning of the 13th century, vessels sailed into Damme,
the port of Bruges, from all quarters of the world, and poured into
her markets the trade and wealth of the South and East. Less than a
century later the inhabitants of Bruges were compelled to lengthen
their maritime channel to Sluys, a small town situated on the Zwyn,
about eight miles beyond Damme. The new canal was so constructed as to
give access to vessels of from 400 to 500 tons, the largest then built;
it passed by Dudzeele and Westcapelle. Hardly had it been opened when
the commercial movement of Bruges took a fresh start; from 1420 to
1470 Bruges was the mart of the world, and her fortune had reached its
climax. By the Sluys Harbour, into which entered in 1468 with one tide
as many as 250 vessels, Bruges was in communication with the North and
South of Europe; she was also the only market city for the Netherlands
and the Hanseatic League. But from 1470 onwards, i. e. twenty-two years
before the discovery of America, the accumulation of clay in the Zwyn
again made its disastrous effects felt. Caracks, galleys, and other
large vessels could no longer enter the channel. Charles the Bold, in
order to deepen it, had the _polder_[80] of the Zwartegat opened, but
without avail. Twelve years later, in 1482, matters stood in a much
worse condition, and vessels of large draught had completely ceased
to appear. No work such as cleansing was carried out, no artificial
sluices for such a purpose constructed; and the Sluys Canal, that bold
work which during one whole century had maintained the marvellous
prosperity of Bruges, now wellnigh useless, became entirely choked up,
and like the harbour of Sluys itself, disappeared in the depths of the
vast gulf, under the clayey mud and deposits of its alluvia-bearing
waves. Bruges was thenceforth condemned to a long decline.

In 1622, during the reign of Albert and Isabella, the opening of a
canal from Bruges to Ostend, _viâ_ Plasschendacle was for the first
time determined upon. Twenty years later was dug the canal from Bruges
to Nieuport and from Nieuport to Dunkerque. In 1646 Dunkerque was
given up to France, and consequently the Flemings were obliged, in
1664, to direct their attention towards Ostend. The dimensions of this
canal were now largely increased, and the sluices of Plasschendacle
replaced by those of Slykens, much nearer the sea. In 1717, a powerful
society, known as the _Compagnie des Indes_, was organised at Ostend.
The undertaking met with wonderful success at its very beginning, and
would probably have given back to Bruges some of its former movement
and life, had not the Treaty of Paris of 1727, inspired by the jealousy
of Holland and England, suspended for seven years the grant of the
company, and later on forbidden all commercial intercourse between the
Austrian Netherlands and the Indies. Four years later the Treaty of
Vienna of 1731, stipulated expressly—Sec. 4 of the Act, dated from
the Hague, 20th February, 1732—“That all commerce and navigation from
the Austrian Netherlands to the East Indies, as also that all commerce
and navigation from the East Indies to the Austrian Netherlands, shall
cease for ever.”

In 1783, Joseph II., wishing to end the state of subjection that his
provinces were labouring under, conceived the idea of linking the
waters of Flanders with those of the sea, by means of canals to be
dug exclusively in Flemish ground. He failed in the attempt, and it
was only after the Netherlands had been joined to the French Empire
that the work which the inhabitants of Bruges had been in vain seeking
for centuries was again attempted. At their urgent request, Napoleon
ordered a canal to be dug from Bruges to Sluys _viâ_ Damme; this it
was intended to lengthen later on, as far as the Scheldt, somewhere
near Breskens. The works unfortunately were carried on with extreme
slowness, and the fall of the empire prevented their completion. In
1818 the canal was opened.

In 1829, King William found out the inefficiency of the issues of the
Zwyn; he resumed the scheme of Napoleon I., and decided to push the new
canal on to Breskens. The works were on the point of being ordered,
when, in 1830, the Revolution broke out, and Bruges saw the realisation
of her hopes again deferred.

Since 1470, then, three principal efforts have been made to bring
Bruges into communication with the sea; first, in 1622, _viâ_ Ostend;
second, in 1640, _viâ_ Dunkerque; third, in 1810, _viâ_ Breskens. The
two last failed through political events, which took away from Belgium
the two principal points: Dunkerque scarcely five years after the
canal was completed; Breskens before the works were even begun. One
disadvantage to be noticed with regard to these two towns is the
considerable distances at which they lie from Bruges—Dunkerque at
over forty, Breskens at more than twenty miles. Moreover the works,
comparatively speaking, were on a very small scale. As for the Ostend
scheme, the canal necessarily encountered the same fate as the harbour
itself—one continual struggle against alluvia. The case seemed
hopeless, and Bruges in despair had resigned herself to her melancholy
fate, when in 1877 M. A. de Maere Limnander started and publicly
advocated a scheme which was intended to open for Bruges, once more a
seaport town, a fresh era of prosperity. The work which he published
on the subject, the result of long inquiry, has met with general

In the construction of the ship canal from Ostend to Bruges, the spot
chosen for the outer port lay in the neighbourhood of Heijst, to the
south-west of the mouth of the Sebzate and Schipdonek canals, at about
1250 metres (4114 feet) from the Heijst sluices. The motives for
selecting this place are twofold—Firstly, the minimum of clearing to
be executed in opening the downs, the depth of which is here of not
more than from 50 to 60 metres (164 feet to 197 feet); secondly, the
minimum of length to be given to the piers, the depth of seven metres
(23 feet) at ebb tide being here very near the shore. This part of
the coast, moreover, is also one which has stood in constant danger
of irruption on the part of the sea, and has only recently needed
strengthening. To maintain the depth at the entrance to the harbour
the westerly pier is made the longer of the two, and slightly bent in
towards the end; its length is fixed at 1100 metres (3620 feet), viz.,
840 metres (2769 feet) from the base to the bend, and 260 metres (855
feet) from the bend to the end; that of the easterly one at 800 metres
(2633 feet); the width at the entrance to the port at 300 metres (987
feet), and that at the base of the same at 1000 metres (3291 feet);
the surface of the harbour thus amounts to 60 hectares (6000 acres, or
29,040,000 square yards). The masonry consists of artificial blocks of
the largest possible dimensions, never weighing less than from 40,000
to 90,000 kilogs.—from about 85,000 lb. to about 180,000 lb. M. de
Maere also advocates the construction along the outer side of the
westerly pier of a breakwater, made of a single row of stakes. One or
two lighthouses are to light the entrance to the harbour. The cost of
this section of the works was estimated at 9,000,000f. = 360,000_l._

The canal runs in a straight line from the sea to the docks at Bruges.
Its length is 12 kilometers.—about 7½ miles; its floor width is
20 metres—65 feet; its width, measuring at the water-line, of 62
metres—204 feet; its depth from the water-line of 7 metres—23 feet.
The slopes have a slant of 1 metre—3 feet 3½ inches—for every 3
metres—9 feet, 10½ inches. This lessens the expense of keeping in
repair, and, where the necessity is felt, makes the widening of the
bottom possible. The canal is exclusively fed with sea-water, and is so
constructed as to allow of the Ghent-Heijst Canal being easily joined
to it later on below the future sluice. The amount of earth dug out
of the canal was about 8,887,000 cubic feet, and the cost of clearing
it some 2,500,000f.—100,000_l._ 2,700,000 cubic metres of earth were
employed in the construction of banks or dykes along the canal. This
necessitated the expropriation of 170 hectares—17,000 acres, or
82,280,000 square yards—of land, at the rate of 10,000f.—400_l._—per
hectare, or 1,700,000f.—68,000_l._—for the 170 hectares.

Other features of the canal include a sea-sluice, constructed below
the downs, with a double bridge, one-half of which will be devoted to
the Blankenberghe-Heijst Railway; the other half to general use. The
bridge is 8 metres—about 26 feet—wide, and the opening at the sluice,
as also at the bridge, is 20 metres (about 65 feet), thus enabling
several ships to enter at a time. Another sluice-gate is fixed some 200
metres (about 7900 feet) lower, and the part of the canal between will
be made quite secure by means of a flood-gate. The cost of these works
amounted to about 2,000,000f. (80,000_l._). The plans also provided
for two bridges, one on the Lisseweghe-Dudgeele, the other on the
Lisseweghe-Heijst high roads, and four syphons for the draining of the
low waters of the country, to run under the canal at a depth of eight
metres (about 26 feet) below the water-line.[81]

The river Rupel, which is about 12 miles above Antwerp, leads from the
Scheldt to Willebrock, opposite the town of Boom. From here a canal
with five large locks leads to Brussels. This canal, which had its
origin in the year 1415, but which was only completed in 1561, is of
considerable importance. The traffic on it is heavy, and it is worked
by the Corporation of Brussels, the result usually leaving a profit.
The tolls on this canal are—First class, ·06 franc; second class, ·04½
francs; third class, ·02 franc per ton. In all cases a cubic metre is
reckoned as 1000 kilogrammes, or one metrical ton. In the first class
is reckoned merchandise, &c.; in the second class, bricks, firewood,
stone (wrought or unwrought), salt, &c.; and the third class, unladen

There is a depth of from somewhat over 10 feet of water, but this is
limited to an effective depth of 3·10 metres where it passes over a
small stream by a brick aqueduct. A line of steamers belonging to
Messrs. Thomas & Co., of London, runs to Brussels regularly, and
several Dutch lines of steam barges use this route. Sailing vessels and
lighters are worked on the canal by means of the chain system, with
_remorqueurs_, twenty to thirty being thus easily towed. The locks are
large, and as many vessels pass at the same time, the trains are made
up accordingly. When two meet, the ascending tug drops the chain, the
train keeps on its right side, and the chain is again picked up by a
grapple when the descending train has passed. With this system the
vessels are easily steered by the men at the helm. When approaching
a lock, the chain is thrown off in proper time, and the vessels’
way being checked, they gradually settle side by side in the lock.
Great skill and care is used by the men, damage by collision rarely
occurring. One great advantage attending this system of towage is that
the tugs make no wash, which so much destroys the banks of canals. The
tolls are light, and the rates for towage very low. Empty vessels only
pay 20 c. for a _laissez passer vide_; this ticket, as in France, can
be taken from any _bureau de navigation_ to any other place in the
kingdom or in the Republic.

Belgium has made a substantial contribution to the more important
engineering features of canals by the construction of the La Louviére
Canal lift on the Terneuzen Canal, which is illustrated on the opposite


This canal lift was constructed for the Belgian Government by the
Société Cockerill, of Seraing, from the designs and under the
superintendence of Messrs. Clark, Stanfield, and Clark, of Westminster,
consulting engineers to the Government, and the patentees of the
system. The difference between the levels of the upper and lower
canals—that is, the height the boats are raised—is 50 feet 6¼ inches.
The lift consists of two pontoons, or troughs, each 141 feet long by 19
feet broad, with 8 feet draught of water, and are capable of holding
the largest size of barge that navigates on the Belgian broad-gauge
canal system. Such barges are capable of taking 400 tons of coal or
other cargo, so that the total weight of the trough, water, and barge
is not much under 1000 tons. This immense weight is supported on the
top of a single colossal hydraulic ram of 6 feet 6¾ inches diameter
and 63 feet 9½ inches long, working in a press of cast iron, hooped
continuously, for greater security, with weldless steel coils. The
working pressure in this press is about 470 lbs. to the square inch.
The time actually occupied in lifting or lowering is only two and a
half minutes. The La Louviére lift is said to be the largest in the

_The Scheldt Navigation._—In the recent history of the shipping
industry, the city of Antwerp has played a prominent part, thanks
partly to the facilities afforded by the river Scheldt, partly to the
easy means of access to other parts of Belgium and Holland by sea and
canal, and partly to the very low rates charged for transport by both
systems of navigation.

Up to the year 1863, the Dutch Government levied a tax upon all vessels
using the Scheldt. This tax was found to be so onerous, that treaties
were entered into in that year by which, in consideration of certain
specific payments made by the various countries concerned in the
navigation of the river, the King of Holland renounced his right to
levy such duties.[82] Since then the trade of Antwerp has advanced by
“leaps and bounds.” Between 1862, the year previous to the abolition
of the taxes on shipping, and 1887, the importations into Antwerp had
increased by 335 per cent., and the exportations from Antwerp had
increased by more than 500 per cent. In the general transit trade the
increase was equally striking, amounting to about 400 per cent. The
tonnage of vessels entering the port of Antwerp within the same period
advanced by about 600 per cent.[83]

_Economical Conditions of Water Transport in Belgium._—The abolition
of the taxes levied previous to 1863 has had the effect, coupled
with a judicious development of the shipping facilities of the port,
of placing Antwerp at the head of the maritime ports of Continental
Europe, as regards both the volume of its trade and the low rate of
freights that may be obtained thence for nearly all the other ports of
the world.

There is no country that enjoys the advantages of such cheap railroad
transportation, excepting some instances in the United States, as
Belgium, and yet, as we have seen, there is no country that makes a
more extensive use of its canal communications. The cost of transport
on the canals from the Belgian coalfields to Paris amounted to 0·29_d._
in the spring, and 0·34_d._ in the autumn of 1883, not including
interest.[84] The lowest rate of transport on English railways for the
same description of traffic is ·49_d._ per ton per mile. The canal
transport of Belgium, therefore, averaging the summer and winter rates,
is ·18_d._, or 58 per cent. cheaper[85] than that of the London coal
traffic, which is pointed to in this country as a remarkable example
of economical transport, and which certain authorities declare to be
carried at a loss to the companies.[86]

_Extent and Income of Belgian Canals._—We have seen that the total
length of the canals of Belgium is over 1634 kilometres, of which
the principal were the Communal Canal from Brussels to Rufel (28
kilometres), the canal from Brussels to Charleroi (24 kilometres), the
Haut-Escaut Canal (115 kilometres), the Bas Escaut Canal, from Gand to
the Dutch frontier (118 kilometres), the Ghent and Ostend Canal (70
kilometres), the Ghent and Terneuzen Canal (17 kilometres), the Meuse
and Escaut Canal (86½ kilometres), the Lys Canal (113 kilometres), the
canalised Meuse from Givet to Liége (113½ kilometres), the Mons and
Condé Canal (20 kilometres). Altogether there are forty-five canals in
Belgium, which in 1886 carried 763,108,000 kilometric tons—equal to
about 480 million ton miles. The total tonnage carried on the canals,
as a whole, is returned at about 33½ millions, including the Meuse,
and the average distance over which each ton was carried was 22·8
kilometres. The principal elements of the canal traffic are shown in
the appended statement of tons carried one kilometre:—

                                             Kilometric Tons.
    Coal and coke                              167,221,000
    Iron, iron ore, building materials, &c.    210,600,000
    Agricultural produce                       117,217,000
    Industrial products, &c.                   268,400,000

The annual income of the Belgian canals, notwithstanding that the
facilities for canal navigation have been considerably extended and
improved, has not increased during recent years. On the contrary, while
the annual income between 1841 and 1850 was 2,885,000 francs, and from
1851 to 1860, 2,974,000 francs, the average of 1871 to 1880 had fallen
to 1,676,000 francs, and in 1887 it was only 1,266,000 francs. The
latter fall, however, must be due to a decrease in rates, as the amount
of traffic carried between 1881 and 1886 increased from 30,562,000
tons to 33,419,000 tons. The ordinary expenses of maintaining the
canals of Belgium have been reduced from 2,600,000 francs in 1881 to
2,100,000 francs in 1886. For a number of years past there has been
a considerable extraordinary expenditure on the canals, the special
credits for this purpose having been as much as 12½ million francs in


[79] The chief elements of this traffic were:—

                                   Tons transported
                                    one kilometre.
    Coal and coke                     147,402,000
    Other minerals and metals         200,606,000
    Agricultural products, wood, &c.  130,571,000
    Industrial products, and others   247,780,000

[80] This was an extensive plain in the Netherlands, protected by
dykes, which was formerly covered by the sea.

[81] These particulars are mainly abstracted from the _Engineer_,
January 3rd, 1879.

[82] The sum total of these amounts was 17,141,640 francs, or
685,666_l._, of which more than one-half was paid by Great Britain,
and fully one-sixth by the United States.

[83] The figures are so remarkable that it will probably be
interesting to put them on record in a tabulated form:—

      Year. │   Importations   │   Exportations   │ Tonnage of Ships
            │      by Sea.     │      by Sea.     │ entering Antwerp.
            │       tons       │       tons       │   tons
     1862   │      568,871     │     177,702      │   599,899
     1886   │    2,438,178     │     821,753      │ 3,658,900

[84] Minutes of Proc. Inst. C. E., vol. 68, p. 484.

[85] Subject, of course, to the charge for interest, which, however,
will be very trifling.

[86] Mr. F. R. Conder maintains that the London coal traffic is
carried at a loss to the railways of 822,000_l._ per annum, or 40 per
cent. on the traffic.



              “Jupiter, surveying earth from high
    Beheld it in a lake of water lie.”

Holland, the land of dykes and ditches, is completely cut up into small
islands by its extensive system of canals, which cross and interlace
each other like the threads of some large fishing net. Owing to the
level condition of the country, the construction of a canal involves
but comparatively little labour and expense, and many of them are used
as substitutes for public highways, while in the winter, their frozen
surfaces offer convenient roads for skaters. The North Holland canal
was, until recently, the finest work of its kind in Europe, and was
built during the years 1819-23, at a cost of 950,000_l._ Since not only
the surface, but the beds of many of these canals are above the level
of the land, drainage is a matter of great importance, and is effected
by means of windmills working pumps.

Phillips[87] speaks of Holland as being intersected by innumerable
canals. “They may,” he says, “be compared in number and in size to our
public roads and highways, and as the latter with us are continually
full of coaches, chaises, waggons, carts, and horsemen, going to and
from the different cities, towns, and villages, so on the former, the
Hollanders, in their boats and pleasure barges, their _breckshuyts_ and
vessels of burden, are continually journeying and conveying commodities
for consumption or exportation, from the interior of the country to
the great cities and rivers. An inhabitant of Rotterdam may, by means
of these canals, breakfast at Delft or the Hague, dine at Leyden, and
sup at Amsterdam, or return home again before night. By them, also,
a most prodigious trade is carried on between Holland and every part
of France, Flanders, and Germany.” The same author declares that the
400 miles of inland navigation open in Holland in his time, yielded
an average income of about 625_l._ per mile, which he declares to be,
“almost beyond belief.” What would he have thought had he lived in our
time, and seen canals producing an income of 30,000_l._ to 40,000_l._
per mile?[88]

_The Haarlem Canal_ was constructed about fifty years ago, for the
purpose of draining the _Meer_ or lake of that name. This lake had
been formed by an inundation in the end of the sixteenth century, and
in the beginning of the eighteenth century it had covered an area of
45,000 acres. Seeing that the lake was gaining upon the land, it was
resolved to take effectual means for draining it. This course was
precipitated by two furious hurricanes, one in November 1836, which
drove the waters of the lake upon the city of Amsterdam, and another
in December of the same year, which submerged the lower parts of the
city of Leyden. The first step incidental to draining the lake—a work
which was undertaken by the Government in 1839—was to dig a canal
round about it for the reception of the water, and to accommodate the
great traffic which had hitherto been carried on by its means. This
canal was made 38 miles in length, 130 feet wide on the west side,
and 115 feet on the east side of the lake, and 9 feet deep. All the
inlets into the lake, were then closed by large earthen dams; and
various works were executed to facilitate the flow of water into the
sea. These preliminary works occupied till 1845. To give some idea of
the magnitude of the undertaking, it may be mentioned that the area of
water enclosed by the canal was rather more than 70 square miles, and
the average depth of the lake was 13 feet 1·44 inches. The water had no
natural outfall, being below the lowest possible point of sluiceage,
and, including rain water, springs, &c., during the time of drainage,
it was calculated that probably 1000 million tons would have to be
raised by mechanical means. After drainage, too, the site could only be
kept dry by mechanical power, so that the annual drainage might amount
to 54,000,000 tons, to be raised on an average 16 feet, and it might
happen that as much as 35,000,000 tons of that amount would have to be
raised in one month.

_The North Sea Canal_ was constructed for the purpose of facilitating
the navigation of the Zuyder Zee, which, by reason of its numerous
shallows, was very intricate and difficult, and in order that vessels
might avoid the Pampus—a bank that rises where the =Y= joins the
Zuyder Zee, and formerly compelled large vessels to load and unload a
part of their cargoes in the roads. These obstacles frequently detained
vessels for as much as three weeks.[89]

M’Cullough spoke of this canal as “the greatest work of its kind in
Holland, and probably in the world.”[90] It was begun in 1819, and
completed in 1825. The length of the canal is about 50½ miles; the
breadth at the surface, 124½ English feet, and at the bottom 30 feet,
while the depth is 20 feet 9 inches. It is a tide-level canal, and is
provided with two tide-locks at each end. Intermediately, there are two
sluices, with flood-gates. The locks and sluices are double. The canal
is crossed by about eighteen drawbridges. The cost of the undertaking
was about million sterling.

At the further end of the canal, at Niewdiep, a harbour was
constructed, which has been very much frequented by the shipping of
Amsterdam. About eighteen hours were formerly occupied in towing ships
from Niewdiep to Amsterdam.

_The Amsterdam Ship Canal._—The Amsterdam Ship Canal, designed by
Mr. Hawkshaw, and Heer J. Dirks, of Holland, is a gigantic example
of engineering compressed within a limited extent. The burgesses of
Amsterdam had spent millions in improving the access to that great
commercial port—first, on long previous operations in the Zuyder Zee,
and, subsequently, on the North Holland Ship Canal, which stretches
nearly due north from their city to the Helder, between which point and
the Texel Island opposite is the entrance from the North Sea, which was
then the only available channel for large vessels.

The exigiencies of their trade calling imperatively for further
improvements, the engineers furnished them with the design for a new
ship canal, which reduces the navigable distance to 15½ miles, on
a course about west from Amsterdam to the North Sea, available for
larger vessels than formerly entered the port—and has provided a new
harbour on the coast, with an area of 250 acres, bounded by breakwaters
formed of concrete blocks set in regular courses, with 853 feet of
entrance between the pier heads, and 26¼ feet minimum depth of water.
The width of the sea canal is 197 feet at the surface, and 88 feet at
the bottom; minimum depth, 23 feet; the locks are 59 feet wide, and of
proportionate length.

There are three locks or entrances at the north end of the canal from
the new harbour. Eastward, and below the city and wharves of Amsterdam,
there is an enormous dyke to shut out the Zuyder Zee, pierced with
three locks, besides sluices. These are built upon such a lake of mud
as to require nearly 10,000 piles in their foundation. Thus the canal
is approached by locks at each end, not for the purpose of locking up,
but for locking down, as the surface water of the canal has to be kept
twenty inches under low-water mark. To accomplish this, in addition to
the locks and sluices, that can only avail at low tides, pumping power
was required at the dyke, which bars out the Zuyder Zee. The three
large centrifugal pumps by Messrs. Eastons, Amos, and Anderson, were
constructed to lift together 440,000 gallons of water per minute. The
works on this canal took nearly ten years to complete. They included
the construction of branch canals to the several towns and ports on
the borders of the lakes, which, although of smaller sectional area,
exceeded the sea canal in their total extent. Mr. Vignoles, in his
Presidential Address to the Institution of Civil Engineers,[91] from
which most of the above particulars are taken, has stated that the
Amsterdam Ship Canal resembled the Suez Canal, in passing through large
muddy lakes, similar to Lake Menzaleh. (See Suez Canal).

The ship canals communicating with Rotterdam are described by a recent
writer[92] on the subject as follows:—

1. _The Voorne Canal_ running from Helvoetsluis through the island of
Voorne to the river Maas. The resolution of March 9th, 1880, resettled
the police regulations for this route; the maximum dimensions of
vessels using it being—length, 110; beam, 13·70; draught, 6 metres.

2. _The Niewe-waterweg_, or direct entrance from the North Sea to
the Maas, which is without sluices, and is cut through the Hoek van
Holland, thus forming a new outlet to the Maas.

Besides these approaches, there is another route to Rotterdam, to which
great attention has been paid of late years, but the railway bridge
across the river at Rotterdam causes a certain inconvenience to vessels
using it. Vessels coming from the sea by the Hollandschdiep, enter the
narrow passage of the Kil near the great Moerdyke railway bridge, and
passing Dordrecht, the Maas is reached above the Rotterdam railway
bridge. The Nieuwe-Haven, just above this bridge, is a most convenient
port for small steam-yachts visiting Rotterdam.

There are two other important ship canals, giving access from the river
Schelde to the inland waters of Holland:—

1. _The Walcheren Canal_, about seven miles long, from the new port of
Flushing to Veere, which place, formerly known as Campvere, was a free
port of the Scotch, who had a factory or trade station there for 300
years, from the year 1506. The maximum dimensions for vessels using
this canal are:—Length, 120; breadth, 19·75; and draught, 7·10 metres.

2. _The South Beveland Canal_, from the West Schelde at Hansweert
to the East Schelde at Wemeldinge, is five miles in length. The
regulations of this canal, fixed by the resolution of May 28th, 1880,
allow vessels of the following dimensions to use it, viz. length, 100;
breadth, 15·75; draught, 7·10 metres.

The former of these two canals is not much used, but there is a great
traffic of the large Rhine arks, and the inland steam barges and
sailing vessels of Holland, going to and from Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent,
and other towns of Belgium. The locks, like the others in the more
important canals, take in thirty to forty of these vessels at once, all
masters having to show their papers before passing. These ship canals
are all State property, and are under the management of the Minister
of the Waterstaat, Trade, and Industry. Many of the smaller inland
navigations are under State control, but others belong to the communes
through which they pass. The water-level, which is so all-important in
the Netherlands, is regulated by the Amsterdam mark, called the A.P.
(Amsterdamsche Peil).

The following navigations, with some others, are also regulated by
police rules, fixed by resolutions of the State:—

1. _The Afwaterings Kanaal_, from the Noordervaart and the Neeritter,
near Venlo, for vessels—length, 24; breadth, 3·70; draught, 1 metre.
The use of steam is forbidden.

2. _The canalised river Ijssel_, from the river Lek, opposite to
Ijsselmonde, to Gouda, whence there is canal communication with the
river Amstel, to Amsterdam, and also by the old Rhine, _viâ_ Leiden
and Haarlem, to Spaandam, to the North Sea Canal. There is a great
traffic in the former of these two routes, there being always a great
collection of craft at the sluices at Gouda, waiting their turns to
pass. Large and improved locks are said to be urgently required at this
place. The depth of water on this route is at least six feet.

3. _The Keulsche Vaart_, from Vreeswijk, on the river Lek, _viâ_
Utrecht, the Vecht, and Weesp, to the river Amstel and Amsterdam.
Vessels of a breadth of 7·50 metres, and draught of 2·10 metres, can
use the route. The sluices take in the very long Rhine craft. The pace
allowed for steamers is 130 metres a minute for those of 1·50 draught,
to 180 a minute for those of 1 metre draught.

4. _The Meppelerdiep_, Zwaartsluis to Meppel, for vessels of length,
60; breadth, 7·80; draught, 1·80 metres.

5. _The Drentsche, Hoofdvaart, and Kolonievaart_, from Meppel to Assen,
for vessels drawing 1·60 metres, between Paradijssluis and Veenebrug;
in other parts vessels of only 1·25 metres are allowed.

6. _The Willemsvaart_, from the town canal at Zwolle to the
river Ijssel, by the Katerveer, for vessels of the following
dimensions—length 100, breadth 11·80, and draught 3 metres.

7. _The Apeldoorn Canal_, from the Ijssel at the _sluis_ near
Dieren to the same river at Hattem, for vessels of the following
dimensions—length 30, breadth 5·90, and draught 1·56 metres.

8. _The Noordervaart_, between the Zuid Willemsvaart at _sluis_ No.
15 and the provincial canal at Beringen, in the commune Helden, for
vessels having a length of 51, a breadth of 6, and a draught of 1·50 to
1·65 metres.

9. _The Dokkum Canal_, from Dokkum (in Friesland) to Stroobos, and
the Casper Roblesdiep or Kolonelsdiep, being the inland route from
Friesland to Gröningen.

A deep-water canal communicates between Gröningen and Delfzijl, in the
estuary of the river Ems, whereby the inland navigation of Germany may
be entered, and, finally, the Baltic.

_The Elbing Highland Canals._—This system of canals, constructed
between the years 1844 and 1860, connects the group of lakes around
Mohrungen and Preussische Holland, at a height of about 328 feet above
the Baltic, with the Drausen Lake, whence flows the river Elbing,
emptying itself into the Frische Haff, on the Gulf of Dantzic. The
whole length of the canal navigation and branches is 123½ miles, of
which 28 miles is artificial, and the remainder lake and stream.

The Puniau lakes are situated at a distance of 10 miles from, and its
waters were originally at a level of 343 feet 9 inches (104·8 metres)
above, the Drausen lakes. When the canal was first constructed, the
water-level of the Puniau lake was lowered to the extent of 17 feet
5 inches, thereby reducing the difference in level between the two
lakes to 326 feet 4 inches. Commencing from the Drausen Lake, the
canal continues level for a length of 1¼ miles, and in the next 2·17
miles, rises a height of 45 feet 3 inches. This difference of level was
surmounted in the first instance, by five locks, which have recently
been abolished and replaced by an inclined plane. In the following 4·66
miles the remaining height of 281 feet is attained by four inclined

The cost of original construction was 212,325_l._ (4,246,500 marks),
and, assuming it to have been spent entirely upon the artificial
portion of the canal navigation, which is 28 miles in length, would
amount to 7,583_l._ per mile (94,376 marks per kilometre). Of this
outlay 70,000_l._ was expended on the four inclined planes, exclusive
of the earthwork, which latter cost 27,000_l._, or an average of
24,250_l_. for each incline. The total height surmounted by these five
locks and the four inclined planes being 326⅓ feet, the cost of each
foot of rise for the whole length of the canal amounts to

    ─────────────  = 650_l._ 12_s._

The cost of maintenance of the whole system (including the lake
portion) of the canal and works between the years 1861 and 1875
averaged annually 27_l._ 2_s._ per mile for the lake portion, and
120_l._ 4_s._ per mile for the artificial canal portion.

The Dutch canals, like those of Belgium and Germany, provide
exceptionally low transport. The butter of Friesland is conveyed by
canals in small boats to the home markets, whence it is carried twice
a week to Harlingen and shipped to London and other large places of

One of the most remarkable features in the landscape of Holland is
the large number of windmills that are everywhere to be seen. In one
province not more than 60 miles long, there are said to be more than
200 of these primitive appliances. The windmills are largely employed
in spring time to drain the water from the low lying lands and raise
it into the canals, but they are “contrived the double debt to pay” of
drainage and agricultural work.

The Dutch canals, which are for the most part elevated above the
surrounding country, in order that they may the better carry off the
water that inundates the land, are provided with strong dams or banks,
which it is the care of the inhabitants to keep in good order. A system
of militia was long maintained for the purpose of keeping the banks
in repair. The ringing of a bell, or some other signal, brought the
members of this force together, and, when the waters threatened danger,
every man was found at his post, ready to repair any possible damage to
the dykes. It is still the custom to assign to every family a certain
length of embankment, which they are required to maintain.

It is, of course, essential that a system of water communication so
complete and so important to the well-being of the country as that of
Holland should be subject to very strict regulation. There are two
principal sets of regulations—the first adopted on the 5th February,
1879, for the Government canals generally; and the second adopted on
the 6th August, 1880, applying specially to the North Holland Canal.
There is also a series of special regulations for the Walcheren Canal,
which communicates between Flushing and Veere. These regulations have
been translated into English, and may be easily acquired by any one who
desires to possess them.[93]


[87] ‘History of Inland Navigation.’

[88] The Suez Canal gives this return.

[89] M’Cullough’s ‘Commercial Dictionary,’ Art., Amsterdam.

[90] M’Cullough’s ‘Commercial Dictionary,’ Art., Canals.

[91] ‘Proceedings,’ vol. xxix., p. 289.

[92] Report of the Conference on Inland Navigation at the Society of
Arts, 1888.

[93] They are appended to a work which has recently been published,
entitled ‘On Dutch Waterways,’ by G. C. Davies.



   “Though Tiber’s streams immortal Rome behold,
    Though foaming Hermus swells with tides of gold,
    From Heaven itself, though sevenfold Nilus flows,
    And harvests on a hundred realms bestows,
    These now no more shall be the Muse’s themes,
    Lost in my fame as in the sea their streams.”

There is no characteristic of the ancient Roman Empire that is
more striking at the present day, after the lapse of nearly twenty
centuries, than the proficiency that the people had attained in the
arts and sciences, and more especially in the arts of architecture and
engineering. The aqueducts which they built for the supply of water for
domestic purposes were vast structures that have hardly been equalled
in any subsequent period, and the canals which they constructed for
the drainage of morasses, or the transport of armies, were hardly less

_Early Canals._—Among the earlier navigation works, perhaps the most
remarkable was the canal which the Romans constructed for the drainage
of Lake Fucino, illustrated on p. 154.

This canal, which was commenced by order of the Emperor Claudius, is
said by Pliny to have occupied 30,000 men for ten years. The lake is
surrounded by a high ridge of mountains called Celano, which are stated
to be nearly fifty miles in circuit. The passage of the waters from
the lake into the canal was witnessed by a vast number of persons,
when the undertaking was completed, but the canal was not sufficiently
deep to allow the water from the lower part of the lake to drain off,
and although it was sought to correct this defect in Nero’s reign,
the project was never really finished. As far as it went, the work is
described by Tacitus,[94] while Virgil speaks of the lake—now no longer
covered with water—as well known.[95]

Hydraulic engineering formed so important a part of the business of
the ancient Romans that the pro-consuls were charged to lay before the
emperors the best methods of changing the course of rivers, for the
purpose of facilitating the approaches from the sea to the centres of
the various provinces. Thus, we find that Lucius Verus, General of the
Roman army in Gaul, undertook to unite the Saône and the Moselle by a
canal. He is also said to have undertaken to connect the Mediterranean
Sea and the German Ocean by means ofthe Rhone, the Saône and the
Moselle, but the project was never completed. Emilius Scaevius, more
successful, united the waters of the Po, near Placentia, for the
purpose of draining the marshes round about. Other rivers in Italy were
straightened, deepened, widened, or otherwise improved, while Rome was
still “the mistress of the world.”

[Illustration: CANAL ON LAKE FUCINO.]


Some twelve centuries later the Italians were the canal makers of
Europe. Alberto Pittentino, in 1188, converted the Mincio, from Mantua
to the Po, into a canal, thus restoring it to the course from which the
Romans had diverted it in the time of Quintus Curtius Hostilius.

The use of locks on canals may be said to date from this time. It is
related that in the canalisation of the Mincio, Pittentino so regulated
the rise and fall of the river that boats could ascend to Mantua and
descend to Po, the depth being so equally maintained that the river
was navigable for about twelve miles. This must have involved the
employment of locks, however rude.[96]

The Lake Maggiore is the source of the Tesino, which in its course is
divided into several streams, which, however, are reunited before it
enters the Po, near Pavia. For the whole distance it is navigable,
although at Pan Perduto, where the fall is considerable, it is
sometimes hazardous. Immediately below this spot commences the canal to
Milan, which at Abbiate divides into two channels. The entire length of
the excavation is about 32 Italian miles, and its breadth 70 Milanese

The Canal della Martesana, by some supposed to have been executed by
Leonardi da Vinci, was made in the year 1460, under the Duke Francis
Sforza. Leonardi da Vinci joined the two canals some time during the
reign of Francis I. The Canal della Martesana, which is drawn from the
Adda, is 24 miles in length, and in width about 18 cubits; but when
constructed at first, the water it contained was barely sufficient for
navigation for more than two days in the week, and this only when all
the openings for the purposes of irrigation were closed.

One of the branches of this canal was carried for several miles by a
stone dyke, and afterwards passed through a deep cutting. The other
branch had its course through the rock, after which it was supported on
one side by a lofty embankment, where it crossed the Molgara river by
an aqueduct of three stone arches.

Early in the thirteenth century, Bassanallo had a canal 11 miles long,
which was navigated by the vessels that brought building stones to
Venice. One of the several canals in the lagunes, on which the latter
city is built, is 36 miles long. Between Padua and Venice, again, there
is a canal some twenty miles in length, which has a fall of 50 feet, to
overcome which four locks are provided.

Milan, like Venice, is the centre of a network of canals. Here unite
the great canal of Tesino and the branch from Pavia; the Muzza Canal,
which commences at Cassano and ends at Castiglione, after traversing
a distance of 40 miles; the canal of Abiato, made in the thirteenth
century, which has a top breadth of 130 feet, and a bottom breadth of
46 feet; and the canal which connects Buffolaro, Biagrasso, and Arsago
with Milan.

Nor is Piedmont less rich in monuments and resources of the same
description, having more than half a dozen canals which communicate
with the Po at different points. Most of these canals are, however, of
limited extent, the longest, called the Naviglio d’Inea, being 38 miles
in length.

The canals, large and small, in the Papal States, are so numerous that
it would be wearisome to enumerate them. None are of great length, and
most of them have been constructed rather with a view to drainage or
irrigation than to navigation.

Pagnani has left us an account of the levels and other operations
of art, undertaken by former engineers, to ascertain whether some
navigable canals might not be projected in Lombardy; and, above all,
to determine the practicability of joining the Lake of Como with the
neighbouring lakes. In the first place they found that the surface of
the lake of Como was 48 braces lower than the surface of the lake of
Cevate, 62 braces lower than that of the lake of Pusiano, and about 100
braces below that of the lake of Lugano; further, that the lakes of
Como and Lugano are, at the point of their nearest approximation, in
the valley of Porlezza, about six miles distant from each other; and
that they are separated by a very high ridge, which would render any
attempt at a navigable canal very arduous, even independently of the
very great difference in the levels. The general map of Lombardy will,
on a slight inspection, show these several places.

The same engineers found that the scheme of running a canal from the
lake of Lugano by the valley of the Olona to Milan was impracticable.
It might, however, be possible to render the Olona navigable below
Tredate, provided the waters were retained in the last trunk by means
of some well-situated locks, and the upper mills were so placed as not
to interrupt the bed of the river. In the project to render navigable
the Tresa, which is the outlet by which the lake of Lugano discharges
itself into the Lago Maggiore, these engineers found difficulties
from the deficiency in the body of the water, and from the too great
slope of the Tresa; to which it may be added that several torrents
which enter it carry into it stones and gravel. It has been considered
strange that these engineers never thought of another project, of which
the execution would be easy, as well as convenient and useful—namely,
to make navigable the Boza, which is the outlet of the little lake of
Varese into the Lago Maggiore.

The scheme of conducting a navigable canal from Milan to Pavia is of a
much older date, having been designed for the purpose of joining the
two canals of Milan with the Tesino, the Po, and the sea. Galeazzo
Visconte, the father of Azzon, began its excavation. In 1564, the
completion of the work was made the subject of considerable discussion.
It was imagined that the expense could not be very great; and that
by giving the sluices the common height, a great number would not be
required. The enterprise was abandoned afterwards, because the canal of
Bereguardo, although it did not reach the Tesino, was found sufficient
to keep up the commerce between the two cities of Milan and Pavia.
Pagnani, in the Treatise already referred to, mentions some other
projects of a similar nature.

_The Tiber._—In Italy another great undertaking has been agitated,
namely, to render the Tiber navigable from Ponte Nuovo, below Perugia,
to the entrance of the Nera, from which the navigation begins to be
free and without interruption, to the sea. MM. Boltari and Manfredi
reported on an inspection which they made of the Tiber in 1732. In this
report they laid it down as a first principle, derived from experience,
that to navigate any river with facility, particularly against the
stream, it is requisite that the slope should not exceed 3 Roman palms
per mile (a Roman palm is about 8½ English inches).

Now, as the fall of the Tiber is 8 or 9 palms, they calculated that
it would be very difficult to steer the boats down the river, and
still more difficult to conduct them up against so rapid a stream,
especially in some places where the fall was even greater, and where,
consequently, the stream must, they held, remain impassable. They,
moreover, pointed out the difficulties and the dangers which must be
encountered in adopting the different expedients that had been proposed
for reducing the excessive slope by weirs, for removing the detached
stones by manual labour, for blowing up the obstructing rocks by mines,
and for removing the bed, in certain places, by changing its course, or
by contracting or enlarging its dimensions.

The schemes proposed for rendering the bed of the Tiber navigable
having been thus discredited, the same engineers inquired whether
a canal for boats of a moderate size and suitable burden might not
be formed parallel with the river; observing the nature of the soil
through which the canal must pass, the different crossings that would
be required from one side to the other, the number of dykes and sluices
that would be wanted, and the other works that would be necessary to
secure the navigation against all accidents, and particularly those
from floods. This undertaking they regarded as very difficult of
execution, and they advised that it should not be attempted. They next
examined the plan of making the Tiber navigable to Rome, proposed by
the engineer Chiesa, in a report printed in 1745, but nothing came of
these proposals.

Within the last two years, a new project has been brought forward
with the view of rendering the Tiber navigable to the sea, and it is
possible that this work will before long be attempted.

_The Villoresi Canal._—The water for this canal is derived from the
Ticino, at a place called “Rapida del Pamperduto,” by means of a weir
thrown across the river. This weir is 290 metres (951·2 feet) long,
and 24 metres (78·72 feet) broad, and of sufficient height to raise
the water in the Ticino 3·75 metres (12·30 feet) above the ordinary
low-water level. Below the right abutment the river-bank is protected
by a wall for a distance of 50 metres (164 feet), whilst up stream, on
the same side, an embankment, partly in masonry and partly in earthwork
faced with stone pitching, has been constructed for a distance of 600
metres (1968 feet), in order to confine the river to its present bed.
At right angles to the weir is a lock, with a drop of 6 metres (19·68
feet), the largest in Italy, which serves for the passage of boats from
a channel below, 10 metres (32·8 feet) wide, and about one kilometre
(0·62 mile) long, from the canal to the Ticino. The channel is supplied
with water from the basin below the measuring weir by means of four
sluices 0·80 metre by 1·20 metre (2·62 feet by 3·93 feet) placed in
the wall which separates the basin from the canal. On the side of the
basin, opposite the weir, are two buildings, the first containing the
sluices, which admit 8 cubic metres (282·52 cubic feet) per second of
water into a canal belonging to the Visconti family; and the second,
which forms the entrance to the Villoresi Canal, serves to regulate and
maintain the level of the water in the basin constantly at 0·90 metre
(2·95 feet) above the crest of the weir. It consists of a three-storied
building, in the lower part of which are six sluices, 2·30 metres (7·45
feet) wide, and 3 metres (9·84 feet) deep, with iron gates, worked by
suitable mechanism from the floor above. The headworks, which are on
the left bank, consist of a building 67 metres (219·76 feet) long, 6
metres (19·68 feet) wide, and 12·80 metres high, provided with thirty
sluices, each of 1·50 metre (4·92 feet) clear width, and 3·25 metres
(10·66 feet) high, the cills of which are placed at 2·75 metres (9·02
feet) below the level of the crest of the weir. These sluices are
capable of admitting 190 cubic metres (6710·13 cubic feet) per second
into the canal from the river, of which 70 cubic metres (2472·15
cubic feet) per second is the amount granted by the concession to the
Villoresi Canal. The remaining 120 cubic metres (4237·98 cubic feet)
per second have to be returned to the Ticino by a specially constructed
measuring weir established at 600 metres below the headworks, in order
to respect the existing rights of others further down the stream. The
passage of boats from the Ticino to the canal is provided for by means
of a channel with a lock 8 metres (26·24 feet) wide.

_The Canals of Venice._—In speaking of the canals of Italy, it would
be unpardonable to omit due reference to those which give to Venice,
the “mistress of the Adriatic,” her peculiar and pre-eminent position.
Founded in the year 452, soon after Attila invaded Italy, Venice is
built upon a number of small islands, and is divided into two nearly
equal parts by the “Grand Canal,” 1200 yards in length, and 100 feet in
breadth. Many smaller canals branch off from the Grand Canal. These
are crossed by some five hundred bridges, many of them of considerable
architectural pretensions.

The construction of the canals of Venice was a work that would be
naturally unlike that of laying out a canal in the ordinary course.
The whole city, built on a number of small islands, is more or less
constructed on piles; there is an almost dead level throughout; and
the waterways would, no doubt, in the majority of cases, be naturally
formed, at least to a partial extent. There is, however, very little
information extant as to the circumstances under which the work of
adapting the canals to the requirements of the population was carried

_Irrigation Canals._—It would hardly be proper to pass from the canal
system of Italy without making some remarks on the excellent system
of irrigation canals that has been provided in Lombardy and Piedmont.
Navigation canals take priority over irrigation canals in Lombardy in
point of origin, but not to a great extent. The Vettabbia Canal, which
is supposed to have been used for navigation previous to the eleventh
century, is claimed as the oldest existing canal in Lombardy. In the
latter part of the twelfth century, the Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle
obtained possession of this canal, and applied its waters to irrigation
purposes. Not very long afterwards the same order of monks constructed
the Ticinello, a canal derived from the Ticino at Tornavento, and it
was used exclusively for irrigation until 1177, when it was enlarged
and partly opened for navigation. In 1257, the same canal was so far
enlarged as to connect Milan with Lake Maggiore, and the waterway is
now known as the Naviglio Grande.

One of the most important irrigation canals in Italy, which may be
briefly described as illustrative of the system generally, is that of
the Cavour Company, in Piedmont, which is derived from the left bank
of the Po, near the town of Chivasso, and was constructed for the
purpose of irrigating the provinces of the Vercellese, Novarese, and
Lomellina. It was Francesco Rossi, a land surveyor of Vercelli, who,
in 1844, first proposed to employ the waters of the Po for irrigation
purposes. It was a good many years later, however, before the project
was undertaken. The head works of the Canal Cavour are situated
about 400 metres below the bridge over the river, on the road which
connects Chivasso with the military road from Turin to Casale. The full
discharge of this canal is 110 cubic metres per second, and its supply
is obtained by means of a temporary dam of timber carried across the
river. The sluice-house for regulating the supply of water to the
canal is built across the canal, which is 40 metres in width, and
consists of twenty-one openings separated by granite piers. Each
opening is provided with three sluice-gates, which work in grooves
cut in the granite piers, and can be easily raised or lowered by the
sluice-keeper by means of a lever. The remainder of the building is
constructed principally of dressed stone and bricks, and the contrast
between the granite used for the quoins and the red brickwork has an
excellent effect. Another sluice-house, placed at right angles to that
of the main canal, communicates with that of the “Scaricatore,” or
discharge channel, by means of which the surplus waters in times of
floods may be discharged into the Po, and any deposit of gravel and
sand on the floors in front of the entrance to the main canal can be
effectually swept away by the velocity of the water discharged into the
“Scaricatore,” which has a rapid fall, and enters the Po again, about 2
kilometres below the headworks.

The quantity of material used in the construction of this important
work was:—

    Excavation                 695,000 cubic metres.
    Bricks                     2,000,000.
    Dressed stone              3000 cubic metres.
    Stone for _revetment_      3000 square metres.
    Lime                       3500 tons.
    Oak piles                  2200.
    Oak sheet piles            8100 square metres.
    Ironwork                   39,780 kilos.

The width of the canal, which is 40 metres wide at the commencement,
is gradually lessened until it reaches the aqueduct over the Dora
Baltea near the 10th kilometre of its course, when its width becomes
20 metres. The sides, when not protected by retaining walls, have an
inclination of 45°. Crossing the valley of the Dora, which is about 2
kilometres in width, on a high embankment, and the actual bed of the
same river, by means of an aqueduct consisting of nine arches of 16
metres span each, the canal takes a north-easterly direction nearly
parallel to the railway from Turin to Milan, which it crosses near
the station of San Germano. At the 40th kilometre the canal passes in
syphon under the torrent Elvo. This syphon is built in brickwork, and
consists of five elliptical openings, 5 metres in width and 2·30 metres
in height.

The next work of importance is the embankment and aqueduct over the
torrent Cervo, and differs but little from that over the Dora. The most
important work on the whole canal, with the exception of the headworks,
is the syphon for passing underneath the torrent Sesia. It is similar
in section to that previously described for the Elvo, but considerably
longer, and is probably one of the largest works of this class in Italy.

The next works in importance are the aqueducts for crossing the
torrents Roasenda and Marchiazza, and syphons under the torrents
Agogna and Terdoppio, near Novara. The width of the canal up to the
62nd kilometre is 20 metres, and as, at this point, a considerable
quantity of water is introduced from it into the Roggia, Busca and
Rizzo-Biraga, the canal is reduced to 12·50 metres in width to the 74th
kilometre, when its section is again reduced, and after passing under
the Terdoppio—at which point the new branch canal “Quintino Sella” is
derived—its width is only 7·50 metres. The fall of the canal between
the headworks at Chivasso and the Dora Baltea varies from 0·50 to 0·25
in 1000, and over the remainder—with the exception of aqueducts and
syphons, when in some cases it is greater—the gradient is 0·25 per
1000. The total fall is 21·73. Besides the works just described, 480 of
less importance, consisting of bridges for roads, aqueducts, syphons
for the passage of existing water-courses and canals of irrigation,
watchhouses, &c., were constructed.

_The River Po._—The Po, which takes its rise at Mont Viso, crosses
the whole plain of Upper Piedmont, a plain formed of a deep alluvial
soil, very fertile, and well cultivated. Passing through territory of
Turin, it receives the drainage of the rich meadows, as also the sewage
of that town, and before reaching Chivasso it receives the rivers
Dora Riparia, Stura, Orco, and Malone. The waters of the Po in floods
are dense with rich alluvial matter, of the fertilising properties of
which evident proofs may be observed throughout the course of this
river. After great floods, as if by magic, bare shoals of gravel become
covered with a deep strata of alluvial soil, on which the seeds of
trees and shrubs carried down by the waters soon take root, and in
a very short time they are covered with a luxuriant vegetation. The
waters of the Po on this account are highly valued for irrigation,
as also from the fact of its temperature being higher than that of
its tributaries. The fertilising properties of this water are now
fully appreciated in Lomellina, where large tracts of land which were
formerly bare and arid wastes, are now converted into rich meadows and
rice fields, through the agency of the waters which have been brought
to bear upon them by the Canal Cavour, already alluded to.

Even in the Vercellese, where the want of water is not so much felt,
the waters of the Po, introduced into the existing canals, and mingling
with those of the Dora, tend to modify the extreme coldness of the
latter river, due to its origin in the glaciers of the Val d’Aosta and
the siliceous-magnesian sands that its waters contain in suspension.
It is, therefore, with just pride that Italians have named the Po the
“Nile of Italy.”

Although the Po is the only extensive river basin in Italy, there are
many other rivers in that country that are more or less navigable, some
of them inclined to the Tyrrhenian Sea, and some to the Ionian Sea, but
most of them, including the Po, to the Adriatic.

_Projected Canals._—Among the proposals recently put forward for
extending, by artificial means, the commerce and navigation of Italy,
one of the most important is designed to provide for the construction
of a ship canal to connect the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Adriatic, near
Fano and Castro. The distance to be traversed by this canal would
be 175 miles, and the cost has been estimated at about 20 millions
sterling. It is claimed that the proposed canal would be of great
advantage to the navigation between the east and the west coasts of the

In 1889 a company was formed in London for the purpose of establishing
a system of canal, lake, and river navigation in the north of Italy.
This company expects to carry a very large share of the traffic at
lower rates than those quoted by the railways.


[94] Ann., lib. xii. cap. 56.

[95] Æn., t.v. 563.

[96] “Before the introduction of locks, contrivances called conches
were in use to moderate the too great declivity of the rivers, and
which were opened to allow vessels to pass through. These openings
were 16 or 18 feet in width; a balance lever, loaded at the end, was
made to turn on a pivot, and with it three hanging posts, united by
an iron bar, which crossed them immediately above the sill; besides
these three perpendicular hanging posts were two others, let some
inches into the side walls. These five posts were all on the same
face, and the spaces between them were all equal. When the balance
beam turned upon its pivot, the three middle posts alone opened,
and allowed the boats to pass, after which the balance beam was
turned back to its former position. At a little distance was placed
another balance beam, having attached to it a wide plank, to allow
the lock keeper to pass over, as well as to place in the grooves
of the hanging posts the small planks which served to exclude the
water, by closing up the intervals; these were on the side opposed
to the current, and in number sufficient to keep the water at the
required level. Such gates, or contrivances for damming up the waters
of a river, were in use at a very early time in Italy, and two such
were constructed at Governolo, in the twelfth century, to pen up the
waters of the Mincio on the side of Mantua.”—Cresy’s ‘Cyclopædia of



   “From his side two rivers flowed,
    The one winding, the other straight, and left between
    Fair champaign, with less rivers intervened.”

Although Sweden is possessed of an admirable system of lakes, which
facilitates transport over a wide area, and although the commerce
of the country is limited, and the population sparse, the canal
navigations are by no means unimportant. On the contrary, they have
been carried out over a wide area, with great enterprise and skill, and
at a very considerable expenditure. The two principal canal systems are
those of Gotha and Dalsland—the former constructed for the purpose
of connecting the two most important towns in the kingdom, Stockholm
and Gothenburg; the latter intended to afford a means of communication
between the province of Dalsland, with its productive forests and
admirable command of water-power, and the rest of Sweden.

_The Gotha Canal_ is one that has a very interesting history, and its
ultimate completion may be said to make an epoch in the history of
canal engineering, the obstacles to be surmounted being of a character
that engineers had had but little experience of up to the commencement
of the present century.

In Sweden, Gustavus Vasa fulfilled the same destiny in regard to
artificial waterways, as Peter the Great did in Russia. The ambitious
but generally utilitarian plans of the sovereign included that of
connecting Gothenburg with Stockholm, by means of the Wenner, Hielmar,
and Mælar. Eric XIV., the son of Gustavus Vasa, after his father’s
decease, caused a survey of the waters connecting with those lakes to
be made, in order that they might be joined for purposes of navigation.
Nothing further was done during his reign, but the design was revived
by Gustavus Adolphus, who, however, could not find persons capable of
carrying it out, and Charles XI. was advised by some Dutch engineers
that the project was impracticable.

It was reserved for Charles XII. to commence the serious undertaking
of rendering navigable the Gotha and the falls of Trolhätten, but the
work was not completed in his lifetime. The projected work, as proposed
by the engineer Polhem, was to connect the Mælar and the Hielmar, the
Hielmar and the Wenner, and the Wenner with the German Ocean.

Difficulties occurred in the way of completing the connection between
Lake Wenner, or Wenmon, and the Baltic; and in 1806 Thomas Telford was
consulted, at the instance of the King of Sweden, as to the best means
of carrying out the communication. Telford[97] made a complete survey,
and prepared plans which were adopted. In 1810, he again visited Sweden
for the purpose of inspecting the excavations then begun, and took
with him a number of English navvies and lockmakers, in order that the
Swedes might be instructed in the work. As designed by Telford, the
Gotha canal was 120 miles in length, including the lakes, of which 55
miles were artificial navigation. The locks are 120 feet long, and 24
feet broad. The width of the canal at the bottom is 42 feet, and the
depth of the water is 10 feet.

The completion of the Gotha canal was justly regarded at the time
as one of the most important and able engineering works of the day.
Previous to Telford’s time, an artificial waterway, called the
Carlsgraf Canal had been constructed in the time of Charles IX., and
under his direction, to connect the Wenner with that part of the river
Gotha where it is first navigable. From the end of this canal to the
village of Trolhätta, a distance of five miles, the navigation of the
river was uninterrupted, but when the cataracts of Trolhätten—locally
spoken of as the “Gulf of Hell”—were approached, all farther
navigation became impracticable through a space of about two miles.
The river is here divided into four principal cataracts, separated by
whirlpools and eddies, and descending through a perpendicular height of
100 feet. Several attempts having been made to construct a canal here,
some of which ended in complete failure, while others, including that
made in the time of Gustavus III., threatened to involve so much
expense, that that monarch, after visiting the works, ordered them to
be suspended, a wooden road was constructed alongside the river, from
the beginning to the end of the cataracts, in order to facilitate the
conveyance of merchandise to Gothenburg.

The following data relative to the Gotha Canal are extracted from the
large atlas of plates published along with the life of that engineer
for the purpose of illustrating the principal works of Telford.

                            DETAILS OF THE GOTHA CANAL.

                               │      Distance.        │  Lockage.
                               │    Canal. │  Lake.    │ Fall. │Rise.
                               │miles│yards│miles│yards│       │ft. in.
   Canal from Lake Wenern to   │  22 │ 1039│  .. │  .. │    .. │158  0
     the Wiken                 │     │     │     │     │       │
                               │     │     │     │     │       │west
   Lake Wiken                  │  .. │  .. │  12 │ 318 │   ..  │end
                               │     │     │     │     │       │of
   Canal at Edet               │  .. │  534│     │     │       │summit.
   Lake                        │  .. │  .. │  .. │ 535 │       │
   Canal                       │  .. │  581│  .. │  .. │ East  │
                               │     │     │     │     │ end   │
   Lake                        │  .. │  .. │  .. │ 117 │ of    │
                               │     │     │     │     │summit.│
   Canal near Forsvik          │  .. │  496│     │     │ft. in.│
   Lake Boltensjön             │  .. │  .. │   4 │ 803 │ 9   9 │
   Canal at Rödesund           │  .. │  486│     │     │       │
   Lake Wettern                │  .. │  .. │  19 │1136 │       │
   Canal between Wettern and   │   2 │  841│  .. │  .. │ 49  9 │
     Lake Boren                │     │     │     │     │       │
   Lake Boren                  │  .. │  .. │   6 │1140 │       │
   Canal from thence to Roxen  │  14 │   63│  .. │  .. │130  9 │
   Lake Roxen                  │  .. │  .. │  15 │1423 │       │
   Canal from thence to        │     │     │     │     │       │
     Asplangen                 │   4 │  446│  .. │  .. │ 19  6 │
   Lake Asplangen.             │  .. │  .. │   3 │ 208 │       │
   Canal from thence to the    │  10 │  494│  .. │  .. │ 86  6 │
     Baltic near Soderkoping   │     │     │     │     │       │
                               ├─────┼─────┤     │     ├───────┤
   Total length of canal       │  54 │ 1460│  .. │  .. │296  3 │
   Total length of lake        │     │     │     │     │       │
     navigation                │  .. │  .. │  62 │ 400 │       │296  3
                               │     │     ├─────┼─────┤       ├──────
                               │     │     │     │     │       │454  3
   Total length of canal and   │     │miles│yards│     │       │
     lakes in English miles    │     │  117│ 100 │     │       │

About a mile below the cataracts, the course of the Gotha was again
interrupted by a fall called Akerstræum; and at the end of last century
a canal 182 feet long, and 36 feet broad, was constructed here, through
a bed of rock, until, at the other end of the cataract, the river is
clear to Gothenburg. Before the construction of the Gotha Canal, the
traffic for Gothenburg was unloaded at the cataracts, carried over the
wooden road to the end of the falls by horses, and again put on board
vessels which carried it through the Akerstræum Canal to its ultimate

At Trolhätta, about 1¼ mile below the point where the river Göta-Elf
leaves the Wenner Lake, there occurs a series of falls and rapids,
the river descending 108 feet in a length of about 4590 feet. The
works which were commenced at this place early in the last century,
were well advanced in 1755, when an unusually heavy flood caused much
destruction and loss of life, and the abandonment of the works, never
since resumed. The intention was to surmount the difference of level,
viz., 108 feet, at the falls above mentioned, by three locks only, with
a rise of 36 feet each. In the canal, as constructed in 1800, there is
a chain of eight locks (still in service), but these being insufficient
for the traffic, a second set of eleven were constructed alongside the
former in 1844. These are cut in the solid granite. There are sixteen
locks in all, with a fall of 142 feet on this canal (Trolhätta), which
is 22 miles long. The breadth of the canal-bottom is 39 feet in soil
and 23 feet 5 inches in rock, with a depth at mean water-level of 12
feet 8 inches. The number of vessels passing annually is about 7000.

_The West Göta Canal_, connecting the Wenner and Wetter lakes, rises
from the former by a series of nineteen locks, or a height of 154 feet
6 inches, to the summit level, which is 300 feet above the sea, and
the descent from here to the Baltic, _viâ_ the East Göta canal, is by
thirty-nine locks. The breadth of the bottom of these canals is 46 feet
9 inches with a mean depth of 9 feet 9 inches. These two canals were
completed in 1832 at a cost of 887,500_l._ The length of navigation is
116⅔ miles, of which 54⅓ miles are artificial canal, and
62⅓ miles lake channel. The traffic is from 4000 to 5000 vessels
per annum.

_The Dalsland Canal._—The eastern spurs of the high range dividing
Norway from Sweden run in the south through the small province of
Dalsland towards Lake Wenern, and from numerous valleys, which descend
more or less abruptly to the shore, and serve as channels for many
torrents from the mountain ridges. There are often considerable falls,
which supply a vast motive power to works of various kinds, chiefly
bar-iron forges and saw-mills. There was one serious drawback to this
industry. Lake Wenem afforded the only means of communication between
Dalsland and the outer world; and to reach that lake from the various
works, a long and costly land transport was the sole resource. This
became more and more an obstacle as increased facilities were developed
in other parts of the world. Hence, some forty years ago, the question
of utilising the Dalsland water-courses as a means of transport was
broached, and this was accomplished in the year 1868. Along the
Norwegian frontier, northward, in the province of Wermland, there is a
lake, the Stora Lee, 20 miles long, with an extreme width of 3 miles,
which joins Lake Wenem by a water-course, having eleven continually
descending basins, together constituting a fall of 200 feet. At the
northern extremity of the Stora Lee are the Toksfor works. At a
distance of 12 miles southward, where there is a fall of 28 feet, are
the iron works of Lennartsfors. At this point the Stora Lee is joined
by Lake Leelângen; and lower down, at the junction with Las Lake,
motive power is supplied by a fall to the Billingsfors works. Farther
on, towards Lake Wenem, there are the Gustafsfors Ironworks and the
Skapfors Sawmills, where several falls occur, the highest being a fall
of about 30 feet at Upperud Ironworks.

The Dalsland Canal Company having been formed, with the governor of the
province, Count Sparre, as president, the directors in 1864 succeeded
in engaging the assistance of the late Baron Nils Ericson, Colonel
of Engineers. His plan to some extent varied from former projects,
and comprised the following main conditions:—The construction of a
canal at Hofverud, near Upperud, instead of a railway, so as to avoid
unloading and reloading; a route from Las Lake, past the Billingsfors
works to Leelângen; the adoption of the same dimensions for the
whole length of the canal from Upperud to Stora Lee, viz., a depth
of 5½ feet, a width of 13 feet at the bottom, and a length of 100
feet between the lock gates; and an increase in the number of locks
between Lake Wenem and Stora Lee to twenty-five instead of fifteen, as
proposed. The contract for constructing the canal according to this
plan, including excavations round the fall at Hofverud and an aqueduct
over the stream at that place, was taken at about 76,000_l._ sterling,
raised chiefly by shares and, to some extent, by state subventions. It
was stipulated that the dimensions of the canal should be such that
vessels of 75 feet in length, 13 feet beam, and drawing 5 feet of water
should be able to navigate it. Consequently the locks were mainly of
the following dimensions:—

                                                  Ft. In.

    Minimum length between the gates              100  0
       ”    width in the flood gate                14  0
       ”    depth of water on the sill              5  2
       ”    height of the gate wall over the sill   6  7
       ”    width of the sill                       6  0
       ”    length of the gate wall                 7  0
    Radius of the sill and of the left wall        16  0
    Length of gate recess                          17  0
    Radius                                         50  0
    Slope of the lock chamber sides 5 to 1.
    Versed sine of the exterior of the inner wall   2  0
              ”               ”        outer  ”     3  0

The gate-walls and recesses were all constructed with Wargo cement.
The sides of the lock-chambers are of masonry in cement, supported
by an earthen embankment. The gates are single, and have wooden
bolts; the sills are formed of wooden beams 10 inches by 12 inches.
Timber drawbridges are employed throughout, placed in front of a lock
immediately before the recess or entrance.

The canal is of the following dimensions:—

                                             Ft. In.
   Minimum width at bottom                   13   0
      ”    depth                              5   6
   Height of the bank above water level       2   0
   Width of the bank at top                   8   0
      ”      towing path                      5   0

At the Waterfalls of Hofverud, the most interesting point of this
canal, the rock on one side is almost perpendicular for 150 feet, while
the other side of the stream is occupied by the ironworks of Hofverud.
For this reason Ericson constructed an iron aqueduct over the fall of
110 feet span. This aqueduct has the form of an open box. The two sides
for carrying the weight are wrought-iron bow girders, 10 feet deep at
the middle and 6½ feet at the ends, of English iron plate ¼ inch. The
bottom and top flanges are ½ inch and ⅛ inch thick respectively, formed
of three layers of plates bolted together. The top flange serves as a
pathway as well.

The Dalsland canal rises 192 feet 6 inches by twenty-five locks, the
summit level being 338 feet above the sea. The length of the navigation
is 155 miles; but the actual length of the works that were needed to
complete the system is only 4·8 miles.

The locks on this canal are each about 98 feet 6 inches long, with
a breadth of 13 feet 8 inches, and a depth over the sill of 5 feet
4 inches. The breadth of the bottom is 14 feet 6 inches and 15 feet
7 inches, in soil and rock, respectively. The canal is navigated by
vessels of 70 tons, and steamers of 45 tons and 25 H.P. The
traffic amounts to about 4000 vessels per annum. It was completed in
1868 at a cost of 81,500_l._

_The Kinda Canal_ rises 171 feet by fifteen locks to a level of 277
feet above the sea. The length of the navigation is 49½ miles, of which
22¾ is either artificial canal or trained river. The length of the
locks is 90 feet 6 inches, breadth 18 feet 4 inches, and depth over
sill 4 feet 10½ inches. The traffic is from 3000 to 4000 vessels per
annum. It was completed in 1871 at a cost of 72,500_l_.

_The Orebro Canal._—One of the most recent canal undertakings in
Sweden is the Orebro Canal, which is designed to bring down to the town
of that name the traffic from the Mälar and Hjelmar Lakes, instead of
being compelled to cart it from the old harbour of Skebäck, two or
three miles distant. There is no special engineering feature about the
canal, which was commenced in June 1886, and opened in 1888. For some
distance it follows the bed of the Svarta, and is subsequently divided
into two branches, one of which, the main branch, to the south, has a
length of 4600 feet, and the other, to the north, is 2600 feet long.
The former is designed for passenger and lighter traffic, and the other
is specially arranged for the transport of grain, coal, timber, &c. The
main canal has a width of 80 to 90 feet at the water line, and has 8½
feet depth. The lock at the commencement of the canal is 125 feet long
and 25 feet broad, and at the northern end of the canal, where there is
a high granite quay, 1200 feet long, the canal is 150 feet wide. The
water on the canal is enclosed by a dam of 200 feet long, and the total
cost of the undertaking is about 40,000_l_. The enterprise is mainly
interesting as an example of the local application of water power with
a view to economy of local transport.

_Projected Canals._—At the present time a canal is projected whereby
it is intended to connect the Kattegat with the Lake of Wenern, thus
bringing into direct water communication the towns of Uddevalla and
Genersborg. The length of this canal will be about twelve miles, some
four miles of that distance being through lakes. The level of the canal
will be raised above that of Lake Wenern by three sluices. The depth
of water in the Uddevalla harbour and in the Venersborgvik would limit
the depth of the canal to about 21 feet, but this would be sufficient
to admit vessels of about 3000 tons. The sluices proposed would be 350
feet long and about 45 feet in width. The canal would be a natural
outlet for a large traffic in timber, iron, and wood pulp, now so
largely employed in the manufacture of paper.


[97] Thomas Telford, born in Dumfries-shire, Scotland, in humble
circumstances, was, next after Brindley, the greatest English canal
engineer. He constructed the Caledonian, Ellesmere, Gloucester and
Berkeley, Grand Trunk, Birmingham, Macclesfield, Birmingham and
Liverpool Junction, and other canals. He also constructed a number of
harbours, docks, roads, and bridges, including the Menai Bridge and
St. Katherine’s Docks. He died in 1834, and was buried in Westminster

[98] Cox’s ‘Travels,’ vol. iv.



     “The servitude of rivers is the noblest and most
      important victory which man has obtained over the
      licentiousness of Nature.”

The Russian Empire is, in many respects, the most remarkable in the
world. With an area of more than eight and a half million of square
miles, and a population of 110 millions, it is larger than the whole
of the British Empire, including India, Canada, and Australia, and
is about seventy times the size of the British Islands alone. It is
natural that the internal transport of such a vast territory should
present problems of deep interest, and should tax the resources of
the engineers that have been from time to time occupied with their
determination. This has been more than ordinarily difficult because
of the vast distances to be traversed, and the inclement character of
the climate, which practically seals up navigation entirely over a
great part of the Empire for about six months of the year. Happily,
the Empire is provided with a very ample river system, having, indeed,
longer and deeper rivers than any other country in Europe, which means,
of course, that water transport is available over long distances,
without making any special or costly provision for that purpose.

The enormous distances over which merchandise has been carried in
pre-railway times, throughout the Russian Empire is justly regarded as
one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of transportation.
For many years previous to the commencement of the present century,
large quantities of iron, salt, gold and silver, furs and skins,
tallow, leather, marble and precious stones, in addition to the
special products of China, were carried from the latter country to St.
Petersburg, a distance of fully 2000 miles. The route adopted appears
to have been by the Selenga to the Baikal Lake, and thence by the
Angara to the Yenisey, where the merchandise was unloaded and carried
overland as far as the river Ket. By this stream it was carried to
the Obb, and thence up the Irtish and the Tobol, where it was again
unloaded, and carried overland to the Tchussovaia, where it was put on
vessels, and whence it was carried to the Kama and finally into the
Volga. Such a system of transport is probably unequalled for extent
and variety in any other part of the world, but the frequent removals
and trans-shipments on this and on other principal routes rendered it
a matter of urgent importance to connect the different waterways by
canal navigation, whereby the leading maritime routes could be joined

When we consider the condition of the Russian Empire at the time
of Peter the Great, the semi-barbarism of its inhabitants, and the
comparatively limited resources at his disposal, the work planned
and achieved by Peter the Great[99] in the construction of canals is
little short of marvellous. It was he who planned the grand scheme for
uniting the Caspian and the Baltic with the Black Sea, by the junction
of the Volga and the Don. It was he, also, who began the Ladoga Canal
in 1718, although it was not completed until the reign of the Empress
Anne. This canal, as constructed, connected the Volkhof with the Neva
in a navigation of 67½ miles, with a uniform breadth of 70 feet, and a
mean depth of 10 feet in spring and 7 feet in summer. Peter the Great
connected Astracan and Petersburg by the canal of Vishni-Volotchok,
although the canal was afterwards considerably improved by the Empress
Catherine.[100] Peter the Great, who was the founder of Cronstadt, also
constructed a canal giving access to the harbour of that place. It was
not, however, completed in his lifetime. This canal, called after its
founder, is lined with brick, as is also another canal, completed soon
after the death of Catherine II., in order that vessels might be able
to load and unload stores at the gates of the magazines built on both

In the time of Peter, and under his direction or sanction, many other
waterways were projected or improved in Russia. It was the aim of
that monarch to render transport universal and economical throughout
his wide dominions, and if his resources had been equal to his plans,
Russia would have taken the foremost place in everything relating to
water communication. In 1718, finding that the mouth of the Vistula was
so choked up with sand that even a small vessel had often difficulty
in passing over it, he caused a canal to be constructed, about
three-quarters of a mile in length, directly into the bay, having
a breadth of 120 to 180 feet in some places, and a depth of 13 to
15 feet. From the end of this canal, next the sea, there were piers
running out about 500 yards into the bay, whence ships could enter the
canal with almost any wind, and be perfectly secure—as, indeed, the
bay of Dantzic may usually be reckoned, having an excellent anchorage
ground, and being safe against all storms, those from the north-east
and east only creating any danger.

At the top of the canal just described, there were constructed flood
gates, or a sluice, to prevent the waters of the Vistula running in, or
choking it with sand. In the month of October, 1804, this sluice was
finished. It will admit vessels of 36 feet beam, and drawing not more
than 10 to 11 feet water. The ships thereby pass into the Vistula, and
thence they may proceed up to the mouth of the Mottlau; or to the town,
about four English miles; or they may lay in the Vistula close to the
shore, in a good depth of water.

A canal for heavy goods was constructed from Lübeck to the Elbe, where
it falls in at Lauenburg, passing through Möellon, being a distance
of from 35 to 40 English miles. Oddy reported in 1820 that “there are
about 100 boats constantly employed on this canal, and as many more may
be procured, nearly of an equal size and the same construction, long
and narrow, carrying about 90 shlb. of 280 lbs. each. These vessels are
generally from ten to twelve days going from Lübeck to Hamburg, having
only three men to navigate them, without the assistance of horses. The
freight is generally reckoned for the whole of one of these vessels,
100 marks current, from Lübeck to Lauenburg on the Elbe, and generally
from thence to Hamburg, one third more; for which the boatman are
responsible against damage or robbery. This canal has the advantage of
never suffering delay for want of water in summer, with which it is
supplied from the fine lake of Katzburg.”[102]

An extraordinary access of enterprise appears to have occurred in
Russia in or about the year 1796 in the construction of waterways
designed to connect the different rivers and seas within or bordering
upon the European dominions of that State. The Beresinski Canal was
commenced in 1797; the Swir Canal in 1795; the Maria Canal in 1796; the
Kamushuiski Canal was examined and ordered to be completed in the same
year; while in 1797 the State undertook the construction of a canal
from the Düna, below Riga, for the purpose of joining the Bay of Riga
with the Bay of Finland. To the same period belong the project of a
canal between Petersburg and Archangel; the Verroi Canal, designed to
unite the Lake Waggola and the Black Rivulet; the Welikoluki Canal,
designed to unite the rivers Neva and Dnieper with the Düna—a canal 81
miles in length; and the canals of Orel, designed to unite the rivers
Bolwa and Shisdra; the Sna and Zon, and the Nerussa with the Kromü.
This programme, comprehensive and liberal in its design, was only
partially carried out, owing to the want of sufficient resources.

The Baltic and the Caspian Seas were united more than half a century
ago by three different systems of canals—the first uniting the Neva
with the Volga by Lake Ilmen and the canal of Vishni Volotchok; the
second uniting the Neva with the Volga, by the Ladoga Canal, and by
the canals of Tichwin and Sjâs; and the third joining the same rivers
by Lake Onega and the Maria Canal, which unites the rivers Wytegra and

The first of these three systems connects the Caspian and the Black
Seas in a navigation of some 1434 miles. Ships or barges laden at
Astracan ascend the river Volga to Twer, and thence proceed up the
Twerza. After passing through the canal here, they descend the Msta
to Novgorod, and proceed thence down the Volkhof to the Ladoga Canal,
which connects with the Neva at Schlusselburg. Once on the Neva vessels
can proceed direct to St. Petersburg without unloading cargoes.

In the second canal system referred to there are three different
artificial waterways—those of the Tichwin, Sjâs, and Swir. The first
of these was constructed for the purpose of connecting the Sominka with
the Lid, which falls in the Tschagadosh, and thence into the Mologa,
which is connected with the Volga. The Swir Canal is a continuation
of that of the Ladoga, which unites the Volkhof with the Sjâs river.
The Swir Canal was completed in 1801, and in that year, according to
Oddy,[103] 650 vessels of all sizes passed through it. The chief member
of the third system is the Marian Canal, which was completed in 1801.
The Onega Canal, designed to join the rivers Wytegra and Swir was built
in 1808 to 1810. The Swir Canal, connecting the rivers Swir and Sjâs
was completed in the year 1806.

The Baltic and the Black Sea, like the Baltic and the Caspian, were
connected in the early part of the century by three different systems
of canal communication, which are equally remarkable. The first of
these, the Beresinski Canal, unites the Düna with the Dneiper, and
thereby joins the Bay of Riga with the Black Sea. The second unites the
Njemen with the Dneiper by the Ognisky Canal, and the Courland Canal.
The third system unites the western Bug with the Dneiper by the King’s

The Beresinski Canal was commenced in the year 1797. The principal part
of the navigation was completed in 1801, but the canal was not entirely
finished until 1809. It forms a junction with the Dneiper, first by
the river Ulla, which falls into the Düna, then by the Sergatcha,
which falls into the Beresina, and finally into the Dneiper. The lakes
Beloje and Beresina, lying on the route, are utilised to facilitate the

The Ognisky Canal, which was finally completed in 1803, was built
largely at the expense of the Count of that name during the latter
years of the Polish republic. It is thirty-four miles in length, and
has ten sluices. For many years it afforded a passage for small craft
between Königsberg and the Black Sea. The canal joins the rivers Szzara
and Jasiolda, the first of which falls into the Njemen, and the latter
into the Pripecz, thereby opening a communication _viâ_ the Dnieper
with the Baltic and the Black Seas. The Governments of Lithuania,
Volhinia, Little Russia, and Polish Ukraine, have long sent their
produce by the Njemen to Königsberg and Memel, near which latter place
it falls into the Baltic. Nearly a hundred years ago it was proposed
to unite the Njemen with the Bay of Riga by a canal of ten versts in
length, which would unite the Nevesha with the Lavenna at the mouth of
the great Ada.

The last King of Poland began the canal which unites the western Bug
with the Dneiper, and which for that reason was called the King’s
Canal. It unites the Prima and the Muckawetz, but it has not been very
successful. As originally constructed, the canal had no sluices, and
being short of water in the summer, and frozen in winter, it was only
navigable in the spring months.

Another important maritime connection, to which great importance was
attached in the early part of the century, was that of the Bay of Riga
with the Bay of Finland. This connection was arranged for—first, by
joining the rivers Pemau and Narova by means of the Lake Peipus and the
canal of Fellin; second, by uniting the rivers Düna and Neva, by Lake
Ilmen and the Welikoluki Canal; and third, by joining the Düna and
Narova with the Peipus Lake, and the Verroi and Riga Canals.

Peter the Great attached much importance to effecting a junction of the
Black and the Caspian Seas. The distance between these two maritime
highways is about 400 miles, and the enormous trade that has recently
been developed in petroleum at Baku, on the Caspian Sea, would have
created a traffic for such a waterway that was never dreamt of in the
time of that Czar. The Iwanoff Canal was begun by Peter in 1700 for
the purpose of uniting the Don by means of Lake Iwan, with the river
Shat, which passes through the Upa into the Oka. The canal had been
carried from the Don into the valley of the Bobrucki, towards Cape
Iwan, and twenty-four sluices had been completed, when the work was
suddenly stopped, most probably because the means were insufficient
for its completion; but early in the present century the completion of
the canal was ordered by the Government. In 1716, Peter commenced the
Kamüshinski Canal, designed to unite the Don and the Volga, and thereby
to connect the Black and the Caspian Seas. Like the Iwanoff Canal, this
undertaking had been partially finished when it had to be discontinued,
apparently for engineering as well as for financial reasons, nor was it
until 1796 that its construction was again resumed.

_The Poutiloff Canal._—One of the most important canals in the
Russian Empire, as well as one of the most recently constructed is
that known as the Poutiloff Canal—a waterway built for the purpose of
converting the city of St. Petersburg into a port. This has hitherto
been rendered impossible by the defects of the bar of the river Neva.
Hence all traffic arriving at St. Petersburg from the interior, or
at Cronstadt from abroad, has had to be transhipped at great cost,
and with so much delay that Newcastle coal has often taken as long in
transit from Cronstadt to the capital, a distance of 18½ miles, as from
the North of England to Cronstadt. In 1872 a Commission reported upon
this canal, and the plan finally adopted was sanctioned and contracted
for in 1874; but, owing to losses of plant conveyed from England, the
works were not commenced till 1877. The canal starts from the Neva at
St. Petersburg, and, diverging from the estuary-channel, it proceeds
in a south-westerly direction for about 2 miles, and then curving
gradually round towards the north-west, it runs in a straight line to
Cronstadt. The canal is 207 feet wide at the bottom for the first part
of its course, and has a continuous embankment on the side of the Gulf
of Finland, and at places on the land side; at the termination of the
curve it unites with a branch canal, which will eventually rejoin the
Neva above St. Petersburg, and thence its navigable width is increased
to 275 feet, its depth being 22 feet throughout. The first part of the
straight portion is embanked on both sides, but for the last 10 miles
a navigable channel, 275 feet wide, has been dredged through the Gulf,
which has a depth there of only from 12 to 15 feet, while no banks have
been made.

[Illustration: THE POUTILOFF CANAL.]

Three basins, formed by widening the canal at certain places, have
been provided for the export and import trade, having a total area of
430 acres; but it is considered that these will not afford sufficient
accommodation. Between 1877 and 1882, 5,304,000 cubic yards were
excavated, out of a total of about 8,700,000 cubic yards. The working
season, however, at St. Petersburg is short, and only one hundred and
twenty-five days can be reckoned upon in the year, making an average
of 8480 cubic yards per day. Water was admitted into the canal in the
presence of the Emperor Alexander III. in November 1883; but the canal
was not made available for the passage of vessels until 1884. The canal
is reported to have greatly promoted the commercial prospects of the
capital. This was much required, as, previous to the construction of
the Poutiloff Canal, only vessels of very small size and light draught
could ascend the Neva for the purpose of loading and unloading at
St. Petersburg, while those of more than very limited draught were
compelled to stop at Cronstadt, and discharge or load there. The cost
of sending goods from Cronstadt to the capital was calculated at more
than the freight from England,[104] without taking into account the loss
of time, which often amounted to ten or fourteen days, and sometimes

The Poutiloff Canal was constructed by the Russian Government, at a
cost of about a million and a quarter sterling, and has been thrown
open free of tolls. The points A and B on the plan, where warehouse
accommodation has been provided, are in communication by rail with all
the railways going out of St. Petersburg, and can also be approached by
lighters with cargo for transport. It is expected that the canal will
cause merchant-ships ultimately to abandon Cronstadt entirely.

At the St. Petersburg end of the canal, a Government Commission
recommended some years ago, that two basins would be required, each 22
feet deep, and capable of holding 90 steamers and 70 sailing vessels,
with a third basin, having a depth of 10½ feet, in order to accommodate
the barges arriving from the interior. The cost of these works has been
estimated at over a million sterling. There has been a good deal of
controversy as to the proper location for the port of St. Petersburg
at the end of the canal. The original proposal was to erect the docks
and basins at the head of the canal, close to the Poutiloff Ironworks,
but the Ministry of Finance is reported to have favoured a project for
constructing a port on the opposite side of the river—that is on the
right bank—on the ground that it would be much less expensive. But the
utility of the canal has already been so greatly proved, that the docks
originally projected will be likely to be insufficient before long.
About 2500 ships are stated to be annually employed in the foreign, and
700 in the local transport trade of the capital.[105]

_The Perekop Canal_ is another recent undertaking of the Russian
Government. According to ‘Reports of the Consuls of the U.S.A.,’ dated
July 1888, Russia had then begun with the excavation of the Strait of
Perekop, which connects the Crimea with the Russian continent. The
canal is to go from Perekop to Goutschar, Sivash, and Genitschesk, and
is to be 111 versts long. It will be 65 feet broad and 12 feet deep.
At each end of the canal a port will be built. It is stated that the
85,000,000 roubles necessary for the undertaking have been found. The
shortest road from Genitschesk to the northern ports of the Black
Sea will be through the canal. The voyage from Odessa to Maripol is
at present 434 sea miles long; through the canal it will be only 295
miles. The work will take five years to complete. When the canal is
finished, it will be easy for Russia to send her ships through the
Sea of Azov to Otschakow, to the mouth of the Dnieper, and to Odessa,
because they will no longer have to sail round the Crimea, and they
will thereby avoid the risk of being captured by foreign ships in case
of war. The chief reason for building the Perekop Canal is stated to be
the necessity for getting coal from the Don districts for the Russian

_The Baltic and White Sea Canal._—The latest project put forward with
a view to extending and completing the canal system of Russia is that
of an artificial connection between the Baltic and the White Seas. The
principal port on the White Sea is Archangel, which is situated on
the Dwina, about 30 English miles from its mouth. The building of St.
Petersburg took away from Archangel a considerable part of its trade
with European countries. The harbour of Archangel is, moreover, none of
the best, and the bar at the entrance of the Dwina is said to have only
about 14½ feet of water, so that ships which draw more water must be
loaded out in the roads by lighters. Nevertheless, the shipping trade
of Archangel is still considerable, and it is believed that it would be
greatly promoted by a direct connection with the Baltic. The projected
canal is estimated to cost 10 millions of roubles (1,000,000_l._),
and the length of the canal will be 210 versts. General Ignatieff is
said to have declared in favour of the undertaking, and the Russian
engineers who have reported upon it state that it is easily feasible.

_Lake Onega Canal._—Another project that has for some time past found
a great deal of favour in Russia is that of a waterway from the White
Sea to the Baltic by way of Lake Onega. Communication already exists
between the two seas, but it is by a roundabout water route, starting
from Archangel, and running up the Dwina to a point near Vologda.
A canal would reduce this distance of nearly 1500 miles to about
one-third of that figure. The estimated cost of the canal is about
750,000_l._ The project is one that received the consideration of Peter
the Great, who, as we have already seen, was the greatest canal-maker
that Russia has produced.

_The Volga and Don Canal._—The new canal between the Volga and the Don
will be 53 versts in length, and is estimated to cost 2,780,000_l._ The
canal will commence at the Volga, 7 feet below the level of the Black
Sea, and will terminate at a point of the river Don which is 119 feet
higher than that water. At its tenth verst from the river Don the canal
will traverse the river Karpooka, and at the twenty-fourth verst it
will pass the Krivomoozquiski Station of the Volga-Don Railway. Here
a basin for shipping will be provided. The canal subsequently runs
parallel with the railway until it reaches the river Tchervlenoi, a
branch of the Karpooka. From this point the watershed of the Volga and
the Don will be cut through, the deepest cutting being 140 feet. The
soil, however, is sandy, and is easily dealt with. A rapid descent is
made at the end of the canal, where there will be a fall of 270 feet
in 6 miles, and where thirteen locks, each 6½ metres deep, will be
constructed. The total amount of earth to be excavated is estimated at
2,780,000 Russian cubic fathoms. It is proposed to construct each lock
large enough to contain at one time two vessels, severally 210 feet
long, 42 feet broad, and 7 feet deep.

_The Hyegra and Kovja Canal._—In July 1886, a new canal, which forms
an important link in the chain of canals that connect the Caspian and
the Baltic was opened. This canal is 15 miles in length, 70 feet wide,
and 7 feet deep. It joins the rivers Hyegra and Kovja. Upwards of
20,000 labourers were employed in the undertaking, together with three
dredging machines, but the greater part of the work was done by hand.
The quantity of excavation required was upwards of 270,000 Russian
cubic fathoms of earth. Some of the cuttings were 30 feet in depth. The
undertaking did not, however, present any engineering difficulties of

The traffic of the Caspian Sea is now very considerable, having been
enormously increased within recent years by the development of the
petroleum trade of Baku, and of the wealth of the minerals and other
natural productions that are common to that region. The Baltic is a
natural and the most convenient outlet for a great part of this trade,
although pipes have been laid from the Caspian to the Black Sea, in
order to discharge the petroleum into ships navigating that waterway.

_The Proposed Black Sea and Azov Canal._—During the summer of 1888 the
Russian Government complied with a demand for a concession, made by the
Black Sea and Azov Canal Company, for the right to construct a canal
intended to connect the Don basin and the Sea of Azov with the Dneiper
basin and the Black Sea. The length of the proposed canal is stated
to be a little over 26 English miles, and the cost is estimated at 3½
millions sterling. The mean depth proposed is about 14 feet. The work
of construction is expected to occupy about four years.

It has been remarked as a singular phenomenon that whereas the canal
traffic of England has relatively diminished, that of other countries
has been maintained. This has been explained by the fact that in other
countries the distances are generally greater, and the canals are more
like rivers than the narrow waters usual in our own country. On Russian
canals, for example, barges range in length from 100 to 300 feet, and,
instead of being mere lighters, they are to all intents and purposes
the counterparts of ocean-going steamships. Large-sized steamers can
proceed from the Neva through the canal system to the Volga, and
descend thence to the Caspian Sea. Again, it is no unusual thing for
barges of 500 or 1000 tons burden to start from some stream in the Ural
Mountains with the floods of spring, and reach the river Neva in the
autumn—a journey of nearly 1000 miles.

The canals of Russia were for a long time, and are still to a
considerable extent, largely navigated by flat-bottomed barques, of
considerable length, but seldom more than 4 feet in depth, and drawing
from 20 to 30 inches of water. “Their rudder,” it is said, “is a long
tree like an oar. In case of leakage, instead of a pump they put up
a rough cross-bar, from which is slung, by means of a rope, a wooden
scoop, with which they throw out the water. These vessels are rudely
constructed, purposely for conveying only one cargo. They cost from
100 to 300 roubles each (20_l._ to 60_l._), and when they arrive at
Archangel, Petersburg, or Riga, and their cargoes are discharged, they
are sold or broken up for firewood or other purposes, seldom fetching
more than from 20 to 50 roubles.”[107]

_The Canals of Finland._—Finland has a considerable wealth of lake
navigation, which has been connected by canals to the great gain
of local commerce. One of these is the canal of the Samia, which
connects a chain of lakes with the Gulf of Finland by a waterway
37 miles long, with a fall of 260 feet. The fifteen locks are all
of substantial masonry, and are fitted with wooden gates, the use
of iron in connection with the stonework being dispensed with as
much as possible, on account of its considerable changes of volume,
due to the great range of temperature to which it is exposed. The
masonry, though built in hydraulic cement, suffered considerably
from the severe cold of winter; but in the year 1870 the plan was
adopted of covering the lock chambers by means of 2-inch planks, and
allowing the water to flow perpetually through the two gate sluices.
Snow is allowed to accumulate over the temporary covers, and as the
water running through has a mean temperature of 39° Fahrenheit,
the lock chambers are readily kept at a temperature a little above
the freezing-point. The levels between the locks are kept full all
winter. The practice of running out the water is stated by a recent
writer to be destructive to the banks.

The canal of the Pielis connects two lakes; it is 40 miles long, and
has a fall of 62 feet, surmounted by ten wooden locks. The crib-work of
the walls is loaded with stone, and not clay or earth, as is commonly
the case, in consequence of which the woodwork is not forced out of
place by the expansion of the frozen filling, and does not rot so

From all that has already been put forward, it must be evident that
Russia has long been fully alive to the importance of developing
her maritime resources, and especially her system of inland water
transport. The total canal mileage of Russia has been estimated by Sir
Charles Hartley at about 200 miles(?), and he remarks that, “in most
instances, they have been formed with but little difficulty across the
gentle undulations of the great watershed, thus uniting the head waters
of rivers which have their outlets at opposite extremities of the

_The River Systems of Russia._—No reference to the water transport of
Russia would be complete unless it included the river-system of that
interesting country, which is stated to be navigable to the extent of
19,000 miles. Rafts, however, can use such waterways to the extent of
38,000 miles. The chief rivers of Russia are the Volga, with a drainage
area of 563,000 miles, and a course of over 2000 miles, making it the
longest river in Europe; the Ural, with a drainage area of 95,000
square miles, and a course of 1446 miles; the Dwina, with a drainage
area of nearly 100,000 miles, and a course of 650 miles; the Petchora,
with a drainage area of 127,000 miles and a length of 915 miles; the
Don, with a drainage area of 170,000 square miles, and a length of 980
miles; and the Dneiper, with a drainage area of 204,000 square miles,
and a length of 1060 miles. In the summer these rivers, with their
collateral canals, transport immense quantities of raw material to
the south and west, and carry back manufactures of different kinds in
exchange. In the winter, however, their navigation is generally closed,
and traffic is carried either by railway or by road. There are, of
course, many smaller streams, such as the Düna, 470 miles long; the
Neva, 34 miles long; the Dneister, 640 miles in length; and the Bug,
with a course of 430 miles.


[99] Peter the Great, as is well known, was a keen observer of
everything that tended to open up the internal commerce of a country,
and especially of all that tended to advance maritime progress, in
which he took a deep interest. When Peter was residing in England
canal navigation was hardly yet begun, but many rivers had been
canalised, including the Aire and Calder, the Trent, the Witham, and
the Medway.

[100] For additional information on this subject consult Tooke’s
‘View of the Russian Empire,’ vol. i., and Cox’s ‘Travels in Poland
and Russia,’ vol. iii.

[101] Article “Canals,” in ‘Rees’s Encyclopædia.’

[102] Oddy’s ‘European Commerce,’ p. 292.

[103] Oddy’s ‘European Commerce.’

[104] Report by Her Majesty’s Ambassador at St. Petersburg,
Commercial series, No. 2 1884.

[105] Paper read in 1886 before the Society for Promoting Russian

[106] London _Economist_, July 14, 1888.

[107] Oddy’s ‘European Commerce,’ p. 69.

[108] ‘Inland Navigation in Europe,’ March 1888.



   “Th’ expanded waters gather on the plain,
    They float the fields, and overtop the grain.”

The great waterway of Austria is the Danube, which rises in the Black
Forest, at an elevation of about 3600 feet above the sea, and drains an
area of 316,000 square miles, its total length being 1750 miles. Three
hundred tributaries, or more, feed this noble river, the seven more
important streams having a length of 2900 miles, and draining about
one-half of the whole extent of the Danube Basin. At Ulm, 130 miles
from its source, the Danube becomes navigable for flat-bottomed boats.
In its lower reaches it is traversed by an almost innumerable fleet of
steamers and barges, which are the main means of communication between
this part of Europe and the Black Sea.

_Danube Regulation Works._—The improvement of the channel of the
Danube, near Vienna, is one of the most important river engineering
works of modern times. A new channel, 10 miles in length, has brought
the river 1½ mile nearer to the city, and at a ground depth of 10 to
12 feet below ordinary low-water level, at a cost of 3,250,000_l._ The
principal object of the scheme was to protect Vienna from floods, but
it has also considerably assisted navigation.

Around Vienna the ground is generally flat, and the Danube, with
various branches, was, in times of flood, accustomed to inundate the
country for many miles round about, doing a great deal of damage both
to the city and its suburbs. In order to remedy this condition of
things, a commission was appointed which proposed to collect all the
branches of the Danube into one channel.

The plan attached hereto shows the character of the undertaking. The
new channel is nearly 9½ miles in length. It starts from Nussdorf at
the foot of the well-known hill called the Kahlenberg, and passes
through the flat lands of the Prater, or great public park of Vienna,
with a slight curve towards the city, in order that the navigable
channel, holding generally to the outside of the curve, should be
nearest Vienna, and as close to it as possible, thereby facilitating
the shipping on the quays.



_The Locks of Nussdorf._—To prevent winter accumulations of ice from
entering the new canal, and to divert floods, locks were constructed
at Nussdorf, which are indicated in the drawings herewith. The side
walls are founded on cylinders sunk down to the gravel to a depth of 31
feet below zero, and the tops of the abutment of the lock are 15 feet 6
inches above the same level. The distance between the side walls is 155
feet 10 inches. The entrance to the lock is closed by a caisson, the
lock being closed only in winter. The invert of the lock is of béton,
set in Portland cement, 4 feet 1½ inch thick, the foundation being of
piles, as shown on the plan. The level of this invert is 12 feet 9
inches below zero; below that part of the invert, at the entrance to
the lock, the floor is made of heavy stonework laid at the same level.
The foundations of the barrage at Nussdorf consist of iron caissons,
that on the right bank being rectangular in form, and 81 feet long by
18 feet 7 inches wide, while the wall on the left bank is 99 feet long,
by the same width as the other, with an enlargement on the side towards
the canal for the lock gates.

Joining the old bed of the Danube at the Bridge of Stadlau, and
following its course as far as the island of Wiedenhaufen, through
which it passes, the channel line enters the river again opposite the
village of Albern. On the left side of the river a protecting dyke
was erected in order to guard against flooding the great plains of

The new channel is 933 feet wide, 8·3 to 11·4 feet in depth, and has a
mean slope of 1 in 2272, the speed of the current varying according to
the state of the river. The side slope has an inclination of 2 to 1,
and is riveted throughout in stone 9¾ inch thick, with a banquette on
the top 39 inches wide. The ground on the right bank has been raised so
as to reach the same height as the dyke on the left, thus protecting
the country round about from inundation.

The above works cost over two millions sterling. The quay walls, locks,
and other operations were described in a monograph published in 1878
by M. Hersent, one of the contractors, and reprinted in _Engineering_,
from which the foregoing particulars have been mainly reproduced.
The total amount of earthwork was 23,575,928 cubic yards, divided as

    Excavators      4,775,334
    Dredgers        9,491,254
    Barrows         9,309,340


       Nature of the Work.    │  First Section.   │  Second Section.
    Earthwork                 │1,886,300 cub. yds.│ 6,204,900 cub. yds.
    Ordinary dredging         │  895,300    ”     │10,722,400   ”
    Destruction of old works, │                   │
       masonry, fascines,     │                   │
          piling, &c.         │  247,600    ”     │    30,900   ”
    Drawing piles             │      8267         │      1350
    Removing scaffolding      │   63,495 ft.      │        ..
    Revetments                │  166,100 cub. yds.│   244,200 cub. yds.
    Protection for slopes     │   44,100 sq. yds. │   147,100 sq. yds.
    Masonry of quays, &c.     │  284,000 cub. yds.│    64,200 cub. yds.
    Foundations by            │                   │
       compressed air         │     3600   ”      │        ..
    Piles driven 31 ft. long  │     3519          │    16,481
    Sheet piling 21 ft 9 in.  │     1838          │    13,577
    Fascine work              │       ..          │    68,300 cub. yds.
    Blasting cartridges       │      650 ft.      │    42,607 ft.
                              │  Third Section.   │      Total.
    Earthwork                 │1,218,000 cub. yds.│ 9,309,200 cub. yds.
    Ordinary dredging         │2,295,800   ”      │13,913,500    ”
    Destruction of old works, │                   │
       masonry, fascines,     │                   │
          piling, &c.         │   74,600   ”      │   353,100    ”
    Drawing piles             │       ..          │      9617
    Removing scaffolding      │       ..          │    63,495 ft.
    Revetments                │  130,500 cub. yds.│   540,800 cub. yds.
    Protection for slopes     │  131,000 sq. yds. │   322,800 sq. yds.
    Masonry of quays, &c.     │       ..          │    92,600 cub. ”
    Foundations by            │                   │
       compressed air         │       ..          │      3600   ”
    Piles driven 31 ft. long  │       ..          │     20,000
    Sheet piling 21 ft 9 in.  │       ..          │     15,415
    Fascine work              │   26,600 cub. yds.│    94,900 cub. yds.
    Blasting cartridges       │   10,068 ft.      │    53,325 ft.

The average work done by each excavator was 1538 cubic yards per day
over the five years ending 1874, the maximum being 1951 and the minimum
613 cubic yards. The excavators were of the same type as those employed
on the Belgian Ship Canal works, illustrated elsewhere in this work,
and are known by M. Condreux’s name.

It is proposed to connect the Danube with the North Sea by a new canal,
273 kilometres in length, which is referred to at p. 130. This canal,
if constructed, will, like the Prussian canal system generally, be 21
metres in width, 2 metres deep, and have locks 8·60 metres wide and 55
metres long. These will admit barges carrying 600 tons.

The other principal rivers of Austria-Hungary include the Pregel, the
Elbing, the Vistula, and the Oder, inclined to the Baltic; the Elbe,
the Saale, the Moldau, the Weser, the Ems, the Main, the Neckar,
inclined to the North Sea; and the Pruth, the Theiss, the Temes, the
Inn, and the Iser, inclined, like the Danube, to the Black Sea. About a
dozen waterways, mostly small, are also inclined to the Adriatic.

In Hungary, there are two canals of importance—the first being the
Bega, which joins Temesvar with the Theiss at Tetal, a little above
its junction with the Danube, and has a total length of 75 miles;
while the other is the Franz Josef Canal, extending for a distance of
69 miles, from the Danube at Battina by Zombor, to the Theiss near
Foldvar. The great waterway of Hungary is, however, the Lower Danube,
which is navigated by the Imperial and Royal Danube Steam Navigation
Company. About 800 barges are employed for this purpose, the greater
number having a carrying power of 250 tons. The improvements that have
been made on this stream, under the Commission appointed for that
purpose, between 1860 and 1883 have tended to increase the trade from
680,000 gross tons in 1859 to 1,530,000 tons in 1883, and to lower the
charges on shipping from an average of 20_s._ per ton for lighterage
before the deepening of the Sulina mouth to less than 2_s._ per ton
register at the present time. Sir Charles Hartley claims that the
Danube improvement works had, up to 1884, effected a saving of over 20
millions sterling.[109]


[109] ‘Inland Navigations in Europe,’ p. 155.



    “The Erie Canal, conceived by the genius, and achieved
     by the energy of De Witt Clinton, was, during the second
     quarter of this century, the most potent influence of
     American progress and civilisation. It developed the
     north-west, by giving an outlet to the commerce of the
     great lakes, and it made New York the Empire State, and
     New York City the imperial mart of the New World.”
     —_E. Sweet, in the Transactions of the American Society
     of Civil Engineers for 1884._

A glance at a map of the United States will suffice to show that it has
unique natural facilities for water transport. Its great lakes, which
are inland seas of no inconsiderable dimensions, now connected together
by the Erie and St. Mary’s Falls Canals, its magnificent rivers, such
as the Mississippi and the Missouri, and the natural configuration of
the country, create an _ensemble_ for cheap transportation such as no
other country can surpass. Besides these resources, however, the United
States have now a railway system of over 160,000 miles.

The same favoured country has a large number of noble rivers, as well
as a magnificent system of lakes. Of these, the most important is
the Mississippi, which has a drainage area, estimated at 1,261,000
miles, and which, including its tributaries, has about 15,000 miles of
navigable waters. A large portion is, however, closed at low water.
From the source of its great tributary, the Missouri, to the Gulf of
Mexico, its outlet, the Mississippi has a length of 4194 miles. It may,
however, be maintained that the Mississippi is less a single river than
the outlet of a number of rivers, each of considerable importance. The
Missouri river has a drainage area of 518,000 square miles, and 3500
miles of navigable waters, while the Ohio river, which has the next
most important basin, drains an area of 214,000 square miles, and has
5000 miles of navigation. The smaller tributaries include the Arkansas
river, the Med river, the Yazoo, and the St. Francis. The navigation
of the Mississippi river has for a number of years past been under the
control of a special Government Commission, by whom the mouth of the
river has been dredged, training walls have been built, shifting
sandbars have been regulated, and dams thrown across to concentrate
the low-water flow in the main channel. On the Upper Mississippi, St.
Anthony’s Falls oppose a barrier which has been overcome by a canal
and locks.

In no country has there been a longer or more severe struggle between
canals and railroads than in the United States of North America. In
no country have both systems of transportation had a more eventful,
instructive, and interesting history. In no country have railroads and
canals been afforded equally free scope for development, and in no
country have transportation rates been cut so fine and reduced so low.
We may, therefore, by a consideration of the conditions of transport
in the United States, and especially by seeking to ascertain how far
the two great systems of internal communication have competed with each
other, learn something that will throw a good deal of light on this

Washington, himself, was one of the first to appreciate the importance
of canals. In his early life the father of his country was a land
surveyor, in which capacity he became very familiar with the
requirements of the region of the Potomac. Both in this employment,
and subsequently, when in 1754 he commanded a military expedition to
the Monongahela river, Washington was constantly seeking to improve
transportation facilities. He was especially eager to have a waterway
opened between the Chesapeake and the Ohio. The War of Independence
for a time diverted his ideas from this purpose, but when the war was
over he obtained a charter for a waterway between the great lakes and
the Hudson, and became the first President of the company formed for
its construction. Washington, therefore, stands, in relation to the
waterways of the United States, in the same position as the Duke of
Bridgwater does in regard to the canal system of our own country, Peter
the Great in reference to the canal system of Russia, and Louis XIV.
in relation to the canal system of France. It must be admitted that in
every case the system has had a worthy sponsor.

In 1792, an Act was passed by the Legislature of the State of New York,
incorporating two companies—one, the “Western Inland Lock Navigation
Company,” charged with the duty of constructing a canal, with locks,
between the upper waters of the Mohawk and those flowing into Lake
Ontario; the other, the “Northern Inland Lock Navigation Company,”
charged with the construction of a similar work from the Hudson to
Lake Champlain—between which there is a remarkable depression in the
general surface of the country. This Act, drawn up and mainly carried
through the exertions of General Schuyler, was the first and most
important step taken towards the construction of a general system of
public works for the country. The objective point aimed at by the
Western Company was Lake Ontario, at Oswego, by way of Wood’s Creek,
Oneida Lake, and the Oswego River. At that time, however, the great
enterprise which was to follow—a canal from the Hudson to Lake Erie
was not dreamt of. The purposes of the promoters were as distant from
the ultimate result as those of Edward Pease and George Stephenson were
when they planned the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

In 1796, the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company was formed in the
United States for the purpose of opening up some of their projected
inland waterways. This company constructed several small canals, but
its operations were unsuccessful, and in 1808 it surrendered all
its rights and property to the State for the sum of 140,000 dollars
(28,000_l._), which was only one quarter of their original cost.

During the existence of the company, freight designed for Lake Erie and
the West took the route of Lake Ontario to the mouth of Niagara river.
From that point to the head of the Falls was a portage of 28 miles. The
charge for transporting a bushel of salt for this distance, according
to the report made by Mr. Geddes in 1809, was 75 cents; and for a ton
of general merchandise 10 dollars. All that can be said of the works
of the Western Inland Navigation Company is, that they led the way to
the construction of the Erie Canal. They never held the route of any
considerable commerce. For a long time after their construction, the
farmers of Central and Western New York, for want of other means, sent
their produce to market down the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers in
arks, which were broken up when the destined market was reached. In
the meantime, the subject of a canal better adapted to the wants of
commerce than that of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company was
by no means lost sight of. In 1807, in a series of articles published
at Canandaigua in the Ontario _Messenger_, Jesse Hawley, their author,
urged the construction of a canal from Lake Erie, 100 feet wide and 10
feet deep, “to be laid on an _inclined plane_,” from Buffalo to Utica;
thence down the channel of the Mohawk; thence across the portage to
Albany—to be constructed at the expense of the National Government.
This plan of an inclined plane, strange as it may seem, was,
notwithstanding its gross absurdity, favourably received, and proved
for a long time, from the great difficulties it involved, a serious
obstacle to the early beginning of any work of the kind.

In February, 1808, Mr. Joshua Forman, a member of the Legislature
from Onondaga, and subsequently one of the efficient promoters of the
canal, proposed the appointment of a joint committee “to take into
consideration the propriety of exploring and causing an accurate survey
to be made of the most eligible and direct route for a canal to open
a communication between the tide-waters of the Hudson river and Lake
Erie.” On the 21st of March, 1808, Mr. Gold, of the committee, made
a report, enlarging upon the importance of the proposed work, “in
drawing together and preserving in political concord the distant parts
of a widely extended empire,” and closed with a resolution that the
Surveyor-General cause an accurate survey to be made of the rivers,
streams, and waters in the usual route of communication between the
Hudson river and the western waters, and such other contemplated routes
as he may deem proper. For such survey the sum of 600 dollars was
appropriated. The action under the resolution of Mr. Forman was the
first step taken by the Legislature with a view to the construction of
the Erie Canal. In 1810 commissioners were appointed to examine the
route of the proposed canal. In 1811 the commission reported in favour
of a canal, which, in order to produce the inclination of six inches
to the mile to Schenectady was to cross the Genesee river by a viaduct
83 feet above the water, and the outlet of Cuyaga Lake at an elevation
of 130 feet. In 1812 the commission made an estimate of the probable
tonnage that would come upon the canal, and of the tolls that would
accrue therefrom. They expressed their opinion that not improbably the
canal, in twenty years from that time, would bring down 200,000 tons of

In 1817, the Act for the construction of the Erie Canal was finally
passed. The money was to be raised on the credit of the State. In
1825 the canal with its adjuncts was completed. The latter event was
signalised by a holiday, and unusual rejoicings. It was regarded as a
great thing that the news of the opening of the canal was conveyed to
New York from Buffalo, by a discharge of cannon, whose reverberations
were repeated along a line of 513 miles in one hour and twenty minutes.
The communication which the Erie Canal afforded between the vast inland
seas of the United States and the Atlantic Ocean was, indeed, the
greatest event in the history of transportation in that country up to
the end of the first quarter of our century.

The opening of the Erie Canal was followed by the initiation of many
other schemes of a similar kind. The real date of the era of canal
building in the United States was 1825-30. Pennsylvania, following
directly upon the heels of the Erie, constructed a work which was
partly railway, and partly canal, and upon which the State expended
no less a sum than 50 millions of dollars (10,000,000_l._).[111] This
line, however, was not successful. “The works, although of great local
use and value, never became factors of any importance in the general
commerce of the country.”[112]

The State which, next to New York, achieved the greatest success in
the construction of canals was Ohio. In 1832 two lines were opened
through that State—one from Cleveland to Portsmouth, on the Ohio,
the other from Toledo to Cincinnati. Their capacity did not allow
the passage of boats carrying cargoes exceeding thirty tons. At its
highest point, in 1857, their traffic reached 1,635,744 tons. The line
which separated the tonnage going north to the lakes, and that going
south to the river, passed east and west very near the centre of the
State—the tendency of breadstuffs, on the whole, being toward the
lakes, to seek their outlet through the Erie Canal; and of provisions
of all kinds to the river, to seek their outlet through New Orleans. Of
the exports of beef from Cincinnati in 1851, the year of the opening
of the Erie railroad, and twenty-seven years after the opening of the
Erie Canal, 97 per cent., went down the river to New Orleans, and only
2 per cent. northward to the lake. Of Indian corn, 96 per cent. went
down the river, and only 3 per cent. to the lake. Of flour, 97 per
cent. went down the river, only 1 per cent. to the lake. Of lard, 83
per cent. went down the river, and 9 per cent. to the lake. Of pork and
bacon, 79 per cent. went down the river, and 5 per cent. to the lake.
A very small amount of these articles went up the river to Pittsburgh,
the first great manufacturing city that grew up off the line of the
seaboard. Taking the whole State, two-thirds of its wheat went north,
seeking an outlet by the way of the Erie Canal. Of corn and provisions,
nineteen-twentieths went down the river to New Orleans. One reason,
probably, for the excess of the southward movement of provisions was,
that the animals were slaughtered in the autumn, too late to have
their products forwarded by canal. Corn was grown chiefly in the
southern part of the State. Live animals were never moved, either on
the Ohio or on the New York canals. The provision trade, which now
forms so enormous a traffic on the railroads running to tide-water,
is wholly the creation of these works. The canals of Ohio maintained
a considerable traffic until the construction of competing lines of
railroads, when it declined so rapidly that, in 1856, the expense of
their maintenance became greater than their revenues. They have long
since been practically abandoned as routes of transportation.

The State of Indiana, following the lead of Ohio, constructed, with the
aid of its creditors, a canal from the junction of the Miami Canal to
the city of Evansville, completing it in 1855. Only the upper portion
of this work came into considerable use. The whole system was abandoned
upon the construction of railroads along its line.

The State of Illinois constructed a canal from Lake Michigan to
Lasalle, at the head of navigation on the Illinois river, a distance
of 100 miles from Chicago. It was originally intended to make the cut
deep enough to feed the line from the lake. This project was abandoned
from the cost of its execution, to be subsequently carried out by the
city of Chicago for sanitary purposes. The canal had at the outset a
considerable traffic, which, however, was lost upon the introduction of
competing lines of railroads.

The preceding works include all the great water-lines constructed by
the States for the purpose of giving direction to the general commerce
of the country. Several considerable private works were executed,
the most important of which was the Delaware and Raritan Canal, to
connect the Delaware River with the harbour of New York, a work of
large capacity, which still retains an extensive traffic. Several
works of the kind were constructed, chiefly in Pennsylvania, for the
transportation of coal-works which, upon the construction of railroads,
lost all the importance they once enjoyed. The Chesapeake and Ohio,
and the James River and Kanawha Canals, upon which large sums were
expended, and for which great expectations were raised, were never
completed, and do not require particular remark. The canal system of
the country has now become so completely subordinate, that few are
aware of its magnitude previous to the construction of railroads which
caused a great part of it to be abandoned. At one time there were 5000
miles of canal lines in operation, built at a cost of 150,000,000
dollars, or 30,000,000_l._

The growth of the traffic on the waterways of the United States was
steady for a number of years. In 1837 it was nearly 1¼ million tons;
in 1847 it was nearly three millions; and in 1857 it was 3,344,000
tons. In the latter year the traffic of the canals as a whole was
772,000 tons less than in the previous year. This decline, which
occurred almost for the first time in the history of the system,
created considerable alarm—all the more so that it fell coincidently
with a large increase in the railway traffic. Up to 1851 the railways
had not had a free hand. Laws were enacted imposing canal tolls upon
railroad tonnage, and prohibiting any roads from carrying freight. The
State authorities looked upon the canals as a trust confided to their
keeping, and protected them against the railroads. But in 1851 these
laws were repealed, and from that date the railroads entered upon a
career of development such as they had not previously known.

From the first the struggle was vastly unequal. The railroads not only
offered a much higher rate of speed, but very low rates as well. They
entered into arrangements “with lines of propellers (steamers) on the
lakes, and steam and tow boats on the Hudson, forming connected lines
from the seaboard to Detroit, Cleveland, Sandusky, Toledo, and other
western ports, to divert all the freight possible from the canals over
their roads,” and practically “contracted to carry freight on the
propeller for nothing, for the sake of getting and securing the freight
of it upon their roads.”[113]

This is only a repetition of an experience that has been perfectly
familiar in the transportation annals of England and other countries.
But in no other country did the State take up an attitude of hostility
to one interest in order that the other might be advanced. The proposal
gravely made in the United States on behalf of the State was that
railroad tonnage should be specially taxed, in order that it might be
handicapped as against the canals. The Committee of Ways and Means did
not seem to entertain any doubt that this species of tyranny was within
their power. “The Legislature,” they said, “has the power to move them
(the railroads) in such form, and subject them to such charges and
restrictions, as it may deem it the interest of the State to require.”
And then followed the astounding _non sequitur_ that “the State has
the power to prohibit them altogether from the carriage of freight!”
The keen competition which had been going on between the canals and
the railroads had no doubt seriously affected the trade and revenue
of the canals, “and through them,” added the State engineer, “the
interest of every taxpayer in the State.” This was greatly deplored, as
the consequence of unnecessary rivalry. “The passenger travel belongs
exclusively to the railroads, while the transport of cheap and heavy
articles of freight belongs to the canals!”

It is not too much to say that if the report and recommendations of
this Committee had been acted upon in the spirit in which they were
made, there would have been a revolution in the United States compared
with which the Boston tea riots were a mere fleabite. As it was, no
such drastic remedies were adopted. The friends of the canals were
shortly found “clothed and in their right mind.” Instead of making
_ad misericordiam_ appeals for State intervention, they were soon
afterwards setting their house in order. Attention was given to the
increased use of steam as a propelling power, and the rates of toll
were gradually reduced, until the canals were carrying much more
cheaply than the railways, and in 1880 the canals were enfranchised and
tolls were altogether abolished, since which time they have been able
to compete with the railroads on still easier terms.

Judging by the ultimate quantities of traffic carried, there is only
one opinion possible concerning the issue of this memorable struggle.
The railroads have won all along the line. The total tonnage carried
on the railroads of the United States in 1880 was 290,897,000 tons;
the canals in the same year carried only 21,044,000 tons. The income
of the railroads in 1880 was 580½ million dollars; that of the canals
was only 4½ million dollars. The canals had only one-fourteenth part of
the traffic of the railroads, and scarcely more than 1/130 of the gross

These results are very remarkable when the records of the charges
made under each of the two systems are examined. When the controversy
between them was raging most fiercely, the railroads were charging
about three cents per ton per mile, while the canals only charged ·799
of a cent.[114] It was not, therefore, on the ground of greater cheapness
that the railroads claimed or received the traffic. It was the same
with through as with local traffic. During the six years ending 1884,
the receipts of grain and flour at New York by lake, canal, and
Hudson River fell from 64 to 45 million bushels. In the same interval
the quantity carried by rail only declined from 85¼ to 83 million
bushels.[115] Between 1868 and 1884 the total traffic carried on the
New York State canals fell from about 6½ million to little more than
5½ million tons. On the competing railroads—the New York Central,
the New York, Lake Erie, and Western, and the Pennsylvania Railroad
division—it increased from 10,476,000 tons to 36,700,000 tons. On the
canals the traffic had decreased by over 15 per cent.; on the railways
it had increased by over 350 per cent. The comparison is, of course,
not strictly relevant and parallel, inasmuch as in the case of the
railways traffic was gathered and carried over a very much wider area,
and it was really only over a comparatively limited section of their
several routes that competition existed. But the figures all the same
serve to show “how the cat was jumping.”

The decline of canal traffic is almost the despair of economists in
view of the remarkably low range of rates charged on the canals over
this period. No better example of this movement could be given than
that of the rates charged for the transportation of wheat from Chicago
to New York. This is a through traffic, carried over 1000 miles,
without breaking bulk by either system, and therefore under conditions
exceedingly favourable to economical transport. In 1857, when the
State of New York, by the mouths of its chief executive officers,
was proposing to prohibit the railways from carrying heavy freight,
and suggesting the imposition of tolls on railway traffic by way of
assisting to keep the canals alive, the average rate charged for
transporting a bushel of wheat over this long route was a fraction over
26 cents. In 1868 the canal system was charging 24½ cents, as against
42½ charged by the railway for the same service. Ten years later still,
the lake and canal rate had fallen to 9·15 cents, and the railroad rate
to 17·9 cents. In 1884 the former amounted to 6·60 and the latter to
13 cents.[116] Throughout the whole period the railway-borne wheat has
paid almost twice as much as the water-borne. And yet the trade of the
canals declines, while that of the railroads increases. This is an
enigma for which we must now endeavour to find a solution.

The United States differ from Great Britain, and from most other
countries, in their economic circumstances. They have developed their
trade with a rapidity that is perhaps unexampled in the annals of
commerce. They have found such a demand for their produce, alike
at home and abroad, that they have not had time to take heed of
cheeseparing economies. The question with the agriculturists and the
manufacturers alike has been to secure the largest possible deliveries
in the shortest possible space of time. They found a practically
unlimited market for their agricultural produce in Europe, at prices
which, while they were working on a virgin soil, paid them sufficiently
well. Of that price, transport was no doubt an important element. When
the railways were receiving 30 to 40 cents per bushel for transporting
wheat from Chicago to New York, the sellers were receiving 40_s._ to
50_s._ per quarter in London. The railway transport was therefore only
one-fourth to one-fifth of the entire ultimate cost of the product.
If the ocean transport cost 15_s._ more, the total cost of transport
only absorbed about one-half of the price paid by the consumer, so
that 25_s._ was left to the grower, minus other charges, and at much
less than this price wheat could be profitably grown in the West. The
difference between 24½ cents by canal and lake and 42½ by railway was
not then of paramount importance. On the other hand the exporter had
the supreme advantage of quicker deliveries, the absence of equal risk
of having the material spoiled by damp, the certainty of being able
to meet his engagements “on the nail,” and entire independence of
the weather, which freezes up the canal and river navigation during
one-half of the year. For the same reasons that the grower and exporter
of wheat was willing to pay 9_d._ more per bushel to the railway in
1868, he has been willing to pay gradually diminishing differences
since, until he has now to pay the railway no more than 3½_d._ per
bushel in excess of the canal rate for more than a thousand miles of

All this, however, can hardly be said to prove anything against canals,
although it undoubtedly proves that in the special circumstances of the
wheat trade, and of the Erie Canal, the American freighter of cereals
gives a preference to railroad transportation. In the case of heavier
traffic, the position would probably be reversed, and especially if
the navigation were open all the year round, as would be likely in a
temperate climate like that of England, instead of being liable, as in
the case of the Erie Canal, to be frozen up for one-half of the year.

Of the fifty canals that are now constructed in the United States,
thirteen were completed, or at any rate begun, between 1825 and 1830.
Some of the earlier canals were very expensive. The Erie Canal cost
90,000 dollars per mile, with a capacity for boats of over 250 tons.
The more recently constructed Illinois and Michigan Canal which admits
of the passage of boats of 2500 tons, from Chicago to the Mississippi
river, was only 55,355 dollars per mile. The locks on this canal are
now 350 feet long, and 75 feet wide, admitting twelve canal boats at a

From the Report of the Tenth Census of the United States, we have
compiled the following details of the principal existing canals in that

        STATEMENT showing the extent, character, and cost of
                  the principal canals in the United States.
                         │      │No. of │Length│Rise │ Cost of  │Average
          Canal.         │Miles.│Locks. │  of  │ and │Construct-│Cost /
                         │      │       │Locks.│Fall.│  ion.    │  Mile.
                         │      │       │ feet │ feet│   dols.  │ dols.
   Erie                  │ 365  │ 72    │ 110  │  656│51,609,000│141,394
   Champlain             │  81  │ 33    │ 110  │  179│ 2,378,000│ 29,358
   Delaware and Hudson   │  83  │107    │ 100  │1,028│ 6,339,000│ 76,373
   Raritan (ship)        │  44  │140    │ 220  │  150│ 4,735,000│107,613
                         │      │  [117]│      │     │          │
   Morris                │ 103  │ 46    │  88  │1,674│ 6,000,000│ 58,252
   Schuylkill            │  58  │ 71    │ 110  │  619│12,580,000│216,893
   Union                 │  84½ │ 93    │  90  │  501│ 5,907,000│148,946
   Susquehanna           │  30  │ 43    │ 170  │  230│ 4,930,000│164,333
   Chesapeake and        │      │       │      │     │          │
       Delaware (ship)   │  14  │  3    │ 220  │   32│ 3,730,000│266,430
   Chesapeake and Ohio   │ 179½ │ 75    │ 100  │  609│11,290,000│ 62,869
   Illinois and Michigan │      │       │      │     │          │
       (ship)            │ 102  │ 15    │ 110  │  141│ 6,557,000│ 64,284
   Ohio Canal and feeders│ 323  │150    │  90  │1,207│ 4,695,000│ 14,536
   Miami and Erie        │ 284  │ 93    │87—89 │  907│ 7,144,000│ 25,155

The canal system of the United States now in actual operation extends
over 2926 miles, of which 411 miles are slack water. The cost of
constructing the whole system is officially stated at 170,028,636
dollars (34,005,727_l._). Disregarding the slack water, this
corresponds to an average of rather more than 13,500_l._ per mile,
or approximately 2000_l._ per mile more than the average cost of
the railways of the same country. The total gross income in 1880,
the latest year for which there are complete returns, was 4,538,620
dollars, and the total expenditure was 2,954,156 dollars, or 65 per
cent. of the gross income. This figure compares very unfavourably with
that shown for the American railroad system in the same year, the
working expenses having been only 39·2 per cent. of the gross earnings.
The net income of the United States canals in 1880 was 1,584,000
dollars, which is less than 1 per cent. on the total expenditure. The
commercial aspect of the canal system of the United States is not,
therefore, an encouraging one. Hadley, indeed, declares that after
1870 “it became a question whether the canal could pay expenses of
maintenance—a question which was finally decided in the negative.”[118]

Besides the canals actually being worked in the United States, there
are 1953 miles of canals that have been abandoned. The construction of
these canals cost 8,802,630_l._ The longest of the abandoned canals
is the Wabash and Erie, 379 miles in length, which was built between
1832 and 1851 for the purpose of connecting Evansville, Ind., with the
Ohio State lines, at a cost of about 6½ million dollars. The James
River and Kanawho is another important canal, 196½ miles long, which
was constructed at different dates between 1785 and 1851, at a cost of
close on 6¼ million dollars, and was abandoned in 1880, on account of
its inability to “pay its way.” The canal now belongs to the Richmond
and Allegheny Railway Company. The Erie canal and branches between
Bridgwater and Erie was built between 1833 and 1844 at a cost of about
6½ million dollars, and abandoned in 1871, and the Western Division of
the Pennsylvania Canal, between Johnstown and Pittsburg, a distance of
104 miles, commenced in 1830, and constructed at a cost of about 3¼
million dollars, was abandoned in 1863. In almost every instance the
reason assigned for abandonment has been the same—that the traffic has
been insufficient to meet the working expenses of the canal.[119]

_The Miami and Erie Canal._—This is the most important of the
existing canals in Ohio, both with regard to navigation and to use
for water-power. From Cincinnati it extends northerly, at a distance
ranging from 15 to 35 miles from the western boundary of the State, into
Defiance County, where it turns north-easterly and follows down the
Maumee river to Toledo. The main trunk has a length of about 246 miles.
It originally entered the Ohio river at Cincinnati, and the Maumee
river close to its mouth, several miles below Toledo; but these termini
have within recent years been cut off. The section traversed by the
canal is fertile, thickly settled, wealthy, enjoys abundant railroad
facilities, and has an established character as a manufacturing
district. The structures on the Miami and Erie Canal appear to be in
better condition than those on the Ohio Canal, and the hydraulic powers
are favoured by a generally copious supply of water, derived from the
Miami and Maumee rivers and from a system of large reservoirs in the
summit-region between their basins. The water-powers along the whole
line of the canal are generally taken up and in use. This is especially
true between Dayton and Cincinnati, and it has been stated that
probably no more power would be leased along that portion, from danger
of interfering with the interests of navigation. The manufacture of
flour is an important interest along the entire canal, and stands first
as regards the number of mills. The paper industry ranks next in this
respect, and has been most developed between Dayton and Cincinnati.
There are small woollen-mills also at various points, as well as
saw-mills, machine shops, agricultural implement factories, oil-mills,
and other works. The greatest utilisation of power is found among the
three counties of Hamilton, Butler, and Montgomery, and in the middle
and northern counties of Miami, Anglaize, and Lucas.

At Maumee city, some 8 miles above Toledo, the canal is 63 feet above
the level of the Maumee river and Lake Erie, and is connected with the
former by locks. From this point for 15½ miles, up to the head of the
rapids, where the Maumee is rendered tributary for feeding the levels
below, there is no lockage. When the canal was built the question of
water-power in connection with it was considered, and in the Sixth
Annual Report of the Board of Public Works (1843) it was stated that
“the capacity of this canal is such that from the head of the rapids
to Manhattan 18,000 cubic feet of water per minute can be passed and
used for hydraulic purposes without injury to the navigation. At Maumee
city the water can be used over a fall of 63 feet; at the locks above
Toledo the water can be used over a fall of 49 feet, and at Manhattan
over a fall of 15 feet; between these points the canal is so located
that the water can be used from it for hydraulic purposes with great
convenience, occupying all the fall between the canal and river.” A
large amount of power is now used from this portion of the canal by
several paper-mills and large flour mills.

From the pool above the rapids the succeeding 26 miles of canal, to
Independence, is supplied from the river by means of a dam at that
place, 9 feet high. From the long level below Independence, the report
already quoted from mentions an opportunity to utilise a fall of 23
feet to the river. The portion of canal now referred to was originally
known as the Wabash and Erie, being continuous with the Indiana canal
of that name. From its junction with the old Miami Canal in Paulding
County, to the outlet at Toledo, on the level of Lake Erie, a distance
of 64 miles, there is a total descent of 148 feet, effected through
19 locks. This section of the canal was constructed 60 feet wide at
the top water-line, and 6 feet deep. From Paulding County the canal
takes a quite direct southerly course, and thence to Dayton, 113 miles
below the junction, is utilised at frequent intervals for power by
flouring-mills, and occasionally by small woollen factories, saw-mills,
and other works.

A quantity of water is withdrawn from the Canal by the Cooper Hydraulic
Company and utilised under a fall of 12 feet around a lock, being
then returned to the canal. At a point below a certain amount is
again withdrawn from the canal, and after it has been employed for
power under a fall of 8 feet, is discharged into the Miami river. The
Hydraulic Company owns a part of the water, acquired by purchase,
and also leases from the State, at an annual rental of 1000 dollars,
all the surplus running to supply the levels below Dayton. On this
privilege a “run” is defined as 315 cubic feet of water per minute on
the “middle,” as it is called or 12 foot fall, and 400 cubic feet per
minute on the “lower,” or 8 foot fall. A run at the middle fall was
originally 300 cubic feet, but in consequence of slight backwater,
it was increased to 315 cubic feet The rates for both temporary and
permanent power vary from 150 dollars to 300 dollars per annum per
run, but the larger portion is leased at 200 dollars per annum in the
middle, and 150 dollars on the lower fall.

From the basin at Dayton to low water in the Ohio river at Cincinnati,
a distance of 66 miles, the canal descends about 300 feet, through
32 locks. Water for feeding the various levels south of Dayton is
introduced at that city, Mamesburg, and Middletown. The manufacturing
along this section is extensive, the paper and flouring industries
being especially prominent. For the former of these, as now developed,
however, the power furnished from the canal alone is not sufficiently
reliable, and the mills are generally filled with steam engines for use
when the water supply runs short.

From the upper plane of the city of Cincinnati the canal descended
formerly to the Ohio by means of ten locks, with a fall of 111 feet,
measured to low water in the river. This terminal portion, though
abandoned for navigation, is nevertheless utilised for power. Much of
the way, it is covered from view, and in part of its course the water
is divided between two separate channels. Water is used successively
from one level to another, and is finally discharged into the Eggleston
Avenue sewer.

_The Morris Canal_, New Jersey, of which a profile is given at p.
206, is one of the most important in the United States. It was built
originally to connect the Delaware River, with Newall. It was commenced
in 1825 and opened to Jersey City in 1836. The summit level is 51
miles from tide water at Newall, and 39 miles from the Delaware River,
being 914 feet above the former, and 760 feet above the latter. This
elevation is overcome by 23 inclined planes, and 23 lift-locks. In 1841
the dimensions of the lift-locks were enlarged to 98 feet by 12 feet.

_The Union Canal_, Pa., of which a section is shown on the next page,
was commenced in 1811, and completed, after a long stoppage caused
by the war of 1812, in 1832. The canal was intended to connect the
Schuylkill and Susquehanna rivers. There is a lockage of 501 feet, with
88 lift-locks 3 guard-locks, and 2 weigh-locks, making 93 locks in all.
The tonnage, which was 207,500 tons in 1858, fell to 29,800 tons in
1880. There were in the latter year 73 boats on the canal, averaging
100 tons.

_The Schuylkill Navigation_ (see profile, p. 206) Pa., was incorporated
in 1815, for the purpose of connecting the coal region of Mount Carbon
with the city of Philadelphia. The canal was completed in 1826, when
the depth of water was three feet, and the carrying capacity of the
boats employed was 25 tons. By 1847 the minimum depth of water was
made 6 feet, and the boats employed averaged 170 tons. In 1850, a
flood, which devastated the Schuylkill valley, swept away dams, locks,
tow-paths, and banks, so that hardly a trace of the canal existed for
many miles, but this damage was subsequently repaired. The locks on
the canal are 110 feet by 18 feet. The lockage on the main line of the
canal is 618½ feet. There are 47 waterways, two overflows, with 3300
feet in both, 121 bridges, 22 culverts, 31 dams, and 12 aqueducts. The
company has had a chequered career, and the canal was, in 1870, leased
to the Pa. and Reading Railroad Co., for 999 years, at a yearly rental
of 655,000 dollars.


_The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal_, illustrated in profile, is one of the
most important works of its kind in the United States, connecting the
Potomac and Ohio rivers, piercing the Allegheny mountains by a tunnel
3118 feet in length, and having cost, on its completion in 1851, no
less than 11,071,000 dols., or 60,000 dols. (12,001_l._) per mile.
The canal has a depth of 6 feet throughout. For about 60 miles it is
60 feet wide at the top, and 42 feet at the bottom; for 47 miles its
surface width is 850 feet, and its bottom width, 32 feet; and for 77½
miles more the surface width is 54 feet, and the bottom width 38 feet.
The locks are 100 feet long and 15 feet wide in the clear; they are
capable of passing boats carrying 120 tons. There are 74 lift-locks and
a tide-lock. The water-supply is drawn entirely from the Potomac, seven
dams having been constructed across the river for this purpose.




_The Ohio Canal._—This canal has a length of 309 miles, extending from
Cleveland on Lake Erie to Portsmouth on the Ohio river. From the former
city it ascends the valleys of the Cuyahoga and Little Cuyahoga rivers,
and reaches the north end of the summit-level at Akron, 38 miles from
Cleveland. This portion is fed mainly from the Cuyahoga and Little
Cuyahoga rivers, and has an ascent of 395½ feet, overcome by means of
44 locks. Of these, twenty-one are within 3 miles and sixteen within 1½
mile of the north end of the summit-level at Akron. Power is utilised
by a number of mills, principally at the last mentioned place.

The canal now enters the basin of the Tuscarawas river, and from
the south end of what is known as the Portage summit-level has an
uninterrupted descent to Welsport, following the Tuscarawas valley and
then that of the main Muskingum river. In this distance of 112 miles
there is a fall of 238·6 feet, effected by 29 locks. The low-level at
Welsport is also at the foot of a continuous descent from the Licking
summit, which lies to the westward, the surplus waters entering it from
either direction being discharged through a side cut into the Muskingum
river at Dresden. On the division extending from the Portage summit to
Welsport and Dresden, there are nearly a dozen flouring-mills, using
various powers, ranging usually between 15 and 50 horse-power, but in
two or three cases reaching 100 and 150.

From the low-level at Welsport the canal rises to the westward to the
Licking summit, making an ascent of 160 feet in the 42 miles by means
of nineteen locks. The water supply is derived from the Licking river
at the Narrows, from one or two forks of the main river, and from the
Licking reservoir. There are no returns indicating any present use
of power on this section of the canal. At Newark there is a fall of
18 feet from the feeder and from the main canal to the water-surface
in the north fork of the Licking river, but it is not utilised. In
years past the feeder had been employed at Newark for a small woollen
mill, a flouring-mill, and a sawmill, which did rather an extensive
business; but they have, one after another, abandoned the use of the
water power. The feeder at that point draws from the north fork, and
should take its entire low-flow, but the feeder-dam is reported as
leaky, and the canal has been allowed to silt up, thereby diminishing
its capacity, so that the available flow of the stream is not

_The Sault St. Marie Canal._—One of the most remarkable canals in the
world is that known as the Sault St. Marie, or St. Mary’s Falls Canal,
in the State of Michigan, which connects the waters of Lake Superior
and Lake Huron, and thereby affords a means of communication between
some of the most important territories and centres of population in the
United States. The position of the canal is illustrated in the chapter
on “Canadian Waterways.”

The head of Lake Superior is 1400 miles from New York. Of this distance
some 880 miles are deep water navigation by the Lakes, the outlet of
which is St. Mary’s River. The St. Mary’s Strait is 75 miles long, and
in this distance there is a fall of 20 feet 4 inches, of which 18 feet
2 inches occur at the Sault, while the remainder of the descent, 2 feet
2 inches, is distributed over the first 35 miles below that point.
Hence the river is tortuous, and navigation is rendered unsafe by the
rapids, although from a point 50 miles below the foot of Lake Superior
navigation is good for the remainder of the distance of 25 miles to
Lake Huron.

In 1855 the St. Mary Falls Canal was built for the purpose of
overcoming the fall between the Lakes Superior and Huron. The length of
the canal is only about one mile, so that, as compared with the Suez
and other ship canals, its extent is unimportant. But so far as its
traffic is concerned, this is the most important canal in the world.
Commencing with an annual tonnage of only about 100,000 tons at the
time of its construction, the canal now disposes of an annual tonnage
of over six millions, thus exceeding the tonnage passed over the Suez
Canal by nearly a million of tons.

In 1855, two locks were built on the St. Mary’s Falls Canal, each 70
feet wide and 350 feet long between the gates. These locks could not
accommodate vessels drawing more than 11½ feet. But in 1880, when the
canal had been transferred by the State of Michigan to the United
States, as a work of national importance, the Government undertook the
construction of a new lock, which was opened in 1881, and which has
been described by competent engineers as the finest piece of hydraulic
engineering on the American continent. The lock is at the lower end,
and is 515 feet long between the gates and 80 feet wide in the chamber,
with 17 feet of water on the sills. The lift is 18 feet, more or less,
according to the fall in the rapids between Lake Superior and Lake
Huron. The gates are not set opposite to each other on the same axis,
but on parallel axes 20 feet apart, so that the width between the
gates is reduced to 60 feet, while in the chamber it is 80 feet, the
difference being met by reverse curves on either side.

Advantage is taken of the natural water power created by the lock to
establish by the side of it an accumulator for operating the gates and
valves by hydraulic pressure—in the same manner as at the London and
Liverpool docks—which works admirably.

The chamber is filled and emptied by culverts of large dimensions,
under the mitre sills, without producing any disturbance of the vessel,
because the tunnel or culvert runs the whole length of the chamber,
with openings at the top, which are so arranged as to distribute the
force of the inflowing current along the centre, entirely under the
vessel’s keel. In 1886, when the Canadian and Pacific Railway steamer
_Arthabaska_ passed through the lock, it took one minute and a half to
close the upper gates, seven minutes and a half to empty the lock, and
one minute and a half to open the lower gates. Altogether, from the
time of entering the lock to the time of going out of it again, the
passage was made in thirteen minutes, and there was no hurry about it.

It is only by the great initial pressure afforded by the accumulator,
about 600 lbs. to the square inch, that the valves and gates could be
commanded with so much ease and rapidity. This system has been seven
years in operation, and its efficiency proves the great care and skill
with which all the details of construction have been worked out. The
lock was six years in building, and cost, including the enlargement of
the canal, about three millions of dollars.

The two other locks, now called the “old locks,” built by the State of
Michigan, and first opened in 1855, are still in use. These old locks
are combined, having lifts of 9 feet each to overcome the whole fall of
18 feet. The gates are suspended from pillars seated on the coping of
the quoins, and the chambers are filled and emptied through the gates
in the old-fashioned way. The old canals and locks were assumed by the
United States Government in 1881. The shipping that goes through this
canal all passes free, both domestic and foreign. The staple articles
of the commerce using the canal are coal, copper, flour, grain, iron
ore, pig and manufactured iron, lumber, salt, silver ore, and building
stones. Before the opening of the canal the commerce here was nil.
It now threatens soon to exceed the capacity of both locks, in view
of which the United States Government has already commenced a second
enlargement, the estimated cost of which is nearly five millions of

This new lock is to occupy the site of the old combined locks, and is
to surpass all other locks in the grandeur of its dimensions. It will
have a chamber 800 feet long between the gates, the width, both in the
chamber and at the gates, will be 100 feet throughout, and the depth on
the sills will be 21 feet. Of course there are no vessels on the upper
lakes large enough to fill such a lock as this, but it is designed to
pass a fleet through at a single lockage, including tug-boats, with
their flotilla of barges. The canal is to be uniformly 20 feet in depth.

Previous to the construction of the St. Mary’s Falls Canal, all the
outside supplies for the upper lake had to be unloaded at the foot of
the rapids, transferred over a portage road to the head of the rapids,
and reshipped at great expense. Even the vessels which were sailing on
Lake Superior had been handed out and dragged around the rapids in the
same way. The transfer and supply business became the great industry,
and as the mining fever developed, and the Lake Superior district
began to boast of its few scattered but permanent settlements, it
seemed as if Sault Ste Marie was destined to be the central and chief
city of this region. The portage trade, in the very nature of things,
could not last. The demands of Lake Superior were too urgent to admit
of the delay and harassment incident to this method of transfer, and
the construction of a ship canal around the rapids became a practical
problem which demanded a speedy solution. Governor Mason in 1837, in
his first message, advised the building of such a canal, and during the
same year a survey was made for that purpose. In 1838 an appropriation
bill was passed by the Legislature, and in the following year the
contractors commenced the work. Much to their surprise, the military
authorities considered the work an infringement upon the rights of
the General Government, and an armed force from Fort Brady drove the
contractors off the ground. This put a quietus to the work for several
years, although the advocates of the measure did not cease to urge it
upon the attention of the State Legislature and Congress. In 1852,
however, the latter passed a Bill appropriating 750,000 acres of
land to aid in the construction of a canal. In 1853 the Legislature
authorised the commencement of the work. The contract was let to
construct two consecutive locks, each 350 feet long, 70 feet wide, with
a depth of 13 feet of water, and proper canal approaches.

These were the old State locks, now about to be removed and replaced
by a single lock which, as already stated, will in its dimensions and
capacity, be the largest in the world. This canal has resulted in
adding Lake Superior to that system of waterways which is the pride and
the chief commercial feature of the northern border.

The commerce of the great American lakes has enormously increased
within recent years, as the statistics of the St. Mary’s Falls Canal
sufficiently prove. In 1872 the registered tonnage that passed through
the canal was under a million tons; in 1880 it was only 1,734,000 tons;
and in 1886 it had increased to 4,219,000 tons. The growth of the
trade continues. The navigation, it will be remembered, is only open
for about seven months of the year, usually commencing about the first
week of May, and closing in the first week of December. If it were open
all the year round, like that of the Suez Canal, the difference of
business, in favour of the St. Mary’s Falls Canal, as compared with the
Suez and other great canals, would be much more marked than it is. The
tonnage carried through the canal in 1886 was made up of—

    Coal                    1,009,000 tons.
    Iron ore                2,089,000  ”
    Copper                     39,000  ”
    Salt                      159,000  ”
    Iron and steel            115,000  ”
    Wheat                  18,991,000 bushels.
    Flour                   1,759,000 barrels.

On the St. Mary’s Falls Canal in 1888 there were carried no less than
6,411,000 net tons (2000 lbs.) of freight and 25,558 passengers,
the freight including nearly 19 million bushels of wheat, over 2½
million tons of lumber (timber), about 2¼ million tons of coal, and
2,190,000 barrels of flour. The total number of vessels that used
the canal in that year was 7803, of which 5305 were steamers. The
average cargo carried by each vessel, large and small, was about 822
tons, being an increase of 40 per cent. on that of the previous year.
This is a development that can hardly be paralleled in the history of
transportation. Taking the navigation season at seven months, it means
an average of 916,000 tons per month passing through the canal, or at
the rate of about 11 million tons a year, which is roughly about double
the tonnage that makes use of the Suez Canal.

On the first blush, it is by no means apparent that the St. Mary’s
Falls Canal can do much to advance the maritime intercourse of the
United States with the nations of the East. And yet it may become
an important factor in this direction; so much so, that there are
those who hold that New York is likely thereby to become the great
distributing centre for the produce of India and China, not on the
American continent only, but throughout European and African Atlantic
ports as well. This conclusion is based upon circumstances that appear
to be only imperfectly understood in Europe. The tunnelling of the
Cascade Mountains, now in progress in Washington Territory, will bring
Duluth within 1800 miles of Paget Sound, thus bringing the waters
of the Pacific Ocean within 1800 miles of navigable waters flowing
directly into the Atlantic Ocean, through Lake Superior, the Sault, and
the Erie Canal. By this means New York will, it is claimed, be brought
within 10,500 miles of Canton, while the distance between that city
and London, Liverpool, or Antwerp is 17,000 to 18,000 miles. Between
New York and Canton, _viâ_ the Isthmus of Suez, the distance is 20,500
miles, and by the Cape of Good Hope it is 22,500 miles. The future is
therefore likely to work some changes in the balance of Eastern trade,
although it may not happen that the St. Mary’s Fall Canal will, as some
enthusiasts suppose, become the most important rival of the Suez Canal,
and “one of the greatest factors in bringing about tremendous changes
in the commerce of the world.”

In order to give some idea of the remarkable key-like location of
the “Sault” or “Soo,” and the character of the locks, which are the
prominent feature of the canal, we have reproduced, in the following
chapter (that on Canada) from a recently published work on that
locality, a sketch-map, showing the railway and waterway communications
that are concentrated at this point (p. 226).


_The Florida Ship Canal._—In 1869 the Board of Trade of Mobile
memorialised the Congress of the United States for an appropriation
for a survey for a ship canal, to open ship communication between
the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, through the
Florida peninsula. The proposed canal, it was pointed out, might
commence at Tamper Bay, on the Gulf side of Florida. At this point
there is a naturally well-protected harbour, with ample depth of water
for ships drawing 20 feet, and the channel could be permanently
deepened. East of Tamper Bay, in a distance of 125 miles across the
peninsula of Florida at its narrowest part, with one exception, the
maps show on the Atlantic coast depths of 27 feet to 28 feet of water
quite close to the shore, and thence to the broad expanse of the
Atlantic a free and unobstructed way for vessels. It is believed by
competent authorities that a very efficient ship canal, with adequate
depth of water, could be made here without great cost. The land is
level across the proposed route, with only a few feet elevation
above tide-water. The importance of such a canal would no doubt be
considerable. The passage around the southern point of Florida is
narrow, is subject to tornadoes, and is beset with concealed reefs,
upon which a rapid current tends to throw ships, besides which the long
passage round the peninsula would be obviated.

_Delaware and Chesapeake Canal._—Notwithstanding the comparative
disuse of a great part of the existing American canal system, a
proposal has been put forward quite recently to construct a waterway to
connect Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. This canal, if it were carried
out, would be about 17 miles in length, and it is estimated to cost
8,500,000 dols. (1,700,000_l._). It is proposed to adopt the following
dimensions:—width, 100 feet; depth at low-water, 26 feet; side slopes,
1½ to 1 foot.


The transportation problem continues to exercise the minds of the
people of the United States in a way that the people of Great Britain
can but imperfectly appreciate. The cost of conveying traffic from
Chicago to New York has already been brought down to an average of 6·6
cents per bushel for water, and 10 to 12 cents for rail transport.
In other words, the cost of transporting a ton of goods between the
two greatest commercial cities of the New World has been brought down
to ·09_d._ by water, and 0·11_d._ by land. So notable an achievement
ought, one would naturally suppose, to satisfy the insatiable appetite
of our American friends for cheap transportation, but so far from
this being the case, they are now considering how far it is possible
to reduce the 6·6 cent water-rate to five or even four cents, and the
possibility is hinted at of reducing the rates to three cents per
bushel,[120] which would be a fraction over 0·04_d._ per ton per mile.
This would mean, if actually accomplished, that a ton of goods might be
carried between London and Edinburgh—a distance of over 400 miles—for
16_d._, or, to put the matter in a way that may be readily appreciated,
the cost of the transport of the 2,463,000 tons of coal conveyed by sea
from Newcastle to London in 1888 would be reduced to 1_s._ per ton,
and the inhabitants of London might thus reckon on having their coal
supplies almost as cheaply as if they lived within thirty miles of the

In order, however, to bring about the contemplated further reduction
of the cost of transport between Chicago and New York, it is proposed
to construct a New Erie Canal. The cost would be stupendous. It has
been calculated at about 150 millions of dollars, but it would probably
involve a still larger expenditure, inasmuch as ship canals seldom come
within their estimates. A remarkable calculation has been made, by
way of justifying this large outlay. It is reckoned that if one cent
alone can be saved on the cost of transporting a bushel of wheat over
this route, it would mean a total saving of about nineteen million of
dollars on the products of the forest, the field, and the mine, which
are tributary to the great American lakes.

The American Society of Civil Engineers were recently called upon
to consider a project for “the widening, deepening, and necessary
rectification of the worst curvatures of the present Erie Canal, from
Buffalo to Newark, about 130 miles; the construction of a new canal
from Newark to Utica, about 115 miles; the canalisation of the Mohawk
River from Utica to Troy, about 110 miles; and the improvement of the
Hudson river from Troy to Four Mile Point, in Coxsackie, a distance of
about thirty miles.”

The adoption of this programme would make the Erie Canal the most
important artificial waterway in the world, the tonnage that would make
use of it, when thus improved, being calculated at 20 to 25 millions
a year. The cost of the undertaking (estimated at 25,000,000_l._ to
30,000,000_l._), although a large sum, is not deemed to be too much for
a great artificial river more than 300 miles long, 18 feet deep, 100
feet wide at the bottom, and having locks 450 feet long and 60 feet
wide. These dimensions would enable the canal to float the largest
vessels that navigate the great lakes from Lake Erie to the deep waters
of the Hudson.


[110] In 1880, the Erie canal carried 4,608,651 tons of traffic and
earned 1,120,691 dols. of income.

[111] The main line of this canal was sold in 1857 to the
Pennsylvania Railway Company for 7½ million dollars, and the branches
were sold to various private companies for five million dollars more.

[112] Poor’s ‘Manual of the Railroads of the United States,’ 1881.

[113] Report of the Committee of Ways and Means.

[114] Poor’s Manual for 1881, p. xxxviii.

[115] Including in the latter year nearly 1½ million bushels of beans
and oatmeal.

[116] ‘Annual Report on the Commerce and Navigation of the United
States’ for 1884, p. xlxi.

[117] Consisting of 23 inclined planes and 23 lift locks.

[118] ‘Railroad Transportation,’ p. 31.

[119] ‘Report of the Tenth Census,’ vol. iv. pp. 29-31.

[120] ‘Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers,’ vol
xiv. p. 99.



   “Heads the running springs and standing lakes,
    And bounding banks for winding rivers makes.”

It appears to be among the “things not generally known” that Canada
has, relatively to the trade and population of the Dominion, one of the
most extensive and perfect systems of canal communication in existence.
The really important canals are few in number, and the traffic that
they transport is by no means so considerable as that carried on
many of the canals of the United States and some European countries.
But, all the same, the Canadian people, always appreciative of the
advantages of cheap water transport, and looking to that agency as a
means for the development of their internal resources, have neglected
no opportunity that offered for advancing their waterways, and
utilising them to the utmost extent.

The principal canals in Canadian territory are the Welland, the
Lachine, the Cornwall, the Galops, the Murray, the Quebec and Montreal,
and the Sault Ste Marie, or St. Mary’s Falls, the latter being partly
on United States and partly on Canadian territory. These canals have
chiefly been constructed for the purpose of affording communication
between the great lakes and the St. Lawrence river, whence vessels pass
into the Atlantic.

_The Welland Canal._—The waters of Lake Erie empty into Lake Ontario
through the Niagara river and over the Niagara Falls. The difference
in the levels of the two lakes cannot be stated with any exactness, as
the influences which cause the variations in the height of water in
the two lakes are not identical. It is, however, as nearly as can be
ascertained, 326¾ feet. The course of the Niagara river is due north,
and its current is swift and turbulent

The Welland river flows nearly at right angles with the Niagara river,
and discharges into it at Chippewa, a village about 2 miles above
Niagara Falls. It is navigable for deeply loaded vessels for a distance
of 40 miles or more, and has scarcely any current. The Grand River
flows south-easterly, and empties into Lake Erie. Port Maitland, one
of the safest harbours on Lake Erie, is situated at the mouth of the
Grand River. Port Colborne, another very secure harbour on the same
lake, is about 18 miles west of the upper end of the Niagara river.
Port Dalhousie, on Lake Ontario, is about 11 miles west of the mouth of
the Niagara. The desirability of connecting the two lakes by navigable
water was, very early in the history of the country, admitted by all
who gave the matter attention; surveys were made from time to time,
and various plans were proposed and discussed, but nothing definite
was done until, in 1824, a company was incorporated under the name
of the Welland Canal Company. Their first intention seems to have
been to establish a line of communication between the two lakes by a
combination of canal and railway, the canal to be of comparatively
small capacity; but this plan was soon laid aside, and it was
determined to secure water communication throughout the whole length,
and to build a canal sufficiently large to admit schooners and sloops.

The plan thus adopted contemplated utilising the Niagara river from
Lake Erie to the mouth of the Welland river, the Welland river being
followed for a distance of 8¾ miles, and building a canal from Welland
river to Lake Ontario. The water supply was to be obtained from the
Welland river, and a high ridge of land in the line of the proposed
canal was to be overcome by a deep cut. There were many objections to
this plan, the chief of which were the circuitous course necessitated
by the use of the Niagara and Welland rivers, the swift current of
the Niagara, and its unsuitability for heavily loaded boats, and
the constant danger of slides, because of the unstable character
of the soil through which the deep cutting would have to be made.
Notwithstanding these objections, and various other obstacles which
were developed by close inquiry and examination, the company adhered
to their plans, and in July 1825 entered into a contract for the
prosecution of the work. But the undertaking dragged from lack of funds.


In the summer of 1828 the work of construction had made such progress
that it was confidently expected that the water would be let into the
canal by the autumn of that year; but just at this time the predictions
of the opponents of the scheme were realised, and the completion of the
enterprise was delayed by the falling in of a part of the embankment in
the deep cut. The accident was so formidable as to seriously embarrass
the company, already well drained of its resources, and working on a
plan not generally approved. The directors, therefore, abandoned the
design of using the Welland river as a feeder, and determined to obtain
their water supply for the canal from the Grand River, through a new
feeder to be constructed for a distance of 27 miles. This necessitated
raising the level of the canal, but the depth of cutting was at the
same time diminished 15½ feet, and the danger of a recurrence of the
accident referred to was much lessened. Work was again begun, and on
November 30th, 1829, two schooners ascended the canal from Lake Ontario
to the Welland river.


Vessels drawing 7½ feet of water and not having more than 21½ feet
breadth of beam then sailed down the river Niagara until they
approached about one-fourth of a mile from the mouth of the Welland
river. There they entered a canal, 15 chains in length, which has been
cut across a point of land into the Welland river, up which they passed
a distance of 9½ miles. They then ascended two locks into the deeper
cut, and passed through it for a distance of 16½ miles more into Lake

The feeder was 20 feet broad at the bottom, 40 feet broad at
water-level, and 5 feet deep. The Government, in 1831, granted the
company a loan to assist in carrying out an extension of the main line
over the Welland river to Port Colborne by enlarging the feeder for
about five miles, so as to make it a navigable channel, and excavating
a new canal for the remaining distance between the main line, as
originally completed, and Lake Erie. This work was finished in 1833,
the line thus constructed occupying nearly the same route as the
enlarged line of 1841, and the old line of the present day having the
same termini on the two lakes. It was 27¼ miles long, and the breadth
at the bottom was 24 feet. There were forty locks, built of wood,
all 110 feet long by 22 feet wide, except the first three ascending
locks from Port Dalhousie, which were 130 by 32 feet, and one at Port
Colborne from the canal into Lake Erie, which was 125 by 24 feet.

At the solicitation of the company, an Act was passed in 1839
authorising the purchase by the province of the rights of the private
stockholders, and, shortly after the union in 1841, the purchase
was made and the line was transferred to the new Board of Works of
Canada. Up to this time it had cost the province of Upper Canada in
loans (which were never repaid), in advances, and in the purchase of
stock 1,751,427 dollars; in addition to which 100,000 dollars had been
contributed to its construction in the purchase of the company’s stock
by the Government of Lower Canada, and 222,220 dollars in loans by the
Imperial Government, making the total cost 2,073,647 dollars.

The Welland Canal, as originally built, had never been satisfactory,
either in its location, in its dimensions, or in the character of the
work, and it had never been looked upon as permanently completed.

From time to time surveys and investigations had been made, and changes
and improvements suggested, but nothing of any moment had been done.
As soon, however, as the line came wholly under the control of the
Government, by the purchase of the interests of the private holders, it
was determined by the Board of Public Works that all the locks should
be rebuilt in stone, and their dimensions increased to 120 feet long by
26 feet broad, with 8½ feet water on the sills; that the aqueduct
required to carry the canal over the Welland river should be rebuilt of
stone; that the feeder should be converted into a navigable channel;
that the harbours on both lakes should be improved; and, finally, that
the projected Port Maitland branch should be undertaken and completed,
with an entrance lock from Lake Erie 200 feet long, 45 feet wide, and
having 9 feet depth of water.

These works were commenced in 1842 and completed in 1849. The original
plan was modified during the progress of the work so as to make the
locks 150 feet long by 26½ feet wide, and the bed of the main line 26
feet wide at the bottom.

As the Grand River gave evident signs that it could not be relied
upon as a feeder, it was decided to obtain the water supply for
the canal from Lake Erie. To do this it became necessary to lower
the summit-level 8 feet to that of Lake Erie. This undertaking was
commenced in 1846, but was not finally completed so as to render the
canal independent of the Grand River until a few years ago. These
enlargements and improvements cost the Government of Canada up to the
1st of July 1867, 4,900,810 dollars.

Even after its enlargement, no vessel drawing more than 10 feet of
water, or over 150 feet in length, could pass through the Welland
Canal. Increased accommodation being needed, a larger canal with a new
set of locks was commenced in 1873, and completed in 1881. This canal
branches off from the old canal 19 miles from Lake Erie, and rejoins
it again at Lake Ontario. The old canal was deepened from Lake Erie to
its junction, with the new canal, so that vessels having a draught of
less than 12 feet can pass from one lake to the other. The new canal is
100 feet wide at the bottom, 12 feet in depth, and has side slopes of 2
to 1; but the excavation through rock has been carried down to 14 feet
in depth, to facilitate the deepening of the canal if required in the
future. It is 13 miles long, and cost 3,840,000_l._ The difference in
level is 313 feet, which is surmounted by twenty-five locks, with lifts
ranging between 12 to 16 feet. Regulating weirs have also been built,
some attaining a width of 300 feet; the flow of water through them is
regulated by sluice-gates, formed of sheet iron, which are raised and
lowered by screws. The locks are 40 feet 4 inches wide, and have a
length of 270 feet between the sills. The side walls are 29 feet high,
with a batter of 1 in 24; they are built of limestone ashlar, and are
strengthened by counterforts. The lock floor is planked with pine
timber, and the gates are constructed of white oak. The gates are moved
by chains, guided by rollers and winding round drums, and one man is
able to move a gate. The sluice-gates are raised by lifting a small
shutter (½ foot by 1 foot), which allows the current to work a small
turbine, whose revolutions set in motion a screw which raises and
lowers the sluice-gate. The rate of motion transmitted by the turbine
is so much reduced in passing through a train of wheels and a revolving
nut that 212 revolutions of the turbine are required to raise the
sluice-gate 1 inch. The sluice-gates are 5 feet by 1½ foot, and are
raised in two minutes.

It has been doubted by many men who have carefully studied the question
whether the very large expenditure that has been incurred over the
Welland Canal will ever be justified by the result. The canal is, of
course, the main connecting link between the great lakes of the south
and south-west and the principal maritime outlets of the Dominion,
and the Dominion Government has no doubt been animated by the belief
that the time would come when the great commerce that now passes from
Duluth, Chicago, and other ports in the United States to New York, and
thence to Europe, would take the Welland Canal route, instead of the
Erie Canal, thereby making Montreal the chief port on the American
continent. This impression has been supported by the consideration that
Montreal is nearly 300 miles nearer to Liverpool than New York.

It is, no doubt, of the greatest possible consequence to Great Britain,
to the United States, and last, but not least, to the Dominion of
Canada, to consider how the immense traffic which is now carried on
between the great North-western States and the markets of Europe is to
be carried in the time to come.

At the present time we receive from the United States about thirty
millions of cwts. of wheat per annum, of which two-thirds are brought
to us from ports on the Atlantic, and one-third from ports on the
Pacific. We also receive between twelve and fifteen million cwts. of
wheat meal and flour, and ten to twelve million cwts. of maize or
Indian corn, in addition to smaller quantities of barley and other

The great bulk of this immense traffic is transported from Chicago,
which is the great gathering ground, to New York, which is the great
distributing centre. There is no traffic in the world that is more
fiercely competed for. Everything is done that can be done to draw
it on to the railways on the one hand, and on to the waterways on
the other, and as a consequence the rates of freight, as we have
seen, are on both systems reduced to the lowest attainable limit. The
Transatlantic traffic is competed for quite as keenly, so that grain
has been carried between Chicago and the markets of Great Britain, a
distance of over four thousand miles, for less than 20_s._ per ton,
including a railway journey of 950 miles, or a lake and canal journey
of 1200 miles, in addition to the ocean voyage.

It is, however, beginning to be felt that even this extraordinary
outcome of the development of the means of efficient transportation may
be threatened with successful rivalry. There are those who argue that
the natural outlet for the grain grown in the North-west is not New
York, but Montreal, which is 270 miles, or a day’s steaming, nearer to
Liverpool than New York.

The grain traffic is sent from Chicago to Buffalo in either case. But
from Buffalo to Liverpool by way of the Erie Canal and New York is 3450
miles, while by way of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Montreal it is only
3180 miles. In both cases, the grain is carried by water, so that there
is practically no difference in point of cost at the port of departure.

It has been found necessary in Canada, with a view to meeting the
competition of the Erie Canal route, to reduce the canal tolls and
harbour dues. Prior to 1884, the rate of tolls on the grain shipped by
way of the Welland Canal was 20 cents per ton, which allowed a vessel
to pass through the St. Lawrence Canal without additional payment.
But, as the tolls on the Erie Canal were abolished in 1883, it became
increasingly difficult for the Montreal route to compete with that
_viâ_ the enfranchised Erie Canal to New York.

A remission of one-half of the tolls on grain has, therefore, since
1884 been allowed on the Welland Canal, so that the present rate is
only 10 cents, or 5_d._ per ton. Other concessions have been made in
the interval, until now the rate is only 2 cents per ton on grain
passing eastwards to Canadian ports. This has had the effect of greatly
stimulating the canal traffic. The quantity of grain carried into
Montreal by railway was, in 1885, about 3½ million bushels
more than that carried by canal. In 1886, however, the canal carried
nearly five millions of bushels more than the railway.[121]

The Canadian port, however, notwithstanding its advantages in point of
nearer proximity to Liverpool, and its equally good if not superior
navigation from Buffalo, is very far behind that _viâ_ New York. The
receipts of grain at New York in some recent years have amounted to
as much as 175 millions of bushels, or fully nine times as much as
the quantity received at Montreal in 1886. It is manifest, therefore,
that Montreal, whatever its geographical advantages, has not secured
that share of this immense trade to which it has considered itself to
be entitled. This fact is probably due to a variety of causes, one
of which, the impediments in the way of the navigation of the St.
Lawrence, the Canadian Government have recently been attempting to
overcome. But the most serious drawback to Montreal is, no doubt, the
climate, which closes up the navigation entirely for a great part of
the year, while that of New York is always open.

_The Cornwall Canal._—This canal, which is now being enlarged, between
Moulinette and Milleroches, where several breaches have occurred in
its banks, was originally constructed with a width of 100 feet at the
bottom and 10 feet depth. The embankment was raised to 14 feet above
the canal bottom, and was made 12 feet wide at the top with slopes on
either side of two to one.

That portion of the canal embankment on the upper reach, which, for
upwards of a mile in length (from Moulinette to Milleroches) holds the
water in the canal at a level of about twenty feet above the branch of
the St. Lawrence, which runs alongside, is in part founded upon the
treacherous clay bottom in which were found springs of water, and in
part in side cutting permeated by streaks of sand. The embankment over
this ground was formed with extra care, the earth being laid on in
courses with carts, and where the outer slope ran out into the river, it
was protected by boulder stones along its outer edge. Where springs
were found under the seat of the embankment they were led out to the
river’s edge by French drains, and where the streaks of sand were
encountered in the side cutting they were cut off by puddle trenches, 6
feet deep or more, and the bottom and side bank were lined with puddle,
3 feet thick, from the puddle trench to high-water mark. This mode of
protection was not continuous over the whole line, but was confined to
such parts of the bank only as appeared to require it.

Since the opening of the canal, there have been several breaches
in this bank, the last and worst of all, which occurred in 1888,
inflicting serious damage upon the trade of the St. Lawrence in that

The enlarged canal is to be 6 feet deeper than the old one. Sixteen
feet of water, instead of 10 feet, implies greater strain upon the
bank, and a deeper searching after the hidden springs and streaks of
sand that may be interposed between the canal bottom and the river.

It has been proposed, with a view of avoiding this risk, to substitute
a lake three miles in length for a canal where the breaks have
occurred, and to throw dams across the narrow channels at the head and
foot of Speek’s Island, in order to raise the water up to canal level.

_The Sault St. Marie Canal._[122]—The Dominion of Canada, which borders
on the Sault, has, or believes that she has, quite as great an interest
in the development of the traffic on this route as her neighbours, and
hence has resolved on constructing a canal at this point, which will,
of course, be built on Canadian territory. So far back as 1852, the
Canadian Government had surveys made with a view to the construction
of a canal on the Canadian shore, and the execution of the project was
recommended by the Canadian Canal Commission of 1871, but it was not
until 1888 that the work was actually placed under contract.

On the Canadian side of the St. Mary’s river there is to be a lock of
18 feet, with a chamber 600 feet in length between the gates, 85 feet
wide, and narrowed at the gates to 60 feet on opposite sides.

_The Canadian Canal System generally._—A Commission appointed by the
Dominion Government in 1870 to report on the best means of improving
the canal system of Canada, adopted a series of recommendations, which
have since been followed as far as possible. The principal of these


1. That one uniform size of locks and canals be adopted throughout the
whole of the St. Lawrence route; that the locks be made 270 feet long
and 45 feet wide, with a depth of 12 feet clear on the mitre sills;
and that the bottom of the canals be sunk at least 1 foot below the
mitre sills of the locks, with a width throughout of not less than 100
feet. They stated that these dimensions would enable vessels of the
usual build, carrying 1000 tons, to pass, and if their breadth of beam
and sectional areas were increased, the canals might be navigable for
vessels of 1500 tons.

In giving their reasons for fixing the greatest depth of water on this
route at 12 feet, the Commission says:—

“While some of the writers who ought to be best informed on the subject
recommend a draught of 14 feet, and others as much as 16 feet, regard
must, nevertheless, be had to the capabilities of the harbours, and to
the engineering characteristics of our canals, as well as the prudent
suggestions of moderate and experienced men, who have limited their
views to 12 feet. It would be extremely unwise to embark in magnificent
schemes exceeding the resources of a young country, with the view of
introducing ocean vessels into our canals and lakes.”

2. That the locks on the proposed Bay Verte Canal be made 270 feet long
and 50 feet wide, with a depth of 15 feet on the mitre sills.

3. That the locks on the Ottawa system be made 200 feet long and 45
feet wide, with a depth of 9 feet on the mitre sills.

4. And that the locks in the Richelieu river be made 200 feet long and
45 feet wide, with such a depth on the mitre sills, not exceeding 9
feet, as the channel of the Richelieu would afford.

The dimensions fixed upon for these routes were thought sufficiently
large to accommodate the largest barges used for carrying timber, that
being the main article transported through them.

_The Ottawa River._—The Canadian Government a few years ago began
the improvement of the Ottawa river, westward from Ottawa, with the
design of opening up a waterway to Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior
by means of the Ottawa and French rivers and Lake Nipissing. This
undertaking, after being under discussion for a considerable period,
was finally abandoned, after an expenditure of over 1,000,000 dollars.
According to a report made by a Government engineer on the cost of
the completion of the scheme, it would have involved about 24,000,000
dollars. A canal 6 miles long would be required to surmount the
Chaudiere Falls at Ottawa, which are a barrier to continued river
navigation above this city (and from which the valuable water power
of the city is derived). Another canal 3 miles in length would
be necessary to overcome the Chats Falls. This work, called the
Chats Canal, was commenced in 1854 and abandoned in 1856, after an
expenditure of 483,000 dollars.

_The St. Lawrence River._—Only at the close of the year 1888, a work
of river improvement, which was commenced fifty years before, was
completed by the official opening of the 27½-feet channel between
Montreal and Quebec, on the St. Lawrence river. This undertaking
involved the deepening of the channel through the flats of Lake St.
Peter, where there was only a depth of 12 feet in 1867. In 1873 the
Dominion Legislature resolved to deepen the channel to 22 feet at
low-water, and not less than 300 feet wide. In 1878 a minimum depth of
22 feet at ordinary low water had been attained. In 1882, the channel
was further deepened to 25 feet at low-water, and in 1883, the Harbour
Commissioners began to increase the depth to 27½ feet, which has now
been completed. Between 1851 and 1882 upwards of eight millions of
cubic yards had been dredged from the channel, at a total expenditure
of 1,780,130 dollars, including 534,809 dollars for dredging plant.
Vessels of 4000 tons can now go up the St. Lawrence to Montreal. The
people of the latter city, as already indicated, mean to compete with
New York for the European trade.

The inland canal and lake system of Canada, together with the United
States Canals at the Sault St. Marie, have established an unbroken
water communication, for vessels up to 1800 and 2000 tons (gross), from
Duluth, at the western extremity of Lake Superior, to the Straits of
Belle Isle, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence river—a distance of 2384

The difference in level between Lake Superior and the St. Lawrence,
at Montreal, is about 600 feet, and fifty-five locks are required
to overcome this, although the mileage of the eight canals is but
seventy-one. The ordinary locks of the Canadian canals are 270 feet
long, by 45 feet broad, and 14 feet on the sills, and the American
locks at the Sault, as already mentioned, are 515 feet long, 80 feet
wide, and 18 feet on the sills. These locks are all built specially
wide, to accommodate the various classes of steamers and barges
employed; for it has been remarked that although in England the trade
is arranged to suit the boats, in America the boats must be built to
suit the trade, and the locks accordingly.


[121] The exact figures were—

    │       │ Bushels of Grain carried by │
    │ Year. ├────────────┬────────────────┤
    │       │  Railway.  │    Canal.      │
    │ 1885  │ 10,007,061 │   6,559,000    │
    │ 1886  │  6,685,000 │ 11,366,000     │

[122] The leading particulars as to the location and characteristics
of this canal are given at p. 209, and need not here be repeated.



   “Whole rivers here forsake the fields below,
    And, wondering at their height, through airy channels flow.”

_The Amazon._—Of the many navigable highways in South and Central
America, the Amazon river is by far the most important. Nay, more, this
river, which has a drainage area of 2,264,000 square miles, which has
10,000 miles of navigation for large boats, and which has a width of no
less than four miles at a distance of 1000 miles from the sea, is in
every respect the most extensive and remarkable river in the world.

The average depth of the Amazon river is 42 feet in the upper portion,
and 312 feet near to its mouth. The influence of the tide is observable
at a distance of 400 miles from the mouth of the river, the usual
current of which is about three miles per hour. The flood rise is from
42 to 48 feet above the lowest level. At a distance of 3000 miles from
its mouth the Amazon is only 210 feet above sea level. Reclus has
estimated the average discharge of the river to be 2,458,026 cubic feet
per second.[123]

_The Magdalena River._—The river in Columbia known by the name of
the Magdalena has its rise in the Lagunas de las Papas (Potato Lake),
and is one of the boundary lines of six of the nine States into which
Columbia is divided. The river runs nearly due north from its source
until it empties into the Carribean Sea in latitude 10° 59´ north,
and 70° 58´ west longitude. The length of the river, measured on a
meridian, would be 569 miles, but according to the best information
available the actual length of the stream is about 900 miles. The
Boca de Ceniza is the only mouth of the stream open to navigation,
the depth of water on the bar here varying from 10 to 20 feet. It has
been proposed to construct jetties at the mouth, so that it would be
navigable to the largest ships frequenting this part of the world. A
channel of 40 to 60 feet in depth can be found for a distance of about
20 miles inside the bar.

Natural obstacles have compelled the navigation of the river to be
divided into five different systems—the first, rafts and canoes from
Bateas to Neiva; the second, steamboats, barges, rafts, and canoes
from Neiva to La Noria; the third, steamboats, barges, and canoes from
Caracoli to Barranquilla; and the fourth, barges, sailing ships, and
small ocean steamers from Barranquilla to the ocean.

It was not until 1847 that a really successful attempt was made to
navigate the Magdalena by steam. Between that year and 1852 four
steamers, of American build, were placed on the river. Now there are
twenty-seven steamers regularly employed, besides a fleet of barges.

The natural obstacles to navigation at the bar of the river have led
the Government of Columbia at different times to expend considerable
sums of money in trying to open a canal from the river at Calawar to
Carthagena, known as the Dique. The project has not, however, been very
successful. The distance of this route is about 90 miles, and, although
the four steamers employed upon it by the Dique Company have been
tolerably successful, a large expenditure is said to be still required
to complete the means of transport. As it is, the Government have
dredges constantly at work on this artificial waterway. The Government
are, moreover, canalising the river throughout its entire length,
the cost being defrayed by charges on the traffic, which is steadily

The _Desague Real de Huchuetoca_.—This is a vast drain or cut that
has been carried through the Cordilleras, that surround the Valley of
Tenochillan, or Mexico, at Nochistongo, for the purpose of getting
rid of the dreadful inundations which almost periodically came upon
the city of Mexico. The Section of the Desague, for a considerable
distance, is from 1800 to 3000 square metres (19,365 to 32,275 sq.
feet). Its length from Vertideres to the Salts is 20,585 metres, or
67,535 feet. Near the old well of Don Juan Garcia, at the point where
the ridge is highest, the cut in the mountain extends for a length
of more than 2624 feet, to between 147 and 196 feet in perpendicular
depth. For a length of over 3000 feet more, the depth of the cut is
from 98 to 131 feet. Over a great part of the cut, however, the breadth
is said to be by no means in proportion to its depth, so that the sides
are much too steep and are every now and again falling in.

The _Desague_ was constructed between 1607 and 1650, and with its
dykes and two canals leading from the upper lakes, is stated to have
cost 31,000,000 of livres, or 1,291,770_l._ According to Humboldt,
however, 25,000,000 of livres “were expended because they never had
the courage to follow the same plan, and because they kept hesitating
for two centuries between the Indian system of dykes and that of
canals—between the subterraneous gallery and the open cut through
the mountain.” Humboldt adds that “they neglected to finish the cut of
Nochistongo, while they were disputing about the project of a canal of
Tezaico, which was never executed.” The meaning of Humboldt’s reference
to the cost of this undertaking is rather obscure. One writer has
pointed out that if he means that the necessary cost of the work was
only 6,000,000 livres, or 250,000_l._, there falls to be deducted from
this amount the cost of two other canals—those of Zampango and San
Christobal, begun in 1796 and 1798—amounting to 41,670_l._ more.[125]
This, however, is not at all likely to be Humboldt’s meaning, since
he elsewhere speaks of the _Desague_ as “undoubtedly one of the most
gigantic operations ever executed by man,” and looks upon it with “a
species of admiration, particularly when we consider the nature of the
ground, and the enormous breadth, depth, and length of the aperture.”
The magnitude of the undertaking may be appreciated by the fact,
mentioned also by Humboldt, that if the _Desague_ were filled with
water to the depth of 10 metres (32 feet), the largest vessels of war
could pass through the range of mountains which bound the plain of
Mexico to the north-east.

Of the other rivers in South and Central America none call for any
special description. Few of them are navigable for any distance,
being—like the Chagres river, which traverses the Isthmus of Panama,
or the San Juan river, that is to be utilised for the Nicaraguan
canal—too rapid, tortuous and subject to floods, to be convenient
for purposes of navigation. In course of time, however, as wealth
and population increases, we may naturally look for the artificial
improvement of such waterways with a view to their adaptation for
purposes of commerce, as in the European rivers already referred to.


[123] Van Nostrand’s ‘Magazine,’ vol. xxiv. p. 66.

[124] Further details as to the navigation and traffic on the
Magdalena may be found in the U.S. Consular Reports, No. 47, 1884,
pp. 334-348.

[125] Pitman’s succinct view and analysis of authentic information
extant in original works, on the practicability of joining the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by a ship canal across the Isthmus of
America. London, 1825.



   “But if, with bays and dams, they strive to force
    His channel to a new or narrow course,
    No longer then within his banks he dwells,
    First to a torrent, then a deluge swells.”

The most remarkable canal in the world is, in many respects, the Grand
Canal of China. It is also, probably, the canal of all others of which
the least is known. The fullest account hitherto extant, relative
to this waterway, is that published by Marco Polo, and therefore
dates as far back as the thirteenth century.[126] Several writers
state that the Grand Canal of China was constructed in the tenth
century, and Priestley—who does not, however, quote the source of his
information—declares that it was completed in the year 980. Seeing,
however, that Polo, writing from Tartary in 1278, speaks as if the
canal were then in course of construction, this is hardly likely to be
correct. “You must understand,” he says, “that the Emperor has caused
a water communication to be made from this city (Kwachan) to Camboluc,
in the hope of a wide and deep channel, dug between stream and stream,
between lake and lake, forming, as it were, a great river on which
large vessels can ply.” Polo is confirmed by other writers, and Dr.
Williams, in one of the most recent and reliable works on China,[127]
states that “the canal was designed by Kublai to reach from his own
capital as far as Hangchau, the former capital of the Sung dynasty.”
This, again, seems to be at variance with the testimony of Pére
Mailla,[128] who, writing in the last century, declared that he and his
brother Jesuits gazed with astonishment and admiration at the chasms
which the Emperor Yu caused to be cut through solid mountains for the
waters of the Yellow River.[129] If this does not refer to the Grand
Canal, it may be presumed, as a writer in the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’
has pointed out,[130] that it was the water itself and not the Emperor
Yu that opened these channels. The date of the construction of the
Grand Canal of China is thus, like many other matters pertaining to the
history of that country, involved in obscurity. But no such uncertainty
hangs over its extent and importance. The canal is nearly 700 miles
in length, and reaches from Hang-choo-foo to Yan-liang river, having
connections with the rivers Yang-tse-kiang and Ho-hang-ho, or the
Yellow River.[131] Davis has given a description of the work,[132] from
which it would appear that for some distance after the canal joins the
Yu-ho, on its eastern bank, as that river flows towards the Peiho, it
evidently follows the bed of a natural river. Its course is winding,
and its banks are irregular and inartificial. It has, however, stone
abutments and flood-gates for the purpose of regulating its waters. The
distance between the stone piers in some of the flood-gates is often
very narrow. The course of the water through these gates is arrested
in rather a primitive fashion. Stout boards, with ropes fastened to
each end, are let down edgeways over each other, through grooves in
the stone piers. A number of soldiers and workmen always attend at the
sluices, and shield the boats from danger by letting down coils of
rope, in the same way as a ship’s “fender,” to break the force of the
blows. The highest point of the canal appears to be at the influx of
the Yun-ho, which enters the canal on its eastern side nearly at right
angles, while part of its waters flow north and part south. At this
point, where a strong facing of stone on the western bank sustains the
force of the influx, there is an interesting temple, erected to the
Dragon King, or genius of the watery element, who is supposed to have
the canal in his special keeping. The work of joining the Yun-ho, and
the Grand Canal is attributed to Sung Li, who lived under Hungwa, the
first Emperor of the Ming dynasty, about 1375. It was accomplished in
this wise. A part of the canal in Shantung became so impassable in
the time of Sung Li, that the roundabout coasting passage by sea had
to be resorted to. An old man, named Piying, thereupon proposed to
Sung a scheme for the concentration of the waters on the Yun-ho and
neighbouring streams and their diversion into the canal, as at present.
It is said that Sung employed 300,000 men to carry out the work, and
that it was completed in seven months; but the Chinese historians are
not, unfortunately, the most veracious.

For a great part of its route the Grand Canal runs through a level
and marshy district. In some places, indeed, the canal becomes merged
in the lakes and swamps which surround it. In other places, however,
where there appears to be a special risk of inundation, the banks of
the canal are well faced with stone. The canal, before leaving the
lakes in the southern part of Shanting, used to run nearly parallel
with that stream for more than a hundred miles, and between it and
the New Salt River for a great part of that distance. This river,
formerly described as one well adapted for navigation, has now become
completely silted up, and at Kiafung the difference of level is so
trifling that the siltage there has been enough to turn the current
into the river Wei and elsewhere. At the opening of the canal there is
a sluice nearly 100 yards across, through which the water is said to
rush into the river like a mill-race. There is, however, a makeshift
sort of appearance about the canal works generally. The banks are in
many places constructed of earth, strengthened with sorghum stalks and
strongly bound with cordage; and Davis, in speaking of the attempt made
to repair the damage caused by the inundation of the Yellow River in
this way, remarks very justly that if the science of a Brunel[133] could
be allowed to operate on the Yellow River and Grand Canal, “a benefit
might be conferred on the Chinese that would more than compensate for
all the evil we have inflicted with our opium and our guns.”

At about 70 miles from its mouth the Grand Canal reaches the Yellow
River, and between the Yellow and Yantsz’ rivers, a distance of 90
miles, it is carried largely upon a raised work of earth, kept together
by retaining walls of stone, which are in some places not less than 20
feet above the surrounding country. The width of the channel at this
point is about 200 feet, and the current is stated to be three miles
an hour. South of the Hwang-ho there are several large towns below the
level of these walls, which would be overwhelmed with destruction if
they were to give way. From these towns—the principal being Hwai-ngang
and Pauying—the canal falls to the Yantsz’, and at Yangchan its level
is again below that of the houses on either side. Every stream or lake
whose waters can be led into it has a connection with the canal, which
has several inlets into the great river Yantsz’, whence navigation is
possible for a distance of 2900 miles. East of Chin Kiang the canal
leaves the Yantsz’, and proceeds through a rich and fertile country,
highly cultivated, and supporting an enormous population, Suchan and
Hangchan being among the principal towns on its banks.

The northern end of the canal is a channel, 14 miles in length, between
Tung-chan and Pekin, which, passing under the city walls, finishes its
course of some 600 miles at the palace walls, close by the British
Legation. The section between Pekin and the Yellow River is said to
have been opened by the Mongols about 1289, by merely joining the
rivers and lakes to each other as they now exist. One of the old
passages, from Hungtsih Lake northwards, has long been closed, but an
attempt has been recently made to open it, so that boats can reach
Tientsin from Kwachan.

In many works, some of them of considerable pretensions, a great
deal more is claimed for this waterway than it really deserves. No
doubt there was no work in the world equal to it when it was first
opened, and probably in Asia it is still unrivalled. Dr. Williams is
correct also in his statement that it reflects far more credit upon
the monarchs who devised and executed it than the Great Wall.[134] But
the whole structure is crude and primitive in a high degree, compared
with more modern canals. Without efficient locks, the canal has to be
conducted around the different elevations met with in its course. The
boats that use the canal have to be dragged through and up the sluices
close to the banks, by large windlasses, whereby they are brought into
still water by a very tedious process.

The canal is largely used for passenger traffic, but the rate of
progress seldom exceeds 25 to 30 miles a day, and is often under 20.
The greater part of the work has been expended in the simple labour
of constructing embankments, and not, as in the case of the Panama
and Suez Canals, in digging a deep channel. The rudiments, if not the
complete essentials, of this waterway were already available when the
Mongols joined the rivers and lakes to each other by means of the
canal; but it is creditable to the successive dynasties that have ruled
over China, and especially to the Ming and Tsing emperors, that they
have always kept the waterway open and in tolerable repair.

Mr. William Chapman, in his ‘Obervations on the various systems of
Canal Navigation,’ states that the “grand canal of China is in fact
only a river or stream navigation, although greatly diverted by art
from its ancient course in some parts; the current of the water being
slow, and prevented from running off too rapidly by its descent being
occasionally checked by flood gates, consisting of two abutments of
stone, one projecting from each bank, and leaving a space in the middle
just wide enough to admit a passage for the largest vessels employed
upon the canal. To prevent unnecessary waste of water through the
flood gates, the passages are occasionally closed by planks let down
transversely and separately, one above the other, their ends resting
in a vertical groove in each abutment.” The same author has observed
that it was probably between the years of the Christian era 605 and
618 that these were introduced. Again, he says:—“The Chinese method
of overcoming ascents appears to be long subsequent to the attempts of
the Egyptians, under the successors of Alexander, who, according to
Mons. Huet, Bishop of Avranches, had the art of constructing sluices,
or locks of one set of gates, so as to stop the impetuosity of the
current, and be occasionally opened. Though termed gates, the openings
were most probably closed with beams of timber, let down in grooves, as
gates of large width and depth could not be opened without difficulty.”

There are many subsidiary canals in China. In a country that has no
railways and very few roads, water transport is of much more importance
than in any European State. Canals have been cut from the Grand Canal
in every direction, and are largely used.


[126] Marco Polo spent seventeen years at the court of Kublai, the
great Khan of the Tartars. The first edition of his travels appeared
in 1496, and the work has been translated into several languages.
He gave a better description of China than had previously been
written, and although much of what he wrote was at the time doubted,
his narratives have been largely verified by subsequent travellers.
Colonel Yule has published an admirable edition of Polo’s travels for
English readers.

[127] ‘The Middle Kingdom,’ vol. i. p. 31.

[128] Mailla was despatched by the Jesuits in 1703 on a mission into
the interior of China, and had a good opportunity of knowing the
country, where he lived for forty-five years, and of which he was
employed by the emperor to construct a map.

[129] ‘Histoire générale de la Chine, ou Annales de cet Empire,
traduite du Tong-Kien-Kang-Mou.’ 13 vols.

[130] 8th edition, art. “China.”

[131] The Ho-hang-ho, or Yellow River, sometimes described as
“China’s sorrow,” is about 2000 miles in length, and its periodical
overflowings cause frequent damage to the canal.

[132] ‘Sketches of China,’ vol. i. p. 245.

[133] Brunel, by the way, was not specially identified with canal
construction. Perhaps the writer means Brindley. Brunel had, however,
no doubt sufficient knowledge of his art to serve the purpose in view.

[134] This enormous undertaking was, however, erected at least 1100
years before the Grand Canal, having been finished B.C. 204. Its
entire length is 1255 miles in a straight line, and it was ten years
in building.



   “Flies tow’rd the springs
    Of Ganges or Hydaspes.”

It has long been a contested point between different sections of the
officials charged with the government of India whether canals or
railways were likely to provide the cheapest and the most suitable
means of communication for that extensive country. The enormous area of
British India, the generally level character of the immense plains that
form so prominent a feature of her physical conformation, the generally
slow pace at which everything is carried on, and the comparatively
little importance that is attached to a high rate of speed, all seemed
to mark out the Indian possessions of the British Crown as extremely
favourable for the construction of an extensive system of artificial
waterways adapted to the twin purposes of irrigation and navigation.
Sir Arthur Cotton has even advocated the summary and indefinite
suspension of nearly all railway schemes and works, in order that
the attention of the Government might be concentrated upon canals,
mainly for irrigation, but also adapted for purposes of navigation.[135]
Irrigation is, indeed, one of the absolutely indispensable requirements
of the country, and the State has expended many millions for this
purpose. But the work has been carried out, for the most part, for
agricultural purposes alone, and it was not discovered until too late
that a valuable source of power and economy was lost in not, at the
same time, adapting them for navigation purposes.[136] In some of the
later canals this oversight has been repaired. In the great deltas
most of the principal irrigation canals recently constructed have been
adapted for navigation, as well as some of the larger canals in the
North-western Provinces and the Punjaub. In the Madras Presidency,
again, there is a system, commencing with the Buckingham Canal, at
the town of Sadras, and continuing along the Delta Canal and by the
Kistna and Godavery lines, which affords 456 miles of unbroken water
communication.[137] This canal, however, is, like the railway system of
India, exposed to the serious disadvantage of a broken gauge.

The locks on this system are all of the same dimensions, viz. 150 feet
long by 20 feet broad, with a minimum of 5 feet on the sills of the
lower gate. That portion of it which is dependent on a tidal supply
consists of level reaches, with only one lock, near Madras. When it
leaves the coast, there is an ascent of about 50 feet to be overcome to
the Kistna, a difference of about 20 feet between the low-water levels
of the Kistna and Godavery, and a descent from the latter of 35 feet to
the port of Cocanada.

In the Tida Section near Madras the surface width of the canal is 60
feet, and there is a minimum depth of 4½ feet. The tonnage of the boats
plying on the Buckingham Canal was, in 1882, registered at 10,215 tons,
and the receipts, consisting of licence fees and tolls, amounted to
12,000_l._, showing an increase of 1000_l._ over the previous year. In
the fresh-water reaches, the width varies from 120 to 60 feet, with an
average depth of 6 feet, and a current varying from ½ to 1¼ mile per
hour. Every variety of boat is to be found on this canal, ranging from
3 to 80 tons.

In the Delta canals there is a large number of passenger boats,
built on improved English models, but the majority of the craft are
built on native lines, clumsy in appearance, but good cargo carriers
notwithstanding, and almost all are decked. The haulage is almost
entirely carried on by men; no cattle are used. On the Godavery and
Kistna, small steamers have run in connection with the Government
works, but, practically, no steam towing, though practised on the river
itself, has as yet been used on the canals.

The cost of traction cannot be accurately stated; but, as far as
General Rundall could make out from independent inquiries, the cost of
working native boats is about one-eighth of a penny per ton-mile; the
charge varies with the demand and the description of cargo.

The carriage of material for the Government Works used to be contracted
for at three-eighths of a penny per ton mile, and the charge made to
native merchants was probably about the same; but to European traders
it was higher.

There is no other purely navigation canal in the Madras Presidency, but
there is a considerable boat traffic carried on in the lagoons on the
western coast.

The Godavery Delta is composed of three principal tracts. A main canal
is led off from the river to each tract, and from it are thrown off
several main branches, most of which are fitted with locks.

The lines which skirt the edge of the Delta are carried with a very
small slope, and therefore require no locks, except at the terminus,
where, on one side (the right bank), the canal is connected with a
similar line led from the Kistna, and on the left bank, at a distance
of 30 miles, it is connected with the port of Cocanada by a short
junction canal, in which are built the locks necessary to overcome the
difference of level, about 30 feet above the sea. All the main lines
are dropped into the tidal reaches of the respective branches of the
Godavery, and are in this manner connected with one another.

The total length of navigable canals, exclusive of the tidal portions
of the river, and the various salt-water creeks permeating the lower
part of the Delta, extends for between 458 and 502 miles.

The canals are open to any carriers. Tolls are not levied generally,
but only on unlicensed boats, as the water rates derived from
irrigation yield a large return on the capital expenditure.

The majority of boats pay the small registration fee which is exacted
in preference to tolls.

    The fees on cargo boats, per ton of 50 cubic feet, were   4
         ”      passenger boats, 1st class     ”              8
         ”            ”          2nd class     ”              6

These rates were increased from January 1882 to:—

    Cargo boats, per ton of 75 cubic feet      7
    Passenger boats, 1st class     ”          14
            ”        2nd class     ”          10

These fees free boats over the whole system of canals during the
calendar year. Unlicensed boats pay 6_d._ per ton for a single trip.
The charge for third-class passengers on boats is one-eighth of a penny
per mile.

Between the river Tumbaddra and the river Pennar there is a large
canal, which was originally constructed by the Madras Irrigation
Company, and, although intended primarily for an irrigation line, was
fitted with locks, in order to enable it to be used for navigation.
This canal is, however, only available for about eight months of the
year, as the water supply in the river has to be passed on for use in
the Kistna Delta.

The Ganges and the Brahmapootra are connected with the Hoogly by
means of a number of creeks, which are really natural canals, and are
connected by two artificial canals: the first called the Circular, or
Baliaghatta Canal, and the other Tolly’s Nullah.

The Calcutta Canal route for boats extends eastward for about 115 miles
to Khoohia, the capital of the Sunderbunds, and is situated at the
junction of the rivers named the Atharabanka and Bhoyrab, respectively.
The former is an offshoot of the Madhumatti, down which comes all the
produce from the north; the latter carries all that which comes from
Backergunge on the eastward. The total number of laden boats registered
on the canals in 1874 was 77,096, and the total tonnage of all the
cargoes imported into Calcutta by the Sunderbunds route was 521,000

A large traffic is carried on along the three branches from the Ganges
known as the Nuddeah rivers into Calcutta. In the years 1873-74 the
total number of boats passing up and down was 32,887 and 27,242,
conveying 378,200 and 323,000 tons respectively, of which over
two-thirds was down traffic. The first canals met with in the Bengal
series, other than the purely navigation lines, are those comprised in
the Orissa Scheme. They are divided into three sections. The largest
are those constructed in Orissa proper, the navigated portion measuring
162 miles, but when fully completed this system will extend to about
500 miles. There is a canal from Midnapore to Calcutta 70 miles in
length, of which 53 miles are artificial, and the remainder follows
the course of the Hoogly river. A canal about 30 miles in length has
been cut at Hidgedee, in order to enable boats to escape the dangers of
the lower reaches of the Hoogly. This canal is to be continued until
it enables water communication to be established for the 250 miles
that separate Calcutta and Cuttack. The canal varies from 120 to 60
feet, with a minimum depth of 6 feet, while the head locks and those
on the main line are 150 feet by 20 feet. This canal cost 6200_l._
per mile, while the Orissa Canal is stated to have cost 3000_l._,
and the Midnapore Canal 4400_l._ per mile, attributable specially to
navigation. In Bengal there is a system of canals connecting with
the river Ganges, which passes through the province of South Behar.
There are three principal branches in this system—named the Patna,
the Arrah, and the Buxar—their total length being 217 miles. On this
system there were 8613 boats in 1882, the aggregate tonnage of which
was 88,657 tons. Navigation is carried on in the North-west Provinces
and on the Upper and Lower Ganges Canal. The Agra Canal, which leaves
the Jumna eight miles below Delhi, has also been adapted for navigation.

In the Presidency of Madras there are upwards of 53,000 tanks, or
reservoirs for irrigation purposes alone, exclusive of small tanks near
villages, all executed by the natives prior to the occupancy of the
Deccan by the British. The aggregate length of the embankment of these
reservoirs is fully 30,000 miles; bridges, culverts, sluices, &c., are
more than 300,000 in number. The stored-up waters, sent forth at the
proper season, still brings to the exchequer of the Madras Presidency
a yearly income of a million and a half sterling (one-sixth of the
whole revenue), although many of the finest of these reservoirs are in
ruins, or useless from want of being properly kept up. One of them, the
Ponairy Reservoir, in the district of Trichinopoly, has a superficial
area of about 80 square miles, or say 50,000 acres; the banks are 30
miles in extent. Another, the Veranum Reservoir, has nearly 35 square
miles of area, or upwards of 20,000 acres, and 10 miles of banks.

An expenditure of a considerable amount has been incurred for nearly
half a century by the Government of the Madras Presidency in keeping
open the existing narrow waterway through the rocky reef which connects
the island of Ramisseram with the mainland of India. Even so, however,
the navigation has been extremely unsatisfactory. The tide, when
making southwards, heaps up the water at the northern entrance to the
channel to such an extent that even full-powered steamers require to
employ kedges and warps to surmount and pass it. The Madras Government,
therefore, are favourable to a proposed new channel, which will at
once relieve them of a serious outlay, provide greater security to
navigation, and materially reduce the time now occupied in steaming
between Ceylon and their own seaboard.

It has been proposed to increase the maritime facilities of India and
Ceylon by cutting a canal through the island of Ramisseram, which at
the present time excludes the possibility of ships drawing more than
12 feet of water from passing northward to the Bay of Bengal. For this
reason ships proceeding to Madras or Calcutta have to steer to the east
of Ceylon, which entails a voyage of 300 or 400 miles longer than would
be required if the route by the Gulf of Manaar and the Palk Straits
were open to them.

For some years previous to 1887 negotiations had been carried on
between the parties promoting this canal and the Government of India,
with a view of obtaining such concessions as were deemed necessary to
the realisation of the scheme. Authority has been given to obtain land
and cut the canal, and the aid of the Government has been promised
towards obtaining from the railway companies in the south of India
an extension of their system to the new port which it is proposed to
establish at the Indian end of the canal.

The inland navigation of India is, however, chiefly carried on upon the
great rivers—the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra. Taking the limit
of the Ganges, and Jumna to the west and south, the Brahmaputra and
Megna to the east, the country intersected by navigable rivers, &c.,
may be computed as covering an area exceeding 180,000 square miles.

There is an uninterrupted navigation of 1000 miles up the Indus from
the sea to Lahore, which is situated on the Ravee, or Hydrastes, one of
the most meandering of the five Punjab rivers or branches composing the
Chenab. But, owing to the numerous shallows and sandbanks in some parts
of the Indus, this extensive navigation can only be said to be open
to the flat-bottomed boats of the country, which draw about four feet
of water. There are, however, few rivers on which steam could be used
with better effect than on the Indus, which is said to discharge four
or five times as much water as the Ganges. It has no rocks nor rapids,
and, unless when swollen, the current does not exceed 2½ miles an hour.
The swell commences about the end of April, increases till July, and
disappears altogether in September.

There are many canals connected with the Indus, but they are
principally for the purpose of irrigation, and the greater part of
them, being mostly natural creeks, have no water except during the
swollen state of the river. Such canals intersect the Delta, and are
likewise pretty numerous between the latitudes of 26° 20´ and 28°,
particularly on the west side of the river; but the most ancient
artificial canals connected with this river seem to belong to the
Punjab district.

By means of the Ganges and its subsidiary streams all sorts of
articles can be conveyed between the sea and the north-west portions
of Hindustan over a distance of more than 1000 miles. The commercial
capital, Calcutta, upon the Hoogly branch of the Ganges, is favourably
situated for internal navigation. It is about 100 miles from the sea,
and 130 from the Sandheads; but it has a very intricate and tedious
navigation through the banks of sand and mud, which occasionally shift
their beds in the Hoogly River, as well as in the other branches of the
Ganges. The Nuddeah rivers, which connect the Ganges with the Hoogly,
are likewise, for eight months in the year, so extremely shallow, that
the water communication between Calcutta and the upper country is,
during that time, maintained by the Sunderbund passages at a great
expense of time and labour. To obviate this inconvenience, it has been
proposed to construct a canal which, branching off from the Ganges at
Rajamahl, shall join the Hoogly at Mirzapore near Kulna; for, owing to
the difference of level at the extremities, amounting to 60 feet, and
the height of the Ganges itself, varying 30 feet at different seasons,
an open cut without locks would not suffice. The intended route,
besides being 300 miles shorter than the present route, would traverse
a country rich in iron ore and limestone, and would pass near to
extensive coalfields.

Among other works of the kind carried out in India during the present
century may be named a canal to unite the Damrah and Churamunee;
the re-opening of Feroze Shah’s canal in Delhi; the restoration of
Zabita Kahn’s canal in the Upper Dooab; the course of Ali Murdher’s
canal drawn into Delhi; a new cut from the Votary Nullah; a canal at
Chumnapore. A canal of 70 miles has been executed in the King of Oude’s
dominions, between the Ganges and its tributary the Goomty. There are
several canals in Agra, but they are chiefly used for irrigation, some
of them being of considerable antiquity.

South Malabar, and nearly all Travancore, are naturally provided near
their coasts with a system of inland navigation called the Backwater,
which extends from Chowghaut in Malabar on the north, to Trivanderam,
the capital of Travancore, within 50 miles of Cape Comorin, on the
south, a distance of 170 or 180 miles. A continuation of it is
navigable 90 miles farther for small boats during the rains, from
Chowghaut to Cotah, 16 miles south of Tellicherry. The Backwater runs
nearly parallel to the sea-shore, sometimes at a distance of a few
hundred yards, and at other times of three or four miles. Its breadth
varies from 200 yards to 12 or 14 miles; its depth from many fathoms to
a few feet. Into this Backwater all the numerous rivers flowing from
the Western Ghauts are discharged and retained. The Backwater empties
itself into the sea by six mouths; of which the only one navigable for
ships is the mouth on the south bank of which is situated Cochin. There
is a bar at this mouth, but on it there are 17 or 18 feet of water at
spring tides.

In May 1871 an influential deputation waited on the Duke of Argyll,
when that nobleman was Secretary for India, to urge the making of a
new ship canal through the narrow neck of land projecting from the
continent of India, which separates the Gulf of Manaar from the Palk
Straits. At the close of the discussion, his Grace frankly admitted
that if the statements made by the several members of the deputation
were correct, which he did not doubt, and if the work could be executed
at the cost estimated, or anything near it, it would doubtless be
worthy of adoption, and he, therefore, would address the Indian
Government with the view of obtaining an official estimate, and then
give his best consideration to the subject. The project has not yet,
however, been carried out.


[135] Report from the Select Committee on East India (Public Works),
1879, p. xiv.

[136] Evidence of Sir Bartle Frere before the Select Committee on
Canals, 1883, p. 159.

[137] Report made by General Rundall, to the Select Committee on
Canals, p. 280.





   “Let the wide world his praises sing
    Where Tagus and Euphratus spring,
    And from the Danube’s frosty banks to those
    Where, from an unknown head, great Nilus flows.”

The greatest artificial waterway constructed up to the present time has
been the Suez Canal. Longer canals have been made both in Europe and in
the United States, but no canal hitherto completed has been built of
the same large dimensions, nor has any other canal cost so considerable
a sum of money. It is not too much to say that no other waterway has
been more important to commerce, nor has any other been attended
with the same momentous and permanent political consequences. It is
satisfactory to be able to add that few waterways of modern times have
been so successful from a financial point of view.

The story of the Suez Canal has been often told. It has always,
however, lacked completeness, which indeed is impossible of attainment
in reference to an undertaking that is making history at the same rapid
rate that this has done, and is still doing.

It is remarkable that some of the earliest canals of which we have any
record were constructed between Suez and the Nile during the existence
of the eighteenth dynasty (about fifteen centuries before Christ). But
the communication thus opened was not apparently found of much service,
seeing that the canals were allowed to fill up and fall into such decay
as to compel their abandonment.[138] Another canal, probably over the
same route, was opened some centuries later by Pharaoh Necho, with a
view to facilitating the communication between Assyria and Egypt, which
was then frequent and considerable. This canal was open, and in regular
use, during the reign of Darius.

Ptolemy Philadelphus, finding the waterway neglected, reopened and
completed it from the Pelusiæ, or Eastern Branch of the Nile, near
Bubastes, to Arsinoe, on the Red Sea. This canal is stated by Strabo
to have been 50 yards wide and 1000 stadia in length. The Romans, to
whom this highway was known as the Trajanus Amnis, improved and widened
it. At a later period the Arabs, after conquering Egypt, developed
the canal for the purpose of carrying grain from Egypt to the holy
cities of Mecca and Medinah, and it was so employed for a century and a

It has been contended, as an argument against the Suez canal, that
if it were practicable to keep open a great waterway between the two
oceans, the canal which passed through so many vicissitudes would not
have been allowed again and again to become obliterated, nor would
cargoes have been discharged at Myos Hormos, the great port at the
entrance to the Gulf of Suez, and carried overland to the Nile, a
distance of some 80 miles, at a time when the canal appears to have
been available, if it had been entirely satisfactory. But there are
several considerations entering into the question of transport at that
time that cannot be very readily appreciated now. The camel was then
the ship of the desert to a much greater extent than it has been in
more modern times. The knowledge of navigation was far from perfect,
and the dangers of the Red Sea, which are now trifling, were then
deemed so formidable that vessels discharged their cargoes in the
harbour of Massowah, whence they were sent 1500 miles across the desert
on the backs of camels, rather than face the Red Sea route _viâ_ Suez,
although, as the canal was then open, a vessel from the east might have
made use of it and reached Alexandria or Ostia without breaking bulk.
To our own times, and in the light of our fuller knowledge, this seems
to be little short of incredible. Many centuries later than the time of
which we write, St. Jerome, in speaking of the Red Sea, declared that
mariners who had been six months at sea deemed themselves fortunate if
they had traversed its full length, and reached a port of safety.[139]

The first recorded attempt at the construction of a canal was made in
this very region, Neco, the son of Psammiticus, having connected the
Gulf of Heroopolis with the Pelusiac branch of the Nile at Bubastis
(Zigazig).[140] The narrow channel which here connected the Gulf of
Heroopolis with the Red Sea, appears to have been closed by an upheaval
of the soil. At the southern end of the gulf (Bitter Lakes) goods were
landed and carried onward to the Red Sea. Darius subsequently dug a
canal along the line of the ancient junction of the Gulf of Heroopolis
with the Red Sea, as shown in the annexed sketch by the letters A A.
This canal, which was also called the canal of the Pharaohs and of
Trajan, is understood to have finally disappeared in the eighth century.

[Illustration: THE CANAL OF RAMESES.]

The last attempt at a passage from the Red Sea to the Nile was made by
Amru ibn el Aas, the general of the Caliph Omar, who conquered Egypt in
the seventh century. A great famine reigning in Mecca, Amru was ordered
to take measures for forwarding thenceforth grain from Egypt by the
quickest route. “He dug a canal of communication from the Nile to the
Red Sea, a distance of 80 miles, by which provisions might be conveyed
to the Arabian shores. This canal had been commenced by Trajan, the
Roman emperor,”[141] who, the Pelusiac arm of the Nile being no longer
navigable, joined his canal to the river at Cairo, instead of
Bubastis or Zigazig. This occurred in the year of the great mortality
A.D. 639, and in 767 the Caliph Abou Giaffar el Mansour, to
prevent food being sent to the insurgents of Medina, caused the canal
to be destroyed by filling up the junction of Neco’s canal and the
Bitter Lakes. The winds and the sands completed the work, and produced
the ridge of Serapeum, which is believed by some to cover the site of
the ancient city of Heroopolis.

The engineers of Ptolemy II. advised him not to cut a canal across the
isthmus, because the land, being lower than the level of the Red Sea,
would be laid under water; but that prince turned the difficulty by
causing flood-gates to be erected at proper points, in order to keep
back the waters of the sea at high tides, and those of the canal at low
ebb, so that navigation became possible both ways. Now, this opening,
in as perfect state of preservation at certain places, according to
M. de Lesseps, as it was in the eighth century, really forms part, to
the extent of four kilometres, near Shaloof, of the present canal,
which opens into the Red Sea by means of sluices having a fall of three
metres (9 feet), being the altitude of the mouth above the average
level of the sea. This seems to prove that eleven centuries ago the sea
was about as much higher as it is now, so that the isthmus has, indeed,
experienced an upheaval. At the time that the Hebrews quitted Egypt the
rock of Shaloof, the last offshoot of the Geneffay Hills, must have
been entirely under water. When, by the gradual rising of the land,
the top of this rock emerged from the water, it became covered with an
accumulation of earthy or sandy matter, brought by wind and tide, until
a barrier was formed which could only be swept over at high water. The
lakes were consequently precluded from experiencing any ebb or flow.
The slow upheaval of the soil continuing, the _terra firma_ of Shaloof
assumed a permanent shape, and the requirements of navigation led to
the idea of cutting a canal. Herodotus speaks of it as having been open
in his time: this fixes its date at 450 years B.C. It was repaired
under the Ptolemies, improved during the Roman domination by a supply
of water from Cairo, dredged by the Caliph Omar in the seventh century,
and abandoned to decay in the eighth.

From this period, to the beginning of the present century, save for
half-hearted projects of the Venetians, and, later, of the Porte
itself, we hear no more of the question till Napoleon invaded Egypt,
and ordered an immediate survey of the isthmus with a view to the
establishment of a maritime canal.[142] Napoleon was himself no mean
engineer, and he employed on this work a man who seems to have
possessed a remarkable grasp of the problem presented for solution,
but who, nevertheless, shared the then common impression that the Red
Sea was at a higher level than the Mediterranean, and that to join
the waters of the two seas would be to submerge a great part of the
country. This man was M. Lépère. He made a survey of the route between
the two seas, and declared that he had found the Red Sea to be 30 feet
above the Mediterranean.[143]

When Napoleon Buonaparte, at the time of the French expedition to
Egypt, ordered a complete survey to be made of the isthmus between the
Mediterranean and the Red Sea by M. Lépère, the latter proposed that
vessels should ascend the Nile to Bubastis, and pass by a canal, 18
feet deep and 77 miles long, to the basin of the Bitter Lakes. Thence,
a second canal, 13 miles in length, was to lead to the Red Sea. The
cost of this undertaking was calculated at 691,000_l._, but additional
works in the mouth and bed of the Nile, and the restoration of the
canals of Faroumah, Chebri-el-Koum, and Alexandria, was estimated to
raise the cost to 1,200,000_l._ Surveys of the country were afterwards
made by Captain Chesney, in 1830, and by Mr. Robert Stephenson in 1847,
with a view to the opening up of a waterway between the two seas.
Captain Chesney reported on the Isthmus of Suez as offering great
facilities for the construction of a canal. “There are,” he said, “no
serious difficulties; not a mountain intervenes, scarcely what deserves
to be called a hillock.” Stephenson, however, who personally examined
the ground, considered that any canal made across the isthmus should be
provided with locks, as the absence of current would otherwise allow of
silting. Admiral Spratt, ten years later, came to the same conclusion
as Stephenson, but both were opposed by M. de Lesseps, who, in his
final plan, resolved upon a dead level canal for the whole distance of
103 miles.

The plan ultimately adopted has no doubt been the most advantageous to
commerce, inasmuch as it has facilitated the time and labour involved
in passing vessels through the canal. It has, however, necessitated a
considerable annual outlay for dredging. Nearly two millions of cubic
yards of material have had to be removed in a single year from the bed
of the canal, in order to maintain the requisite depth.

In advocating his plan for the construction of a canal across the
Isthmus of Suez, M. de Lesseps calculated that in 1851 the value of the
commerce with countries to the east of Egypt was a hundred millions
sterling, and the tonnage employed in its transport was four millions
of tons.[144] This figure he raised in 1855 to sixteen millions of tons;
but he was content to adopt six millions as the tonnage that would
represent the Eastern trade, of which he reckoned that one-half would
make use of the canal. These were described by the ‘Quarterly Review’
as “preposterous speculations,” and figures were quoted from the ‘Revue
des deux Mondes’ to prove their fallacy. In the latter periodical,
M. Baude had calculated the total trade with the East at that time
(1850-53) at 1¾ millions, and M. Dupontès at two millions of tons. The
calculations of M. de Lesseps do not seem to have been stated with much
precision. There is no statement of the description of tonnage referred
to, which is of very material importance. If gross tonnage was meant,
then the estimate of M. de Lesseps was realised five years after the
canal had been opened. If net tonnage, then it was not reached until
1880. In 1885, the gross tonnage was close on nine millions, and the
net over 6¾ millions.

In 1773, Mr. Volney walked over the country traversed by the present
Suez Canal, for the purpose of endeavouring to reconcile the various
opinions and reports made up to that time as to the practicability of
constructing a ship canal across the isthmus. The conclusion come to
by that engineer was that there would be a difficulty in preventing
the silting up of the harbours, and that for that reason the scheme
was a doubtful one.[145] M. de Lesseps himself appears, in 1855, to have
repudiated the credit of being the author of the project, when he wrote
to a friend a letter in which the following passage occurs:—

“Vous savez qui Linant-Bey est, de puis trente années en Egypt, et
qu’il s’y occupe constamment de travaux de canalisation. Lorsque
j’étais consul au Caire en 1830, c’est lui qui m’a initié à ses projets
de l’ouverteure de l’Isthme de Suez, et qui a fait naître en moi ce
violent désir que je n’ai jamais abandonné au milieu de toutes les
vicissitudes de ma carrière de participer de tous mes moyens à la
réalisation d’une ouvre aussi importante.”[146]

The Suez Canal Company was incorporated in December 1858, with a
capital of 8,000,000_l._, divided into 40,000 shares of 20_l._ each.
Interest at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum was to be paid to the
shareholders during construction. A sinking-fund of 4/100 per cent.
was established, to be a first charge on the profits available for

Although the first sod of the canal was cut on the 25th April, 1859,
it was two years before any real progress was made with the work of
excavation. These years were not, however, unemployed. They were
chiefly taken up with the work of preliminary preparation, which, on
such a vast enterprise, was necessarily considerable. One of the most
essential duties required to be undertaken was the construction of
a fresh-water canal, for the purpose of supplying the wants of the
vast number of labourers employed. Much of this labour was forced,
or _corvée_ labour, provided, under engagement, by the Egyptian
Government. In 1864, however, after the works had been about four years
in progress, the Egyptian Government claimed to withdraw the fellaheen,
finding the supply of from 15,000 to 20,000 of the most able-bodied
men in the country a serious tax on their resources. The difference
between the company and the Government on this score was submitted to
the arbitrament of the Emperor Napoleon, who awarded the company an
indemnity of 1,520,000_l._

In order to provide the ways and means for the prosecution of the work,
and to fulfil concessions made to the company, the Egyptian Government
made considerable sacrifices. It had given up its customs dues on the
canal company’s imports, its tolls on the fresh-water canal, its postal
telegraph services, its fishery rights on the canal and lakes, the
hospitals on the isthmus with their appurtenances, the quarries and
port of Mex with their plant, the storehouses of Boulac and Damietta,
and the right to half the proceeds of any of the lands on the maritime
canal, which the company might offer for disposal. These rights the
Egyptian Government recovered in 1869 on the payment of 1,200,000_l._,
represented by the coupons up to 1894, on the 176,600 shares which it
had acquired as an ordinary subscriber. The Egyptians have certainly
not reaped the financial advantages from the canal which they ought
to have done. They parted to England with their 176,600 shares (less
the coupons to 1894) for something under four millions sterling. The
value of these shares, deducting the detached coupons, is now close on
ten millions. Again, in 1880 they sacrificed their royalties, which
amounted to 15 per cent. on the net receipts of the company, to a
French syndicate to cover a debt of 700,000_l._ In the seven following
years, the syndicate received 1,212,025_l._ from this source, and it
has been calculated that if the annual receipts of the canal never
exceeded those of that period, the canal company would have paid in
1968 no less than fourteen millions sterling in respect of the advance
of 700,000_l._! Evidently the Egyptians did not know the value of the
canal when they made this disastrous bargain, although the navigation
receipts had increased from 228,750_l._ in 1870 to 1,599,700_l._ in

For a number of years after it was fairly started the canal had to
struggle with financial difficulties. The English had subscribed very
little towards its completion, and the French appeared to have some
doubts as to its ultimate success. M. de Lesseps then, as since, was
full of enthusiasm as to the future of the enterprise, and predicted
that it was to be an assured and notable success. Not so, however, his
friends and allies. On the contrary, Prince Napoleon, in presiding at
a banquet given to M. de Lesseps on the 11th February, 1864, declared
that in his opinion “the canal would not be finished, the works
would go to ruin, and nothing would be done.” And then followed this
remarkable prediction: “In fifteen or twenty years, when the Viceroy
shall have shown his powerlessness, there will be some one all ready
who will constitute a new company and make the canal. Do you know who
it will be? It will be the influence, the capital, and the workmen of
the English.” Napoleon was partly right. Egypt found the greater part
of the money required, but it is the shipowners of England who pay the
dividends that enrich the owners of the canal, and enable M. de Lesseps
and his friends to regard their triumph with so much complacency.

The Act of Concession for the construction of the Suez Canal was
granted by the Viceroy, Said Pacha, to M. de Lesseps on the 30th of
November 1854, and was followed, on the 5th of January 1856, by a
second Act, to which were annexed the Articles of Association of a
company for working the concession. The charter thus granted to the
Suez Canal Company gave it a ninety-nine years’ lease (counting from
the date of opening), to dig and work—

     1. A maritime canal from sea to sea, with a northern port on
    the Mediterranean, and an inland port at Lake Timsah.

     2. A fresh-water canal from Cairo to Lake Timsah, with
    branches north and south supplying the two canal seaports.

For the carrying out of this undertaking the Government of Egypt
granted the company:—

     1. The lands necessary for the company’s buildings, offices,
    and works on the canal, gratuitously, and free from taxation.

     2. The lands, not private property, brought under
    cultivation by the construction of the fresh-water canal,
    gratuitously, and free from taxation for ten years.

     3. The right to charge landowners for the use of the water
    of the fresh-water canal, which, on the other hand, it was
    bound to supply.

     4. All mines found on the company’s lands, and the right to
    extract from all State mines and quarries, free of cost,
    royalty, or tax, the stone, plaster, or other materials
    required for the construction of the canal and ports.

     5. Freedom from duties on its imports.

It was provided that the canal and works were to be finished, save for
unavoidable delays, within six years. Native labour was to be employed
to the extent of four-fifths of the whole, a special convention
settling the terms on which the Government supplied or authorised such
labour. The tolls were fixed at 10 frs. per “ton of capacity” (an
expression which gave rise to difficulties subsequently), and 10 frs.
for each passenger.

A contract was made with M. Hardon for the execution of the works,
under which the company were to receive 60 per cent. of the prices
fixed by the original estimates of the International Commission. The
drawing up of the plans, the general superintendence, and the supply
of the machinery and stores, were, however, to be left in the hands of
the company. This agreement was subsequently cancelled, and the company
took the works under its own control, making contracts with four
different firms, who undertook to complete the principal undertakings
for a total sum of 4,588,800_l._[148] With these arrangements, the canal
was fairly launched. From 1861 till 1869 the whole line of the canal
was the busiest centre of industrial activity in Europe. The total
amount of excavation required was 107 millions of cubic metres. This
is a larger amount of digging than has been accomplished in the case
of any other work on record.[149] The operations were required to be
carried on at the same time with the fresh-water canal from Nefiche to
Suez, and with the maritime canal from Suez to Port Said, so that two
distinct undertakings were concurrently being constructed. Some details
as to the annual progress of the works may here be suitably introduced.

In 1861, the works were chiefly confined to digging wells along the
line of the maritime canal, to erecting sheds for 10,000 labourers, and
providing dock basins, water condensers, forges and workshops, steam
saw-mills, and opening a water supply by a canal which should join the
Nile to Lake Timsah.

In 1862, the eastern mole at Port Said was begun, together with a
landing stage 70 yards by 22, in 16 feet of water, and an arsenal dock
160 yards by 135 and 5 feet depth. Seven Arab villages were built, and
north of Lake Timsah, a sea-water cutting was continued from Kantara
to El Ferdane. A large dredging plant ordered from various makers in
England and France was delivered.

In 1863, four dredgers and cranes were got to work at Port Said, and
south of Lake Timsah twenty-one dredgers were at work, and three others
were nearly ready. Provision was made for adding twenty more dredgers,
each estimated to be capable of raising 1,050,000 cubic feet per month.
The fresh-water canal from Nefiche to Suez was begun, and 24 miles
were finished. This canal was 64 feet at the water-line, 26 feet at
the bottom, and had 6 feet draught of water. The excavations required
were about 50 millions of cubic feet. On the north of Lake Timsah,
18,000 men were at work, digging a trench 50 feet by 4 to 6 feet
deep, connecting the Mediterranean and Lake Timsah, and 153,600,000
cubic feet of excavation was done at 0·68 fr. per cubic metre, being
within the original estimate, despite the heavy labour of carrying the
earth up an incline of 70 feet. From Lake Timsah to Toussoum Plateau
on the south, the canal was made 190 feet wide and 6 feet below the
Mediterranean level, involving 21,200,000 cubic feet of excavation.

In 1864, 20 new dredgers, with barges and accessories, were fitted
up, 43,000,000 cubic feet of excavation was done, from Port Said to
El Ferdane, and 7,600,000 cubic feet between Timsah and Serapeum, as
well as 4,500,000 cubic feet of gypsous stone along Lake Ballah. A
large area of land was also reclaimed, in order to provide for new
works, quays were extended, and the canal Cheikh Carponti, connecting
Port Said with the lake and Damietta, was completed. The fresh-water
canal was also completed to the sea, over 55 miles, having occupied
thirteen months, and involved 118,000,000 cubic feet of excavation.
Corvées, or native forced labour, were abolished, and 7954 European
labourers, with 10,806 others, were set to work.

In 1865 the general works of the Maritime Canal were extended.

In 1866 Messrs. Borel and Levalley got 32 trough dredgers at work along
35 miles of the canal, and the canal from Port Said to Timsah was
widened to 325 feet, thus allowing of the formation of strands for the
protection of banks from passing vessels, and economising the stone
embankments. The Viceroy set 80,000 men to work at the canal from
Cairo to Wady, so as to allow of the passage of the Nile waters at all

In 1867, 353,000,000 cubic feet of dredging was accomplished, and long
trough dredgers were applied to the work between Port Said and Timsah,
which was filled to sea level. The large lake to Chalouf, and the small
lake to Suez, were excavated by hand labour. Of the contract of M.
Couvreux to excavate 146,000,000 cubic feet, 122,500,000 cubic feet had
been completed on 1st June.

In 1868 excellent progress was made. Messrs. Borel and Levalley had
dredged at Port Said 123,000,000 out of their total quantity of
165,000,000 cubic feet. On the 15th April 1,200,000,000 cubic feet
still remained to be excavated in the Maritime Canal. Between Port
Said and Timsah, 5¼ miles had been done with 156,000,000 cubic feet of
excavation, and at El Ferdane, 3¾ miles had been done with 34,000,000,
Couvreux thereby finishing six months in advance of the contract time.
The monthly work at this time was 74,500,000 cubic feet, accomplished
with 8 elevator dredgers, 30 dredgers with barges, 22 long trough
dredgers, 22 inclined planes, and 7500 labourers.

Besides the ordinary work of canalisation along the line of route,
very extensive harbour operations had to be undertaken at Port Said
and Suez. In the former case, two moles were erected, the western 2700
yards long, and the eastern 1950 yards, and requiring 250,000 blocks of
artificial stone, each of 350 cubic feet and weighing 20 tons. A dock
basin, 76 acres in extent had to be provided, and another basin, called
the Basin de Commerce, of 10 acres extent and 37 feet deep. At Suez,
the roadstead had to be dredged, and dykes and embankments constructed,
the latter involving the submergence of 2,300,000 cubic feet of stone.
The Suez breakwater, when finished, had over 1600 yards of stonework.

In 1869, early in the year, the moles at Port Said were completed, and
the maritime canal, from Port Said to the Bitter Lakes Canal, was fully
open. In March the flooding of the Bitter Lakes was commenced, and they
were excavated to the Red Sea, for a distance of 22 miles, by hand, and
for three miles by dredgers. Later on, the canal was fully opened.

The total length of quays at Port Said is over 3 miles. The inner port
has an area of 130 acres, and the outer port an area of over 4000
acres. There are, besides, 120 acres of docks, and 10 acres of channel.
Port Said has now a permanent population of over 17,000, and Suez one
of 11,000, whereas the total population of the Isthmus in 1859 was only
150 inhabitants.

The Suez Canal can boast of having achieved many triumphs. It has
abridged time and space in a way and to an extent that no other
enterprise has ever before done in the history of the world. It has
brought India and Australasia almost within half their former distance
of Europe. It has revolutionised the shipping trade of the world. It
has brought about remarkable changes in the values of Eastern produce.
It has greatly reduced the cost of transport, and it has placed at the
disposal of England, France, and Egypt a source of revenue which in
its steady upward growth may properly be described as an El Dorado.
But, after all, there is one of the phases of this remarkable work
which is entitled to quite as much attention as any of these, although
the world in general hears less about it. The canal gave an enormous
impetus to engineering invention, skill, and enterprise, the effects of
which have since then been felt in a hundred different works undertaken
and carried out for the good of mankind. The appliances with which
the canal was eventually completed were, for the most part, designed
specially for the purpose. Until then, no such machinery was available.
But the opportunity once found, the men were found who could utilise
it. A description of the numerous different descriptions of elevators,
dredgers, inclined planes, engines, and other appliances employed at
Suez would fill a large volume. Compare some of these mighty machines,
with their weight of 500 or 600 tons,[150] and extracting at the rate
of a million and a half cubic feet of earth per month, with the
_Couffins_, or rude Arab baskets, used by the native fellaheen, by whom
the work was begun in 1860![151] The contrast represents the void that
divides barbarism from civilisation.

The effect of the opening of the Suez Canal has been to reduce the
distance between England and the Australian and Indian possessions
of the British Crown by distances varying from 545 to 4393 nautical
miles, the greatest saving having occurred in the case of the voyage
to Bombay. The voyage to India, China, and Australia has been so
much shortened that some of the most important of the ports of those
possessions are now reached in little more than one half the time that
was formerly taken up by the voyage round the Cape.[152]

The total cost of the Suez Canal at the end of 1870 was placed on the
company’s balance-sheet for that year at 16,613,000_l._[153] At the end
of 1886 this amount had swollen, with various items of expenditure
incurred in the interval, to 19,782,000_l._ Of the former amount only
11,653,000_l._ were expended in the work of construction proper.

The financial success of the Suez Canal has exceeded the wildest dreams
of its promoters. The increase of tonnage that has passed through it
has been extraordinary. So, also, has been the income and the net
receipts of the company. The net tonnage that used the canal in 1870
was only 436,609 tons. Ten years later the tonnage had increased to
3,057,421 tons. In 1885 the tonnage had further increased to 6,335,752
tons, which was the greatest that had passed through in a single year
up to that time. In the last-named year the shipping that used the
canal was more than thirteen times as much as it had been fifteen years

The income and working expenses of the Suez Canal have varied as
follows, compared with the annual income:—

               │              │               │Percentage of Working
       Year.   │   Income.    │   Working     │     Expenses on
               │              │   Expenses.   │       Income.
               │       £      │        £      │         ..
       1870    │    754,532   │    754,532    │         ..
       1875    │  1,233,785   │    717,860    │         ..
       1880    │  1,672,836   │    682,457    │         ..
       1883    │  2,740,933   │    758,861    │         ..
       1886    │     ..       │    754,567    │         ..

The heaviest items on the expenditure side are the interest and charges
on capital, the administrative charges, transit, navigation, and
telegraph charges, and maintenance of plant and warehouses. The two
latter items, with water supply, make up the working expenses, less
administration, and they amount unitedly to less than 180,000_l._ a
year, or about 7 per cent. on the total gross annual receipts.

There is a not uncommon impression that the trade for the East is now
carried on almost exclusively with steamships _viâ_ the Suez Canal.
Those who are actually engaged in the shipping trade, of course, know
differently, but it is not unimportant that the general public should
also know the facts, and we have, therefore, taken some pains to
ascertain them.

                      │   Total.    │ Steam Ships. │Sailing Ships.
                      │    tons.    │     tons.    │     tons.
    Vessels entered   │  1,957,000  │   1,112,000  │     845,000
      Do.   cleared   │  3,099,000  │   1,921,000  │   1,178,000
           Totals     │  5,056,000  │   3,033,000  │   2,023,000

From the annual statement of the navigation and shipping of the United
Kingdom, we have extracted the foregoing particulars of the tonnage of
vessels that entered and cleared from the United Kingdom in 1884, in
the Indian and Australian trades distinguishing steamers and sailing

As sailing ships cannot make use of the canal, it is quite evident
that there must be a use of sailing tonnage to the extent of over two
millions of tons a year in the trade between the United Kingdom and
her Indian and Australasian possessions. Such a fact is not a little
remarkable when we remember that the opening of the canal has shortened
the distance to Bombay by 41 per cent.; to Madras, by 35 per cent.;
and to Calcutta by 32 per cent.[154] In some cases, the sailing tonnage
employed was fully one-half of the whole. The following figures show
how the proportions compare for the different provinces of India, as
regards entrances into British ports:—

                  │   Total.     │   Steamers.  │  Sailing Ships.
                  │    tons.     │     tons.    │      tons.
    Bombay        │   336,377    │    327,039   │       9,338
    Madras        │    74,371    │     32,251   │      42,120
    Bengal, &c.   │   810,946    │    426,524   │     384,222
    Ceylon        │    18,373    │      5,483   │      12,890
         Total    │  1,239,867   │    791,297   │     448,570

The clearances followed much the same course in the same period. Even
with India, therefore, about 37 per cent. of all our trade passes by
sailing ships round the Cape of Good Hope, instead of going through the
canal, thus proving that the shortening of distance and of time is not
the only consideration that determines the adoption of one route in
preference to another.

One remarkable phase of the Suez Canal traffic is the great increase
that has taken place in the size of the ships passing between the two
seas. When the canal was first put forward by M. de Lesseps, it was
seriously argued that all that was wanted was a canal from the Damietta
branch of the Nile to Suez, which, “with a very little piling and
dredging at either end,” would be accessible to vessels of 300 or 400
tons burthen. Such a canal, it was maintained, “would suffice for all
the wants of Egypt, and for all the local traffic of the two seas.”[155]
It was also maintained, that as the tendency was to increase the
size of the ships employed on the Indian service, the canal would be
compelled to refuse the only traffic ever likely to be offered to
it.[156] The average size of the vessels using the canal in 1870 was only
898 net tons. From this point a gradual increase of size has taken
place, until in 1888 the average size had increased to 1883 tons.
The intervening period of eighteen years had therefore witnessed an
increase of 109 per cent.

[Illustration: M. DE LESSEPS.]



Singularly enough, it has been contended that the opening of the
Suez Canal has injured both English and Egyptian interests—English
interests, because it has economised tonnage, saved time, or in other
words, minimised interest on capital, injured our entrepôt trade, and
brought about our occupation of Egypt, with all the heavy expenditure,
loss of life, and international complications which that fact has
involved; Egyptian interests, because the Government of that country
has had to pay large indemnities to the Suez Canal Company, and has
really profited by the success of the enterprise to a much less extent
than it ought to have done, had it not very improvidently sacrificed
the royalties to which it was entitled under the original agreement.

It is, no doubt, unfortunate that our occupation of Egypt, and the
inglorious campaigns in the Soudan, should have been entailed upon
us by our interest in keeping open the canal, but the statistics of
our trade with the East conclusively prove that the canal has had
an important share in the enormous development that has occurred
since it was opened. The movement has, however, been aided by other
influences, and more especially by the opening of telegraph lines,
the improvements that have been effected in steamships and marine
engines, the smaller commissions accepted by merchants or agents, the
lower rates of freight, the reduced charges for insurance, and many
collateral changes, that have all tended, in a greater or less degree,
to facilitate commerce and navigation.

Whether or no M. de Lesseps and his allies have conferred any
substantial advantages on England by their completion of the Suez
Canal, it is quite beyond controversy that the English people have not
rendered much aid in the promotion of that great waterway. The part
which England took when the preliminary arrangements were being made in
1856 is one of which many Englishmen are now a little ashamed. England
was invited to co-operate in the project at an early stage. Not only
did we refuse co-operation, but we refused it with that species of
incivility of which we are occasionally guilty when we have our insular
prejudices offended. The canal was first of all, opposed by the British
Government, as such. Lord Palmerston was then Prime Minister. On the
8th of July, 1857, he declared the opposition to be—(1) that the
construction of the canal would tend to the more easy separation of
Egypt from Turkey, and would, therefore, be in direct violation of a
policy “supported by war and the Treaty of Paris”; and (2) that there
were “remote speculations with regard to easier access to our Indian
possessions, only requiring to be indistinctly shadowed forth to be
fully appreciated,” which rendered the canal undesirable. How much
better it would have been for the memory of genial “old Pam,” if, in
announcing his judgment, he had recollected the rule that “you should
never give your reasons.” History is rapidly made in the nineteenth
century. It is not in the least discreditable to Palmerston that he
should have failed to realise how completely his anticipations would
be falsified by events. No one at that time could have foreseen that,
in less than thirty years from that date, the Suez Canal would not
only have become an accomplished fact, but would have become perhaps
the most successful industrial enterprise of modern times; that it
would have revolutionised our shipping and transit trades; and that
our Indian and Australian possessions would have participated in its
advantages to an enormous degree. Prescience of this kind is given to
few men. But while the lack of this ability to discern the “coming
events” which “throw their shadows before” is not common, so neither
is the example of the representative of a great nation describing as
a “bubble,” and denouncing with all the eloquence and power at his
command, an enterprise which has conferred upon his country, as the
first maritime power in the world, advantages which generally transcend
those that are enjoyed by any other country.

But Lord Palmerston is very far from being a monopolist of this
discredit. Robert Stephenson was at this time one of the leading
English engineers. As the great son of a great father, he enjoyed vast
influence, honourably and justly acquired, and employed, with one
exception, discriminatingly and in a manner worthy of its possessor.
That exception was the position which he took up in reference to the
Suez Canal. Appointed to represent England on a commission of experts
instructed to report on the question of isthmian transit, Stephenson
satisfied himself that the idea of a canal was impracticable, and
reported against it. So far, Stephenson was quite alone. His two
colleagues on the commission—M. Talabot, representing France, and M.
Negrelli, representing Austria—were both in favour of the canal in
preference to the railroad which Stephenson recommended.[157] His brother
engineers in England appear to have stood loyally by Stephenson. They
gave very little countenance to M. de Lesseps or his scheme. Both were,
indeed, denounced from platform and press in the most unsparing manner.
The leading daily journals, which write in haste, and the sober,
scholarly quarterlies, which are supposed to write at leisure and after
much reflection, were alike opposed to it. The _Edinburgh Review_
spoke of it as “utterly impracticable,” and urged that, “the available
population or resources of Egypt could not execute such a work in a
hundred years;” that “an army of foreign navvies would be required to
keep in repair such a work, with its locks, viaducts, steam engines,
and a floating capital hardly inferior to the original outlay”; that
“a vessel in Aden harbour would rather take 3_l._ per ton for England,
if allowed to go _viâ_ the Cape, than she would take 5_l._ if forced
to go through the canal”; that if the principles on which the _Great
Eastern_, was then being built, were sound,[158] there was “an end,
not only of the canal, but the Red Sea may again be restored to its
pristine solitude, undisturbed even by the weekly visit of the passing
steamers”; and, finally, that until different experiences were at
command, “the Suez Canal may fairly be relegated among the _questions
diseuses_ which may interest and amuse, but can hardly ever benefit

So also the ‘Quarterly Review,’ which believed the scheme to be
“commercially unsound,” and set forth a number of objections to it in
categorical form. The great expense of building the masonry harbours
at the two outlets of the canal, the difficulties and dangers of the
navigation of the Red Sea, the cost of the embankments and the expense
of maintenance, the “probability of steamers like the _Great Eastern_
being built to perform the voyage round the Cape to the island of
Ceylon in less time than would be occupied in performing that through
the Suez Canal,”[160] and the impossibility of ensuring the maintenance
of the canal and necessary locks in proper working condition, were
marshalled in battle array as a phalanx of obstacles that could not be
overcome. But the opponents of the canal went further, and declared
that, as a vessel using the canal would take about three days to
get through,[161] would require one day to coal, and another to sail
from Pelusium to the meridian of Alexandria, the saving on goods, as
compared with the railway, would only be one to two days, while on
passengers and mails there would be a loss of four to five days.

The British shipping interest have had some reason to complain of the
way in which they have been treated from first to last by the Suez
Canal Company. It is perfectly true that England did not contribute
anything to the building of the canal, but English shipping has
provided the shareholders with much the larger part of their revenue.
France, which practically owns the canal, only contributes from 6
to 9 per cent. of its income, as against from 75 to 80 per cent. of
the whole contributed by Great Britain. The shipowners of the latter
country not unnaturally thought, some years ago, that they should
have a larger share in the management of the canal, and threatened
the construction of a rival waterway if the existing canal were not
deepened, and other arrangements made for facilitating the shipping
that used it. After a good deal of negotiation between the canal
company and the shipowners, a commission was appointed in 1884 to
determine what new measures, in respect of works and navigation, should
be undertaken to enable the ship canal to meet fully the exigencies of
a traffic exceeding 10,000,000 tons per annum. Its report was presented
in February 1885. The commission considered three methods of increasing
the carrying capacity of the canal, namely:—(1) widening the existing
canal; (2) construction of a second canal; and (3) doubling the
capacity of the canal by a combination of the first two methods.

When the canal was first designed, in 1856, it was supposed that two
vessels, being towed, could easily pass where the bottom width was 144
feet, or double the normal width adopted. At the present day, however,
when vessels of nearly 200 feet in width propel themselves through the
canal, a bottom width of 230 feet has been proposed for the 81 miles
from Port Said to the southern end of the Bitter Lakes, where the tidal
currents do not exceed one knot an hour, and 262 feet for the rest of
the distance to Suez, where the currents often exceed two knots, in
order that the vessels may pass each other freely. The cost of this
widening was estimated at 8,240,000_l._, supposing the depth of the
canal remained as at present, 26¼ feet below low-water of ordinary
spring tides, but it would be increased by 975,200_l._ if the depth was
augmented to 29½ feet, unless the proposed width could be reduced to 18

The construction of a second canal, within the limits of the company’s
lands, having, like the existing canal, a bottom width of 72 feet,
widened out to 131 feet through the small Bitter Lakes, was estimated
at from 8,200,000_l._ to 8,920,000_l._, with an additional cost of
698,800_l._ if made 29½ feet deep.

The third plan took into consideration the different velocities of
the tidal currents north and south of the Bitter Lakes. Assuming that
the greater velocity might lead to collisions between vessels passing
on a single enlarged canal, it would be advisable to restrict the
enlargement to the northern portion, and to form a second canal between
the Bitter Lakes and Suez. For reasons which are fully set forth in
their Report, the Commission decided in favour of the enlargement of
the existing canal. The estimated cost of the works, which are now in
progress, is rather over 8,000,000_l._

It has been suggested, with some show of reason, that it would be to
the advantage of the commerce of the world that the maritime Powers
should make arrangements to acquire the Suez Canal, and throw it open,
free of any charge or impost whatsoever, to the navigation of all
nations, in the same way that the Scheldt and the Sound have been. The
canal has hitherto been employed almost entirely for the transport
of passengers, mails, and such traffic as will bear a high rate of
freight, the charge of 7_s._ to 10_s._ per ton being prohibitory in
respect to much of the commerce that passes from the East to the West.
The proposal is one that is entitled to every consideration. There
is, however, a high probability, amounting almost to a certainty,
that the proprietors would demand a very large sum in excess of their
original expenditure. The canal has cost from first to last, including
financing, some 20,000,000_l._ At their recent prices, the canal
shares may be considered as worth about four times that amount. If the
property were to be purchased on such a basis, it would require an
expenditure of at least 80,000,000_l._, which sum, although by no means
impossible, is yet little likely to be realised for such a purpose. If
the canal had been taken over in 1880 it could have been purchased for
one-half the sum that would now be required to buy it.[162]

At the same time that the Suez canal route was being advocated with all
his wonted energy and enthusiasm by M. de Lesseps, other two routes to
India were being seriously discussed. As one at least of these is still
on the carpet we may fitly say something of it here.

Up to the sixteenth century the best known and the most frequented
route to India was that by the valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris.
These two great rivers of Mesopotamia are among the most celebrated
in the world’s history. The Euphrates has its source in the northern
highlands of Armenia; the Tigris in the southern slopes of the same
mountainous region, being fed by many rivers that traverse the boundary
line between Persia and Turkey. Almost at the dawn of recorded history,
we find that the Assyrians and the Babylonians connected these two
rivers by a series of canals. Two of these, constructed parallel to the
rivers Euphrates and Tigris, were large enough to be navigated, but the
system was constructed mainly with a view to irrigating the surrounding
plains, which, for nearly six months, were liable to be burnt up by the
scorching sun. As the Arabs and Turcomans gained greater ascendancy in
this region, the arts of husbandry were less practised, and the canals
and water-courses were allowed to fall into desuetude and decay. Their
embankments still, however, remain to attest the remarkable skill,
labour, and industry with which, at this early date, the fertility
of the soil was stimulated and increased, until the extraordinary
productiveness of Assyria and Babylonia became a favourite theme of
Herodotus and other historians.

Through this region, until the trade of the East was drawn into the
newer channel _viâ_ the Cape of Good Hope, European merchants sought
an outlet for their trade with the East. Bagdad and Bussora were
then great entrepôts of commerce. Mosul and Aleppo were the ancient
counterparts of Suez and Port Said. The route was, however, never
a safe or a satisfactory one. The Syrian desert, close at hand,
claimed many victims. The wild Arab tribes committed depredations on
travellers. The “unspeakable” Turk was exacting and intolerant. The
journey to India and back lasted for a lengthened period—often two
or three years—where it now scarcely extends over so many months.
But in spite of all this, the indomitable spirit and energy of the
English race led it to establish a secure footing on such ungenial
soil, and amid such inhospitable surroundings. An English factory long
flourished at Aleppo. A fleet of boats was, in the reign of Elizabeth,
maintained on the Euphrates for the use of British traders. When the
Levant Company was founded in 1582, it was deemed a veritable Eldorado
to have the exclusive privilege of trading with this part of the globe.
All this has long ceased to be, but the proposal to have the Euphrates
and the Tigris utilised as a trade route to India has been again and
again revived. In 1834, the British Government determined to fit out
an expedition to test the capabilities of the Euphrates for steam
navigation. The expedition was placed under the charge of Colonel
Chesney, upon whose recommendation it was adopted by Parliament. It
was found that the Euphrates was in some places a broad and deep
stream, and in others navigation was impeded by shallows, sandbanks,
rapids, and stone dams of large size, built for irrigation purposes.
One of the two vessels fitted out for the use of the expedition
foundered in a storm, and many lives were lost. The Government,
deeming the result unsatisfactory, declined to take any further part
in exploring the Euphrates. In 1840, however, the East India Company
commissioned Lieutenant Campbell to attempt the ascent of the river.
This expedition sailed up the Tigris to within a few miles of Mosul.
They found a canal uniting the Euphrates and Tigris near Bagdad,
which, however, has long been closed. They also navigated the great
canal which is said to have been constructed by the Emperor Valerian
during his captivity, nearly as far as Shushtir, and several rivers
in Persia. One of the vessels employed on this expedition was for
many years afterwards accustomed to make occasional voyages between
Bagdad and Bussora, mainly in order that our privilege to navigate
the river should be maintained, and our influence in Western Asia

The proposal put forward by the promoters of the Euphrates Valley route
in 1856, was to navigate the rivers Euphrates and Tigris from about the
latitude of Aleppo to the sea, to construct a harbour at Suedia, and a
railway thence to Kalah Jaber. From this point it was proposed that
steamers should convey mails, passengers, and merchandise to Bussora,
whence sea-going vessels should run to India.[163] The route to India
would thus be reduced to 4715 miles, and the time necessary for the
journey to less than sixteen days, giving a saving of thirteen days out
and nine days home upon the Suez voyage.

The cost involved in this undertaking, not to speak of its mechanical
and physical difficulties, led to its abandonment, although it is by
no means certain that the engineering problems to be dealt with are
more considerable than those which have had to be solved at Panama. One
serious difficulty, which has been deemed all but insuperable, is the
fact that the waters of the Jordan are just sufficient to balance the
evaporation from the surface of the Dead Sea, so that if that sea were
increased to five or six times its superficial area, as proposed, it
would require a much larger volume of water than the Jordan can furnish
to meet the deficiency. The project also labours under the defects of
climate, a thin population, and an absence of food and water supplies.

In the last century the Marquis of Wellesley endeavoured to utilise
the Euphrates Valley route; and the House of Commons has been asked
to grant sums of money for various purposes in connection with it at
different times. In 1871 the House of Commons ordered an official
inquiry, with a view to place upon record all the useful information
available, including the evidence of Colonel Chesney and others, as to
this route.

It has not been supposed by the promoters of a railway to India that
such a railway would be in any way antagonistic to the Suez Canal,
which would, in all probability, monopolise the heavy traffic, and
still exist as the chief means of communication with Southern India.
But, on the other hand, the Euphrates line would benefit the north-west
provinces, and, as far as passengers and mails are concerned, would
effect a saving in time of at least a fortnight, taking the voyage
out and home. The saving in distance would be about 1000 miles in a
straight line, and, as vessels proceeding by way of the Red Sea are
compelled to deviate from their courses to the extent of 500 or 600
miles during the monsoon months, the saving that might accrue, taking
an average of voyages, would be somewhere about one thousand miles each
voyage. On the other hand, the railway would always suffer from the
fact that two trans-shipments would have to be effected in every case,
and this, where the goods are bulky, is a serious consideration. Prior
to the opening of the Suez Canal only goods of small bulk were sent to
India by way of the Isthmus Railway, although the voyage by the Cape
occupied eight days, and it is regarded as probable that the canal
would still retain heavy traffic.

Besides the Euphrates Valley, two other routes to India have been
proposed. One of these aimed at the substitution of the Black Sea for
the Mediterranean, and making the terminus of the line at Trebizonde.
By the champions of this scheme it is contended that the long and
dangerous voyage necessitated by a Mediterranean terminus would be
avoided, by making use of the Danube and the short passage across the
Black Sea. On the European side, however, there is the liability to
having the Danube, or, indeed, the Black Sea, closed, the effect of
which would be that the railway would be simply useless, as long as the
restrictions remained in force; and on the Asiatic side there would be
serious practical obstacles in the mountain ranges near Trebizonde.
The Tigris Valley route has also been recommended on the ground that
it would open out a better country, and one peopled by more peaceful
tribes. Of the respective advantages of the two routes in regard to
facilities of construction, it is enough to say that the Valley of the
Euphrates is practically flat, and that nothing better could be desired
in the matter of level, while it is not easy to say what difficulties
the Tigris Valley may or may not present. Mr. Eastwick has visited
various parts of the Euphrates route, and he states that the facilities
there for making a good road are great, and that in certain districts
the local traffic would, in all probability, be very considerable.

Another plan was proposed some thirty-five years ago, for forming a
water communication between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

This proposal, made by Captain W. Allen, of H.M.’s navy, was based on
the knowledge we now possess that the level of the Dead Sea is at least
1300 feet below that of the Mediterranean or Red Seas, and that the Sea
of Galilee is, in like manner, depressed to the extent of about 650
feet; so that the mean level of the valley of the Jordan, with its two
lakes, may be taken at 1000 feet below the neighbouring seas, and its
extent as covering about 2000 square miles. This vast area Captain
Allen proposed to convert into a great inland sea by cutting a canal
from Acre across the plain of Esdraëlon to the Jordan, a distance of
about 40 miles on the map, and another from Akabah, on the Red Sea, to
the southern limit of the Dead Sea, a distance of about 120 miles.

The summit level of the plain of Esdraëlon may be as low as 100 feet
above the sea level, or as high as 200 feet, and from the appearance of
the banks of the brook Kishon, near its junction with the sea, and the
hills that bound the plain on both sides, the ground is rocky nearly
throughout its whole extent at a small distance below the surface. The
proposal, therefore, as described in the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ was to dig
a canal through a rocky country for 30 or 35 miles in length, and with
a mean depth of 80 to 100 feet.

A plan has quite recently been put forward for the construction of
a parallel canal to that across the Isthmus of Suez, by way of the
Euphrates Valley, the Persian Gulf, and Syria. The proposal is to
create a navigable highway from Sonëidich to the Persian Gulf, by
making the Euphrates flow to the Mediterranean and Antioch. The river
from Beles to Felondjah (near ancient Babylon) would be deepened, and
the waterway would be carried from the Euphrates to the Tigris by the
canal of Saklavijah. Thence the route would be by the Tigris from
Bagdad to Kornah, Bassora, and Fao on the Gulf. The author of this
proposal[164] estimates that the canal would shorten the route to Bombay
by six days, and it would irrigate and restore fertility to a great
part of the country through which it would pass. The estimated capital
required would be 1,500,000,000 francs (60,000,000_l._ sterling).


[138] The immediate cause of this occurrence does not appear, but
it is obvious that there would not be much employment for a canal
at this early date. The first ship would no doubt be constructed
anterior to this period, but the vessels of that day were rude and

[139] The Red Sea is 1500 miles in length, and, besides being
narrowed in its middle channel, is so deep that there is hardly any
place where a vessel can anchor. Sailing vessels have to contend with
currents that are blowing steadily to the northward for a great part
of the year, while for some months there is little or no wind.

[140] Herodotus, book ii., secs. 159 and 160, Cary’s translation.

[141] Washington Irving’s ‘Successors of Mahomet.’

[142] Rubino’s “Statistical Story of the Suez Canal,” in the
‘Journal’ of the Royal Statistical Society for 1887.

[143] ‘Mémoire sur le Canal des deux Mers.’

[144] ‘Quarterly Review,’ January 1856, p. 257.

[145] Since then, of course, this difficulty has been conquered by
the use of steam dredgers.

[146] This letter is reproduced from an excellent article on the
subject of the Suez Canal in _Engineering_ of December 7, 1883, p. 52.

[147] In 1886 the transit and navigation receipts were over

[148] The following are the details of the contracts for works on
Suez Canal:—

           Dussaud frères, │ Aiton, Glasgow.
             Marseilles.   │
     _20th October, 1863._ │ _13th January, 1864._
       250,000 blocks of   │  21,700,000 cubic
       artificial stone of │  metres of
       1 cubic metre       │  excavations
       each (35⅓ cubic     │  at 1·35 fr.
       feet), and weighing │  The plant ceded
       20 tons, at         │  to the contractor
       40 frs. each.       │  by the company
       10,000,000 frs.     │  brings the price
       400,000_l._         │  up to 1·60 fr.
                           │  34,720,000 frs.
                           │  1,388,800_l._
                           │  Contract
                           │  afterwards
                           │  cancelled, and
                           │  transferred
                           │  to Borel and
                           │  Levalley.
          Couvreux, Paris. │ Borel and Levalley,
                           │ Paris.
      _1st October, 1863._ │ _1st April, 1864._
          9,000,000 cubic  │  24,500,000 cubic
          metres of        │  metres of
          excavations at   │  excavations at
          1·60 frs.        │  2·28 frs.
          14,000,000 frs.  │  56,000,000 frs.
          560,000_l._      │  2,240,000_l._
          Enlargement and  │  Continuation and
          deepening of the │  completion of 53
          great El Guisr   │  miles of cutting
          trench, over 8   │  from Lake Timsah
          miles long.      │  to Red Sea.
                           │  _Second contract._
                           │   Transfer of Aiton’s
                           │    contract.

[149] We do not, of course, include the Panama Canal, which is not,
and may never be, completed.

[150] One long trough dredger, set to work in June 1885, weighed 760

[151] It is stated that the number of these baskets used at the
trench of El Guisr alone would, if extended in line, reach three
times round the world. Of course when the fellaheen were withdrawn in
1864 these baskets were less largely used.

[152] The following table shows the principal distances and the
saving by the canal:—

                   │           │           │ Saving by Canal.
                   │           │           ├───────────┬──────────
        Ports.     │  By Cape. │ By Canal. │           │ Per Cent.
                   │           │           │  Amount.  │ of Voyage
                   │           │           │           │ (Cape.)
                   │  nautical │  nautical │  nautical │
                   │   miles.  │   miles.  │   miles.  │
                   │           │           │           │
    Bombay         │   10,667  │   6,274   │   4,393   │ 41·2
    Madras         │   11,280  │   7,313   │   3,967   │ 35·2
    Calcutta       │   11,900  │   8,083   │   3,817   │ 32·1
    Singapore      │           │           │           │
     (_viâ_ Straits│           │           │           │
         of Sunda) │   11,740  │   8,362   │   3,378   │ 28·8
    Hong Kong      │   13,180  │   9,799   │   3,381   │ 25·6
    Shanghai       │   14,050  │  10,669   │   3,381   │ 24·1
    Adelaide       │   11,780  │  11,100   │     680   │  5·8
    Melbourne      │   12,140  │  11,585   │     555   │ 4·6
    Sydney         │   12,690  │  12,145   │     545   │ 4·3
    Wellington,    │           │           │           │
       New Zealand │   13,610  │  13,055   │     555   │ 4·1

[153] This amount was made up as follows:—

    Construction of canal                         11,653,218
    Transit, estate, and other services              533,552
    Management charges (11 years)                    567,296
    Interest on shares (11 years)                  2,673,864
    Interest and repayment of debentures             585,118
    Banking charges, stamps, loss in bonds, &c.      618,905

[154] “The Statistical Story of the Suez Canal,” in the ‘Journal’ of
the Royal Statistical Society for 1887.

[155] ‘Edinburgh Review,’ January 1856, p. 245.

[156] It was assumed that the canal could not take vessels like the
_Himalaya_ and the _Persia_, or indeed any vessel over 350 feet in

[157] The preference of Stephenson for a railway is not difficult to
understand. He had “won his spurs” in railroad construction, and was
familiar with every phase of their working and capabilities, but he
had had comparatively little knowledge experimentally of canals. He
was, indeed, the apostle of the new era—the railway against the canal.

[158] It was expected that the _Great Eastern_ steamship would attain
a speed of 25 knots an hour, and the proposition that a vessel’s
speed is almost in the direct ratio to her length having once been
granted, that a class of vessels would come to be built that would be
too large to make use of the canal.

[159] ‘Edinburgh Review,’ vol. ciii. (January 1856).

[160] This seems an extraordinary assumption when we consider that
the canal saves in the journey to Bombay 41 per cent. of the voyage
by the Cape, and on the journey to Madras and Calcutta 32 to 35 per

[161] In 1887 the average duration of the passage through the canal
for the whole 3137 ships that made use of it was 34 hours 3 minutes.
Between 1870 and 1873 the passage was frequently effected in 12 to 15

[162] The shares rose from a middle price of 306 francs in 1867 to
664 in 1877, 1021 in 1880, 2710 in 1882, and fell to 1989 in 1884,
rising again to 2095 in 1886.

[163] The distance from Suedia to Kalah Jabar, a small Arab
settlement on the Euphrates, was put down at 100 to 150 miles, and
the river journey from Kalah Jabar to Bussora at 715 miles. From
Bussora to Kurrachee the distance is 1000 miles. The average time
occupied in descending the Tigris was taken at seven days, and that
of the ascent at twelve.

[164] M. Emile Ende, in a communication to the French Academy of
Sciences in 1886.



   “A little model the master wrought
    Which should be to the larger plan,
    What the child is to the man.”

If the question were asked, “What is the greatest constructive work
that has yet been undertaken by man?” there would, without question, be
a great many different replies. There can, however, be only one reply
as to the most costly. Perhaps, also, there can be but one answer as
to the most disastrous to human life. The Panama canal would almost
certainly secure pre-eminence in these attributes. It might or might
not rank equally high as a work of engineering genius and possible
public utility.

There has probably never been a project that has so challenged the
admiration and the approval of the world as that of finding a waterway
between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, at or near to the narrow
neck of land that separates Limon from the Gulf of Panama in Central
America. This enterprise has a long and a very eventful history. Many
explorers, geographers, statesmen, engineers, and economists have
either written on the merits and demerits of the undertaking, or have
otherwise become associated with it. Some of the more notable episodes
in the records of the isthmus may therefore be referred to, before
proceeding to describe the various projects now either in progress
or in contemplation, for opening it up for the purposes of trade,
commerce, and navigation.

One of the earliest direct references to the importance of a waterway
between the two oceans is that made by Cortez in his letters to Charles
V. The great conqueror, however, does not seem to have contemplated the
construction of such a waterway. He diligently searched for a natural
waterway or strait between the two oceans, and declared that to be “the
one thing above all others in the world I am most desirous of meeting
with,” on account of its immense utility. Some sixty or seventy years
later, there was a project put forward by the Spaniards for uniting the
two oceans by a waterway, but it does not appear to have been carried
any length. The Spaniards, indeed, were hardly the people to achieve
such a distinction. Unlike the ancient Romans, the Italians, and the
Chinese, their skill was not very marked in hydraulics. They were,
besides, much too superstitious to venture on interference with what
many of them believed to be an ordinance having all the fixity of a law
of nature.[165]

The American Isthmus next claims attention as associated with the
ill-starred fortunes of William Paterson and the Darien scheme.[166]

The earliest, and in some respects the best, information yet available,
relative to the topography of the country adjacent to the Panama Canal,
is that furnished by Dampier,[167] who spent some time on the isthmus and
noted all its chief physical characteristics. Dampier’s observations,
however, were chiefly made in and about the Gulf of St. Michael, which
he describes as lying “nearly thirty leagues from Panama, towards the
south-east,” and as “a place where a great many rivers, having finished
their course, are swallowed up in the sea.” Dampier found the isthmus
very low and swampy, “the rivers being so oosy that the stinking mud
infects the air.”

Lionel Wafer[168] has also made an early and valuable report on the
character of the country bordering on the route of the present Panama
Canal, describing it “as almost everywhere of an unequal surface,
distinguished with hills and valleys of great variety for height,
depth, and extent.” He described the river Chagre, or Chagres, as one
which “rises from some hills near the South Sea, and runs along in an
oblique north-westerly course till it finds itself a passage into the
North Sea, though the chain of hills, if I mistake not, is extended
much further to the west, even to the Lake of Nicaragua.”

De Ulloas[169] and some friends in 1735 made an ascent of the river
Chagres on their journey from Cruces to Panama. This voyage is
interesting as being one of the first that is recorded over the
river that has since played so prominent a part in the history of
the canalisation of the isthmus. They found the banks of the Chagres
impassable, for the most part, from the density of the vegetation and
the velocity of the current. The vessels that were then more or less
accustomed to navigate the Chagres were described by De Ulloas as
_chatas_ and _bongos_—the first carrying 600 or 700 quintals, and the
latter 400 or 500. The river was found to be so full of shallows that
even vessels of this small size had to be lightened every now and again
until they had passed over them.

No one has taken a greater interest in the subject of a ship canal than
Humboldt, who regarded Kelley’s Atrato route with approval, and who,
replying to the objections brought against the proposal in his time,
declared that “there is nothing more likely to obstruct the extension
of commerce and the freedom of international relations than to create
a distaste for farther investigation by discouraging, as some are too
positive in doing, all hope of an oceanic channel.”[170]

A survey was made of the isthmus in 1827 by Captain Lloyd and Captain
Falmark, the former an officer of engineers in the Colombian service,
and the latter a Swedish gentleman acting in that capacity for the time
being. Beginning at Panama, they followed the old line of road from
that city to Porto Bello, a distance of 22¾ miles, where they found
the surface of the water in the river to be 152½ feet above high-water
mark at Panama. At Cruces they found a fall in the river of 114½ feet,
leaving only about 38 feet as the height above the Pacific. It was
found that at Panama there was a rise and fall of the tide in the
Pacific of 27·4 feet, being 13·5 feet above the high-water mark of
the Atlantic at Chagres. These and other observations led them to
conclude[171] that “in every twelve hours, commencing with high tides,
the level of the Pacific is first several feet higher than that of the
Atlantic; it becomes then of the same height, and at low tide it is
several feet lower; again, as the tide rises, the two seas are of one
height, and, finally, at high tide the Pacific is again the same number
of feet above the Atlantic as at first.”[172]

In 1840 Mr. Wheelwright was commissioned by the directors of the
Pacific Steam Navigation Company to examine the capabilities of the
river Chagres, and the best means of communication with the South
Sea. He made a lengthy report on the subject, in the course of which
he confirmed many of Captain Lloyd’s observations, giving the depth
of high water on the bar of the Chagres at 15 feet. In 1843, again,
M. Napoleon Garella received from M. Guizot, as Minister of Foreign
Affairs, an order to make a survey of the isthmus, and he proposed a
summit-canal of more than three miles long, the level being reached by
thirty-six locks and three large aqueducts.[173]

In 1853, Mr. Squier explored that section of the mountain chain which
crosses the American isthmus to which Berghaus has given the name of
the Honduras-Nicaraguan group. This range commences at the Col de
Guajoca and extends to the valley of the Rio San Juan. Running at first
close to the shore of the Pacific, it gradually approaches the centre
of the isthmus. The eastern slope, broken by mountain offshoots and
watered by rivers of the first order, terminates on the north-east in
the point Gracias a Dios. The western slope forms a long, low, and,
comparatively speaking, level valley, crossed by an irregular and
independent series of volcanic peaks. This accessory line of volcanoes,
which presents the most distinctive feature of the physical geography
of Central America, is nowhere so distinct from the main line of rocky
axis as in the Honduras-Nicaraguan district. Mr. Squier proposed to
commence a railway at Puerto Caballos, in the Bay of Honduras, and
proceed due south to Fonseca Bay, on the Pacific, a distance of some
160 miles. The harbours on this route are said to be very superior to
those on the Tehuantepec route. The summit-level, however, is 2308
feet above the level of the sea. At such a height a canal would be
practically impossible, and the project was never carried any further
than a survey.

Among the many alternative routes suggested for a canal across the
American isthmus, one that has found some favour in the United States
was that _viâ_ the isthmus of Tehuantepec. This locality has been
repeatedly surveyed. Cortez had his attention called to it in the
sixteenth century. Don Augustus Cramer went over at least part of the
route in 1744. Again, in 1842-3, it was surveyed by Señor Moro, as
will be found in a book called ‘Survey of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec,
executed in the years 1842 and 1843, under the superintendence of a
scientific commission appointed by the projector, Don José de Garay.
London, 1844.’ In 1852 it was surveyed by Mr. J. J. Williams, on behalf
of the Tehuantepec Railroad Company of New Orleans. The project was
to ascend, from the Atlantic coast, the river Coatzacoalcos to its
junction with the Malalengo, from which spot a canal was to be carried
to the summit-level on the Mesa de Tarifa, through a series of locks,
rising 525 feet in all, and descending 656 feet into the lagoons on the
shores east of Tehuantepec. The canal would have a length of about 50
miles, and would require 19 additional miles of trench to convey water.
The length of this line was stated by Mr. Kelly, of New York,[174] at
“about 210 miles,” and by M. Voisin, a director of the Suez Canal,[175]
at 240 kilometres, or about 149 miles.

M. Moro estimated that 150 locks would be required on this route, and
twelve days would be required for vessels to pass through the canal.
The coast of Tehuantepec is, moreover, subject to fearful hurricanes
and to subterranean movements of volcanic origin, while, finally, the
supply of water at so high a level was believed to be doubtful.[176]

At the first session of the Congress of Geographical Science, held
at Antwerp in 1871, the question of constructing a canal across the
American isthmus was presented for consideration. General Hame, of
the United States, was present, and took part in the congress. He
described the proposals of the two French explorers, MM. de Gogorza
and de Lacharme, who proposed to cut the Isthmus of Darien between
the navigable channels of the Tuyra, the Atrato, and the Caquiri. The
congress recommended the project of these gentlemen to the attention of
the great maritime Powers, and of the scientific societies throughout
the world. There the matter rested for a time.

At the second congress of the same body, held at Paris in 1875, the
question of the construction of a canal across the Isthmus of Darien
was again considered. M. de Lesseps, who was present on that occasion,
declared that all the authors of the various projects brought forward
for piercing the isthmus up to that time had made a grave mistake in
committing themselves to a canal with locks and sweet water. He urged
that, in order to meet the wants of commerce, all maritime canals
should be carried between the two oceans at the same level, in the
same way as the Suez Canal had been. Again a resolution was adopted,
urging on the various governments concerned that the utmost facilities
should be given for the construction of a ship canal in this part of
the world. The congress went a step further. In order to inquire into
the subject of the possibility of constructing such a canal, and the
conditions necessary for its accomplishment, a committee was appointed
under the presidency of Admiral Noury, and including among its members
MM. Daubrée, Levasseur, and Delesse, members of the Institute of
France. A syndicate was at the same time formed for the purpose of
exploring Central America, with a view to the adoption of the most
suitable route.

The results of the exploration thus undertaken were made known in
due time, and in 1879 an international congress was held at Paris
under the Presidency of M. de Lesseps, to consider proposals for an
interoceanic canal, when it was affirmed (1) that the construction
of an interoceanic canal, at sea level throughout, so desirable in
the interests of commerce and of navigation, was possible; and (2)
that such a canal should be constructed between the Gulf of Limon and
the Bay of Panama.[177] These resolutions were adopted by no less than
seventy-eight votes against eight, there being, however, twelve who
abstained from voting.

Five different projects were submitted for the consideration of the
conference. It is, however, a remarkable fact that none of them, except
the Panama Canal Scheme, proposed to provide for a canal without a
tunnel and without locks. As the Panama scheme was that recommended by
M. de Lesseps, the conference requested him to undertake the direction
of the work. The veteran replied that his best friends had endeavoured
to persuade him that after the accomplishment of his great work at Suez
he should seek repose; but, he added, “if a general who has won a first
battle is asked to engage in a second, he cannot refuse.” Directly
afterwards M. de Lesseps received from Victor Hugo a letter approving
his course, and adding, “Astonish the universe by great doings which
are not of wars. Is it necessary to conquer the world? No; it is yours.
It belongs to civilisation; it awaits it. Go; do it; proceed.” The
press of Paris were jubilant over the new enterprise, declaring that
France was continuing its great mission. In the Chamber of Deputies
Mgr. Freppel declared that with the piercing of the Isthmus of Panama,
a complete change will be effected in the relations of the entire world.

Thus encouraged on every side, M. de Lesseps sought the means for
his second great enterprise. He did not find it difficult to raise
a considerable sum. He pointed out to his countrymen that on the
250,000,000 of francs that they had contributed towards the actual
expenditure incurred on the works of the Suez Canal, they had benefited
to the extent of 1,220,000,000 of francs. The congress had made it
appear that the Panama Canal would cost twice that of the Suez, but
then it was expected to produce three times as good a result.

M. de Lesseps consented to occupy the position he did on the express
condition that all the complex problems connected with the undertaking
were fully and satisfactorily resolved by commissions of experts.
Five such commissions were appointed—of statistics, of economics, of
navigation, of construction or technique, and of ways and means. The
Technical Commission having considered the various proposals submitted,
drew up the following summary of their several merits.

                │       │           │Estimated│         │  Length of
    Proposed    │Length.│ Obstacles.│Duration │ Expense.│ Time occupied
     Canal.     │       │           │of Work. │         │  in going
                │       │           │         │         │through Canal.
                │  kms. │           │  years. │ millions│   days.
                │       │           │         │  of fr. │
    Tehuantepec │  240  │ 120 locks │    ..   │    ..   │     12
    Nicaragua   │  292  │  17 ”     │     8   │    900  │      4½
    Panama      │   73  │   none    │    12   │  1·200  │      1½
    San Blas    │   53  │ tunnel    │    12   │  1·400  │      1
                │       │  14 kilom.│         │         │
    Atrato      │  290  │ tunnel    │    10   │  1·130  │      3
                │       │   4 kilom.│         │         │

The cost of the maintenance and working of each of the several schemes
was estimated at the same sum—130 million of francs, or 5 per cent.
of the anticipated receipts. No doubt appears to have been entertained
that the enterprise would prove highly remunerative. M. Voisin Bey,
Inspector-General of Ways and Bridges, calculated that the company
would be able to obtain an average of 15 francs on at least four
million tons of shipping expected to make use of the canal; and the
Statistical Commission committed themselves to the view that the two
canals of Suez and Panama would present the following comparison:—

               │  Cost.   │ Tonnage. │Annual Receipts.
               │ millions │ millions │   millions
               │of francs.│ of tons. │  of francs.
    Suez       │    500   │     3    │      30
    Panama     │  1,070   │     6    │       9

On the faith of these and similar statements, many of them, as we
now know, largely illusory, the _Compagnie Universelle du Canal
Interocéanique de Panama_ was founded in 1879 with a capital of 600
millions of francs, or about one half the sum estimated as necessary,
but with authority to increase or reduce the capital as might be deemed

At the outset of the undertaking, M. de Lesseps, following the
example that he had set with the Suez Canal, and in order to mark
the international character of the enterprise, offered to American
capitalists the opportunity of providing one half of the amount
required, and announced that whether the Americans subscribed towards
the enterprise or not it would be begun with the 300 millions of francs
which it was proposed to raise in Europe. Subscriptions towards this
moiety were invited in Europe in December 1880, and 102,230 subscribers
offered more than double the amount asked for, or 1,266,609 shares
in all, of which 994,508 shares were subscribed in France alone. The
financial outlook of the enterprise being thus encouraging, M. de
Lesseps lost no time in proceeding to Panama, in order that he might
study for himself, on the spot, the character of the work he had
undertaken to perform. He was accompanied by an engineering commission
of eight well-known experts, including MM. Dircks, the chief engineer
of the waterways of Holland, Danzats, chief resident engineer at Suez,
two Colombian engineers, and others. The opinion unanimously arrived
at by this commission was that the canal could be completed for 843
millions of francs, or about 34 millions sterling,[178] in about eight

Meanwhile a grand superior consultative commission, which had been
convened at Paris, for the purpose of inquiring into the technical
details of the scheme, and determining a programme for their execution,
recommended that no time should be lost, and thereupon MM. Couvreux
and Hersent, well-known contractors, were entrusted with the execution
of the work to the extent of 500 millions of francs (20,000,000_l._),
for which sum they declared that the canal could be constructed. The
work of levelling and dredging was prosecuted with vigour. There was,
however, a vast amount of preliminary work to be done. Twenty-three
different workshops and docks had to be provided along the line of
the canal, with workmen’s dwellings, hospitals, and other requisite
equipments. The Culebra, a mountain in the middle of the isthmus, was
selected for the erection of several considerable installations adapted
to the study of the problems to be solved. Through this mountain the
canal had to be cut to a depth of over 100 metres. It was calculated
that the organisation of the works, the providing of the necessary
materials of construction, the acquisition of the ground along the line
of route, and the commencement of operations generally, represented
something like one-third of the total work to be done. The Colombian
Government, through whose territory the canal was to be constructed,
did all they could to advance the project, offering to the company
500,000 hectares of land, with the minerals underlying the same, in
such localities as the company might select. This concession was deemed
at the time to be equal to about one-third of the cost of the canal.



The first important step towards the prosecution of the Panama Canal
works was the selection of a site for landing the necessary plant. The
space in front of the town of Colon, at the north-eastern extremity of
the Bay of Limon, was occupied by wharves devoted to the existing trade
brought by steamers to the Panama Railway, and, therefore, another spot
had to be found. The village of Gatun was first chosen, being on the
river Chagres, and close to the railway and the proposed line of the
canal. It was supposed that this site would be healthier than the low
island of Manzanillo, on which Colon is situated, and the river Chagres
afforded communication with the sea, having a minimum depth of 13 feet
over its bar, which might be increased by dredging. Owing, however, to
the want of proper shelter, fever attacked the workmen at Gatun; and,
finally, the creek separating Manzanillo island from the mainland was
selected as a harbour for the works.


The outlet of the canal was to be situated in this creek; and in order
to protect the mouth of the canal and provide a good harbour for the
works an embankment was formed on the south-west corner of Manzanillo
island, and was carried about 650 feet into the Bay of Limon to afford
shelter, being protected along its exposed portion by rubble stone.
This embankment contains 458,000 cubic yards of earthwork, obtained by
the aid of excavators from some hillocks about three-quarters of a mile
distant, adjoining the railway; it covers an area of about 74 acres,
which was formerly partly marsh land, and partly covered by the sea.
The projecting mole was estimated to shelter nearly 3000 lineal feet
of wharfage.[179] The position of the works will be understood from the
annexed drawing.

Up to February 1883 the work undertaken at the canal had been almost
entirely preliminary. In that month M. de Lesseps, acting upon
recommendations contained in a report made by M. Dingler, chief
engineer of roads and bridges, proposed to the shareholders of the
company that the definite programme of the work to be done should
embrace a canal of a depth of nine metres below sea level, and a width
of 22 metres throughout its course; the construction of large ports at
Colon and at Panama; a great basin, five kilometres in extent, near
Tavernilla, about the centre of the canal, in order to allow vessels
to pass each other; a great dam at Gamboa, for the regulation of the
course of the Chagres river; and a tidal port at Panama, in order to
ensure access to and from the Pacific at all hours. In submitting this
programme, M. de Lesseps calculated that the excavation necessary to
the completion of such a canal would be about 110 millions of cubic
metres, and that the work of regulating the Chagres river would be
equal to a further 10 millions of cubic metres. This work, M. de
Lesseps estimated, could be completed in 1888—the excavations of land
in three years, and the dredging operations in two, so that “the canal
could, with mathematical certainty, be opened on the 1st January 1888.”
In confirmation of this calculation, he appealed to the experience at
Suez, where, with a total of 75 millions of cubic metres of excavation,
50 millions were done during the two last years of the work.

The state of affairs at the canal in the autumn of 1884 is described by
the American Admiral Cooper, who reported that although comparatively
little had been done in the actual work of excavation, in relation to
the vast work to be accomplished, yet all the preliminary plans had
been prepared, the soundings had been made, the line of route had been
cleared of its tropical vegetation, large supplies of materials of
all kinds were at command, dwellings and barracks for the employés
had been erected in elevated and salubrious localities, hospitals
had been established, and every arrangement requisite for meeting
possible eventualities had been carried out so completely that he was
confirmed in the belief that the canal would be finished in due time,
although he doubted its completion in 1888. At this time no less than
twenty different contractors, of eight different nationalities, were
engaged upon the work of construction. These contractors had undertaken
collectively to raise 62,691,000 cubic metres of excavation for a sum
total of 219,295,000 francs (8,772,000_l._ sterling), being at the rate
of rather less than 3_s._ per cubic metre. As the total quantity of
excavation required was estimated at 120 millions of cubic metres, the
opinion was held that the mere work of clearing the course of the canal
could be accomplished for about 440 millions of francs, or rather less
than 18 millions sterling.

Up to the end of 1884, the Canal Company had received a total sum of
471¼ millions of francs (about 19,000,000_l._), and had expended 368¼
millions of francs[180] (about 14¾ millions sterling), leaving only about
4¼ millions sterling in hand. Even at this date it was confidently
stated by M. de Lesseps and his colleagues, that the canal could still
be constructed for the sum of 1070 millions of francs, or about 43
millions sterling. In other words, it was held that for 25 millions
sterling additional, the work could be completed as originally planned.

The work proceeded, with occasional interruptions, due either to the
difficulty of obtaining sufficient capable labour, to the delay in
delivering the necessary dredging and other appliances, and to other
causes. The result of an appeal made through the ‘Bulletin du Canal
Interocéanique’[181] in the latter part of 1884, was to place a further
capital of 136½ millions of francs (about 5½ millions sterling) at the
disposal of the company.[182] With this and the balance remaining of the
previous issues, the company were enabled to carry on the work until
1886, when they had to make a further appeal for assistance. This time
they made a larger demand than they had done on the last occasion, and
they succeeded in raising a sum of 206½ millions of francs (8¼ millions
sterling), making the total amount subscribed to the end of 1886 not
less than 886 millions of francs, or about 35½ millions sterling. The
company was by this time getting into deep water. The public did not
take to the bonds offered so readily as they had formerly done, and
the deep distrust that was beginning to be felt in the success of the
enterprise was shown by the very low price at which the shares had to
be offered.[183]

Meanwhile the prospects and progress of the company had been seriously
hampered by several exceptional sources of trouble. Political strife
on the isthmus disturbed the progress of the works, and led to a large
migration of the workmen employed. An act of incendiarism at Colon
destroyed a number of the principal buildings erected for the purposes
of the canal, and led immediately to the transfer of the headquarters
of the company from Colon to a new town created by them, and called
by the name of Christopher Columbus. At Culebra, again, where the
great work of cleaving a mountain was being proceeded with, there were
several unfortunate incidents which caused the _employés_ to desert the
place almost in a body. These events were the origin of some sinister
rumours most unfavourable to the company. It was stated in the United
States that the political troubles had been expressly “got up” by the
_personnel_ on the canal, with a view to giving France a pretext for
seizing the Isthmus of Panama. In Europe, on the other hand, it was
reported, and largely believed, that the United States proposed to take
advantage of the opportunity afforded by the disturbance at Colon to
seize the State of Colombia, through which the canal is carried. It
is no doubt true that the United States at that time intervened,
with a view to the re-establishment of order on the isthmus, but in
despatching Admiral Jouett with an expedition for that purpose, they
distinctly declared that their only object was to protect the lives and
property of American citizens, and that they would religiously fulfil
their engagements to maintain the neutrality and freedom of transit
between Colon and Panama.

Another difficulty with which M. de Lesseps and his colleagues have
had to contend from the beginning has been the unhealthy character of
the climate. In this respect Panama has always had a most unenviable
notoriety. The danger was therefore not unknown. Dampier, nearly 200
years ago, spoke of the “malignity of the waters draining off the land,
through thick woods, and savannas of low grass and swampy grounds;” and
Wafer reported about the same time that “the country all about here
is woody, low, and very unhealthy, the rivers being so oozy that the
stinking mud infects the air.” Walton, again, expressly declared that
the unhealthiness of the isthmus was one of the greatest obstacles to
the opening of a canal between the two oceans. “Disease,” he said,
“is a barrier against settling on the isthmus to improve it,” and
he found that “persons who have withstood every other climate there
became languid.” Humboldt appears to have made the climate of Panama
a special subject of inquiry, and reports that “for fifty years back
the _vomito_ (black vomit of the yellow fever) has never appeared on
any point of the coast of the South Sea, with the exception of the
town of Panama.” This is explained by the fact that “the tide, when it
falls, leaves exposed for a great way into the bay a large extent of
ground covered with _Fucus ulvæ_ and _Medusæ_, the air is infected by
the decomposition of so many organic substances, and miasmata, of very
little influence on the organs of the natives, have a powerful effect
on Europeans.”

Accounts of the extraordinary mortality at the works of the canal
have from time to time been circulated in Europe, which read like the
description of a pestilence, or of a devastating war. To Europeans
especially the climate has been highly fatal. M. de Lesseps and his
friends have tried, not unnaturally, to reassure the public, both
European and American, on this score. Even he, however, has been
compelled to admit a serious mortality. In his report on the progress
of the works in 1885, he stated that during the previous twelve months
more than 1100 deaths had occurred, of which some 320 were
Europeans.[184] In some of the rainy months the mortality was frightful.
In October and November it rose to nearly fifty per week. The Canal
Executive declared that this large number was swollen considerably by
the mortality of sailors arriving at Panama, but, however this may be,
the climate is without doubt one of the most malarious and deadly to
European constitutions that exists in the world.

These things being so, two results not unnaturally follow—the first,
that it was difficult to get the highest class of labour to undertake
the work; and the second, that the rate of wages paid, and the cost
of the work generally, were exceptionally high. During the years
1884-85-86, the _personnel_ on the canal ranged between 12,000 and
25,000; and although M. de Lesseps announced in 1885 that the Company
had undertaken to provide barrack accommodation for 30,000, it is
doubtful whether that number was ever employed on the works at any one
time. We have already seen that the first contracts made with a number
of different contractors provided for the cost of excavation being
brought under 3_s._ per cubic metre. Señor Armero, however, in a report
made on the progress of the work in the latter part of 1887, stated
that every cubic foot had cost at least 2 dollars, or 8_s._ 4_d._ for
excavation, being nearly three times the amount at which M. de Lesseps
stated the first contracts to have been placed, for something like
one-half of the entire work.

With calculations so entirely falsified by results, the Panama Canal
Company found it necessary in 1887 to procure fresh capital. They
thereupon offered half a million shares, of the nominal value of 500
million francs at 440 francs on 1000 francs, and succeeded in raising
a further sum of about 114 million francs, making the total amount
of cash received to that date rather over 1001 million francs, or,
in other words, within 200 millions of the total amount for which
the canal was to have been completed. How far the canal still was
from completion at this time we may learn from the report made to
the Colombian Government in November 1887 by Señor Armero, who says
that the total amount excavated up to August of that year was about
34 millions of cubic metres, out of a total of 161 millions; that the
upper and easier part of the work had been accomplished, and that
greater difficulties would be encountered in working as the tide-level
was approached; that the cost of controlling the water of the Chagres
alone would amount to 471 million francs, or, roughly, one-third of the
whole estimated cost of the enterprise; that the sum still required to
complete the canal would be 3012½ millions of francs, or 120 millions
sterling, being nearly three times as much as the whole original
estimated cost; and that the amount to be paid on capital loaned during
the next six or seven years would add perhaps 40 millions sterling to
this amount.

This unfavourable report had naturally a depressing effect upon the
scheme when it was made public. And yet the reporter was not entirely
unfavourable to the enterprise. On the contrary, he prefaced his report
by the following remarks:—

       “As up to date the sum expended is 818,023,900 francs,
     it is evident that the cost per metre of work has been
     exorbitant. Were we to base our calculations on these
     figures, the total cost of the canal would become fabulous,
     and it would probably never be finished. But this is
     not the way to calculate. We have to look at the costly
     preliminary works, the purchase of the railroad, the
     immense amounts of materials which had to be collected, and
     the purchase and erection of buildings, all of which were
     expenses which had to be met in order that a work should
     progress which is perhaps the most important and colossal
     of modern or any times. Thus the expense of work per metre
     has diminished as the work has progressed, and only when it
     shall have been completed shall we be able to determine the
     cost of all the excavations.”

About the close of 1887, the canal was _in extremis_. The funds in hand
had sunk to a low point, and there appeared to be but little prospect
of raising more. M. de Lesseps, however, again proved himself equal
to the occasion. Instead of abandoning himself to despair, as the
vast difficulties, past, present, and to come, would have warranted,
he announced to his fellow-countrymen in a letter to the Premier that
he would proceed with the work piecemeal, providing in the meantime a
sufficient passage through the canal for the 7½ million tons of annual
traffic then anticipated,[185] and looking forward to the completion of
the canal, as originally designed, by means of small levies on the
annual profits, as in the case of the Suez Canal. The Consultative
Commission had, he added, declared the practicability both of
constructing on the central mass an upper cutting which would allow
of the continuance of the level works by dredging, and of opening the
maritime transport between the two oceans as soon as these plans were
completed. M. de Lesseps went on to say:—

       “This approval leaves for extraction only 40,000,000
     cubic metres, 10,000,000 being hard soil, and 30,000,000
     dredgable soil. The carrying out of these reduced
     extractions being materially ensured, we entrusted the task
     of submitting to us a contract for the execution of the
     works to M. Eiffel, whose reputation has been established
     by engineering skill equally exact and bold, and by his
     great metallurgic works; imposing on him the obligation of
     applying exclusively to French industry for the supply of
     materials, and for all other co-operation.

       “This morning (November 15) M. Eiffel has engaged to
     execute these works at his own risk within the period and
     on the conditions desired by the company. It now rests
     with the Government of the Republic, inasmuch as French
     law obliges me to apply to it, to insure definitively the
     execution of our programme, by authorising the Universal
     Inter-oceanic Company to issue lottery obligations.”

On the 1st of January, 1888, the amount of money at the disposal of
the company was stated by M. de Lesseps to be 110 millions of francs
(4½ millions sterling), and it was calculated that 300 million francs
(12,000,000_l._) would be required by the end of the year. M. de
Lesseps, in asking permission to raise this sum by a lottery, placed at
the disposal of the French Government all the contracts and documents
in the hands of the company, “whereby the execution of the programme
drawn up is guaranteed.”

During the first half of 1888, several discussions of a more or
less stormy character took place in the French Parliament on the
proposal to authorise on behalf of the Panama Canal Company an issue
of lottery bonds. In the result M. de Lesseps got his own way, the
Senate sanctioning a loan with 4 per cent. interest, and a deposit of
rentes as a guarantee. Subscriptions were opened on the 23rd of June.
The French people, backed by the most influential newspapers in the
country, looked favourably on the lottery. There were a large number
of prizes to be drawn, the chief being one of half a million francs
(20,000_l._), and there were to be six drawings a year. At the outset,
with inducements that appealed so strongly to the French imagination,
the loan seemed likely to be covered several times over. All at once,
however, the flow of subscriptions stopped. It was then ascertained
that the opponents of the canal had set afloat some sinister rumours
with the object of frustrating the lottery scheme. One of these was the
rumour that Lesseps was dead. The veteran projector, however, was never
more entirely alive. Threatened with failure, he made almost heroic
efforts to avert it. He arranged for attending and speaking at meetings
in all the principal towns of France, beginning at Paris. The labours
now undertaken by the octogenarian canal-builder are thus referred to
by the _Times_ correspondent at Paris:—

       “I do not know what will be the fate of the millions of
     lottery bonds which still remain to be placed, but what is
     certain is that two men never gave themselves to a more
     laborious work of propagandism than M. de Lesseps and M.
     Charles de Lesseps, his son, have undertaken. If ever the
     Panama Canal is finished, if it ever yields the results
     promised—as to which I can make no assertion—it would not
     be too much to raise statues to these men, who have spared
     themselves no toil, but have made almost superhuman efforts
     to bring the work to a successful close. For a month M.
     de Lesseps and his son have been visiting the industrial
     and commercial centres, delivering addresses, taking part
     in banquets, organising committees, and endeavouring to
     create a national movement favourable to the realisation
     of this gigantic scheme. In all places where they have
     been speaking they have had crowded audiences, which have
     eagerly listened to them, and have shown sympathy with
     their efforts to make the completion of the Panama Canal a
     national question. Frenchmen feel that success in this work
     must avert a rebuff for the constructor of the Suez Canal,
     who will continue to be styled ‘Le Grand Français’ so long
     as the Panama Canal Scheme has not collapsed.”

On the 14th December, 1888, the Panama Canal Company suspended payment.
Announcement was made in Paris that in consequence of the subscription
not having extended to 400,000 obligations, the payment of all coupons
and drawn bonds would be temporarily suspended. The intimation caused
a severe shock in Paris, although it was not entirely unexpected. The
French Cabinet deemed the matter one of such importance that they held
a meeting to consider what should be done. It was decided to propose
a suspension for three months only. This was proposed for a double
reason—to gain time, and to prevent speculation on the Bourse. It was
stated by M. Peytral, the Minister of Finance, that the Government
wished to enable the old company, without going through the process of
bankruptcy, to hand over the canal to a new concern.

There have been few warmer discussions, even in the French Chamber,
than that which followed the proposal to interpose to this extent on
behalf of the canal company. It was argued by the opponents of the
Government that the canal should not be treated exceptionally; that the
bankruptcy law should be allowed its ordinary course; that the
Government had kept secret the report of its own engineer on the
condition of the company when it was known to be in danger; that the
Army Bill should not be delayed for the sake of a private company; and
that if the company did come to grief, nearly a million bondholders
would be ruined and a milliard of money would be lost.

On the 15th December the Chamber of Deputies, acting upon the Report
of the Committee appointed to consider the Bill, resolved by 256
votes against 81 to throw out the Bill. This decision created intense
excitement, not only in Paris, but throughout France—aye, and
throughout Europe. The shareholders in the company, 870,000 in number,
were threatened with disaster, many of them with ruin. The newspapers
contained reports of the condition of panic that prevailed in the
capital, which recalled the similar episodes of the South Sea Bubble
and Law’s Mississippi Scheme. The canal company’s offices in Paris were
besieged by eager and demonstrative crowds. They did not, however, vent
their anger and disappointment on M. de Lesseps. It was the Government
that was condemned. Lesseps was still the favourite of the people.
“Vive Lesseps” and “Vive Boulanger” were the cries of the hour. There
were not a few who regarded the occasion as one that justified the
country in getting rid of so pusillanimous a Chamber. The opportunity
of the Boulangists appeared to be at hand.[186] The greatest but one of
European Powers seemed likely to be drawn into the vortex of revolution
by the obscure problem of the cost of constructing a waterway in a
territory over which it had no control, at thousands of leagues from
its shores. The mutability of human affairs had surely never a more
striking illustration!

According to a statement which appeared in the _Standard_ of the 17th
December, 1888, a _Figaro_ reporter called on M. de Lesseps, and was
received by him in a drawing-room, where seven of his younger children
were having a romp with their mother. The following is a description of
the scene that took place:—

       “You know the vote of the Chamber?”

       “No,” he replied very calmly, stretching out his hand.

       “The Government Bill is rejected; your application is
     defeated; the majority against you is nearly a hundred.”

       M. de Lesseps suddenly became very pale, but remained
     silent. His hand, quite cold, let mine go. He carried his
     handkerchief to his lips, as if to stifle a cry. Then,
     resuming all his calmness, and drawing himself up to his
     full height, he murmured, “It is impossible.”

       “It is infamous,” exclaimed Madame de Lesseps.

       “I could not have believed,” he proceeded, in a sad
     tone, “that a French Chamber would thus sacrifice all
     the best interests of the country. Have they then all
     forgotten that one milliard and a half of French savings
     (60,000,000_l._) are jeopardised by this vote, and they
     could have saved everything by a reprieve? However, in this
     appalling crisis I have nothing to reproach myself with. I
     have done all that was humanly possible to safeguard the
     interests of each and all, because I know that the final
     collapse of the Panama Canal would be not only the ruin of
     the shareholders, but also a calamity for the country, and
     a disaster for the national flag. What consoles me is the
     frankness with which our new provisional administrators
     have hastened to acknowledge that in our operations
     everything has been clear, honest, and straightforward.
     They told me so this very day, only an hour ago, and I
     have no evidence to contradict that. I am also encouraged
     by the thousands of letters I receive from my subscribers
     and shareholders, those unknown friends who trust me as
     they ever did, and who support me with valiant hearts in
     this last battle. Their name is legion, and to save their
     earnings I am prepared to make every sacrifice. Nay, even
     monarchs have sent me telegrams to express their anguish
     and sympathy. See, I have just opened this letter from
     Queen Isabella. It is written in Spanish, but I will
     translate it for you:—

       time when difficulties are accumulating around you
       I feel impelled to tell you how firmly I believe in
       your great work, which is an object of envy to the
       whole world, and how much I admire your energy.
                        (Signed) ISABELLE DE BOURBON.”

       As he concluded the reading of this letter his children
     came round him and kissed him. “But you will succeed all
     the same, won’t you, father?” they kept on repeating; and
     one of the younger children, a little girl about seven,
     coming up to me, said, “Did the Right vote against papa,
     Monsieur?” I replied, “I do not think so, Mademoiselle.”
     She said, “Ah!” and, delighted at having had her say, she
     rushed into her mother’s arms, who, still thinking of
     the vote, repeated, “It is infamous, and will drive six
     hundred thousand subscribers to revolt. It will be the
     ruin of all these poor folk.”

The experience of the Panama Canal Company, has only been a repetition,
on a large scale, of that of the Panama Railway projectors. That line
was commenced in 1850 and completed in 1855. The distance which it
traverses, between Aspinwall and Panama, is 47½ miles, and the cost of
construction was 48,600_l._ per mile, as compared with an average cost
of under 12,000_l._ per mile for the railways of the United States as
a whole. The great summit-level was attained at a height of 264 feet
above the mean tide of the Atlantic, and the ascent required gradients
of 1 in 18. The greatest source of the heavy expense of the Panama
Railroad was the labour difficulty, resulting from the influences of
the climate. Of this Dr. Otis[187] says:—

       “The working force was increased as rapidly as possible,
     drawing labourers from almost every quarter of the
     globe. Irishmen were imported from Ireland, coolies
     from Hindostan, Chinamen from China, English, French,
     Germans, and Austrians, amounting in all to more than
     7,000 men, were thus gathered in, appropriately, as it
     were, to construct this highway for all nations. It was
     now anticipated that, with the enormous forces employed,
     the time required for the completion of the entire work
     would be in a ratio proportionate to the numerical increase
     of labourers, all of whom were supposed to be hardy,
     able-bodied men. But it was soon found that many of these
     people, from their previous habits and modes of life,
     were little adapted to the work for which they had been
     engaged. The Chinamen, 1000 in number, had been brought to
     the isthmus by the company, and every possible care taken
     which could conduce to their health and comfort. Their
     hill-rice, their tea, and opium in sufficient quantities
     to last several months, had been imported with them; they
     were carefully housed and attended to; and it was expected
     that they would prove efficient and valuable men. But they
     had been engaged upon the work scarcely a fortnight before
     almost the entire body became affected with a melancholic
     suicidal tendency, and scores of them ended their unhappy
     existence by their own hands. Disease broke out among them,
     and raged so fiercely that in a few weeks scarcely 200
     remained. The freshly-imported Irishmen and Frenchmen also
     suffered severely, and there was found no other resource
     but to re-ship them as soon as possible, and replenish from
     the neighbouring provinces and Jamaica, the natives of
     which, with the exception of the northmen of America, were
     found best able to resist the influences of the climate.”

_The proposed Panama Canal locks._—The original plans of the Panama
Canal provided for a waterway that should be 28 feet below the mean
ocean level throughout its entire length. It has since been found that
this design would involve an enormous expenditure and a serious delay,
and hence the decision in 1888 to provide a series of four locks on the
Pacific, and four locks on the Atlantic side. On the Atlantic side,
two of the locks were to have a fall of 8 metres (26 feet 5 inches),
and two others a fall of 11 metres each (36 feet 3 inches), while on
the Pacific side, three locks were to have a fall of 11 metres each
(36 feet 3 inches), and one a fall of 8 metres (26 feet 5 inches). The
height of the water level on the Pacific side would, therefore, be 41
metres (135·6 feet), and on the Atlantic side it would be 38 metres
(125·7 feet). The width of the lock gates was to be 18 metres (59·5
feet), and the length was 180 metres (595·5 feet). The locks and their
gates were to be constructed in iron, and it was estimated that 20,000
tons of cast, and 15,000 tons of wrought, iron would be employed in
their construction. The effect of this modification of the original
plans would, of course, be to reduce the amount of excavation necessary
in the Culebra cut by at least one-third, but it would also obviously
alter the entire character of the canal as first projected.

The opinion of some engineers appears to be that the frequent opening
and shutting of the sluice-gates, with such a considerable pressure of
water, would not be without a certain amount of danger. The pressure
would be increased little by little until it had been raised to a
breadth of 10 metres, and even as much as 15·40 metres. It is not
unusual to find a pressure of this extent at dock gates, but in the
largest canals hitherto constructed with locks, the pressure has seldom
exceeded three to four metres. In order to meet similar cases, it has
been proposed, where there was a constant use of a canal at all hours
of the day and night, to employ a very large number of small sluices
adapted to the slopes of the canal. This expedient has been put in
practice in the case of the eight successive sluices known as Neptune’s
Staircase, on the Caledonian Canal, and, on the Canal du Midi in
France, in the case of the seven sluices of the staircase of Béziers.
It is, however, held by _Le Génie Civil_ that such small sluices,
although more easy to open and offering perhaps greater resistance,
are, nevertheless, not well adapted to the necessarily rapid and
constant working of a canal like that of Panama. This expedient having,
therefore, been abandoned, there remained that of movable caissons
suspended by the upper part, which is known as the Eiffel system. This
system, with its movable gate shut, and the recess into which it fits
when open on the right, is illustrated in one of the drawings attached
to this chapter, while another drawing shows the lock gate open.



The proposed modification of the original plans has been so designed
as to enable the works of the tide-level canal to be continued without
interruption. The lock canal was to be at sea-level from Colon to the
fourteenth mile, where the first lock with a lift of 26¼ feet would
be placed. The second lock with the same lift was to be placed 23-1/9
miles from Colon, and the third and fourth locks, with lifts of 36-1/11
feet each, at 27¼ and 28¾ miles respectively, making the summit-level
124⅔ feet above the Atlantic. The canal was to descend to the Pacific
by three locks of 36-1/11 feet drop, situated at 35½, 35-9/10, and 38-2/5
miles respectively from Colon, and one lock of 26¼ feet drop at 36¾
miles, thus making up the difference in level of 134½ feet between
the summit-level and low-water of spring tides at Panama. It has been
suggested that in the event of difficulties occurring in the excavation
of the Culebra cutting, the summit-level might be raised to 160¾ feet,
by inserting a lock with a lift of 36-1/11 feet on each slope of the
Cordilleras, whereby time might be gained by a further reduction in the
amount of excavation. The section adopted for the level canal was to
be maintained in each reach. The width of the locks was to be 59 feet,
and their available length 590 feet. At the Colon entrance, the canal
was to have a bottom width of 590 feet for 1·86 mile, and at the Panama
end, 164 feet for 3¼ miles; whilst the channel in the Pacific, from the
shore at Boca to Naos, was to be 164 feet wide. Allowing a speed of 6¼
miles per hour in the long reaches, and 2¼ miles in the short reaches,
and one hour for passing through a lock, a single ship would traverse
the canal in seventeen hours twenty-eight minutes, and in a convoy in
twenty-eight hours twenty-five minutes. Accordingly, ten vessels, or
25,000 tons, could pass through the canal in twenty-four hours, so
that, if necessary, 9,125,000 tons of traffic could be accommodated
annually. The water supply required for this traffic was estimated
at 1,050,000 cubic yards per day, which could be obtained from the
Chagres, the Obispo, and the Rio Grande. With the summit-level at 124⅔
feet above the sea, it could be supplied from the reservoir created by
the large dam at Gamboa; but if the summit-level was raised to 160¾
feet above the sea, pumps not exceeding 3600 H.P. would be
needed for lifting the supply the additional height. The gates for
the locks were designed to be hollow-iron counterbalanced caissons,
suspended from a frame with rollers, running on a roadway supported by
a swing-bridge across the lock, and continued above the recess at the
side, into which the caisson was to retreat for opening the lock.

The watertight compartments at the lower part of the caisson, as well
as the bottom portion, arranged to serve as a working-chamber, were
to communicate with the outer air by shafts, provided with air-locks,
so that water or compressed air could be introduced at pleasure. This
arrangement would enable the counterpoise of the caisson to be readily
adjusted, the different chambers to be easily reached for repairs,
and the working-chamber at the base to be used for cleaning the sill
from silt or _débris_. The caisson gates, in a lock of 36-1/11 feet
lift, would be 69 feet high, 71 feet long, 13⅛ feet broad at the tail,
and 32¾ feet high, 71 feet long, and 9⅚ feet broad at the head of the
lock. The locks, being situated in rock, would have the sides of their
chambers formed of the natural rock, with a slight facing of masonry
where necessary; but the side walls below the gates were to be iron
caissons, 18 feet broad, filled with concrete. The swing-bridges, of
iron or steel, were to be 18 feet wide, and 112 feet long, the swing
portion being 78 feet; and the recesses for the caissons were to be
98½ feet long; and 23 feet wide at the top. The filling and emptying
of the locks were to be effected by two cast-iron pipes, each 9⅙
feet diameter, and it was calculated that the required volume of
52,300 cubic yards of water could be admitted or shut out in fifteen

_Special Features of the Enterprise._—Probably no great engineering
or constructive work of either ancient or modern times has been of
such a gigantic and difficult character as that of the canalisation
of the Isthmus of Panama. It is not that the length of the canal is
exceptional; it is, on the contrary, shorter than that of many existing
canals, some of which are of very small account indeed—being less
than one-half the Suez Canal, less than one-third that of the canal
of Languedoc, and less than one-fourteenth that of the Grand Canal of
China. It is probable, also, that the building of the Great Wall of
China, the Pyramids of Egypt, and several other works of antiquity
that might be named, extended over a much longer period, and involved
the employment of a greater number of men. The _Royal_ or _Grand Canal_
of China, which was completed in the year 980, is said to have occupied
the labour of thirty thousand men for forty-three years.[189] But none
of the great works of previous epochs have been environed with so
many difficulties as the Panama Canal. The scheme, on the face of it,
does not look so formidable. It is only when we come to look into its
details, and compare them with those of other similar undertakings,
that we realise its magnitude. And it is only when we, in like manner,
compare its engineering features with those of the other great
engineering works of the world that we can appreciate the vast energy,
enterprise, and resource that has ventured to essay so colossal a task.

The first and the most serious difficulty to be encountered was that
of controlling the waters of a torrential stream, almost equal to
that of some of the chief rivers of Italy, through which the canal
was to run. This stream, which crosses and recrosses the line of the
canal twenty-seven times, as shown in the drawing attached hereto, has
several different levels, and would, if left to itself, be certain to
destroy the canal in a very short time. It had therefore to be dealt
with by constructing an enormous embankment raised 45 feet above the
waters of the Chagres, so as to allow of their gradual escape. In this
dam there are 26 millions of cubic yards of cutting; in the Culebra
Col, a channel cut right through a mountain more than 300 feet above
sea level, there were estimated to be 37 millions more; and in the
entire line of the canal there were calculated to be about 75 to 100
millions of cubic yards of excavation, to accomplish which a serious
writer in the _Edinburgh Review_ maintained that it would require the
labour of 20,000 men for forty-two years.

Worse than all, however, was the dreadful and deadly climate. Five
months of the year are continually wet. There are few fine days in the
other seven months. The annual rainfall is twelve to fifteen times
that of Europe. The mortality is excessive. The cost of labour is
consequently high,[190] but pay what they may, the company could not
command the amount of labour it was anxious to employ. For the most
part the labour has had to be imported from Europe and the West Indies.
The men were brought to Panama at the expense of the Company, but a
very large proportion of them left again immediately, for various
reasons, so that the company has not been able to keep up the proper
quotas of men with which they undertook to provide their contractors,
who were left at liberty to throw up their contracts when they ceased
to be remunerative. The cost of the undertaking was thus enormously
increased beyond the original estimates. The difficulty of procuring
ways and means, and the high prices that had to be paid for borrowed
money, have also seriously added to the expenditure. Another serious
element of cost has been the outlay incurred in providing hospital and
other facilities, and the maintenance of the usually very considerable
numbers who were stricken with illness, induced by their unhealthy
surroundings. These and other difficulties have so seriously weighed
upon the undertaking that its accomplishment has been pronounced
impossible, and M. de Lesseps and his colleagues have been denounced
for following a “will-o’-the-wisp.” They have, however, persevered
with their task for about eight years, and have made heroic, and
almost superhuman efforts to keep the enterprise on its legs. In this
effort they have had to depend absolutely upon their own countrymen,
although they have much less maritime interest in the matter than the
people of England and the United States of North America. In the latter
countries the canal has all along been regarded with disfavour, not to
say declared hostility. In the United States especially, M. de Lesseps
has been told again and again that he was “beating the wind,” and that
nothing but failure could come of his project. For the time being it
looks as if his candid friends were right, and M. de Lesseps was wrong.

As might be expected, there have been very conflicting calculations
made as to the amount of traffic which an interoceanic canal on the
American isthmus would be likely to carry. The Geographical Congress,
held at Antwerp in 1871, did not venture to go beyond 4,000,000 tons
per annum. When the Canal Company was started, the expected tonnage
was raised to about 6,000,000 tons annually. In 1887 M. de Lesseps, in
his letter to the French Premier, put the quantity at 7,500,000 tons.
A writer in the _Revue-Gazette Maritime et Commerciale_ (Paris) has
estimated that if the Panama Canal had been opened in 1884, there would
have passed through it the following tonnage:—

              │  Ships.  │ Tonnage.
    Europe    │   4,226  │ 4,650,390
    Asia      │   2,255  │ 1,212,178
    America   │   2,987  │ 3,441,598
       Totals │   9,468  │ 9,304,166

This latter estimate appears to be greatly exaggerated. It is
apparently founded on the assumption that the greater part of the
Australasian trade would pass that way. But the fact is that the
geographical distance to Sydney does not differ by quite 500 knots
between any of the four routes that are, or would be, available—that
is, the Cape of Good Hope, the Suez Canal, Cape Horn, and Panama, the
distances increasing in the order stated. Nautical distance, moreover,
as has been properly remarked, “is only one element in determining
choice of route; prevailing winds and currents, avoidance of stormy
seas or of rock-bound coasts, have all to be studied by the mariner;
and the comparatively trifling difference in the length of the course
from the Thames to Sydney by four such different routes is enough to
show how important it is to have this question of routes illustrated by
the experience of the skilled navigator. This consideration is enhanced
by the remark that the dues for the passage of the canal would amount
to as much as the cost of more than 800 knots of additional voyage.”[191]

A much more reasonable and modest estimate than that of either of the
foregoing, is that made in a recent report on the proposed Nicaraguan
Canal. This estimate, based ostensibly on the United States Treasury
Reports, puts the total tonnage that would have made use of the canal
in 1885 at 4,252,000 tons, which is stated to be an increase of 53
per cent. in six years. At the same rate of increase, the tonnage
available in 1892, when the canal was expected to be completed, would
be 6,506,000 tons.[192]

The diagrams attached hereto show the enormous difficulties that
have just been referred to in a much more graphic way than any mere
description could do. It will be observed from the illustration (p.
298) that the Rio Chagres crosses the course of the canal no fewer than
five times in little more than five kilometres, and that the Rio Obispo
also steps in to add to the complications of the situation. On the San
Pablo section again, within a distance of three kilometres, the river
crosses the line of canal three times.

The Chagres river, which is so great an obstacle in the project of the
Panama Canal, rises on the western slopes of the Cordilleras, and runs
through a broken and irregular country, to the north of the auriferous
granite hills which branch off to Cruces and Gorgona. This river and
its affluents is said to drain an area of about 1550 square miles.[193]
From Matachin, where the Panama canal parts company with the valley
of the Chagres, to the sea, there is a total distance of twenty-eight
miles, in the course of which the river falls about 35 feet.[194] The
rain of a single day is said to raise the waters of the Chagres from 35
to 40 feet, and below Matachin there is a cataract of 50 to 60 feet.
It was part of the project to abandon at this point the valley of the
Chagres, and to cut through the Cordilleras. The level of the bottom
of the canal is here 100 feet below that of the bed of the Chagres, or
140 feet below the mean level of the nearest indicated points on the
section of the plans above and below the intersection. In a length of
nine miles, at the foot of the ascent of the Cordillera at Matachin,
the lowest point is 166 feet, and the highest 333 feet above the bed of
the canal. A tunnel of 7720 metres in length was at one time proposed
to be cut through this section, but M. de Lesseps stood out for a
cutting _á ciel ouvert_, and it has been remarked that according to the
plans there has been an assumption that the sides of this vast cutting
will stand so nearly perpendicular as to slope only one foot horizontal
in every ten feet vertical. In a dry climate, with good firm clay or
rock, this might not involve difficulty or danger, but the climate of
Panama is exposed to a tropical rainfall. A rainfall of six or seven
inches in a few hours is not uncommon.

The flood volume of the river Chagres has been estimated at 1600 metric
tons of water per second, which is four times the volume of the highest
flood ever measured on the Thames, and the rainfall, as a whole, has
been known to exceed 120 inches in a single year. Besides all this, it
was reported by M. de Lesseps himself,[195] that the borings on the
Culebra range, had reached the depth of 100 feet without having met
with rock. Some engineers have therefore condemned this part of the
plans as faulty, arguing that such a cutting could not be expected to
stand at a slope of one to one, even in a much drier climate—which
means that the cutting through the Culebra would require to assume
greatly larger dimensions, if it were to be of any value.

One of the most serious undertakings connected with the Panama canal
was the proposal to retain the flood waters of the Chagres, by means
of the enormous embankment already referred to, between the Cerro
Gamboa on the south, and the Cerro Barneo on the north, thus raising
the level of the waters from 40 to 45 feet above the river, in order
to allow of their escape. Other two projects were submitted to meet
this difficulty—the first, that of constructing a canal for the
flood waters of the Chagres alongside of the navigable canal; and the
second, that of tapping the Chagres at Matachin, and diverting its
waters to the Pacific. As regards the first of these two alternatives,
it was objected that, as large affluents flow into the river below
Matachin, three parallel canals of large size would require to be
constructed, in order to make the alternative of any real value; the
second alternative, it was held, would afford no relief to the floods
of the Trinidad, the Gatun, and the smaller affluents of the Chagres
below Matachin, while it would be likely to increase the difficulties
of construction at the one end as much as it reduced them at the other.
Nor is it admitted by some authorities that the Gamboa dam would be
likely to answer its purpose. It is contended that many embankments
would be required, instead of only one, and that the construction of
such an embankment from such a cutting could hardly by any possible
effort be completed in twenty-six years, so that it would not be until
after that time had elapsed that the canal could be commenced between
Chagres and Matachin, with its bed 30 feet under sea level.

The low-water flood of the Chagres river, just below the site of the
proposed Gamboa Dam, is 209 feet wide by 7 feet 6 inches deep, the bed
being triangular in cross section. In November 1885, a flood occurred
here, under the influence of which the river was swollen to a width of
1560 feet, with a maximum depth of 28 feet, so that it was twelve times
as wide as the canal and almost as deep at its deepest point. It is
stated that the last four feet of the rise took place in four hours,
and in thirty-six hours the water had risen about 20 feet. The general
consensus of opinion among engineers appears to be that this immense
flood has to be provided for in some way. M. de Lesseps originally
proposed to meet the difficulty by constructing a dam, or embankment,
two-thirds of a mile long, 1300 feet wide at the base, and 164 feet in
height. This dam was to be designed so as to retain the floods which
descend the Chagres river, storing the water and allowing it to escape
gradually. The only alternative was to provide the flood waters with
such a rapid means of escape to the ocean that they could not flood the

From considerations of economy, it was recently determined to abandon
the lock gates at the port of Panama. It was intended in the original
scheme to provide these gates in order to control the rise and fall of
the tide at this end of the canal. This movement of the tide varies
from 20 to 27 feet, being at least twelve times as much as at the other
end of the canal. Obviously, therefore, the canal would be seriously
affected by a tidal movement of so considerable a character, and
leading engineers have not hesitated to say that without the lock gates
at Panama the canal is an impossibility.


“American engineers,” we are told, “have never had but one opinion of
the canal. As a general thing they have never believed that it could be
built on the lines, within the time, nor for the money specified by M.
de Lesseps.” The same writer adds that “M. de Lesseps, having won fame
by scooping out some sand hills and connecting some lakes and streams
at Suez, thought it was a simple matter to make a canal anywhere.
He has persistently refused to see any difficulties, or to squarely
look the undertaking in the face, and to estimate the chances for and
against its completion, and the collapse of all this will simply be a
question of time.”[196]

Another American writer adopts much the same view, in even more
emphatic language, when he says[197] that, “of the final cost of M. de
Lesseps’s sea-level canal at Panama, if there could be anything about it
save utter failure, nothing can be known, except that it will be a
fabulous amount.... The great difficulties and expense of excavation
are still before them, and the knotty, perhaps impossible, problem of
the Chagres river is still unsolved.”

Further light on the difficulties in the way of the enterprise was
thrown upon it in a report made by Lieut. Kemball, in 1887, to the
United States Government. He found on the Pacific slope, a short
distance west of the summit, that the route of the canal was here
crossed and recrossed by the Rio Grande, which had been trained in a
straight line down the north side of the valley, at a considerable
height above the level of the canal.[198] It was found, however, when the
rainy season had set in, that in different places the hillside began
to slide into the cutting made for the deflection of the river, and
that one bank moved almost intact across the cut, with the top surface
unbroken, and without any disturbance of the vegetation. The existence
of a substratum of a greasy clay bank was the cause of this trouble.
Such a foundation is, of course, not to be relied on. It is ready, as
has been pointed out, to “swell upwards, or glide sideways, on the
slightest provocation, and it may easily develop into a difficulty of
the most formidable character, requiring the river to be carried round
the back of the hills away from the canal.”[199]

In the summer of 1887, Lieut. Rogers, of the United States Navy,
visited the canal works, and made a report on them. He declared that
in 1886, 11,727,000 cubic metres of excavation had been done, bringing
the total quantity completed up to that date at 30 millions of cubic
metres. This had, however, been done in the face of tremendous odds.
An American dredger of greater power was steadily engaged on the same
spot for weeks, the pressure of the material laid on the bank forcing
up the soft spongy bed of the cut so rapidly that the machine could do
little more than merely hold its own. The canal bed had here and there
been destroyed by floods. Lines and trucks had been buried under two
metres of silt. In the Culebra cut, the mountain to the left hand of
the cut was found to be moving towards the canal, at the rate of 11 to
12 inches per annum. Seeing that this was the case when not one-third
of the excavation had been completed, the query is naturally suggested,
What will be the rate of movement when the bed of the canal is 250 feet
or more under the level of the surrounding country?


Nor have English writers been slow to condemn the project both from
its economic and from its engineering points of view. The following
quotation is given as typical of much that has been written elsewhere:—

       “We cannot avoid the remark that if the Inter-oceanic
     Canal be regarded, not as a Bourse speculation, but as
     an excavation which it is proposed to make by human
     agency, the question of its actual feasibility has not
     yet been really entered upon. An excavation which, if the
     last accounts of the borings be correct, would contain
     at least twenty times the bulk of the great pyramid; an
     embankment holding more than a third of the contents of
     that excavation, and requiring twenty-six years for its
     execution at the wholly unprecedented rate (from one end)
     of a million cubic yards in a year; a canal displacing for
     its execution a torrential river of four times the volume
     of the Thames in its heaviest flood, and with its bed at a
     depth of thirty feet below sea level—all this to be done
     while as yet the preliminary observations of rainfall,
     river discharge, and cross section of country have to be
     made—the proposal of such an enterprise seems rather
     worthy to adorn the name of Alexandre Dumas, or of the
     author of the tales of the Arabian Nights, than that of any
     person familiar with the practical execution of engineering

With reference to the actual state of affairs at the Panama Canal in
1887, Mr. Froude has written in the following unmeasured terms[201]:—

       “If half the reports which reached me are correct,
     in all the world there is not perhaps now concentrated
     in any single spot so much swindling and villainy, so
     much foul disease, such a hideous dungheap of moral and
     physical abomination, as in the scene of this far-famed
     undertaking of nineteenth century engineering. By the
     scheme, as it was first propounded, £26,000,000 of English
     money were to unite the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, to
     form a highway for the commerce of the globe, and enrich
     with untold wealth the happy owners of original shares.
     The thrifty French peasantry were tempted by the golden
     bait, and poured their savings into M. de Lesseps’ lottery
     box. Almost all that money, I was told, has been already
     spent, and only a fifth of the work is done. Meanwhile, the
     human vultures have gathered to the spoil. Speculators,
     adventurers, card sharpers, hell keepers, and doubtful
     ladies have carried their charms to this delightful
     market. The scene of operations is a damp tropical
     jungle, intensely hot, swarming with mosquitoes, snakes,
     alligators, scorpions, and centipedes; the home, even as
     nature made it, of yellow fever, typhus, and dysentery,
     and now made immeasurably more deadly by the multitudes
     of people who crowd thither. Half buried in mud lie about
     the wrecks of costly machinery, consuming by rust, sent
     out under lavish orders, and found unfit for the work for
     which they were intended. Unburied altogether lie skeletons
     of the human machines which have broken down there, picked
     clean by the vultures. Everything which imagination can
     conceive that is ghastly and loathsome seems to be gathered
     into that locality just now. I was pressed to go on and
     look at the moral surroundings of ‘the greatest undertaking
     of our age,’ but my curiosity was less strong than my



The time has not yet come when the true history of the Panama Canal
Scheme can be written. It may have been an ill-judged project, or
it may not. It has, however, had enormous difficulties to contend
with. Those difficulties began with the climate, continued with the
administration and finances, and concluded with the open hostility
of very many individuals and interests that were never very friendly
to its success. The enterprise was essentially French, alike in its
conception, initiation, engineering, and finances. The phenomenal
success that attended the Suez Canal probably led the majority of the
unfortunate people who put money into the Panama Canal to suppose that
it was to be another Egyptian Canal “writ large;” but there has also
been a strong feeling of _esprit de corps_, which we cannot fail to
admire, however disastrously it may have turned out for themselves,
which the French have put into this matter. The truth is that the
French people have come to regard themselves as a royal race in canal
construction. The Languedoc Canal, which they constructed in the
reign of Louis XIV. cost 14,000,000 livres, and marked a new epoch in
the history of canal construction.[202] Of the Suez Canal, the leading
features of which are so well known, it is unnecessary to say more than
that its success has not only been phenomenal, but has been achieved
in the face of the most discouraging attitude on the part of the
engineers of other countries, including England. At the time that the
Panama Canal was being promoted, M. de Lesseps was able to point his
countrymen to the fact that the shares in the Suez Canal, which had
been issued at 500 francs, had risen to a value of 2200 francs, while
the debentures issued at 300 francs were worth 565. The impressionable
French people did not stay to recollect that the two enterprises
were totally different in character, in cost, in accessibility, in
practicability, and in prospects. And it is only fair to recollect
that the original estimate of the cost of the canal has been largely
exceeded by circumstances that were hardly capable of being foreseen.
The repeated attacks made by inimical interests, led to the company
having to borrow on higher terms, as well as to the suspension of work
on the isthmus for nearly a year. A much larger amount and higher rate
of interest has had to be paid to share and debenture holders than was
ever expected. The Company have also had to contend with a want of
navvies, and with labour disturbance, that told unfavourably on their

The Report of the Special Commission appointed in 1889 to inquire
into the affairs of the Panama Canal was published in May, 1890, and
describes in detail the position of the undertaking. It is estimated
that some 30 millions will be required to complete it, so that its
ultimate construction does not appear at present very probable.


[165] In 1588 P. Acosta, an old Spanish historian, wrote, with
reference to the proposal to construct a canal between the two
oceans, that “it would be just to fear the vengeance of Heaven for
attempting such a work.”

[166] William Paterson, the originator of the Darien Expedition, was
also the founder of the Bank of England.

[167] Dampier was born in Somersetshire in 1652. In 1673 he served in
the Dutch war under Sir Edward Sprague. He was afterwards for some
years overseer of a plantation in Jamaica. Several vicissitudes of
fortune followed, and it is stated that for a time he was one of a
band of pirates who roved about the Peruvian coasts. He made several
voyages to the northern coast of Mexico, to the East Indies, and
to the islands in the Pacific. His ‘Voyages’ have been many times

[168] Lionel Wafer was bred a surgeon in London, and in 1677 embarked
as such on board a ship bound for Bantam. He afterwards engaged with
Linch and Cook, two celebrated buccaneers, which brought him into the
company of Dampier. The two did not, however, agree, and Wafer was
left on shore on the Isthmus of Darien, where he spent some years
among the Indians. He returned to England in 1690, and published an
account of his adventures.

[169] De Ulloas was born at Seville in 1716. He distinguished himself
as an engineer and man of science. In 1730 he was sent to Peru to
measure a degree of meridian, and remained nearly ten years in South
America. Afterwards visiting England, he contributed several papers
to the Royal Society, and was appointed by Ferdinand III. to collect
information as to the condition of the arts and sciences in Europe.

[170] Letter to Mr. F. Kelly, in ‘Proceedings’ of the Royal
Geographical Society for 1856.

[171] Vide ‘Philosophical Trans.,’ 1830, p. 62 _et seq._

[172] The details of the survey are in the library of the Royal
Society, to which the author communicated a paper on the subject.
Captain Lloyd also gave an account of the country and its productions
to the Royal Geographical Society.

[173] ‘Edinburgh Review,’ April 1882.

[174] ‘Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers,’
vol. xv., p. 378.

[175] ‘Bulletin du Canal Interocéanique,’ An. 1, No. 2, p. 10.

[176] ‘Edinburgh Review,’ April 1882.

[177] At this congress Admiral Ammen represented the United States;
General Sir John Stokes, England; Vice-Admiral Likhatchof, Russia;
Commander Christoforo, Italy; and Colonel Coêlle, Spain.

[178] The items adopted by the Commission as the probable cost of the
undertaking were as follows:—

Millions of francs. 1. Excavation 570 2. Barrage 100 3. Rigoles de
déviation 75 4. Portes de marée 12 5. Jetées 10 6. Imprevus, 10 per
cent. 76 ─── 843 ═══

[179] ‘Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers,’
vol. lxxiii., p. 421.

[180] It may be interesting to state how this sum had been expended.
The items are as follows:—

  The purchase of the concession                     10,000,000
  Caution money to the Colombian Government             750,000
  Expenses incurred before the company was founded   23,393,605
  Repayment of advances to founders                   2,000,000
  Cost of administration at Panama                   26,415,927
  Expenses of the company                            26,036,551
  Interest on money advanced and shares              55,700,148
  Construction, purchase of land, &c.                25,289,743
  Purchase of materials and equipment                83,537,568
  Installations, &c.                                115,137,354

[181] This was a journal, published at Paris, which, at an early
stage of the enterprise, was issued periodically as the official
organ of the Canal Company.

[182] This sum was raised by the issue of 409,667 4 per cent. bonds,
sold at 333 francs on 500.

[183] 458,000 shares out of 500,000 offered, were taken at 450 on
1000 francs.

[184] The manual work is and has all along been performed mainly by
West Indians and natives, the number of Europeans employed being
relatively very small.

[185] The Consultative Committee of 1879 based their Report on an
anticipated annual traffic of over 4 millions of tons.

[186] The _Times_ of the 17th December declared, in a leading
article, that “it would be surprising if the collapse of the Panama
scheme had not a momentous effect upon French politics. The small
investors who have lost their money would not be human if they
omitted to turn and rend the Parliament which, after affording
legislative facilities to M. de Lesseps, now refuses to lift a hand
to save the colossal scheme from ruin. Some of the French journals
are already beginning to say that Saturday was the beginning of the
end for the Republic. It is possible to commend the action of the
Chamber, and at the same time to feel that ‘Parliamentarism’ hardly
realised the magnitude of the forces which he challenged with such
a light heart. All the vague discontent which has been accumulating
against Parliamentary government will now naturally be brought to a
head. The Panama collapse will furnish a specific grievance which
will appeal with irresistible force to the unfortunate subscribers,
and send them crowding into the ranks of the enemies of the Republic.”

[187] ‘Isthmus of Panama,’ p. 35.

[188] ‘Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers,’ vol. xcii.
p. 447.

[189] Prestley’s ‘Historical Account of Canals,’ preface.

[190] In 1880, when the canal had been commenced, unskilled labour
was paid 3_s._ 8_d._ per day. The supply at that rate was, however,
insufficient, and the rate of wages was increased from time to time,
until in 1877 they had reached a minimum of 7_s._ per day.

[191] ‘Edinburgh Review.’

[192] Paper read in 1887 before the American Association for the
Advancement of Science.

[193] According to M. Reclus, 4010 square kilometres (‘Comptes
Rendus,’ p. 265).

[194] This has been established by the levels of Col. Lloyd.

[195] ‘Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences,’ vol. xciii. 1887.

[196] _Engineering_, August 26, 1887.

[197] Commander Taylor’s paper on “The General Question of Isthmian
Transit,” read before the American Association for the Advancement of
Science, August 1887.

[198] The bottom of the canal is here 164 feet below the river,
which, again, is 80 feet below the Panama Railway. The three courses
run parallel at this point.

[199] _Engineering_, Aug. 5, 1887.

[200] ‘Edinburgh Review,’ August 1882.

[201] ‘The English in the West Indies.’

[202] The history of this canal, which crosses the isthmus that
connects Spain with France, is told elsewhere in this volume.



One of the most important and costly of isthmian canal projects
that now looms on the horizon is that which is designed to afford a
communication between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans _viâ_ the
Lake of Nicaragua. This is a purely American project. It is put forward
by American citizens, it has been drawn up by American engineers,
and it is in favour with the American people. After the Nicaraguan
Canal project had been before the world in one shape or another for
many years, and after many different routes had been proposed and
considered, the plans for a canal have now been definitively adopted,
and the work of construction has, it is stated, actually begun. It
has not yet been announced whether the capital required has been
subscribed, but the United States, which approves the scheme, and has
raised from first to last some 9000 millions of dollars for railway
enterprise, is perhaps hardly likely to allow the canal to drop for
want of the 20 millions sterling required to complete it.

None of the many schemes for a canal across the American isthmus has
obtained more extensive support, both in America and in Europe, than
that _viâ_ the Lake of Nicaragua. It had the very earnest support of
the Emperor Napoleon between 1845 and 1848. In 1846, the Emperor,
then Prince Louis Napoleon, wrote a pamphlet on the subject,[203] in
the course of which he pronounced against the Panama route, and he
once declared, as regards the rival Nicaraguan scheme that, “from the
embouchure of the river San Juan to the Pacific Ocean the canal would
run in a straight line about 278 miles, enhancing the prosperity on
either bank of more than a thousand miles of territory. The effect that
would be produced by the annual passage through this fine country of
two or three thousand ships, exchanging foreign produce with that of
Central America, and spreading everywhere activity and wealth, would be
almost miraculous.”[204]


The expense of the Nicaraguan Canal was estimated by Napoleon at
only four millions sterling; but it is obvious, from the Prince’s
own statements, that such a passage as he contemplated would only
have afforded draught of water for vessels of 300 tons. Napoleon’s
object was, however, quite as much to promote emigration, trade, and
civilisation in the State of Nicaragua, as to open a communication
between the two oceans.[205]

The river San Juan de Nicaragua directly connects the Atlantic with
the south end of the lake of the above name, from the northern end of
which but a few miles intervene to the Pacific. Various surveys have
been made of the river, with a view to the construction of a canal.
In 1837-8 Lieutenant Baily[206] was employed by the Central American
Government to explore the route. He found that the surface of the lake
of Nicaragua is 121 feet 9 inches above low water in the Atlantic.
The river San Juan, in its course of 79 miles from the lake, varies
in depth from 9 feet to 20 feet, and its course is broken by various
rapids, some of which are of considerable length. The summit-level
of the mountain chain which divides the valley of the lake from the
Pacific is 487 feet above the lake, and a tunnel of nearly 16 miles
long would have to be pierced through this wall in order to reach
the port of San Juan del Sur on the Pacific. The total length of
navigation, through river, lake, and canal, according to Mr. Baily’s
plans, would be 190 miles.

The port of San Juan del Sur is narrow at the entrance, but widens
within the harbour. It is surrounded by high land, except from W.S.W.
to W. by S. The depth of water at the entrance is 3 fathoms, and the
width 1100 yards. Ships could thence go up for a mile and a half, but
the amount of excavation required for a canal 30 feet deep and 50 feet
wide was estimated at not less than 162 million cubic yards, which has
been stated to be more than that required for the construction of 2000
miles of English railway—a figure quite conclusive against this scheme.

In 1852 the route was surveyed by Colonel Childs,[207] who proposed to
descend from the lake by fourteen locks to Brito, on the Pacific,
where, however, there was no harbour. The length of this route was
given as 194 miles.

To avoid the difficulty of cutting through the ridge, it has been
proposed to continue the navigation from the extreme north of the
Lake of Nicaragua, by the Estero de Panaloya and the river Tipitapa
to the Lake Leon, or Managua, and thence to the port of Realejo, on
the Pacific, or, yet more to the north, to the Estero Real, an arm
of the Gulf of Fonseca. But it has been pointed out that the length
of the navigation would thus be increased by a hundred miles, and it
is doubtful whether Lake Leon could furnish the water necessary for
lockage, in both directions, which it would have to supply.

The Nicaragua route, therefore, whatever may be its advantages, if
any, over that of Panama, is liable to the objections of great length,
large works, numerous locks, and the no less formidable danger, to use
the words of Humboldt, that “there is no part of the globe so full of
volcanoes as this part of America, from the 11th to the 13th degrees of

The distance from ocean to ocean by the route that has recently
received the approval of the United States Government, and is now in
course of apparent realisation, is 169·8 miles. Of actual canal there
will be 40·3 miles, the remaining 129·5 miles being free navigation
through Lake Nicaragua, the Rio San Juan, and the valley of the Rio San

Beginning on the Pacific side, the canal starts from the port of Brito,
situated about 12 miles north-west of San Juan del Sur, the Pacific
terminus of the famous gold-fever transit route, where there is a broad
channel, 342 feet wide at high water, reaching inland about 1½ miles to
the tidal lock. This lock lifts the canal 24·2 feet above high tide of
the Pacific.

From this lock, which is really the beginning of the canal—the portion
between the lock and Brito being in reality an extension of the
harbour—the canal ascends the broad gently-sloping lower valley of the
Rio Grande, which is to be diverted into the lake by an artificial
channel, rising by means of three or more locks of from 26 feet to 29
feet lift, till, at a point 8¾ miles from Brito, it reaches the western
end of the summit level, 110 feet above mean tide; thence it proceeds
through the upper valley of the Rio Grande and across a moderately
rolling country to the summit or “divide,” between the Pacific and the
lake, 41·4 feet above the level of the water in the canal; then through
the valley of the Guscoyol, a tributary of the Lajas, and along the bed
of the diverted Lajas to the lake, a total distance of 8½ miles from
the last lock and 17·27 miles from Brito.

Between the lake and Brito one small stream is taken into the canal by
a receiving weir. The river Tola and several small streams coming from
the north are to be passed under the canal, and along its lower portion
there will be ditches to intercept the surface drainage, which is
inconsiderable, and convey it to the sea.

The material to be excavated in this division is sand, gravel,
clay, and in the “divide” cut rock, which will be utilised in the
construction of the breakwater at Brito, in pitching the canal slopes,
and in concrete for the locks, culverts, weirs, and the dam across the
Rio Grande. The location of the canal in this division is the same as
that proposed by the engineer Menocal on his return from Nicaragua
in 1880. The prism, however, has been increased, the number of locks
reduced, and their location changed. The enlargement of the terminal
section is also a new feature.

The canal enters Lake Nicaragua, an inland sea, 40 miles wide, and over
90 miles long, which forms its summit level, and with the Chontales
Mountains on the left, the route is continued to Fort San Carlos at
the outlet of the lake into the Rio San Juan. Throughout this distance
of 56½ miles, 28 feet of water can be carried to within 2400 feet
of the mouth of the Lajas on the west shore of the lake, and within
eight miles of Fort San Carlos on the south-eastern shore. In the
former distance some dredging and rock excavation under water will be
necessary, and in the latter, dredging in soft mud to an average depth
of 3½ feet. From Fort San Carlos the route proceeds 64 miles down the
San Juan river, which, with the exception of the 28 miles from the lake
to Toro Rapids, has a depth varying from 28 feet to 130 feet, to the
dam thrown across the river at Ochoa just below the mouth of the Rio
San Carlos. Throughout this stretch of river, the only work to be done
is dredging in mud and gravel, and some rock excavation under water
to an average depth of four feet along a distance of 24 miles, below
Fort San Carlos, and light excavation above water on some points in the
lower river in order to flatten the bends.

The dam just mentioned is located between two steep, rocky hills, at
a point where the river is 1133 feet wide between the banks, with an
average depth of 6·6 feet. Its length on the crest will be 1255 feet,
its height 52 feet, the depth of foundations 20 feet below present
water level, and it is to be constructed entirely of concrete, with
timber-lined crest, front, and apron, and rip-rap protected back,
forming a monolith wedged between rock abutments. This dam will back
the water of the river the entire distance to Fort Carlos and into the
lake, maintaining the water of the latter at the proposed level of 110
feet, and will convert the upper San Juan into an extension of the
lake, with a fall of ¾ inch per mile.

The valley referred to, flooded by the back water from the dam,
affords an excellent basin at the entrance of the canal, free from
the influence of the river current, and the latter forms a natural,
ready-made canal, 3300´ long, needing only slight excavation on the
points of two or three spurs for rectifying the channel. From the
head of this valley, a canal 1·82 miles long extends across a broken
country of moderate elevation, intersecting one deep narrow ravine,
debouching towards the San Juan, across which a short embankment will
be necessary, and enters the valley of the river San Francisco. This
river San Francisco flows east, north-east, and east, approximately
parallel to the San Juan, and separated from it by a range of hills
to a point about nine miles (in straight line) from the dam, then,
receiving a considerable tributary (the Cano de los Chanchos) from the
north-east, turns abruptly to the south-east and south, and enters the
San Juan. Its valley thus forms an irregular flattened Y, with its foot
or stem resting on the San Juan, one arm extending westerly to within a
short distance of the dam, and the other easterly in the direction of

Across the stem of this Y, just below the junction of the two arms,
will be built an embankment 6500 feet long on the crest, and having a
maximum height of 51 feet. This embankment will retain the water of the
San Francisco and its tributaries, flooding the whole upper valley (the
arms of the Y) to a depth of from 30 to 50 feet, and forming a large
lake at the same level as the river above the dam—in other words, a
continuation of the summit level.

Proceeding from the end of the short canal already described,
the main canal passes down the westerly arm of this broad, deep,
crescent-shaped basin, past the embankment, then up the easterly arm
to the western foot of the divide between the San Francisco and the San
Juanillo, 12·55 miles from the dam, and within 19·48 miles of Greytown.
Here the eastern division of the canal is entered, beginning at the
Saltos de Elvira, whence it proceeds nearly due east, through the
broad, flat upper valley of the Arroyo de las Cascadas, cutting a spur
here and there to the “divide,” less than one mile from the Saltos,
and 280 feet above the sea. Then curving gradually to the south-east,
across the little plain at the summit, it cuts a steep, narrow spur,
enters the valley of the Deseado, a stream flowing into the San
Juanillo, follows its bed a short distance, then crosses to the left
bank, and reaches the site of the upper lock of the eastern flight,
14,200 feet from the Saltos. The average cut for this distance is 149

At this lock, excavated in the rock foundations of a spur of the
northern hills, the summit level, reaching back through the San
Francisco basin, up the San Juan, and across the lake to the first
lock on the west side, a distance of 144·8 miles, ends, and the canal,
lowered 53 feet by the lock, passes by easy curves down the widening
valley of the Deseado to the next lock, less than a mile beyond. Here
another drop of 27 feet occurs, and then the canal follows the still
widening and gradually descending valley in a north-easterly direction
for less than three miles to the third and last lock at the mouth of
the valley. This lock lowers the canal to the sea level, and from here
it takes a direct course across the flat low basin of the San Juanillo
and the Lagoon region, to the harbour of San Juan del Norte, or
Greytown, about 11½ miles distant.

The surface drainage to be provided for in this division is not
extensive, and it is especially small on the western slope of the
“divide,” where three short artificial channels will divert it all
into the San Francisco Lake at some distance from the canal. Across
the “divide,” and as far as the first intersection of the canal and
the Deseado, the natural drainage is away from the canal. From this
point to the San Juanillo the canal will be protected on both sides by
drains formed partly by the present bed of the Deseado, and partly by
artificial channels. The remainder of the canal, through the lowland
from the San Juanillo to Greytown, will be protected by embankments
formed by the material deposited by the dredgers, an artificial channel
being cut on the south to divert the San Juanillo, and another on the
north to give Laguna Bernard and its tributaries an independent outlet
to the sea. From the last lock to Greytown the canal is enlarged, as at
Brito, on the west side, forming an extension of the harbour 11½ miles
inland. The material to be excavated in this division is sand, gravel,
and alluvial soil (all dredgable material) for a distance of 12 to 15
miles from Greytown, then clay, gravel, and rock in the deeper cuts,
and finally, in the “divide,” cut rock, which will be utilised as on
the west side, in the construction of the embankment, in the breakwater
at Greytown, in pitching the canal slopes, and in concrete for the dam
and locks.

About 27 miles of the actual canal will be ordinary excavation,
and it is proposed that the remaining 13 miles will be largely, if
not entirely, excavated by dredgers. In the western division, the
excavation of the portion of the canal between the last lock and the
Pacific by dredgers will solve the problem of the drainage of the
work for that division, as on the remaining excavation, being above
sea-level, the question of drainage will be perfectly simple.

In the eastern division, as in the western, the portion of the canal
between Greytown harbour and the first lock, a distance of 11½ miles,
will be dredged.

The “divide” cut from the basin of the San Francisco to the upper
lock, 14,200 feet in length, and with an average depth of 149 feet,
is admitted to be a serious work; but with the neighbouring streams
offering water at a high head for removing the surface earth by
hydraulic mining, with a large plant of power drills worked by
compressed air from the same source, and the use of modern explosives
to loosen the rock, with a large proportion of the excavated rock to
be used in the construction of the locks and the dam, and in pitching
the slopes of the canal, a still larger quantity utilised in the
construction of the harbour at Greytown, and convenient dumping-grounds
for the remainder, the engineers claim that the work can be

The following description of the proposed locks is taken from the
report of Mr. Menocal, one of the engineers:—

       “The locks proposed have a uniform length of 650 feet
     between the gates, and at least a width of 65 feet between
     the gate abutments. Locks Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 have lifts
     of 26, 27, 26·4, 29·7, and 29·7 feet respectively. No. 3
     has a lift of 53 feet, and No. 7, being a combination tide
     and lift lock, its lift will vary between 24·2 and 33·18
     feet, depending on the state of the tide. It is believed
     that Nos. 1 and 7 will rest on firm, heavy soil, but
     timber and concrete foundations have been provided for in
     the estimates. Nos. 2 and 4 are estimated to rest on solid
     rock, and as for Nos. 5 and 6, the borings taken in 1873
     show that stiff clay, compact sand and gravel will be met
     with. No. 3 is proposed to be cut out of the solid rock in
     the eastern slope of the ‘divide,’ by which the maximum
     strength will be secured with the least expense, concrete
     will be used only to the extent required to fill cavities,
     to give the proper dimensions to the various parts, and
     to give a surface to the blasted rock. The other locks it
     is proposed to build of concrete, and all of them, No. 3
     included, will have a heavy timber lining in the chambers
     and bays, extending from the top of the walls to 15 feet
     below the low-water level.

       “Cribs on firm bottom, or fender piles, when piles can
     be driven, have been provided at the approaches to the
     locks for the protection and better guidance of ships into
     the locks. Provision has also been made for making ships
     fast to the lock walls, so that the lines will, by means
     of floats, rise or fall with the ship, thus preserving the
     same tension on the lines while the vessel is kept in the
     axis of the lock. Each lock will be filled or emptied by
     conduits extending from the upper to the lower reach of the
     canal, and branch culverts connecting the main conduit with
     the lock chamber. The only operation required for either
     filling or emptying the lock will be, irrespective of the
     movements of the lock gate, the opening and closing of the
     upper and lower main culvert-gates. The time required to
     fill or empty lock No. 3, of 53 feet lift, will be fifteen
     minutes, and for the other locks an average of eleven
     minutes. The question of the best style of gates for these
     locks has been a subject of much consideration. It is
     desirable to combine strength, economy in construction,
     rapid and simple movements, facilities for repairs or
     for renewing the gates, and the least danger of accident
     by vessels entering or leaving the locks. The necessary
     machinery for moving the locks and culvert-gates, for
     hauling ships in and out of the locks, for electric lights,
     and other purposes, will be worked by hydraulic power
     furnished by the locks themselves.”

The chamber width of the locks will be 80 feet, so that these
structures will contain almost any merchant vessel afloat.

In the plans proposed for the canal, not only have enlarged prisms been
provided for, but large basins are proposed at the extremities of the
locks. These basins, the enlargement of the canal at each end, with the
lake, the river and the San Francisco basin, will permit vessels to
pass each other without delay at almost every point on the route. Mr.
Menocal states that—

       In 22·37 miles, or 57 per cent. of the canal in
     excavation, the prism is large enough for vessels in
     transit to pass each other, and of a sectional area in
     excess of the maximum area in the Suez Canal; the remaining
     distance in which large vessels cannot conveniently pass
     each other is so divided that the longest is only 3·67
     miles in length; with two exceptions, those short reaches
     of narrow canal are situated between the locks, and can be
     traversed by any vessel in less time than is estimated for
     the passage of a lock; consequently, unless a double system
     of locks be constructed, nothing will be gained by an
     enlargement of the prisms. The exceptions referred to are
     the rock-cuts through the eastern and western ‘divides,’
     2·58 and 3·67 miles, respectively, in length. The possible
     detention in the transit, due to those narrow cuts, which
     should not in any case exceed 45 minutes, would not
     justify the necessary increase of expense involved in an
     enlargement of the cross-section proposed. Both the bottom
     width and the depth of the proposed canal are larger than
     those of the Suez Canal.

       In the lake and in the largest portion of the San Juan
     River vessels can travel almost as fast as at sea. In some
     sections of the river, and possibly in the basin of the San
     Francisco, although the channel is at all points deep and
     of considerable width, the speed may be somewhat checked by
     reason of the curves.

       Estimated time of through-transit by steamer.
                                                             Hrs. Mins.
    38·98 miles of canal, at 5 miles an hour                   7   48
    8·51 miles in the San Francisco basin, at 7 miles an hour  1   14
    64·54 miles in the San Juan River, at 8 miles an hour      8    4
    56·50 miles in the lake, at 10 miles an hour               5   39
    Time allowed for passing 7 locks, at 45 minutes each       5   15
    Allow for detention in narrow cuts, &c.                    2    0
                               Total time                     30    0

       The experience of the Suez Canal shows that the actual
     time of transit is more likely to fall under than to exceed
     the above estimate.[209]

       The traffic of the canal is limited by the time required
     to pass a lock, and on the basis of 45 minutes (above
     estimated), and allowing but one vessel to each lockage,
     the number of vessels that can pass the canal in one day
     will be 32, or in one year 11,680,[210] which, at the average
     net tonnage of vessels passing the Suez Canal, will give
     an annual traffic of 20,440,000 tons. This is on the basis
     that the navigation will not be stopped during the night.

       With abundant water power at the several locks and the
     dam, there is no reason why the whole canal should not
     be sufficiently illuminated by electric lights; and with
     beacons and range lights in the river and lake, vessels can
     travel at all times with perfect safety. The estimated cost
     of the canal is 64 millions of dollars, or 13,000,000_l._
     including electric lighting, &c., and it is calculated that
     the work can be completed in six years.

                        ESTIMATES OF COST MADE IN 1888.

                                                    Per cubic yard.
                              TABLE OF PRICES.                dols.

    Excavation in earth                                        0·40
    Excavation in rock                                         1·50
    Excavation in rock (submarine)                             5·00
    Dredging                                         0·20 and  0·40
    Concrete                                         6·00 and  9·00
    Stone pitching                                             2·00
    Stone in breakwaters                                       1·50
    Puddle                                                     0·75
    Timber                                                     0·50

      _Western Division:—_                              dols.
          Excavation and embankment                   8,496,292
          Diversion of Rio Grande and Rio Lajas       1,870,447
          Other auxiliary work, including R. R.         753,329
          Locks (four)                                4,762,480
          Harbour of Brito                            1,611,500
                           Total                    $17,484,048

      _Middle Division:—_                               dols.
          Lake Nicaragua                                379,520
          River San Juan                              3,074,791
          Valley of R. San Francisco                  1,112,413
          Dam across R. San Juan                      1,858,975
          Embankment across R. San Francisco          1,331,262
          Embankment near Ochoa                          45,578
          Railroad                                      240,000
                           Total                     $8,042,539

      _Eastern Division:—_                              dols.
          The “Divide”                               11,982,938
          From the “Divide” to Greytown               8,077,294
          Locks (three)                               3,561,515
          Railroad                                      320,000
          Harbour of Greytown                         1,766,625
                           Total                    $25,708,372

      Western Division                                   17,484,048
      Middle Division                                     8,042,539
      Eastern Division                                   25,708,372
                       Total                            $51,234,239

    Surveys, hospitals, shops, &c.; management and
      contingencies, 25 per cent.                        12,808,740
                       Grand total                      $64,043,699

The Canal Company has received from the Nicaraguan Government a
concession which allows a period of 2½ years from 1887, within which to
begin operations, a grant of 1,000,000 acres of land, and immunity from
taxation and import duties for 99 years. The Canal Company estimate
that by 1894, shipping to the amount of 8,000,000 to 9,000,000 of tons
would avail itself of this route. The leading commercial bodies of New
York, New Orleans, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago, Indianapolis, and
San Francisco, have expressed themselves favourable to the project,
which has also been supported by the Legislatures of California and

The great majority of the people of the United States are only
interested in the construction of a canal across the American isthmus,
in so far as it will tend to make them independent of the Pacific
railway companies, which have of late years shown a disposition to
work together and pool their traffic at the expense of the traders.
There is, perhaps, very little to complain of in this respect, so far
as the average range of American railway rates is concerned. But the
Americans are ’cute enough to know that if they could play off the
steamship against the railway, the ultimate result, though it might
be disastrous to both transportation agencies, would be favourable to
the trader so long as the competition lasted. The actual present sea
distance from New York to San Francisco, with an isthmian canal opened,
would be shortened by 8000 miles. The distance, therefore, would not
be materially greater by canal than by railway. The ship, however,
all other things being equal, will always carry more cheaply than the
locomotive.[211] Whether the difference would be very material when the
canal company’s tolls have been paid remains to be seen.

It is probable, that with the opening of the canal, a great stimulus
would be given to the coasting trade of the United States, and
especially between the two ports of New York and San Francisco, to
the probable detriment, at least for a time, of the trans-continental
railways. The very large trade that is now being cultivated between
the United States and Central America, the republics of Peru, Chili,
and Ecuador, and something like one-half of Mexico, would be equally
benefited by the new means of communication. With all this to depend
upon, the promoters of the canal are probably not over-sanguine in
expecting that its financial results would be fairly satisfactory. The
experience of the Suez Canal at least encourages that hope, although it
is to be remarked that the cost of the Nicaraguan canal, will probably,
when completed, have been more than that of the Suez waterway.

The local advantages of the Nicaragua route for a ship canal are
generally recognised in the United States. A recent writer[212] on the
subject states that—

       “The range of what in other parts of Northern and Central
     America are mountains, and at Panama has proved one of
     the obstacles that have wrecked the French Company, on
     the Nicaragua line, dwindles to its lowest elevation, as
     if inviting a junction between the Atlantic and Pacific
     Oceans. The western shore of Lake Nicaragua is but fifteen
     miles from the Pacific, and the ‘divide,’ which north
     and south at this point assumes mountainous proportions,
     is less than 50 feet above the level of the lake, and
     about 150 feet above the mean level of the Pacific Ocean.
     Although so close to the Pacific slope, and with so
     slight a barrier holding back its waters, the great lake
     of Nicaragua drains through the river San Juan to the
     East into the Caribbean Sea. The lake itself is deep and
     unobstructed, and that portion of the river San Juan needed
     for navigation purposes requires but little work to adapt
     it for the heaviest draught vessels. The Lake of Nicaragua
     is undoubtedly the key to the situation, forming the summit
     level, and supplying the immense amount of water required
     to operate a lock canal on the large scale projected.”

The route from Greytown, on the Atlantic, to Brito, on the Pacific, a
distance of 170·099 miles, has been divided thus:—

                                       Free         Canal in
                                     navigation.   excavation.
    East side                            ..           16·048
    West side                            ..           11·160
    Six locks                            ..            0·759
    Deseado basin                       4·220            ..
    San Francisco and Machado basins   11·368            ..
    Tola basin                          5·504            ..
    River San Juan                     64·540            ..
    Lake Nicaragua                     56·500            ..
                                      ───────         ──────
    Total miles                       142·132         27·907

The minimum radius of curvature is 2500, and the principal dimensions
of the canal in excavation are as follows: rock, width, bottom, 80
feet; top, 80 feet; depth, 30 feet; earth—width, bottom, 120 feet,
top, 180 feet; depth, 46 feet; sand and loose material—width, bottom,
120 feet; top, 360 feet; depth, 30 feet.

The most important parts of the work are the construction of the
harbours—Greytown on the Caribbean Sea, and Brito on the Pacific;
the damming of the San Juan river, for the purpose of raising and
maintaining the level of Lake Nicaragua and the river at about 110 feet
above mean tide level; the formation of artificial basins at different
levels by means of dams, and the use of locks to pass from one level to

The harbour of Greytown is now closed by a sand bar, and nothing of
greater draught than six feet can enter, but it is said that in three
months or less from the commencement of the work vessels drawing 15
feet of water will be able to land materials. It is proposed to make
this opening through the sand bar by means of a temporary jetty of
brush and pile, to furnish protection to a dredger cutting through
the bar. This jetty will also give the necessary protection for the
maintenance of the passage by diverting the shore current which has
deposited the sand.

The branch mouth of the river San Juan, which at present empties into
the harbour, and is constantly, with every heavy rain, adding to the
accumulation of silt in it, will be cut off, and, by a short canal,
diverted so as to empty by the principal mouth of the San Juan some
miles to the south.

The heaviest piece of work on the canal is a rock cut through the
“divide” on the eastern portion of the summit level, commencing about
four miles to the west of lock No. 3. This cut is about 2·9 miles long
and the average depth is about 150 feet, involving a removal of about
2,150,000 cubic yards of earth, and 7,500,000 cubic yards of rock.

Lake Nicaragua has a watershed of 8000 miles. The only outlet of the
lake is the San Juan river, which discharges, at its lowest stage, near
the close of the dry season, 11,390 cubic feet of water per second. For
thirty-two double lockages, it is estimated that 129½ million cubic
feet of water will be required, being little more than one-eighth of
the total supply of the lake alone. It is claimed that as this supply
is from the summit, a dry summit level is almost impossible, while
importance is attached to the fact that the canal will be a fresh-water

The principal distances to be saved by the Nicaraguan Canal, as
compared with the only existing alternative route by Cape Horn, are
said by the Company to be:—

                        │           │    By      │
                        │    By     │ Nicaraguan │ Distance
                        │ Cape Horn.│   Canal.   │  Saved.
                        │   miles.  │   miles.   │  miles.
    _New York to_—      │           │            │
      San Francisco     │  14,840   │   4,760    │ 10,080
      Hong Kong         │  18,180   │  11,038    │  4,163
      Yokohama          │  17,679   │   9,363    │  6,827
      Melbourne         │  13,502   │  10,000    │  3,290
      Sandwich Islands  │  14,230   │   6,388    │  7,842
                        │           │            │
    _Liverpool to_—     │           │            │
      San Francisco     │  14,690   │   7,508    │  7,182
      Guayaquil         │  11,321   │   5,890    │  5,431
      Callao            │  10,539   │   6,461    │  4,078
      Valparaiso        │   9,600   │   7,448    │  2,152

The promoters of the Nicaraguan Canal appear to have got fairly to
work. A considerable quantity of machinery, as well as a number
of surveyors and engineers, have been forwarded to the scene of
operations, and the latest reports are favourable to the prospect of
the enterprise being carried out. It will necessarily, however, involve
several years of close work before it is available, even under the most
favourable circumstances, for the commerce of the world.


[203] In 1842 several influential persons in Central America wrote
to the Prince, then a prisoner in the fortress of Ham, suggesting
that he should endeavour to obtain his liberation from the French
Government, under an engagement to proceed forthwith to Central
America. In 1845 this overture was more formally repeated in a
despatch from M. Castellon, then Minister of the Central American
States in Paris; and a few months later, Señor del Montenegro
announced to the Prince that the Government of Nicaragua had
conferred on his highness full powers to conduct and execute the
undertaking. The refusal of the French Government to liberate the
Prince put an end to the scheme at that time; but after his escape
and arrival in London he was not indisposed to renew the negotiation,
and he then wrote the pamphlet referred to.

[204] Min. Proc. Inst. C. E., vol. vi. p. 428.

[205] ‘Edinburgh Review,’ April, 1882.

[206] Vide ‘Central America,’ by John Baily, R.M., London, 1850.

[207] Min. Proc. Inst. C. E., vol. xv. p. 379.

[208] ‘Edinburgh Review,’ April, 1882.

[209] The time of passage through the Suez Canal is now about 16

[210] In July, 1886, 1296 vessels passed through the St. Mary’s Canal

[211] The cost of transport of a ton of traffic by an Atlantic
freight steamer has been reduced to one penny for some forty miles.

[212] ‘Engineering and Mining Journal’ (New York), Map 4, 1889.



   “Rivers diverted from their native course,
    And bound with chains of artificial force,
    From large cascades in pleasing tumult rolled,
    Or rose through figured stone or breathing gold.”

Whether we regard the magnitude of the enterprise, the importance of
the district it is intended to serve, the difficulties and opposition
that have had to be surmounted, or the many and varied influences that
it is likely to exercise upon the future of transport in the United
Kingdom, the Manchester Ship Canal is undoubtedly one of the most
remarkable undertakings of modern times.

It is not that the canal is unique in point of the expenditure
involved, or in so far as the engineering problems to be dealt with
are concerned. The Suez Canal is at once a much more costly and a much
more extensive work, its actual cost having been about 20,000,000_l._
sterling, as against less than half that sum for the Manchester
enterprise; and its length having been about 100 miles, as against
35. The Panama Canal, again, although approximately about the same
length as the ship canal between Manchester and the sea, has cost,
up to the present time, about 60,000,000_l._ sterling, including the
expenditure on financing. The Nicaraguan Canal, again, which is now
about to be undertaken in real earnest, is estimated to cost from
13,000,000_l._ to 20,000,000_l._, and will involve the cutting of some
28 miles of canal, in addition to the almost equally serious work of
canalising the St. Juan River. But these are all works of a different
character, and having a different object in view. The Suez, Panama,
Nicaraguan, and Corinth Canals are isthmian waterways, intended, or
constructed with the view of connecting together seas or oceans that
Nature had divorced, and thereby carried out with the primary, if not
with the sole, object of abridging distance. The Welland and the St.
Mary’s Falls Canals, in Canada and the United States, are of much the
same character, their object being that of uniting waters that were
originally kept apart by natural barriers. But the Manchester Ship
Canal has but few antetypes. The canals already in existence that most
nearly correspond to it in character are the Erie Canal, which connects
Buffalo with New York, and thereby secures an unbroken line of water
communication between Chicago and New York, a distance of over 1000
miles; and the Poutiloff Canal, 38 miles in length, which connects
Cronstadt with St. Petersburg, and has converted the latter city into a
seaport. The design of the Manchester Ship Canal is to transform that
large centre of population and industry from a landlocked city into a
seaport, and to confer the same facilities on a number of other towns
in the neighbourhood.

There is no district and probably no community that appears to offer
better facilities for making the experiment of providing a great inland
waterway of this description. Manchester and Liverpool, with their
immediate suburbs contain at least a million and a half of souls. But
the trade and industry of the two towns are even more important than
their population, relatively to other districts. The cotton trade of
the world is carried on in this part of Lancashire. Manchester and
Liverpool together have obtained and maintained a great repute as the
centre of large industrial operations of almost every kind: engineering
works, shipbuilding works, alkali works, tobacco factories, chemical
and copper works, and many others. Liverpool has to-day a larger export
shipping trade than any other port in the world, and is only eclipsed
by the Thames in the matter of imports. But this great business of
imports and exports is not originated in Liverpool herself. She is only
the distributing centre for a very large and a very populous district,
and a centre moreover that did not appear to offer to that district the
economical facilities and advantages to which it was entitled. The port
and harbour dues at Liverpool were heavy and onerous, and the rates
charged by the railway companies for the transportation of traffic
between the Mersey and the interior of the country were deemed to be
much higher than they should have been, having regard to the importance
of the traffic.

The proposal to construct a canal is by no means a new one. Manchester,
as every one knows, has for more than a century and a quarter been
the foremost in all plans and operations designed to secure economy
and facility of transport. Many years ago it was proposed to convert
the Irwell into a navigable river, and this, of course, would have
connected Manchester with the Mersey and so with the sea. But the
Irwell—a tortuous, narrow, and in many respects unsatisfactory
stream—did not readily lend itself to a grand proposal of this kind,
and the little that was done to make it a maritime highway was never
attended with any real advantage to trade and commerce. The Bridgwater
Canal was a larger and more ambitious venture. It also connected
Manchester with the sea by the Mersey, as well as with many inland
towns by auxiliary canals—Bolton, by the Manchester, Bolton, and Bury
Canal; Rochdale, by the Rochdale Canal; Blackburn and Accrington,
by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal; Ashton and Huddersfield, by the
Manchester and Huddersfield Canal; and so with some other large towns.
The truth is that Manchester is, and has been for more than a century,
the centre of a vast network of canals, whereby water communication was
made possible with nearly every other important town and district
in the country. But this possibility was one that could only be
taken advantage of to a very limited extent. The canals surrounding
Manchester have been of small size and depth, admitting of the passage
of small boats and barges only, so that they could not be utilised
for sea-going craft. For most practical purposes, such waterways
were therefore of little use. What was felt to be necessary was a
canal sufficiently broad and deep to admit of the passage of large
ocean-going steamers right up to the warehouses and mills of Manchester
and the neighbouring towns. This necessity was all the more keenly
felt, and all the more readily acted upon, that the railway rates
between Manchester and Liverpool were generally onerous and oppressive.


It was under the circumstances just stated that a meeting was held at
the house of Mr. Daniel Adamson, in June 1882, to discuss the question
of constructing a canal from Manchester to the sea.

The outcome of this meeting was the appointment of Mr. Hamilton
Fulton and Mr. E. Leader Williams as engineers, with instructions
to investigate the subject, and to submit separate schemes to a
provisional committee showing the best means of carrying out such
a work. Mr. Fulton’s scheme was to improve the existing navigation
through the estuary of the Mersey by dredging and retaining walls, and
to excavate, straighten, and improve the Mersey and Irwell Navigation
to Manchester, leaving, when completed, a tidal canal to Manchester,
with a depth of 22 feet at low water spring tides. Passing places were
to be left every 3 or 4 miles, and the traffic was to be worked as on
the Suez Canal. Docks were to be constructed, and all necessary works.
The gross estimate, including water and land, was 5,072,291_l._

Mr. Williams’s proposal was to construct a canal 22 feet deep and 100
feet wide, with three locks. The channel through the estuary was to be
confined between training walls from Garston to Runcorn, and from there
the channel was to be improved and straightened to Latchford (first
lock), and be practically a tideway. Between Latchford and Manchester
it was to be a canal with locks, the existing navigation to be improved
and utilised where practicable, otherwise to be filled up; while docks
were to be made at Latchford, Irlam, and Barton. The water-level in the
docks at Manchester were to be 8 feet below the level of the quays.
The estimate of cost, including works, water, and land, was about


Mr. Williams argued that were the tide to be brought to Manchester, the
bottom of the dock would be 92 feet below the surface of the ground,
and therefore most inconvenient for working. The docks and canal ending
abruptly, would, moreover, form a depositing place for silt brought up
by the tide, and the tide flowing up or down would materially affect
the passage of vessels proceeding the reverse way.

Mr. Abernethy, who had, in the meantime, been appointed consulting
engineer, considered both of these proposals, and reported favourably
on Mr. Williams’s scheme, practically endorsing his views, but
suggesting an additional dock at Warrington, and some deeper dredging,
and estimating the cost of the work at 5,400,000_l._, or 240,000_l._
more than Mr. Williams had provided for. Mr. Abernethy also expressed
the opinion that if the work was carried out with energy, it could be
completed within four years from the commencement. Upon the basis of
the report of Mr. Williams, endorsed by Mr. Abernethy, the committee
decided in the end to proceed with the scheme.

The promoters had to secure the power to acquire “all the easements,
rights, powers, authorities, and privileges of the company of the
proprietors of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation,” as the ship canal,
if constructed, would clash with and extinguish these. The Bridgwater
Navigation Company were possessed of the foregoing rights, and were a
wealthy corporation, owning a going and paying concern, with a capital
of over 1,300,000_l._ Notice had to be served that power would be
sought to absorb this company also. Then, again, the powers sought by
the ship canal were certain to clash materially with the dock and other
interests in Liverpool, as well as with the several lines of railway
at present dominating the carrying trade of Manchester. The property
owners along the route, and many other interests, joined together to
oppose the new enterprise.

After the most arduous and prolonged struggle in the annals of private
bill legislation, the Manchester Ship Canal Bill became law, and
received the Royal Assent as an Act of Parliament on the 6th August,

The inquiries of the six Parliamentary Select Committees appointed to
investigate into the merits of the project extended over a period of
175 days. The total number of individual witnesses (including both
promoters and opponents) was 285, and the number of repeated witnesses
(including those on both sides) was 543. As illustrating the exhaustive
character of these inquiries, it may be mentioned that no less than
87,936 questions were put and answered.

The Right Honourable W. E. Forster, Chairman of the Commons Select
Committee, which was the last to deal with the Bill, in announcing that
their decision was favourable, said, “The conclusion we have come to is
unanimous,” the Committee considering the preamble proved, subject to
certain obligations being imposed upon the promoters, but none of an
onerous character.

The House of Commons Select Committee, before which the first
inquiry was made, acting entirely upon its own initiative, inserted
the following clause in the Bill, a proceeding said to be without
precedent:—“And whereas it appeared from the evidence adduced that if
the scheme could be carried out with due regard to existing interests,
the Manchester Ship Canal would afford valuable facilities, and ought
to be sanctioned.”

It is worthy of remark that though two Select Committees declined to
take the responsibility of passing the Bill absolutely in the form in
which it was presented to them, all the six Committees were satisfied
as regards the necessity of the undertaking.

The Manchester Ship Canal Company is incorporated by 48 and 49 Vict.
cap. 118, for the following amongst other purposes:—

To construct a ship canal from the river Mersey at Eastham, near
Liverpool, past Ellesmere Port, Weston Point, and Runcorn, to
Warrington, Salford, and Manchester, available for the largest class of
ocean steamers, with docks at Manchester, Salford, and Warrington, and
other incidental works.

To purchase the entire undertakings of the then existing Bridgwater
Navigation Company (Limited), including not only the Bridgwater canals
and the Runcorn and Weston canal, but the Mersey and Irwell Navigation,
the Runcorn docks, the Duke’s dock in Liverpool, and all that company’s
warehouses, wharves, buildings, lands, rents, rights, and privileges,
as a going concern.

A further Bill, authorising the payment by the Manchester Ship
Canal Company of interest at the rate of 4 per cent. per annum to
shareholders during the construction of the works, became law and
received the Royal Assent as an Act of Parliament on 26th June, 1886.

During the progress of this Bill, on a division in the House of Commons
on a motion by a Liverpool member for reference to Committee and
_locus_ for opponents, the motion was negatived by 375 votes as against
61 votes.

The authorised share capital of the Manchester Ship Canal Company is
8,000,000_l._, with borrowing powers to the extent of 1,812,000_l._,
making the total authorised capital 9,812,000_l._, a sum sufficient to
enable the company to complete the construction of the works, to pay
interest during their construction, and to carry into effect all the
objects of the Act and leave an ample surplus.

The Act provides that the Bridgwater Navigation Company shall sell the
whole of the Bridgwater undertakings for the sum of 1,710,000_l._

These undertakings earn a net revenue of nearly 60,000_l._ per annum.

Under the auspices of the Manchester Ship Canal Company, a considerable
development of the traffic on the Bridgwater canal system is expected
to result from the abolition of the bar tolls, which obstruct traffic,
and from throwing open the canal to general carriers.


A brief description of the canal works may here be introduced. The
engineering journals, from which we have mainly borrowed our facts,
have dealt with them so fully as to render a detailed statement quite

The Manchester Ship Canal begins at Eastham, on the south bank of the
Estuary of the Mersey, and about midway between its mouth and head near
Runcorn. The canal follows this bank for 13½ miles, the greater portion
being in entirely solid ground, but, sometimes going below high-water
mark, it is confined by embankments and retaining walls until reaching
Runcorn, where it leaves the waters of the Mersey, and takes an
independent and almost direct course to its terminus in the docks at
Salford and Manchester.

The total length of the canal is slightly over 35½ miles. This is
practically one continuous cutting, but it has been subdivided into
thirty lengths or sections, each with a local name and number; these
vary in cubical contents from 223,000 cubic yards in the smallest, to
3,345,000 cubic yards in the largest. The total quantity of earthwork
to be moved is 44,428,535 cubic yards, composed of 6,970,815 cubic
yards of rock, and 37,457,720 cubic yards of soft materials. Of the
rock, 1,591,570 cubic yards will be utilised for lock and river wall
work, abutments of railway bridges, facing slopes of the canal in soft
ground, and other operations, the remainder going to spoil. Of the soft
excavations 3,603,690 cubic yards are to be used in forming the
embankments of the canal, 5,176,278 cubic yards for forming embankments
on railway diversions, 1,555,000 cubic yards in filling up what will be
the disused bed of the Irwell and other water-courses; 552,000 cubic
yards in raising quays and making roads; 800,000 cubic yards are to be
stacked along the canal banks for future use in maintenance; and the
remainder, amounting to 31,149,997 cubic yards, will go to spoil.

The carrying of the Bridgwater Navigation across the Manchester Canal
at the distance of 32 miles, will be one of the most interesting works
in the contract, because an entirely new departure will be undertaken
in the aqueduct. It was on this navigation that Brindley made his
famous viaduct, the precursor of the more splendid structures of Rennie
and Telford.

As the level of the Bridgwater Navigation has to be maintained, and as
the saving of water is a consideration, Mr. Williams proposes to make
the aqueduct in the form of a swing bridge, which may be opened, swung,
and closed again without losing any water either from the swinging
portion or from the canal. Here also, parallel to the aqueduct, will be
constructed a hydraulic lift, to lower barges and boats from the waters
of the navigation, to the canal, where they will cross on its level to
a similar lift, there to be raised to their former waters and level. A
similar lift has been at work for some years with satisfactory results
at Anderton on the Weaver Navigation, of which Mr. Leader Williams was
formerly the engineer.

Throughout the entire length of the canal, hard red sandstone forms the
bedrock, and the formation, of course, varies according to the nature
of the stratification. For instance, at 1½ miles distance, where the
canal works are inside high-water mark, all layers of deposit have been
washed away, and only from 2 feet to 4 feet of black sludge overlies
the rock. Occasionally the rock dips and leaves the bottom of the
canal in the softer deposits, in some places beds of what has been
termed black river sludges, but which are, in all probability, peaty
deposits, are sandwiched in, and underlie deposits of from 15 feet to
16 feet of clean river sand. At 5½ miles between Stanlow Point and Ince
Lighthouse, large beds of blue loam are met with, varying in depth to
25 feet; and at 6 miles black sludge comes in again, about 20 feet in
thickness. At 6½ miles there is a peculiar erosion of the underlying
sandstone, apparently from some creek having cut across the line of
canal. At 8 miles the section overlies a bed of gravel, and at 9 miles
the bottom of the canal runs into a large deposit of sand. From about
10 to 10½ miles the strata becomes very soft, being sludge, sand, and
gravel mixed. At 11 miles 45 chains the bottom of the canal is again
very soft ground, the sandstone suddenly dipping and not appearing
again until about 12 miles.

At 13 miles 70 chains the first of the deep cuttings begin, the bottom
of the canal being 67 feet below the surface of the ground, and the
strata is much less complex than along the estuary. It is near to this
place that the canal leaves the waters of the Mersey, and takes an
independent and almost direct course to its terminus.

From 15 miles, 50 chains to 16 miles there is again a very considerable
alteration in the strata, the rock dipping sharply, and softer deposits
coming in. At 15 miles 68 chains, where a bore was put down, no rock
was encountered to a depth of 88 feet. Following along from 16 miles,
where the bedrock rises, a fairly even contour of its surface is
maintained, together with overlying strata of soil, sand, and gravel,
to near 18 miles 20 chains, where the London and North-Western main
line, and the Birkenhead, Lancashire, and Cheshire Junction railways
are crossed.

From this point the surface rises gradually to 19 miles, opposite the
Warrington Dock entrance, where the cutting is 50 feet deep. Near
Warrington the existing river bed will be shortened by a cut-off and
diverted from the course of the canal. At 21 miles 20 chains Latchford
Lock is reached; the section through it is very similar to that in the
preceding 5 miles. At 21 miles 70 chains the bedrock again disappears,
giving place to a deep bed of quicksand and marl. The Mersey is twice
crossed between 22 miles 10 chains and 22 miles 35 chains. There is
another cut-off and diversion of the river near 22 miles 50 chains,
where the bottom becomes soft brown sandy clay, and sludge, being in
a bed 24 feet thick, which reaches 18 inches or 20 inches below the
bottom of the canal; this runs into gravel and clay at 23 miles 10
chains, which again dies into a large bed of quicksand from about 23
miles 25 chains to 75 chains. At 24 miles 2 chains the rock is again
struck by a bore at a depth of 12 feet below the bottom of the canal.
The Mersey is again twice crossed at 23 miles 40 chains, and 70 chains,
and the river is to be diverted through the existing channel, called
the “Butchersfield Cut.” At 24 miles 20 chains the Mersey joins with
the Bollin; from there the canal will become practically the river to
Manchester, and the old river bed will be filled up. A sand and gravel
formation continues to about 25 miles, where a bed of marl is reached,
overlaid by hard and soft shale, but from the point where this runs
out, about 25 miles 40 chains to Manchester, the canal follows more or
less the bed of the river, wherein a much more complicated strata is
met with than along the line of route which is away from the influence
of the river, at between 14 and 25½ miles. Loam and streaks of sand,
overlying hard red sand are met with from 25 miles 60 chains, to 26
miles 20 chains, where gravel and red rock come in, to 25 miles 15
chains, between which points the bottom of the canal by a strange
coincidence follows almost parallel with the upper surface of the
bedrock. At 27 miles 15 chains the rock dips and is not met with again
for nearly half a mile. The Irlam locks are at 28 miles 50 chains;
just at the entrance, rock again crops up and forms the bottom of the
canal. At 29 miles a wedge-shaped layer of brown clay comes in which
runs about half a mile, reaching a depth of 20 feet at the Manchester
end; this suddenly ends in a deep bed of loam which it partially
overlies—evidently it is a deposit from the river which flows
above—then loam, sand, and gravel make the strata to about 29½ miles,
when rock again appears, and runs almost to the surface at 29 miles 68
chains. At 30 miles 30 chains the rock runs out again from the bottom,
and a heavy bed of loam, 36 feet deep, covers it, the cutting at this
point being entirely in loam. A little further on, the rock bottom
again rises, and from there sand and rock are chiefly met with to 31
miles 10 chains, where the rock dies out again, and blue loam comes in,
forming a deep bed overlying sand, sludge, gravel and marl; near the
Barton Locks this runs into heavy beds of loam near 33½ miles. At 34
miles soil, clay, and rock are the formations met with, each in nearly
equal beds of 10 feet deep, until about 34 miles 50 chains, when much
sand shows; at 34 miles 55 chains the bedrock dips, and sand over clay
and loam form the strata to the terminal dock entrances at Throstle
Nest. This completes the course of the canal proper.

The canal is to be constructed with a minimum width of 120 feet on the
bottom. From Barton to the terminus, a distance of 3½ miles, the width
on the bottom is to be increased to 170 feet; on the Salford side of
this increased width of waterway, one mile of wharfage is to be built,
giving a total length of 4½ miles of quay or wharfage frontage at the
Manchester end, and leaving 2½ miles of frontage available for mooring
lighters or vessels along this portion of the canal.





The sections of the canal are compared with those of other large ship
canals in the diagrams at pp. 340-41.

The total rise from the level of the mean tide at Eastham to the Docks
at Manchester is nearly 60 feet. This is overcome by the average rise
of 15 feet at each of the locks. The water level in the Manchester
Docks is to be the same as the present river level at this point.

The depth of the canal throughout is to be 26 feet, but the sills of
the docks are to be put in at a depth of 28 feet, so as to allow for a
deepening throughout should the traffic demand it.

As compared with existing large canals, the Manchester Ship Canal will
be capable of carrying much the greatest traffic. The widths on the
bottom, and the depths are: Ghent Canal 55 feet 6 inches, depth 21 feet
2 inches; Suez Canal, 72 feet, depth 26 feet; and Amsterdam Canal, 88
feet 7 inches, depth 23 feet. On the Suez Canal it has been necessary
to provide passing places, otherwise the traffic could only be worked
in one direction at a time, but on the Manchester Canal there will be
ample room for two large size vessels to pass at any point

The estimates for the canal works include large docks in Manchester,
Salford, and Warrington, as sanctioned by the Company’s Act, with a
water area of 114½ acres, containing more than five miles of quays, the
area of quay space being 152 acres. There will also be a mile of quay
space near Manchester on the Ship Canal, in addition to wharves at many
places alongside its course. The docks will be of the most approved
construction, and special provision will be made to secure the rapid
loading and discharging of vessels. Extensive shed accommodation will
be provided at the docks, and the cost of some fifty hydraulic cranes
is included in the estimates.

The level of the docks at Manchester, which is 60 feet 6 inches above
the ordinary level of the tidal portion of the canal, will be reached
by four sets of locks. The locks will be of a size sufficient to admit
the largest merchant steamers afloat. Each set comprises (_a_) a large
lock, 550 feet by 60 feet; (_b_) a smaller lock 300 feet by 40 feet for
ordinary vessels; and (_c_) one lock 100 feet by 20 feet, for small
coasters and barges. All will be capable of being worked together.

Each set of locks will be worked by hydraulic power, enabling vessels
to be passed in 15 minutes. It has been ascertained by careful gaugings
that the rivers Irwell and Mersey (which will be diverted into the
upper reaches of the canal) will supply more than sufficient water for
the locks, even in the driest season.

There will be tidal gates at the entrance to the canal, which will be
worked as locks at low water, so that large vessels can enter and leave
at almost any state of the tide, instead of only during a period of 40
minutes of each tide as at Liverpool. Small vessels will be able to
enter and leave at any time.

It is claimed that vessels will be able to navigate the canal with
safety at a speed of five miles an hour, and it is estimated that the
journey from the entrance at Eastham to Manchester will be accomplished
in eight hours, which is less time than is now taken to cart goods
from ship to rail in Liverpool, and to carry them thence by rail to

One of the most interesting operations to be carried out in connection
with the canal works, will be the removal and rebuilding of the
aqueduct which Brindley constructed for the Bridgwater Navigation in
1765. The aqueduct and the neighbouring viaduct (shown in the old
print at p. 344) pass over the Mersey and Irwell Navigation at such a
height as to allow the passage through the archways of small vessels.
To accommodate the larger vessels that will pass up the Ship Canal, the
archways of the aqueduct and viaduct would have to be more than double
the height. This was the engineering difficulty which the Ship Canal
promoters had first of all to encounter and by many it was regarded as
insuperable. The suggestion was made that the Ship Canal should end at
a point below the aqueduct. Mr. E. Leader Williams, the engineer of
the company has, however, proposed to construct a short diversion of
the Bridgwater Canal immediately over the line at which it would cross
the Ship Canal. The length of the Bridgwater over the Ship Canal will
then be formed in the manner of a long movable iron caisson or trough,
somewhat deeper in the centre than at the two ends, supported by and
turning (when required) upon a circle of live rollers. This caisson is
to be filled with water to a depth equal to that of the canal itself,
and is to be fitted at either end with watertight gates, which are also
to be fixed at either end of the approaches from the canal.

[Illustration: THE BRIDGWATER CANAL.—(_a_) Across the Irwell
(_b_) Barton Bridge.]

Upon the completion of this work, the central portion of Brindley’s
aqueduct will be removed, the ends being allowed to remain. The manner
of working the new aqueduct will be as follows:—The operator in charge
of the machinery will, on descrying an approaching steamship, cause the
four watertight gates at the ends of the caisson and of the approaches
to be closed, and will then, by means of hydraulic machinery, cause
the caisson to revolve for a quarter of a circle upon the live roller
which will support it, thus leaving a perfectly clear passage for the
vessel. Through this passage, up- or down-going vessels will be able
readily to steam, and when clear of the aqueduct the process will be
reversed—that is to say, the attendant will cause the caisson to turn
back into its original position, and will have his watertight gates
opened once more, when the line of the Bridgwater traffic will be clear
again, after a very brief interval, and without any loss of the water
in the canal.

At the ends of the existing line of the canal (after the removal of
Brindley’s old aqueduct) it is proposed to construct hydraulic lifts as
already stated, by means of which it will be competent to lower barges
with full cargoes (the barges remaining afloat throughout the whole
operation) from the Bridgwater to the Ship Canal, or, _vice versâ_, to
raise them from the Ship Canal to the Bridgwater, thus making Barton
a point of interchange of traffic between the high and the low level

The works on the Manchester Ship Canal were commenced in 1886, and
are to be completed, under contract, in 1892. The estimate of the
promoters is that the canal will have a traffic of 3,000,000 tons per
annum, from which a net annual income of 709,000_l._ may be expected.
This estimate, however, did not include any coastwise traffic, nor
such goods as coal, salt, and iron, and took no account of the future
expansion of trade. Another estimate, submitted to Parliament, which
included these items, calculated on a revenue of over 9½ millions of
tons, and a net revenue of over a million and a half sterling.

Whatever the financial results of this great undertaking may be, its
future can hardly fail to be well assured, and Lancashire has reason
to be satisfied with the energy, capacity, and public spirit that have
placed such a valuable means of communication at the disposal of its
principal industrial centres.



One of the many schemes that have been put forward from time to time,
with a view to affording a more direct communication between the Ægean
and the Black Sea, appears likely to become an accomplished fact by the
cutting of the Isthmus of Corinth, which at the point where the ship
canal has been undertaken, is about 3¾ miles in breadth. The scheme now
being carried out, is understood to have originated with General Tarr,
who obtained a concession from the Greek Government for the purpose.
The required capital was estimated at some 30,000,000 francs, and
this sum was readily subscribed. The undertaking does not present any
very considerable engineering difficulties, although it has involved
a considerable amount of excavation, the earthwork requiring to be
removed being estimated at 10,000,000 cubic metres.

The Isthmus of Corinth obliges vessels passing from the Mediterranean
and Adriatic Seas to the Archipelago and the Black Sea to make a
considerable bend to the south. The idea of piercing the isthmus
originated several centuries before the Christian era, and the works
were actually commenced before the reign of Nero. The route across the
isthmus will shorten the distance between the Piræus and Marseilles 11
per cent.; Genoa, 12·2 per cent.; Venice and Trieste, 18·4 per cent.;
and Brindisi, 32·4 per cent. The probable traffic through the canal
has been estimated at over 4,500,000 tons. The works were commenced in
1882, following the straight course indicated by the traces of Nero’s
canal. The canal will have a depth of 26¼ feet, and a bottom width
of 72 feet, like the original section of the Suez Canal; but, as the
Corinth Canal has a total length of only about four miles, the transit
of vessels through it will be effected without the aid of passing
places. The principal mass of the excavation is concentrated within
the central 2½ miles, and the greatest depth of cutting is 285 feet.
Alluvial soil is mostly found for about two-thirds of a mile from each
end; but the central portion consists of close chalk underlying hard
calcareous conglomerate and compact sand, necessitating blasting and
the use of the pick. Depths of 33 feet are reached within 550 yards
of the coast, both in the Bay of Corinth and the Gulf of Egina, and
the dredging required at the entrances of the canal is not large. The
west entrance, at Poseidonia, is protected by two converging jetties,
forming a roadstead; and the east entrance, at Isthunia, is sheltered
by a single curved jetty on the northern side. These three jetties,
formed with natural blocks, are nearly completed. The canal will be
open throughout, as the variations in the level of the sea are very
slight; and the only large work of construction is the metal bridge of
262 feet span, which crosses the canal at a height of 170 feet above
the water level, and will carry the Piræus and Peloponesus Railway and
the road to Corinth over the canal.

It is not a little remarkable that both the Greeks and the Romans
proposed to make a canal across the Isthmus of Corinth, in order to
obtain a navigable passage by the Ionian Sea into the Archipelago.
Demetrius Poliorcetes, Julius Cæsar, Nero, and Caligula renewed the
attempt, but without success.[213] Before their time, the Cnidians had
made the same endeavour, which called forth the famous reply of the
Pythia—a reply that may be translated thus—

    “Delve not, nor towers upon the Isthmian pile:
    Had Jove so wished, himself had made an isle.”

The Isthmus of Corinth Canal has been cut through the tongue of land
which is situated between the gulfs of Athens and Lepantus and unites
the classic mainland with the shores of the Morea. By its geographical
position, this isthmus, as we have seen, bars the union between the
Adriatic and the Archipelago, and obliges all vessels passing from the
one sea to the other to round Cape Matapan. Its existence materially
lengthens the voyages of all ships bound from the western parts of
Europe to the Levant, Syria, Asia Minor, and Smyrna. The last-mentioned
port is the emporium to which the numerous caravans from the interior
of Asia, from Persia, and the Caucasian regions have long transported
the rich products of oriental countries still more distant. In a
similar manner it lengthens the route from Europe to the Black Sea,
which is a matter of serious importance, as from the ports on the
latter are shipped the enormous quantities of wheat and other cereals
which supply a considerable portion of Western Europe. The junction of
the waters of the Adriatic with those of the Archipelago is expected
to effect a saving in time of two days in the voyage from the harbours
of Brindisi, Ancona, and Trieste, to the Levant. It will also greatly
facilitate the establishment of local traffic, and probably lead to the
adoption of a regular system of steam communication, of which Greece is
much in want. At present, the coast is not particularly well furnished
with harbours, but those that do exist are said to be easily capable of
extension, and there is some inducement to construct new ones, as the
adjoining bays are deep, and afford a secure anchorage for vessels of
heavy tonnage.

The extreme points of the Isthmus of Corinth are Heapolis and
Kalamakis, and supposing them, like Suez and Port Said, to represent
the respective mouths of the canal, its length would not exceed three
miles at most—an insignificant cutting, so far as the actual lineal
dimensions are concerned. It was anticipated, and experience has now
demonstrated, that the nature of the material through which the Suez
Canal is excavated will constitute the principal and possibly the sole
difficulty to be contended with in future. As it is, the reduction of
the present batter of the side slopes is imperative. If not performed
by excavation, the operation will proceed spontaneously by the gradual
sliding of the sand into the water, whence it will be removed by the
dredgers, which, under any circumstances, will have a busy time of it
for some years to come. Fortunately this difficulty does not exist in
the canal in the Morea. The earth is of a tenacious character, which
will offer a better resistance to the disintegrating action of the
water agitated by the passage of ships, and the motion of screws and
paddles, and thus reduce the cost of maintenance and repair. It was
estimated that this important work could be carried out at the moderate
cost of half a million sterling. Without taking into account the number
of contingent steam and sailing ships which would avail themselves of
the passage _viâ_ the Corinth Canal, a regular traffic of the boats of
the Messageries Impériales, of the Company of Marseilles, of those of
the Austrian Lloyd’s, and of those belonging to the Italian service
was looked for. With the canal completed, Kalamakis, which at present
is but a village, was expected to speedily become a maritime town of
importance, and numerous cities, long since abandoned, and, as it were,
buried, were to be disinterred, restored to life, and ultimately to
become commercial centres, from which the mineral wealth with which the
country abounds may be exported.

On the 19th February, 1870, the concession for the construction of
the Isthmus of Corinth Canal was given to M. Maxime Chollet, on the
understanding that the works should be commenced within eighteen
months, and completed within six years. The Hellenic Government granted
to the concessionnaires all the land required for the canal, and 12,350
acres on each side, as well as the privilege of working the mines,
quarries, and forests of the State, within a distance of 19 miles of
the canal.[214] It was not, however, until 12 years afterwards that the
work was actually proceeded with, so that the terms of the original
concession were not carried out.

The canal was not formally commenced until the 23rd of April, 1882, the
first mine being fired by Her Majesty Queen Olga, in the presence of
His Majesty King George, the Diplomatic Corps, and the principal Greek
Government officials.

According to the plans ultimately adopted, the entrances to the channel
will be 100 metres in breadth, diminishing to 22 metres, and the depth
will be 8 metres.

The nature of the ground through which this channel has to be cut is
composed, according to the report of the engineers of the company, of
three distinct kinds:—

Firstly.—From the Gulf of Corinth, through a plain, consisting of sand
and alluvial soil, for the distance of 1¼ kiloms.

Secondly.—Through a mountain range, varying in height from 40 to 80
metres, of the length of 4½ kiloms.

Thirdly.—Beyond the mountain range to the sea, in the Bay of Kalamaki,
the canal will traverse a little plain of the length of 600 metres,
composed of alluvial soil and rocks.

The excavation of those parts of the canal situated in the plains
presented no difficulties, but this was not the case as regards the
mountainous part, where a mass of 8,000,000 metres of solid rock has
had to be excavated and transported to a distance, which labour,
according to the contract, had to be done within the comparatively
short period of three years.

The following plan of executing the works was decided on by the
engineers of the company, M. Gerster and M. Kauser:—[215]

       1. That part of the canal situated in the plains to be
     excavated by ordinary means, namely, hand labour, dredging
     machines, and sand pumps. This portion of the work was to
     be finished at the end of 1883.

       2. At the same time as the above-mentioned work was
     in progress, the upper portion of the rocky crest to be
     blasted, and the refuse carried away by railway.

       3. Towards the end of the year 1883 several large
     dredging machines, constructed on the most approved
     principles, were delivered to the company. These machines
     were capable of removing 5500 cubic metres of soil in
     ten hours. They were each of 300 horse-power, and were
     constructed by the firm of Messrs. Sâtre and Demange, of
     Lyons. They cost 550,000 fr. each.

As regards the system of excavating the rock, M. Gerster’s plan was to
sink vertical shafts to the level of the canal, by means of machines
constructed for the purpose, for which cartridges of dynamite were to
be employed at distances of 2 to 3 metres from each other, which were
to be exploded simultaneously.

The execution of this enterprise was confided to the Société des Ponts
et Travaux en Fer (ancienne maison Joret et Cie), in conjunction
with L’Association des Constructeurs. These two companies engaged to
undertake the cutting of the canal for the sum of 24,600,000 fr., under
forfeit if it is not completed within the prescribed time.

The annexed general and sectional diagrams (p. 351) explain the method
by which it was proposed to carry out the execution of the enterprise.

The Isthmus of Corinth Canal Company was compelled, in consequence of
unforeseen delays in their works, to obtain in 1887 an extension of
three years for their completion. The canal was to have been opened in
1888. The geological strata to be passed through in excavation does
not appear to have been accurately ascertained, and as a consequence
of having to work to some extent upon rock, instead of in sand or
gravel, the progress made was less than had been anticipated. For this
reason also it has been found necessary to raise additional capital
to the amount of double the original capital; that is to say, by an
issue of 60,000 additional shares of 500 francs each, bearing 6 per
cent. interest. In order that the canal may become a remunerative
undertaking, it is calculated that 3½ million francs of net revenue
must be realised annually. Whether the canal will ever realise this
financial result is doubtful, but, if it is ever completed, it will be
of undoubted advantage to commerce in saving 100 to 250 miles in the
passage from the Ægean to the Black Sea, and in avoiding the dangers of
the coast of Southern Greece.


Meanwhile, the canal works, for which the capital was chiefly found
in France, have been abandoned, pending the acquisition of additional
funds. There are those who hold that it is little likely that the canal
will ever be consummated, and the unfortunate issue of the works on
the Panama Canal appears to justify the view that the French nation,
who are almost alone concerned, will hesitate before they put their
hands very deeply into their pockets in order to carry to completion an
undertaking which is by no means certain to be a financial success.


[213] Plin., t. iv. c. 4.

[214] ‘Moniteur de la Banque et de la Bourse.’

[215] These particulars are taken from a report made to the Foreign
Office by Her Majesty’s Secretary of Legation at Athens.



   “My eye, descending from the hill, surveys
    Where Thames along the wanton valley strays.”

The river Thames is in many respects one of the most remarkable in the
world. No other river has so large a commerce, no other river can boast
such a display of shipping, no other river is the highway for such a
large population, no other river has such a romantic and interesting
history. The Thames is, however, eclipsed by many other waterways as
regards natural advantages for maritime commerce. It has an extremely
tortuous, irregular, and dangerous channel; it is subject to great
fluctuations of tides; it is liable to be silted up with the deposits
of sand and sewage from its lower reaches; and it is inadequately
provided with artificial light to enable the mariner to find his way up
the stream after nightfall. These disadvantages have again and again
been the subject of serious accidents to life and limb, heavy losses to
shipping and marine insurance companies, complaints and proposals on
the part of the shipping interest, and representations to the Trinity
House, the Board of Trade, and other constituted authorities. Only
quite recently, the Chamber of Shipping sent a deputation to the Board
of Trade, in order to urge that the Duke of Edinburgh channel should be
better lighted, and it was then stated that the shifty and temporary
character of the channel made the lighting of the Thames difficult at
this point. For this reason, and owing to the influence of the tides,
steamers have generally to cast anchor off Gravesend, if they reach the
Thames after darkness has set in. This is so unpleasant an alternative
for passenger steamers that they frequently brave the dangers of the
river—much more serious, as a rule, than the dangers of the ocean—and
run the risk of grounding or collision, in order that they may reach
their destined berth or dock. Those who have had the misfortune to be
on board a vessel under such circumstances must have felt devoutly
thankful that they ever reached their destination without accident, and
must have registered a vow that they would never repeat the experiment.
Within the last few years, search lights have been shown from some
of the docks, which, although intended to assist the navigator to
his intended haven, have been found to produce the opposite effect,
inasmuch that they cast into deeper shadow a great part of the
intermediate channel. These dangers and difficulties are increasing,
as it is natural they should do, when no adequate provision is made to
overcome them.

The importance of this matter can only be fairly appreciated by giving
an idea of the magnitude of the trade that is now carried on between
the Thames and other ports. The largest amount of tonnage that entered
and cleared from the Thames in any recent year was as under:—

               │  Entered.  │  Cleared. │  Total.
    Foreign    │  6,591,225 │ 4,127,045 │ 10,718,270
    Coastwise  │  5,025,724 │ 1,756,565 │  6,782,189
      Totals   │ 11,616,949 │ 5,883,610 │ 17,500,559

This represents nearly one-fifth of the total shipping trade of England
in the same year, and an average of about 48,000 tons of shipping per
day. The total value of our imports from, and exports to, foreign
countries and British possessions has in some recent years amounted,
for the port of London alone, to upwards of 200 millions sterling. The
value of our coastwise trade is not recorded, but it will probably be
sixty or seventy millions more, which would bring up the total annual
value of the shipping trade of the Thames to close on 300 millions. The
extent to which this trade has increased within the last twenty-five
years has been quite phenomenal. In 1860 the total entrances and
clearances of the port of London amounted to only 9,506,000 tons,
so that the trade has nearly doubled within twenty-seven years.
The tonnage entered and cleared over the last few years represents
an average of over four tons per head of the population of the
metropolis—taking the latter at, say, 4 millions over the four years
ending 1887.

For a considerable period, the population of London has been increasing
at the rate of about half a million in each decade. If the same rate of
increase is continued, the shipping entering and clearing from the port
of London in twenty years should amount to five millions additional,
which would bring the annual total up to about 22½ millions of tons.
Will the river Thames be equal to carrying on this enormous traffic
without serious inconvenience and danger? This is at least doubtful,
and that being so, the duty is cast upon us of considering what steps
should be taken, in order to meet the requirements of a possible
congestion of traffic, and to minimise the dangers of river navigation.
This is all the more important and urgent that the tendency now is to
provide much larger vessels than formerly, both for the foreign and
the coasting trades. A few years ago, the average size of the vessels
that entered the port of London did not exceed 300 tons. In 1860, the
average was not over 210 tons. But in 1886, the average was not less
than 620 tons. In about twenty-five years, therefore, the average
size of the vessels using the Thames has been increased by about 200
per cent. There is little doubt that this movement will continue.
It has been established as the result of the experience gained in
the navigation of ships of large size that, all other things being
equal, the larger vessels are the more economical. The average size of
the ships now entering the port of Liverpool has risen to over 1000
tons, where a few years ago it was not over one-half of that tonnage.
Probably the average size of the ships frequenting the Thames would be
materially increased if larger vessels could be admitted with safety
at all states of the tide. But the condition of the tide, except at
high water, does not admit of ships of very large size coming far up
the river. There have been cases of the tide ebbing so low that it
has been possible to walk across at London Bridge. This occurred in
1114, 1158, and 1717. Since the removal of Old London Bridge, there
has been a much greater scour, and the systematic dredging of the
river has permitted of a moderately good depth of water from the
bridge downwards in ordinary times. But the depth is not uniform, it
is liable to fluctuation, and it would be difficult to adapt the river
for the entrance of vessels of the largest size at any state of the
tide. The consequence has been that Liverpool has been leaving London
somewhat behind in the competition that has for many years been carried
on between the two towns. In 1825 the aggregate foreign tonnage of
Liverpool was only one-half to five-eighths that of London. In 1850 the
two ports were nearly abreast, and in 1870 Liverpool exceeded London.
From that date the two ports have been running a nearly equal race,
London having had the start for some two or three years past. But when
the enormous distributive facilities of London are considered, it seems
remarkable, and almost unnatural, that Liverpool, with only about
one-sixth the population, should be in the running at all, and it is
extremely probable that London would have a much greater start if the
Thames navigation were only made equal to the requirements of the trade.

The question of how far it would be expedient to construct a ship canal
that would relieve the congested traffic of the river, and permit of
vessels entering the docks at all times, has been mooted, but has never
been very seriously entertained. It is not, however, improbable that
this may, after all, be the true solution of the problem. Ship canals
are now the order of the day. They are being either projected, as we
have already seen, or constructed for the purpose of aiding navigation
to an extent that is quite remarkable, not in this country only, but
in most continental countries as well. A ship canal has been proposed
to connect Birmingham with the river Trent; another to connect Bristol
with the English Channel; a third to connect Sheffield and Goole; and
a fourth to connect the Thames and New Haven. The Manchester Maritime
Canal will soon be an accomplished fact. On the Continent canals
are actually under construction across the Isthmus of Corinth, to
connect the Adriatic with the Archipelago; and in Schleswig-Holstein,
to connect the North Sea and the Baltic, not to speak of the great
enterprises of Panama and Nicaragua, designed to connect the Atlantic
and the Pacific. In Russia, a canal has recently been constructed
between Cronstadt and St. Petersburg, whereby the latter city has been
converted into a seaport, and a canal is now being talked of to connect
the Volga and the Don. In the United States ship canals are being
promoted to connect Lakes Michigan and Erie, and the Gulf of Mexico
with the Atlantic Ocean, through the Florida Peninsula. In India, it
is proposed to connect the Gulf of Manaar with the Palk Straits, by
a maritime canal, and in other countries the same movement has been
apparent. In most of these cases the object has been to save distance
and time. In others it has been to facilitate navigation generally.
Both ends would be served by a canal to connect London with the English
Channel. It is more than a hundred years since a similar project was
recommended by Brindley to the Corporation of London, who employed the
great engineer to make a survey of the Thames above Battersea, with the
object of having it improved for purposes of navigation. Brindley’s
recommendation was not adopted, although he declared that a canal would
cost less than the improvement of the river, that it would give the command
of cheaper transport, and that it would reduce distance and economise
time.[216] Probably Brindley’s scheme would have been adopted long before
now, but for the construction of the Grand Junction Canal.

It is likely to be objected to the suggested Thames canal that the
necessity for it has recently been obviated by the construction of
the docks at Tilbury, opposite to Gravesend, and within a few miles
of the estuary of the river. The Tilbury Docks have no doubt been a
great relief to the congested condition of the traffic, and they are
entitled to every consideration. But they do not by any means meet the
case, any more than the port of Cronstadt met the requirements of St.
Petersburg previous to the construction of the Poutiloff Canal, or
the docks at Havre or Rouen now meet the requirements of Paris, which
it has been proposed to convert into a seaport. The Tilbury Docks are
about 20 miles from the centre of the metropolis. They are 30 miles
from the western and southern limits of the city, being, indeed,
almost exactly the same distance as that which separates Cronstadt
from St. Petersburg. In the latter case, it was found that the cost of
transporting goods over this distance was often as great as the cost of
carrying them to or from England, not to speak of the inconvenience and
delay which were involved.

It may not, possibly, be quite so bad as this in the case of the
Tilbury Docks, but it is obvious that the traffic unloaded there
must, to a very large extent, go through two subsequent breakages of
bulk—the first, from the ship to the railway truck, and the second
from the truck to the wagon or van that is to deliver the goods at
their ultimate destination. It would be difficult to fix an average
sum that would fairly represent what this process adds to the ultimate
cost of the traffic, but if it is put at 10_s._ per ton all round it
is not likely to be much under the mark; and 10_s._ per ton, as we
know, represents the full amount that is frequently charged for the
conveyance of a ton of goods from Antwerp or Liverpool to New York.

There is no good reason why the people of London should continue to pay
as much for the carriage of their food and fuel from the ship’s side at
Tilbury to their own doors as they would pay for its transport across
the Atlantic. It may now be unavoidable, but the necessity is not

If a canal were carried alongside the Thames, into the heart of the
city, the west end and the southern suburbs, a great deal of this
outlay might be avoided. The vessel carrying the traffic could be
stopped at any one of twenty places on the route of the canal, in order
that she might be enabled to unload, and the relatively short distance
for which the traffic would thus require to be transported from the
ship’s side to the ultimate destination of the traffic would not add
much to the cost of its water transport.

The question that those interested in this question would be likely
first to ask themselves would be—At what cost could such a canal be
constructed? The next question would be—Could it be made to pay? On
both points there is much that is reassuring.

If we take the cost of the Suez Canal as a criterion, we find that for
a distance of about 100 miles the expenditure actually incurred in
construction proper was 11,653,000_l._ The total outlay appearing in
the yearly balance-sheet at the end of 1886 was 19,782,000_l._, but a
great deal of the difference was expended in financing, in interest on
shares during the eleven years that the canal was under construction,
in transit, telegraph, and sanitary services, and in other items that
would only be necessary, if at all, to a much more limited extent
in the case under consideration. The actual outlay in construction
represents an average of about 116,530_l._ per mile, and at this rate
a Thames Navigation Canal could be built for a length of twenty-five
miles for, approximately, about three millions sterling. This would, of
course, be the cost of a canal capable of taking the largest vessels
like the Suez Canal, and constructed on the same principle—that is,
without intermediate locks, and at tide-level.

It will, however, be fairly objected that the Suez Canal is not a
parallel case. The land was given by the Khedive, and the labour of
the fellahs, which was largely _corvée_ or forced labour, cost very
little. In the neighbourhood of London, on the contrary, the price
of land is high, and labour is much more expensive, although, at the
same time, much more efficient. This would no doubt greatly modify the
force of the application of the experience gained in the construction
of the canal at Suez, although the item of land, for a considerable
distance in the county of Essex, would be comparatively trifling—land
being exceptionally cheap in that county—while higher wages would be
counterbalanced by the more general and effective use of labour-saving
machinery. Let us, however, rather be guided by the more recent, and
more parallel experience of the Amsterdam Ship Canal, which was
constructed in 1870-76, for the purpose of affording a direct outlet
from Amsterdam to the North Sea, through Lake Y and Lake Wigker Meer
(inlets of the Zuyder Sea). The distance from Amsterdam to the sea by
way of the North Holland Ship Canal, which was completed in 1825, was
52½ miles, while the Amsterdam Ship Canal reduced it to 15½ miles.
Saving of distance and time was not, however, the only reason for
adopting the latter project. The growing size of the ships frequenting
the port, and the frequent interference with navigation by ice,
rendered a new waterway necessary, apart from the considerations of
saving time and shortening distance. The total cost of the undertaking
was about three millions sterling, including all incidental expenses.
This is approximately about 200,000_l._ a mile, and at the same rate of
cost, the Thames Navigation Canal could be completed for 5,000,000_l._
as against 2,913,000_l._ in the case of adopting the mileage cost of
the Suez Canal. The conditions of the problem in Amsterdam were not
greatly different in kind to those of the Thames. The land had to be
purchased, and the price of labour did not much differ from what would
be paid in England. The quantity of material to be excavated would be
relatively much the same, and the works of art required in the form
of locks, sluice-gates, cofferdams, &c., would probably not be much
more, if any more, onerous and difficult. It is probable that some of
the heavier works required in the case of the Amsterdam Canal would be
unnecessary for that on the Thames, such as the large dam that had to
be built to keep the waters of the Zuyder Zee from overflowing, and
washing away the banks of the canal; but, on the other hand, there
would be heavier expense incurred in providing passing places, docks,


Whatever its necessity, the canal would not be undertaken if
capitalists were not assured that it was to be a “good thing”
financially, unless, indeed—which is very unlikely—the Government put
a hand somewhat deep into the public purse. The revenue of the canal
would be derived from several different sources: from tolls, which
would probably take the form of a through rate; from haulage, by means
of tug-boats; from warehousing; and from delivery of goods _ex_ ship
at the different quays on the route. It is, of course, impossible to
say at present what proportion of the total number of ships now using
the Thames would prefer to take the canal, if constructed. If, however,
it were only one-third of the whole, in ten years’ time from now that
would be about seven millions of tons per annum. The revenue that would
thus be obtained, if a uniform charge of a shilling per ton were made,
would be 350,000_l._ a year, which would, after deducting 10 per cent.
for working expenses, yield a net revenue of 315,000_l._, equal to
more than 6 per cent. on the larger estimate of 5,000,000_l._ If,
however, the canal were carried right into the heart of transpontine
London, a large revenue might be expected from the delivery of goods.
The principal docks are now such a long way from the west end and the
southern and south-western suburbs that a very heavy charge is made for
delivery of merchandise, whether by railway or by van. In many cases,
indeed, as we have already pointed out, the delivery charge is higher
than the ocean freight, and instances are not uncommon in which a
parcel which has been carried from a port 400 or 600 miles distant for
a charge of 4_s._ or 5_s._, cost double that amount between the docks
and the houses of the recipients. This is a serious grievance with the
people of the metropolis, and one that they would gladly get rid of.
A long step would be taken in that direction if water communication
for large steamers could be brought nearer to the west end. For such a
purpose the river Thames above London Bridge is practically useless.
The only considerable traffic that is carried on in the upper reaches
of the river is the transport of coal in barges from the Great Western
Railway Company’s depots at Brentford to the docks, and this is
about as unsatisfactory as it could well be, involving the repeated
breaking of bulk, and the damage of the coals from frequent handling.
A well organised and economical system of delivery between the point
of the receipt of shipping traffic in London, and the point of its
ultimate consumption, would be certain to prove both successful and
remunerative, whether undertaken by a canal company or otherwise.

But the lower reaches of the Thames are not more in want of some
artificial relief of the kind suggested than the upper reaches.

The Thames, as we have seen, is commercially the most important
river on the earth’s surface, although far from being the largest,
the broadest, the deepest, or the longest. It takes its rise in
Gloucestershire, about 375 feet above sea level. As the crow flies,
the length of the river is about 119 miles, but as the river runs it
is about 193 miles from its source to the sea. About 74 miles of its
actual length are therefore made up of windings, the character of which
will be appreciated by the plan on the opposite page.

The river is only navigable for large vessels up to London Bridge,
which is about 18 miles from Gravesend. Above London Bridge a good deal
of traffic is carried on by means of barges. The only steamers, however,
that navigate the river above that point are the shallow-draught
passenger steamers that ply between the various piers that lie
alongside the banks up to Chelsea, with occasional trips in the summer
months to Kew and Hampton Court. Above Hampton Court a small part of
the river is canalised, and it has also been necessary to construct a
small canal at Teddington, where the first lock occurs. Small craft may
navigate the Thames as far as Oxford, but above Hampton Court there
are numerous locks and weirs that have to be overcome, and navigation
is tedious. The influence of the tide extends from the outer boundary
line of the Thames Conservancy, near Southend, to Teddington lock, a
distance of 57 miles. The Conservancy Board, however, control the river
as far up as Lechlade, in Gloucestershire, a distance of 173 miles from
its estuary.

Practically the whole of the large population on the river Thames above
London Bridge are shut out from the benefits of the navigation, except
by means of barges. Above Hampton Court the navigation is difficult,
even for these, especially when propelled by a tug-boat. The difficulty
is increased by the fact that there are over thirty locks and about
twenty-two mills on the river between Oxford and the sea.

It has been suggested more than once that the Thames should be made
navigable for a much longer distance, and there is, indeed, no
insuperable obstacle in the way of the navigation being carried up as
far as Oxford. Between that city and London there is only an average
fall of about 1 foot in 4100, which interposes no obstacle. The cost
of cutting canals through the most obstructive windings of the river
would not be serious, and it is more than probable that it would be
cheerfully borne by those whom it would be most likely to benefit.

There would probably be an outcry raised that the upper reaches of the
river, which are now largely consecrated to rural sports and pastimes,
and are in many cases remarkable for their sylvan beauties, would be
threatened. But in this utilitarian age—when steamers ply on the
Grand Canal of Venice, when railways are carried up Vesuvius and the
Righi, when the Alps are pierced by tunnels, and engineers are drawing
the water supply of our great towns from the Lakes of Cumberland
and Westmorland, heretofore the chosen retreat of our poets and
philosophers—the test of most things is that of use and convenience;
and, after all, the passage of steamers up the river Thames above
Hampton Court, if it would disturb the inmates of the house-boats,
and interfere with the _dolce far niente_ fancies of a favoured few,
would more than compensate for such drawbacks by bringing to the masses
who cannot afford to gratify such luxurious tastes, more abundant
commodities at a cheaper rate, and, what is quite as necessary,
by getting rid of the weirs which at the present time are a great
hindrance to navigation, by deepening the river, and by improving its
channel generally.

The latter important requirement could probably best be met by
diverting the course of the river, where it is most tortuous, or
by constructing canals which would at the same time allow of the
navigation being shortened, and the flood-water (which now and again
plays sad havoc with the surrounding country) being carried off. By
either diverting or canalising the Thames between Tadpole in Berkshire,
and Sutton Pool, near Abingdon, the distance could be shortened by some
16 miles. Another saving of fully 13 miles could be made by a new cut
between Reading and the river above Staines, while a third saving of 11
miles could be effected by a cut between Staines and Brentford.

The effect of giving to the numerous Thames-side towns and villages
above London such facilities as those indicated would be almost
certainly to develop trade and industry in the counties of Oxford,
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, and Middlesex, through which the
river flows. In those counties there is a population bordering on the
Thames, which can hardly be put at less than two millions. It is,
perhaps, of still more importance that the course proposed would secure
for them immunity from the devastating floods to which they are now
habitually exposed. Four great floods have overtaken the folks that
dwell by the Thames since 1821. The most recent of these occurred in
1876, and caused damage which has been estimated at 300,000_l._ to
400,000_l._, not to speak of the terrible hardships, inconvenience,
misery, and disease which were entailed on those whose dwellings
were inundated. If the ideas and proposals now put forward should
contribute, in how small so ever a degree, to obviate the recurrence of
such disasters, the writer would be abundantly satisfied.


[216] Smiles’ ‘Lives of the Engineers.’





    “Canals are to the inhabitants of a country what
     seas are to nations; they equally serve to assist
     the wants of society and benefit commerce.”

There is no movement of modern times that has been more pregnant in
its results, or more interesting in its course of development, than
that which has given to the world its existing system or systems of
transportation. Of that movement, the competition of the railway and
the canal for the traffic that has been equally open to both has
been a phase that has received less attention than it deserved. The
railways have now had a long innings. They have been productive of
immense advantage to the world. The transportation of both goods and
passengers has enormously increased as a result of the facilities they
have afforded. But whether railways or canals are the best adapted to
economical transport is still a problem which is exercising the minds
of traders, economists, politicians, and engineers, in most of the
leading countries of the world.

It is probably among the things not generally remembered, if it is
among the things generally known, that railways were first projected
and sanctioned as feeders to canals. They were designed as the
humble handmaidens of the canal system. The preamble to the earliest
railway Acts recites that they would be of “great advantage to the
extensive manufactories of earthenware” established in the Potteries
and elsewhere. In 1792, the Monmouthshire Canal Navigation Company
were authorised “to make railways or stone roads,”[217] from their
canals to various ironworks and mines in the counties of Monmouth and
Brecknock.[218] In the following year, the Grand Junction Company
were authorised to make a railway at Blisworth, and “a collateral
communication by cuts, railways, or other ways and means,” with
their canal at Gayton, and the navigation of the river Nene at
Northampton.[219] Up to 1825, indeed, canals were the absolute masters
of the situation. Their owners could afford to smile at the idea of
competition from railroads, and they did in many cases actually do so.

In the construction of canals, as in the promotion of railway projects,
there have, in most European countries, been periods of speculative
operations on a large scale, culminating in crises more or less acute.
In England, the canal mania was at its height between 1791 and 1794. In
those four years eighty-one canal and navigation Acts were passed by
Parliament.[220] This was only seven years before the first railway Act
was obtained for the construction of the Wandsworth and Croydon Railway.

In Holland and Russia, this epoch had been reached many years before.
In Holland many canals had been constructed early in the seventeenth
century, and in Russia, the same movement, initiated and carried to a
certain degree of development by Peter the Great, culminated in a great
number of canal projects being put forward about the same time that
the canal mania was raging in England[221] over the question whether a
railway or a canal should be built for the purpose of carrying coals
from the inland collieries to the sea at Stockton. In 1768, a survey
had been made for a canal for the purpose by one George Dixon and
one Robert Whitworth. In the following year, Brindley surveyed the
same route and reported that a canal about 27 miles in length could
be constructed for 63,722_l._ No action, however, was taken upon
either survey, nor upon a subsequent report by Rennie on the same
scheme. In 1818, we find the project still exciting the attention of
Darlington and Stockton, and the inhabitants of the district divided
as to the merits of the two systems. In the latter part of that year,
a meeting held at Darlington pronounced a judgment which closed the
controversy. It was decided that a “rail or tramway was, under existing
circumstances, preferable to a canal.” The expectations of the friends
of railway transport were not, however, very high. They were advised
by a committee which had been appointed to consider the subject, that
“one horse, of moderate power, could easily draw downwards on the
railway about ten tons, and upwards about four tons, exclusive of empty
waggons.” Small as this outlook was, it was a great advance on the
then existing system of coal transport, the towns of Tees-side having
been, up to that date, supplied with fuel by droves of asses and mules,
which stood in the principal thoroughfares until their burdens had been
disposed of—

   “Here colliers stood with coals from distant parts,
    Some having two, and some but one-horse carts.”

Even then, however, the railway had not made much impression, and the
canal interest had as yet little to fear. The promoters of the Stockton
and Darlington Railway, as we have seen, had no idea of employing
locomotives, or of providing for passenger traffic. No mention of
either was made in their original bill. The railway was intended only
“to facilitate the conveyance of coal, iron, lime, corn, and other
commodities” from the interior. “It had no congener for years. The
impression of most people, while it was under construction, was that
it was more or less of a mistake. While the line was in progress, a
vigorous agitation for the construction of a canal for similar purposes
was going on in the adjoining county of Northumberland.” When the
locomotive engine was introduced upon the scene, the friends of canal
navigation hailed it with ridicule. “Who,” it was said, “would ever
dream of paying to be conveyed in something like a coal-wagon, upon a
dreary wagon-way, by a roaring steam-engine?” The question appeared to
carry its answer written on its face. The _Quarterly Review_, of March
1825, ridiculed the idea of the people of England trusting themselves
to the mercy of “such a machine” as a locomotive engine on the then
proposed London and Woolwich Railway, and declared its readiness “to
back old Father Thames against the Woolwich Railway for any sum.”
Nicholas Wood, the author of the first really scientific treatise on
railway locomotion, denounced the idea that locomotives could be worked
at the rate of 12 miles an hour.[222] So recently as 1830, when the
Manchester and Liverpool Railway was opened, the railway system was
intended for the transport of merchandise alone, and a speed of
more than 12 miles an hour was not dreamt of. In this case, as in
that of the Stockton and Darlington Railway five years before, the
transportation problem was still unsolved.

   “The barge ne’er came, but in its place
      Shot into view the great fire-dragon,
    And entered on his world-wide race,
      With fairy coach and grim coal-waggon.”

But at coal-waggons, or rather at heavy traffic generally, the
enterprise was expected to stop.

The Rainhill locomotive contest, and the convincing proofs afforded
thereby of the practicability of applying railway transport alike to
goods and passengers, at a high rate of speed, impressed men’s minds
with the conviction that, if canals were not already doomed, they
were, at any rate, by no means so superior as they had seemed up to
that time. The Stockton and Darlington Railway had been opened for the
purpose of bringing the coalfields and the ports of Durham together.
There was no idea of competing with any other means of transport,
because no other means of transport existed, except the pack-horse. But
in the case of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the object in view
was that of antagonism to the canals, which had proved impracticable
in their dealings with the merchants and manufacturers of those
towns. If the canal companies had met the just and reasonable demands
of the traders of Lancashire, the probability is that the Liverpool
and Manchester Railway would not have been constructed until many
years later. As it was, the high-handed proceedings adopted by those
companies, raised the Frankenstein of railway competition, and the
difficulty now was, how to lay it. Sisyphus, himself, had no harder
task to perform. The issue for a time appeared to be doubtful, but
not for long. The new system of transport fulfilled every expectation
formed by its most sanguine promoters, and disappointed every
apprehension entertained by its enemies. The canal companies found it
necessary to undertake experiments, in order to demonstrate the greater
economy of their system of transport. They also attempted to introduce
steam propulsion, to improve their lines of communication, and in some
cases to reduce their rates of charge. They did not, however, greatly
mend matters. Nicholas Wood analysed their experiments, and declared
that “coals and minerals were conveyed on railways equally cheap, if
not at a less rate, than on canals,” and in opposition to those who
maintained the greater economy of waterways, he declared that “in no
instance has it been shown that canal navigation is conducted at a
cheaper rate, including every charge.”[223] He thereupon argued that
“the slow, tardy, and interrupted transit of canal navigation must,
therefore, of necessity yield to other modes, affording a more rapid
and certain means of conveyance.”[224]

In 1825, Charles Maclaren of Edinburgh wrote an elaborate pamphlet on
the comparative merits of railways, canals, and common turnpike roads,
in which he maintained that the effect obtained by the draught of a
single horse was ten times as great on a railway, and thirty times as
great on a canal, as on a well-made road. He argued, further, that a
canal cost about three times as much as a railway, so that it would
require “nearly the same rates or dues per ton to make the capital
yield the same interest.” The relative conditions of working canals and
railways were at that time very imperfectly understood, and probably
the author of this interesting pamphlet would have been amazed, had he
lived, to see the average expenditure per mile of railway constructed
in England and Wales returned, as it now is, at close on 50,000_l._
per mile, or fully four times the outlay incurred on our canal system,
relatively to mileage.

An engineer of great experience, speaking of the contest between
railways and canals, has observed[225] that the introduction of railways
proved, in the first instance, a practical bar to the extension of
the canal system, and, eventually, a too successful competition with
the canals already made was the result. Frequently the route that had
been selected by the canal engineer was found (as was to be expected)
a favourable one for the competing railway, and in the result, the
towns that had been served by the canal, were served by the railway,
which was thus in a position to take away, even the local traffic of
the canal. For some time it appeared as though canal undertakings
and canalised river navigations must fail, for although heavy goods
could be carried very cheaply on canals, and although, in the case
of the many works and factories erected on their banks, or on basins
connected with them, there was with canal navigation no item of expense
corresponding to the cost of cartage to the railway stations, yet the
smallness of the railway rates for heavy goods, and the greater speed
of transit, were found to be more than countervailing advantages.

Canal companies, therefore, set themselves to work to add to their
position of mere owners of water highways, entitled to take toll for
the use of those highways, the function of common carriers, thus
putting themselves on a par with the railway companies, who were, in
the outset, legalised only as mere owners of iron highways, and as the
receivers of toll from any persons who might choose to run engines
and trains thereon—a condition of things which was altered as soon
as it was pointed out that it was utterly incompatible either with
punctuality or with safe working. This addition to the legal powers
of the canal companies, made by the Acts of 1845 and 1847, had a very
beneficial effect upon the value of their property, and assisted
somewhat to preserve a mode of transport competing with that afforded
by the railways.

In most of the leading countries of the world, a time arrived when
the canal system and the railway system came into strong competition,
and when it seemed doubtful on which side the victory would lie. This
contest was necessarily more marked in England than in any other
country. England had not, indeed, been the first in the field with
canals, as she had been with railways. On the contrary, we are told
by Smiles that “at a time when Holland had completed its magnificent
system of water communication, and when France, Germany, and even
Russia, had opened up important lines of inland communication, England
had not cut a single canal.”[226] But England, having once started on a
career of canal development, followed it up with greater energy and
on a more comprehensive scale than any other country. For more than
half a century canals had had it all their own way. They had in their
time done good work, in spite of much opposition.[227] Coming as they
did on the back of an era of very dear transport, they easily proved
their claims to make transport cheaper. Baines states that they carried
traffic for about one-fourth of the rate that was paid previous to the
introduction of such waterways.[228] They were upheld and protected by
large vested interests. They offered the facilities which were desired
by many inland towns of being brought into direct connection with the
sea. But the railway system, first put forward as a tentative
experiment, and without the slightest knowledge on the part of its
promoters of the results that were before long to be realised, was
making encroachments, and proving its capabilities. This was a slow
process, as the way had to be felt. The first railway Acts did not
contemplate the use of locomotives, nor the transport of passenger
traffic. The Stockton and Darlington Railway, constructed in 1825, was
the first on which locomotives were employed. Even at this date, there
were many who doubted the expediency of having a railroad instead of a
canal, and in the county of Durham, as we have already indicated, there
was a fierce fight, carried on for more than twenty years.[229]

In the United States, the supremacy of waterways was maintained until
a much later date. As we have elsewhere shown, a keen and embittered
struggle was kept up between the canal and the railroad companies until
1857; and even in the latter year the Legislature of the State of New
York, finding that railway competition was making serious inroads upon
their canal traffic, were considering whether they should not either
entirely prohibit the railways from carrying freight, or impose such
tolls upon railway tonnage as would cripple the companies in their
competition with canals.[230] Finding also that a large part of the
traffic that had been diverted from the canals to the railroads had
been carried by the latter “without profit, if not at an absolute
loss,” the Legislature was recommended to enact that the railway
companies should be “compelled to transport at no less than fairly
remunerative rates such freight as would naturally seek the cheapest
mode of transit.” The canals were said to have been “despoiled of their
income by a semblance of legal enactment, and their rightful heritage
bestowed upon chartered competitors.”[231] We may smile in this year of
grace at such interpretations of the fundamental laws of political
economy and of the liberty of the subject. No doubt John Stuart Mill
would have set the rights of _meum_ and _tuum_ in a clearer and more
logical light. But in those days vested interests fought hard, and
distinctions were not so clearly drawn as in these. The element of
speed, to which such great importance has since been attached, was only
then beginning to be appreciated.[232] The vested interest of canals had
the Government on its side, the canals having been largely constructed
with State aid. The railways, on the contrary, were entirely the
products of private initiative, which had to make a bold fight in
order to establish any footing at all. The two systems were, moreover,
essentially antagonistic in their characteristics. “The infernal
activity of railroad men was naturally most repulsive to gentlemen
of the old school, whose stately decorum was well reflected in the
placid and unostentatious movement of the boats on the canals.”[233] The
railway companies were accused of having entered into a conspiracy
“deliberately to break down these great public works, upon which the
State has spent forty years of labour,” and to “crush the canals into
a kind of atrophy, which might result in making them odious to the
State, and to transfer them eventually at a vile price to the managers
of this highly creditable scheme.” The public press took up the cudgels
on behalf of the canals. A mighty wave of popular indignation against
the railroads swept over the land. “Danger to the canals!” was the
shibboleth of political parties and commercial cliques. The leading New
York journal declared that “the whole community is aroused as it never
was before.” Prominent men of all parties demanded, through the press,
that the canals should be rescued from the danger with which they were
threatened. The agitation, however, came to nothing. It had no solid
bottom. It was an agitation similar in kind to that which had disturbed
Europe when Arkwright’s spinning machine and Compton’s mule were taking
the place of hand labour. The clamour suddenly collapsed, and was never
heard of afterwards.

Meanwhile the railway system proceeded apace. The records of human
progress contain no more remarkable chapter than that which tells of
the growth of American railroads. The State of New York, in which the
canal interest was the strongest, had, in 1845, 721 miles of railway.
In 1877 it had about 6000 miles. In the United States, as a whole, the
railway mileage increased from 4633 miles in 1845 to 78,000 miles in
1877, and 160,000 miles in 1889. The growth of the system was attended,
as it always is, by a corresponding growth of trade, and what was of
more importance to the people, by a diminution of the cost of living.
The total freight traffic carried on the railways of the United States
in 1881 was 350 million tons, being an average of 6·7 tons per head. In
1888 the total freight carried was 589½ million tons, being an average
of 9·8 tons per head. In 1870 the cost of conveying a barrel of flour
from Chicago to New York was 6_s._ 5_d._; in 1880 a working man was
only called on to pay 3_s._ 3½_d._ for the same service.

From the date when the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was fairly
established, canal navigation in England, with a few notable
exceptions, appears to have fallen into a slumber which recalls the
long night of depression and inactivity that settled down upon the
arts and sciences during the middle ages. After a few years, hardly a
single apologist could be found for the system of internal navigations.
Railways were all the vogue, and were built everywhere. The covering of
the country with a network of iron roads was made the business alike
of engineers, economists, financiers, and manufacturers. The results
of the railway mania of 1845-46, did something to stem the torrent of
new projects, many of them of an almost impossible character. But only
for a time. The canal system never again appeared to look up. One by
one, canals dropped out of the race, and were bought up by railway
companies, either with a view to getting rid of their competition, and
so securing absolute control over the traffic, or in order to make way
for new railway lines. The canals that thus fell into the hands of
railways were, perhaps naturally enough, not particularly well looked
after. But for this the public did not seem to care. The country had
for many years been enjoying an exceptional amount of prosperity. The
start that our mechanical and manufacturing superiority had given us
in the race of nations, aided and abetted by the locomotive engine and
the steamship, and the awakening of foreign countries to a sense of
requirements previously ungratified, if not unfelt, created an enormous
demand for our industrial products. In many industries, indeed, we had
hardly any competition. In most others, there was a sufficient margin
of profit to make it of little consequence what rates were charged for
railway transport, so long as the transport was effected. In such a
race as this, the slow movements of canal boats were not deemed worthy
of attention, and the railways had it all their own way.

But a time was now at hand when all this was about to be changed.
Foreign nations had learned our arts and manufactures, had adopted our
processes, had purchased our machinery, and had instituted systems
of technical instruction that caused industrial knowledge to be
generally diffused and thoroughly appreciated. The development of the
modern steamship, acting in concert with the improvement of railway
transport in the United States, inflicted upon British agriculture a
blow from which it has not rallied, and possibly never may. The prices
of agricultural produce in England, hitherto almost unaffected by the
range of prices elsewhere, were now controlled by the cost of producing
wheat in Dakota, mutton in New Zealand, beef in Texas, butter and
cheese in France, and other commodities elsewhere. Almost suddenly,
a very remarkable fall took place in the profits of agriculturists
at home. Our agricultural population, with its purchasing power thus
seriously crippled, did not bring orders into the manufacturing
districts to the same extent as formerly. Coincidently with this
falling off in the home demand, foreign nations, having learned to
supply their own wants, sought fewer English-made goods than before. A
little later still, and they were competing “brow to brow” with English
industrials in neutral markets. Our import and export returns, which
had been advancing with portentous strides, suddenly dropped down in a
way that caused serious alarm. It was found that the decline was one
of price rather than of volume, and manufacturers, having to accept
much less profits than formerly, were compelled to strain every nerve
to make ends meet. This could only be done in one or other of three
different ways—by the command of cheaper materials, by more economical
processes of manufacture, or by cheaper transport. The railways of
the United States, the telegraph system, and our own steamship lines
provided the first desideratum. The second were diligently looked
after by the manufacturers themselves. As regards the third they were
powerless. Inquiry revealed the fact that the railway rates charged
in England were generally higher than those charged in competing
countries. In some cases they had damaged once-flourishing industries,
and imperilled the very existence of large centres of population.
Complaints against railway monopoly and railway exactions became
universal. The railways were for a long time inexorable, and as they
turned a deaf ear to the remonstrances of traders, the latter had to
seek elsewhere for relief.

At this stage in the remarkable annals of recent industrial progress,
attention was once again turned to the comparative merits of canals and
railways for the transport of heavy traffic. A committee of the House
of Commons was in 1882 appointed to inquire into the subject of British
canals. This committee sat for a considerable time and took a great
deal of evidence, most of it of an extremely unsatisfactory character,
as showing how greatly British canals had passed under the domination
of the principal railway companies. The report of this committee
directed renewed attention to the advantages of canals as a means of
transport, and gave an impetus to canal construction, of which the
Manchester Ship Canal, now approaching completion, is the latest and
most signal triumph. New ship canals are, however, being talked of; and
it is more than likely that Sheffield and some other inland towns will,
before long, be able to float large vessels to the sea.

The Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888 contained certain provisions
that specially affected canals. One of these requires returns to
be made annually to Parliament by canal companies. This provision
will enable us to ascertain that which has heretofore been a sealed
book—the extent to which British canals are now utilised. The
concurrent proposals of the railway companies as to maximum rates and
terminal charges will be likely to help the canal system, if it has any
vitality left, towards resuscitation.


[217] Stone blocks were used instead of wooden sleepers on the
earliest railways.

[218] One section of this Act enabled the company to charge a toll
for cattle driven along the line, as on an ordinary highway.

[219] 33 George III.

[220] Clifford’s ‘History of Private Bill Legislation,’ vol. i. p. 41.

[221] Oddy’s ‘European Commerce’ gives a list of the canals that
were either being promoted or constructed at the commencement of the
century. Some of them were of very considerable extent. Oddy remarked
in 1805 that “by means of the canals already finished a great part of
European Russia has communication with one or other of the seas by
which it is bounded.”

[222] ‘Practical Treatise on Railroads,’ first edition.

[223] ‘Practical Treatise on Railways,’ third edition, p. 699.

[224] Ibid., p. 18.

[225] ‘Minutes of Proceeding of the Institution of Civil Engineers,’
vol. lxxx. p. 11.

[226] Preface to the ‘Lives of the Engineers,’ p. 7, 1st Ed.

[227] Johnson was a declared enemy of canals, believing that they
would interfere with country seclusion, make living dearer, displace
pack-horses and waggons, and injure the trade of towns near which
they might be carried.

[228] ‘History of the Commerce and Town of Liverpool.’

[229] Some particulars of this controversy will be found in the work
entitled, ‘The Jubilee Memorial of the Railway System,’ which the
writer prepared, at the request of the North-Eastern Railway Board,
for the occasion of the jubilee of the first passenger railway, held
at Darlington, September 1885.

[230] Poor’s ‘Manual of Railroads for 1881,’ p. xxvii.

[231] Ibid., p. xxx.

[232] One of the advocates of the canal, as against the railroad,
remarked that, “very possibly it may be vital, as it certainly is
characteristic, for a live American to hurry his person at racehorse
speed across the continent; but it certainly is not vital, nor in any
respect necessary or expedient, thus to hurry his fuel, his timber,
his building materials, his food, nor any very large proportion of
his merchandise or manufactures.”

[233] Poor’s ‘Manual for 1881,’ p. xxxiii.



There is no matter connected with the trade and commerce of a country
that is of greater importance to its welfare than cheap transport. The
business of transportation, both by land and by sea, is now one of the
most gigantic in the history of the world. The railways of the United
Kingdom received in 1887, for the transport of goods and passengers
together, not less than 71 millions sterling, which is approximately
about 6 per cent. of the whole national income from all sources. The
railways of the United States in the same year had a total income of
about 1000 millions of dollars, or 200 millions sterling, which is
probably a still larger percentage of the total income of that country.
It is the same in other European countries. Transportation is becoming
a larger factor than before in the income and expenditure of all
civilised nations.

The same considerations apply to the over-sea trade. The tonnage of
vessels that entered and cleared from British ports in the foreign
trade of 1889 was over 67 millions of tons, which would probably
represent at least as many millions sterling for freights. In addition
to this enormous business in the over-sea trade, our coasting trade
was represented in 1889 by over 90 million tons of entrances and
clearances, which would probably add 20 to 25 millions additional
to the gross income of our shipping interest, bringing up the
total tonnage that entered and cleared from our ports in 1889 to
157 millions, and the gross income resulting from the business of
transportation by sea to, approximately, about 90 millions sterling.

The United States have no such record as this to show for their foreign
trade, their foreign entrances and clearances for 1888 having amounted
to only 31 millions of tons. But the internal trade of the United
States, on the lakes, rivers, and canals, will probably be at least
double this figure, so that the traffic dealt with is enormous. The
foreign trade of the United States has more than trebled since 1864,
and is still increasing at a very rapid rate.

These figures are quoted in order that the vast character of this
business of transportation, and its consequent importance, may be duly
appreciated. Manifestly, it is of great moment that the technical
conditions which influence the cost of transport should be as perfect
as possible, and that the most economical methods of carrying on the
business of a country from this point of view, should be put into

There is, however, a great absence of agreement, even among experts,
as to what those conditions are, resulting, no doubt, from the great
variety of circumstances by which they are governed. On land, the cost
of haulage is necessarily determined by such considerations as the cost
of fuel, the proportions of tare to live load, the character of the
gradients, the adaptability of the rolling stock to the traffic, and
other elements of a more or less technical description. These introduce
so much variety of experience, and such conflict of results, that the
cost of transport is seldom or never in any two cases exactly the same;
and the figures that would be given by one authority on the subject
would probably be disputed by another, so that it is to this day, after
the railway system has been at work for over sixty years, and has
become the dominating factor in our commercial, social, and political
organisation, an extremely difficult matter to arrive at reliable
data, or, at any rate, at such data as would be generally accepted
as correct, relative to the actual cost of transport under given

It may, of course, be argued that the actual charges imposed by the
railway companies is a likely criterion of the cost of the service.
But there could hardly be a greater fallacy. In the United Kingdom the
railway companies openly proclaim that the amount that a particular
traffic will bear, and not the cost of the services rendered, is their
basis of charge.[234] In no two countries, moreover, are the charges
even approximately the same, and finally the charges vary in the same
country, and vary considerably from year to year. As an example, it may
be remarked that in the United States the average freight charge per
ton per mile in 1887 was only 1·06 cents, or roughly a halfpenny per
ton per mile, for all kinds of traffic, whereas in 1868 it was as much
as 2·45 cents, or 1·22_d._ per ton per mile.[235] It is not pretended, of
course, that this striking difference represents the difference that
has, in the interval, occurred in the actual cost of transport. That
the cost of transport has been reduced goes without saying, but the
American railways are also now content to accept much smaller profits
than formerly.

In the United Kingdom, however, the average ton-mile rates for the
transport of railway traffic are much higher than in the United States,
or in any of the principal countries of the Continent. This higher rate
of charge is defended on the ground that the cost of railways has in
England been much higher than in any other country. The charges are
fixed, therefore, not according to the actual cost of the haulage and
working of the traffic, but according to the amount required to perform
that operation, plus the payment of dividends upon an abnormally, and,
as some think, unnecessarily and unjustifiably, large capital outlay.[236]

Under these circumstances, there has been a constant conflict between
the traders and the railway companies relative to traffic charges.
The trading community has naturally been desirous of paying only
for services actually rendered, and have sought to ascertain what
those services have cost. The railways, however—at any rate in the
United Kingdom—have withheld this information, and as they have
also declined, in the main, to bring down their charges to a level
that would give traders more chance in competition with foreign
countries, the latter have in some directions sought to fall back
upon water transport, which is generally believed to be a cheaper
mode of transport than that provided by any railway, however cheaply
constructed or well managed.

Even, however, in the matter of water transport there are differences
that appear to render perfectly hopeless any attempt to ascertain
what is the actual cost of working per unit of traffic, and what is,
accordingly, the charges that the traffic ought to be called on to pay.
It will be found that this cost, like that of railway transport, is
affected by many elements—by the size of the canal and of the vessels
employed, by the number of locks and their mechanical arrangements, by
the rate of speed, by the system of traction employed, and by other
obvious differences that we shall refer to later on. It is these
differences, and their effect on the cost of working canal traffic, and
on the consequent rates charged, that we now propose to consider.

In the annals of transportation, there is no more interesting chapter
than that which deals with the contest that has been carried on for
nearly half a century, between the railways and the lakes and canals
for the grain traffic between Chicago and New York. This contest is
interesting, not only to Americans, as the people who are engaged in
it, and whom it more directly concerns; but also to the people of
Europe, and of Great Britain in particular, the cost of whose food
supplies is affected thereby.

Up to the end of 1874, the rate charged by railways for the transport
of grain from Chicago to New York was seldom under 50 cents per 100
lbs., which is equivalent to about ·58_d._ per ton per mile—taking the
distance at 950 miles. Ten years previously the average rate was rather
more than double this amount. But from 1875 onwards there commenced
what is called a “war of rates,” in the course of which the cost of
transportation was subject to the most sudden and violent fluctuations,
apparently without the slightest reason or excuse, except that of the
caprice of the competing companies. Thus, in 1879, the year started
with a rate of 85 cents, which fell in February to 20, in April to 15,
and in May to 10 cents per 100 lbs., the latter rate being exactly
sixteen times more than the rate which obtained in January 1865. By the
end of the year, the rate had risen again to 40 cents, and in 1880 it
never fell below 30 cents. In 1881 the maximum was 40 and the minimum
12 cents; in 1882 the extremes were 30 and 12½cents; in 1883 there was
only a difference of 5 cents in the recorded maximum and minimum; and
in 1884 the fluctuations ranged between 15 and 30 cents.[237]

At the lowest rate quoted over this period—the 10 cent rate of May
1879—the railways were actually carrying grain between Chicago and
New York for rather over 0·11_d._ per ton per mile. At the same rate
of transport, goods should be carried between London and Edinburgh
for 3_s._ 8_d._ per ton, a fact which will perhaps bring home to the
British trader what such a low rate would mean to him. The average rate
over the last three or four years has, however, been about double this
figure, while for the American railways as a whole it has been nearly
four times as much.

The promoters of the improved Erie Canal claim that the cost of
transport of wheat between Chicago and Buffalo by the large steamers
that now navigate the lakes is now only 2 cents a bushel, or 8_d._
per quarter for a distance of about 800 miles. The remainder of the
distance between Chicago and New York being by canal, the cost of
transport has been over 4 cents per bushel for about 400 miles, being
more than twice the cost, with more than twice the time in transit, for
only one-half the distance.

The circumstances of the Erie Canal are, however, exceptional. Seldom,
indeed, do railway freights run so low as they do on the 950 miles of
railway that separate Chicago from New York. Over this distance, the
great trunk lines have recently been carrying freight at the rate of
15 cents, or 7½_d._ per 100 lbs.[238] This is equivalent to about 14_s._
per ton, or exactly 0·174_d._ per ton per mile. There is probably no
such low rates for railway transport in the world. But this low rate is
due entirely to the competition of the lakes, rivers, and canals. It is
very exceptional even in the United States. The average rate charged
for transport in the United States in 1888 was ·45_d._ per ton per
mile,[239] which is 164 per cent. more than the Chicago to New York rate
already quoted. The railway companies do not admit that the competition
of the canals was the cause of the remarkable difference here shown,
but allege that it was due to “the very active competition that existed
among the three main lines of railroad all striving for the business.”
This has been an element in the case, without doubt; but no one who is
familiar with railway pools, conferences, and arrangements, is likely
to suppose that if the water route had been closed, the railways would
have continued rates that were most probably highly unremunerative,
notwithstanding that 1131 tons of paying freight have been brought from
Buffalo to New York in one train.[240]

Mr. W. Shelford points out[241] that in the United States one half of the
exports of wheat are from districts whose nearest point is 1400 miles
from the Atlantic seaboard. This wheat is carried by water and rail,
which are in independent hands, and form alternative routes. The routes
between Chicago and New York are:—Rail, 912-990, say 950 miles; water,
lakes, 985 miles; river and canal, 420-1405 miles; that is, the water
route is 50 per cent. longer than the railway. Yet the water route
rules the rate, because the water transport costs ⅛_d._ per ton per
mile, while the railway transport costs nearly ⅕_d._ per ton per mile,
and the total rate by water between Chicago and New York is two-thirds
of the rate by rail. So far, there is a _prima facie_ case in favour of

But if the cost of transport by water be taken separately for the lakes
and Erie Canal, it appears that the cost on the lakes is 1/12_d._ per
ton per mile, and the cost on the Erie Canal and Hudson River is ⅙_d._
per ton per mile, so that the cost of transport on the Erie Canal is
double that on the lakes, and is nearly the same as the transport by

Notwithstanding the very low rates charged for transport on the canals
of the United States, the Interstate Commerce Commission reported in
1887 that “the experience of the country has demonstrated that the
artificial waterways cannot be successful competitors with the railways
upon equal terms.”

The transport of wheat grown in the Western States of America, between
Chicago and New York is the largest business of its kind in that
country. There are in the United States between 35 and 40 millions of
acres of land under wheat crops, an area about one-half that of the
whole surface of England, Ireland, and Scotland. On this vast area
there was grown, in 1886, 459¼ millions of bushels of wheat, and of
this quantity 129½ millions of bushels were transported from Chicago,
the great warehousing centre, to New York, in the proportions of over
46 millions by canal and river and over 80 millions by railway. For
many years there has been a great scramble for this traffic between the
two rival systems of transportation. The predominance has lain now with
the railway and then with the canal, and both, as we have seen, have
had to reduce their rates from time to time in order that they might
have their share of the traffic. The fluctuations in the quantities
carried by the two systems within recent years have been remarkable. In
1881 only 38 millions of bushels out of a total of 139¾ millions were
carried by canal, but in 1887 the canals carried 46 millions out of
127½, showing a remarkable advance in the interval. This advance is, no
doubt, mainly due to the fact that in 1883 the tolls on the New York
State canals were abolished.[242]

Appended is a table showing the estimated cost of transportation of
freight between Buffalo and New York (400 miles) by different systems
of water conveyance, inclusive of tolls,[243]—(From the Report of State
Engineer of New York for 1878.)

                               │ Cost per │ Mills.   │Per Bushel
                               │   Ton.   │          │ of Wheat.
                               │          │   per    │
                               │   dols.  │ ton mile.│  cents.
    By animal power            │   8·96   │    4·53  │   7·37
    By Baxter steamers[244]    │   9·04   │    4·58  │   7·45
    By Belgian system[245]     │   8·32   │    4·21  │   6·91
         Do.     do.[246]      │   7·76   │    3·92  │   6·48
    By steamer and consort[247]│   7·68   │    3·88  │   6·41
         Do.         do.[248]  │   7·56   │    3·83  │   6·34

The economists and engineers of Germany have devoted a considerable
amount of attention to the question of the cost of transport by water
as compared with the cost of railway transport. For such an inquiry
they have had ample facilities, having not only an economically-worked
railway system, but having also several navigable rivers, on which a
large traffic is carried, in addition to their system of canals. The
results which have been brought out by these inquiries are instructive,
if they are not final. Their effect has been to create a very
considerable agitation in Germany on behalf of additional waterways,
which are described as essential to the transport of heavy traffic,
and which the Government has taken up as a measure of State. Hitherto,
however, the amount of traffic carried on the waterways of Germany has
been very much less than the traffic carried upon the railways, thus
confirming the experience of the United States, Great Britain, and
France, in so far as it shows that cheapness of cost of transport is
not the one thing needful.

The quantity of traffic carried over the German navigable ways in 1884
is estimated to have been close on 19½ millions of tons.[249] In the same
year the total quantity of traffic carried over the railways of Germany
amounted to 107 millions of tons, so that the railways carried 5½ times
more than the waterways. For other countries the proportions of the
total traffic carried in the same year were as follows:—

    │              │Railways.│  Waterways.│
    │              ├─────────┼────────────┤
    │              │  tons.  │    tons.   │
    │United States │         │            │
    │France        │   ..    │ 30,000,000 │
    │Belgium       │   ..    │ 20,000,000 │

There does not exist any exact information as to the quantity of
traffic carried on English canals. C. von Scherzer has put the quantity
at 30 to 35 millions of tons.[250] This, however, is only conjecture.
There is no authoritative record of the extent of canal traffic in
this country, and no estimate of the tonnage actually carried was even
attempted by the Canal Committee of 1883.

A canal from the Westphalian coal district to Emden having recently
been projected, a German economist was led to compare the cost of
carriage upon canals and on a single-line mineral railway with few
stations and a small staff. Assuming eight trains of sixty loaded
waggons per day to the port, of which twelve are returned loaded, and
a cost of 6000_l._ per kilometre for building the line, as actually
incurred for similar lines in the district, he calculated the cost per
train-kilometre as follows:—

    Repairs and renewals of locomotives                       1·20
    Fuel                                                      2·40
    Cleaning, oil, &c.                                        0·54
    Repairs, and renewals of wagons                           2·88
    Lighting and heating of guard’s van                       0·02
    Drivers’ wages, including mileage                         1·41
    Guards and brakesmen’s wages, including mileage           2·46
    Inspection, &c., of rolling stock                         0·13
    Station-service                                           3·12
    Permanent-way, repairs, and signalmen                     4·32
    General management                                        1·56
    Interest on capital account for line, locomotives, and
              wagons, at 4 per cent.                         14·52
                  Total                                      34·56_d._

    or ────── = 0·096_d._ per ton-kilometre = 0·16_d._ per ton mile.

The carriage on the Elbe canals costs 0·35_d._ per ton-mile, and on the
canal from the Belgian coalfields to Paris the rate was 0·29_d._ in the
spring and 0·34_d._ in the autumn of 1883, without paying interest.[251]
These figures do not, however, appear to agree with those found to
work out in similar cases elsewhere. On the Aire and Calder Canal,
for example, steamboat trains of barges, recently introduced by Mr.
Bartholomew, have reduced the cost of haulage with a speed of 4½ to 6
miles per hour to 1/119th of a penny per ton per mile for minerals, and
1/34th of a penny per ton per mile for general merchandise, including
return empties.[252] On the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, however, the cost
of steam haulage, towing two 40-ton barges, fully loaded, has been
given at ⅙ penny per ton per mile, and on the Gloucester Canal the
charge for steam towing is given at 1/10th penny per ton per mile.

_Cost of Horse Towing._—On two Belgian canals, the Louvain and the
Charleroi, horses are employed for towing. The Louvain Canal is
semi-maritime, with 3½ metres = 11½ feet depth of water, and runs
north-west from Louvain to the river Senne, which flows into the Rupel
about 1 kilom. or ⅝th of a mile further north-west. Its length is 30
kilom. = 18¾ miles, divided into five levels; the total tonnage of the
boats and ships passing through it in 1878 was estimated at 273,000
tons, and the charge for towing averages 6 millimes per tonne-kilom. =
0·093 penny per ton per mile. The Charleroi Canal, winding northwards
from Charleroi to Brussels by a circuitous route of 75 kilom. = 47
miles, is of small section, and its boats carry only 70 tons; hence the
charge for towing is higher, amounting to 8 millimes per tonne-kilom. =
0·125 penny per ton per mile. Including the return of empties, a recent
writer has estimated that horse towing might be done on free canals for
5 millimes per tonne-kilom. = 0·078 penny per ton per mile.

_Cost of Steam-towing._—On the Willebroeck Canal, which runs north
from Brussels past Willebroeck and enters the river Rupel opposite
Boom, all boats, except steamers, are towed by a steam tug working on
a chain. The length of the canal is 28 kilom. = 17½ miles, divided
into five levels; and the locks are large enough to take in six or
seven boats at a time, along with their tug. The towing is done by a
company, from whose scale of charges and year’s balance-sheet a recent
writer has calculated 0·078 penny per ton per mile as the price paid
for towing, the total annual traffic amounting to about 15,400,000
ton-miles. But if the actual dividends were reduced to the rate of four
per cent., which prevails for Belgian Government securities, and if
certain economies were effected which are believed to be practicable,
the charge for towing might be brought down to 0·047 penny per ton per
mile, including empties.[253]

The 110-ton boats in general use by the carriers on the Willebroeck
Canal make weekly the double journey from Brussels to Antwerp and back.
The distance by the canal, the Rupel, and the Scheldt, is 45 × 2 = 90
kilom. = 56 miles there and back. The boatman gets 70 francs = 56_s._
per week for himself and his boat. With a full load both ways, this
would give 7 millimes per tonne-kilom. = 0·109 penny per ton per mile.
When the Charleroi Canal is enlarged, a large traffic right through
from Charleroi to Antwerp is anticipated, a distance of 120 kilom. = 75
miles. A single journey per week would then bring the cost down to 5·2
millimes = 0·081 penny. German estimates by Dr. Meitzen range from
4·8 to 6·4 millimes = 0·075 to 0·100 penny; whence 5 millimes per
tonne-kilom. = 0·078 penny per ton per mile has been calculated as the
cost of boats and boatmen, with a full load both ways, travelling 17
kilom. or 11 miles per day, including all stoppages.

After all, however, there is no case of cheap transport rates abroad
that is more remarkable than the rate of sixpence per ton charged for
the transport of salt on the river Weaver, between Northwich and the
Mersey—a distance of thirty-six miles. This corresponds to an average
of ·17_d._ per ton per mile.

In 1888, 265 vessels were trading on the river Weaver, not including
canal boats, 65 of these being steamers. These made an average of 25
trips per day, carrying a gross tonnage of 1,300,000 tons per annum,
chiefly salt. The rates charged vary from a penny per ton for cinders
and gravel, to a shilling per ton for white salt—rock salt, which is
the staple, being charged sixpence per ton. No charge is made for dock
dues, and vessels are towed up the Mersey free of cost.

_Sea-transport._—There is, of course, no system of transport that is
so cheap as that of ocean carrying. The rates of freight now ruling
for ocean transport, low though they be, are not by any means a true
criterion of the actual charges involved. Thus, it appears that at a
recent date, a large quantity of grain was carried between European
and United States ports for 10_s._ per ton, or ·04_d._ per ton per
mile. Between Newcastle-on-Tyne and German ports, coal cargoes have
been carried rather largely for about 4_s._ 10_d._ or ·12_d._ per ton
per mile. Between North Sea and Baltic ports freights have ruled over
considerable periods at 5_s._ per ton, or between ·04_d._ and ·08_d._
per ton per mile. The daily expenses of a large steamer may be taken at
about sixpence per ton register, and as such a steamer will run from
190 to 250 miles per day, the actual cost of transport will probably
not exceed ·03_d._ per ton per mile, which, however, will be increased
by port stoppages, and other inevitable circumstances to ·05_d._ Mr.
Bailey has ascertained that the transport of a cargo of 2360 tons of
cargo, in an ordinary steamer, allowing for interest, depreciation,
insurance, fuel, wages, and food, was only one penny per forty miles of
journey.[254] This figure seems, no doubt, to be exceptionally low, but
of course much would depend upon the condition of the steamer and the
character of the cargo. The Erie Canal charges for sea transport are
only 1/18 penny per ton per mile, as compared with ¼ penny on the
canal. This may, perhaps, be accepted as the measure of the differences
in the cost of transport, and, if so, it would mean that the cost of
working canal traffic is about four and a half times that of working
such traffic on the sea. This figure is verified by many others, which
are worthy of consideration. On lakes like Erie, Ontario, and Superior,
the traffic costs more to work than on the sea, but less than it costs
on canals. The Erie Canal charge for lake transport is 1/9_d._ per ton
per mile, being twice the amount charged for sea transport

Theoretically, there is no sound reason why a modern steamship on a
sufficiently large tide-level canal should not transport traffic almost
at the same rate as it can do on the ocean. The resistance on the canal
would be less than that usually met with at sea, but, on the other
hand, the dangers of steaming too quickly compel a slow rate of speed.
The actual cost of transport at sea has been variously put at from 0·03
to 0·07 per ton per mile. This does not probably include interest on
capital and wear and tear, although the steamers in the Transatlantic
trade were content over a long period to accept rates of freight
which averaged no more than 0·04_d_. per ton per mile. If this rate
of freight were possible on inland waterways for our heavy traffic,
it would make a wonderful difference in the total cost of transport
in the United Kingdom. In 1888, there were 200 millions of tons of
minerals carried in the United Kingdom alone. The total receipts from
this traffic amounted to rather over 16 millions sterling, which,
taking an average of a penny per ton all round, would be equivalent to
3700 millions of ton miles. If this enormous traffic were carried by
canal, as it possibly might be (or at least the greater part of it) for
·25_d._ per ton per mile, there would be a possible gain to the trade
of the country of 7¾ millions sterling per annum.

As things are at present, the trader who desires to make use of canal
navigation in Great Britain is compelled to deal with a number of small
companies, every one of which has its own rate of toll, and none of
which is disposed to give too much facility to the others. Thus, a
trader desiring to send iron-work from London to Liverpool, or _vice
versâ_ by canal, would have to deal with no fewer than six canals, who
charge tolls varying from 2_d._ to 1_s._ 9_d._ per ton[255] to Preston
Brook within 20 miles of Liverpool. If, however, the traffic is to be
carried 20 miles further, it has to be transhipped into larger craft,
and carried on the Bridgwater Canal, the owners of which charge 7_s._
6_d._ per ton, or more by 2_s._ 4_d._ than the other six companies
charge for the whole of the distance of 220¼ miles over which they
have carried the goods. It is not, therefore, surprising that the
canals compare unfavourably with railways, instead of being more
favourable to the trader. For the transport of iron-work, the canal
companies now make a charge of 20_s._ or more per ton between London
and Liverpool,[256] which is at the rate of over a penny per ton per
mile. This is not only a prohibitory rate, but it is one that is quite
unjustifiable. The actual cost of transport, including all charges,
is seldom, as we have seen, more than three-tenths of a penny on
English waterways. In the case of steam colliers it has been given as
0·15_d._; in the case of steam barges on the river Lea, it is 0·33_d._;
and on the French canals it is 0·38_d._[257] In the case of ocean steam
navigation, the cost of transport is so much lower that an ocean
steamer often conveys cargo across the Atlantic for about one half the
price at which cargo is carried from London to Liverpool by canal,
although the distance in the former case is about seventeen times that
in the latter. In Germany again, where much more effectual use is made
of the inland waterways than in England, the rate varies from ·18 to
·48 of a penny per ton per mile.[258] Hence, it is not surprising that
in Germany “for valuable goods a preference is shown for water over
railway transport.” There, we are told, that “artificial waterways
carry the mass of cheap goods for two-thirds of the regular railway
tariff, and valuable goods for one-third or two-thirds of this
tariff.[259] It is the same in other continental countries.

At present, our canal traders are paying four times the amount they
require to do for the carriage of their heavy goods between our
largest centres of population. The case of the traffic between London
and Liverpool is only typical of the trade of the country generally.
Between the Lancashire coalfield and the metropolis, the railway
charge for transport is about 7_s._ per ton. By the canal it should,
as we have seen, be brought, with a profit of 25 per cent. to the
transportation agency, for a fraction over 2_s._ 6_d._; and when we
consider that the metropolis now receives about eight million tons of
coal annually by railway, this difference should exercise a sensible
influence on the trade of that part of the kingdom.

The great secret of cheap transportation is to handle and carry large
quantities. It is this, and this only, that has enabled the United
States to achieve such remarkably cheap transport, both on railways
and canals—on land and on water. In 1850 the capacity of the trains
which carried grain from Chicago to New York was only twenty-five cars
or waggons, carrying eight tons each, or a total train-load of about
200 tons. It is now, however, no uncommon thing to see train loads of
1000 to 1200 tons between Buffalo and New York. In 1850 the largest
craft employed for transporting traffic on the lakes and rivers between
Chicago and New York did not exceed 600 tons, whereas now the maximum
is not less than 3000 tons.[260] In both cases the maximum load has been
increased to five times as much as it was in 1850.

Mr. Conder[261] has pointed out that a feature of prime importance in
which the economy of transport by canal differs from that by railway,
is the incidence of the expenses of maintenance. The cost of railway
maintenance, as soon as anything like an adequate amount of traffic
is brought on a line, is remarkably steady, rising and falling, to
a certain extent, with the increase or diminution of the volume of
transport. On canals, the fixed expenses demand, in any case, a certain
cost, and this cost is very little increased by a large increase of
traffic. The annual cost of maintenance in the Suez Canal was actually
less from 1876 to 1881 than it had been from 1871 to 1876. But the
traffic had considerably more than doubled, so that the cost of
maintenance per ton per mile fell from 0·35_d._ to 0·134_d._

Bearing in mind this peculiar feature of water traffic, it is
necessary, in speaking of the cost of transport by canal, to indicate
the approximate amount of transport for which the calculation is made.
Mr. Conder[262] holds that a traffic of 600,000 units of net load may
be taken for this purpose, though it is far beneath the capacity of a
canal of very moderate size. At this amount of duty, in order to allow
a dividend of 4¼ per cent. on the capital cost, the rate of freight
on an ordinary English canal comes to 154_l._ per 100,000 units, or
0·37_d._ per ton per mile. On the French canals, providing for sinking
fund as well as interest, the cost of freight is 0·33_d._ per ton per
mile. In Belgium it is reduced to 0·20_d._, and on the lake and large
canal navigations of the United States to 0·10_d._ But on the Aire
and Calder Canal, where very special arrangements have been made for
the transport of coal, it was stated in evidence before the Select
Committee on Canals, that the cost of freight has been reduced to the
very low figure of 0·05_d._ per ton per mile. On English railways coal
transport is charged for at the rate of 0·5_d._ to 1_d._ per ton per

Mr. Conder has further estimated that in order to obtain the mean
return of 4¼ per cent. on capital, which is all that the English
railways have secured since they stopped the canal traffic, the normal
charge must be, for passengers 0·67_d._ each, for goods 1·164_d._, and
for minerals 1·838_d._ per ton per mile.[263] He adds that the charge at
which the long coal traffic is conveyed to London from Wales, over the
Great Western Railway, is 0·43_d._ per ton per mile; the loss to the
Company being to some extent recouped by charges of from 1·5_d._ to
1·75_d._ per ton per mile made to those towns which have no alternative
means of supply. The positive loss to the Company is thus about 0·4_d._
per ton per mile, and about one-half that loss is inflicted on the
purchasers or freighters.[264]

It is only right to point out that Mr. Conder’s calculations are not
accepted by railway managers, nor endorsed by independent experts. Mr.
Price Williams, a well-known railway engineer, who has very closely
investigated this subject, has come to the conclusion that railway
companies can carry coal on an ordinary road at about 0·25_d._ per ton
per mile, including return empties. This, however, is merely the cost
of haulage, and it must, of course, be added to the cost of management,
depreciation, interest, &c., before the exact figure is capable of

There is, however, even more authoritative evidence as to the actual
cost of mineral traffic to the railway companies. Sir James Allport has
had the candour to admit[265] that on the Midland Railway it is about
2_s._ 6_d._ per train mile with a train of 320 to 350 tons, which
corresponds to rather under 0·2_d._ per ton per mile. This has been
confirmed from other railway quarters.


[234] Mr. Grierson, in his work on ‘Railway Rates’ (p. 68) remarks
that the railway companies aim at making rates conform “to the
requirements of trade, or according to a popular expression, to
charge what the traffic will bear.”

[235] Statistical Abstract of the United States for 1888, pp. 185-188.

[236] In 1888 the average capital per mile of railway open in the
United Kingdom was 43,210_l._, but for England and Wales alone the
expenditure per mile was about 50,00_l._ In the United States the
cost of construction and equipment per mile of railway open in 1888
was 52,699 dollars, or roughly, 10,600_l._

[237] The rates have been taken from an interesting table published
in the _Railroad Gazette_—an admirable and ably conducted paper—of
January 9th, 1885. It is to be observed that down to 1879 the rates
were quoted in a depreciated and fluctuating currency.

[238] Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, vol.
xiv., p. 44.

[239] According to the returns published by Poor, the total tonnage
carried was 589½ million tons, and the number of ton miles was 70,423
millions. The gross receipts from freight were 639½ million dollars,
and by dividing the ton-miles into the gross receipts, we get at the
approximate ton-mile average.

[240] Trans. Am. Soc. C. E., vol. xiv., p. 50.

[241] Report of the Conference on canal navigation at the Society of
Arts, 1888.

[242] According to the “Statistical Abstract of the United States”
for 1887, the rates on the principal trunk railroads and the New York
State canals at different periods were respectively:—

    │ Year. │ Railroad.│  Canal  │
    │       │ Average. │ Average.│
    │       │  cents.  │ cents.  │
    │ 1868  │   2·45   │   ·87   │
    │ 1878  │   1·40   │   ·42   │
    │ 1880  │   1·29   │   ·49   │
    │ 1882  │   1·18   │   ·42   │

[243] Tolls, 1·04 cent.; elevating at New York, ½ cent.; trimming,
15/100 cent.

[244] Simple steamers propelled by screws.

[245] Cable in bottom of canal; steamer and tow.

[246] Cable in bottom of canal; steamer and tow.

[247] Screw steamer pushing consort ahead, both loaded.

[248] Screw steamer pushing consort ahead, both loaded.

[249] The details are as under:—

    Basin of East Prussia, Niemen, Vistula,
        Pregel, and Passarge                 2,227,000
    Basin of the Oder                          861,000
      ”   ” Elbe                             7,767,000
      ”   ” Weser                              218,000
      ”   ” Ems                                176,000
      ”   ” Rhine                            7,565,000
    Lake of Constance                          338,000
    Basin of the Danube                        210,000

[250] C. von Scherzer’s ‘Economic Life of Nations.’

[251] Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers,
vol. 78, p. 485.

[252] Ald. Bailey’s address to the Manchester Association of
Engineers, January 1886.

[253] Pro. I.C.E., vol. 78.

[254] Address to the Manchester Association of Engineers, p. 19.

[255] The tolls are as under:—

                   │       │        │ Total
            Canal. │  Per  │ Miles. │ per Ton
                   │  Ton. │        │ per Mile.
                   │_s. d._│        │ _d_.
    Grand Junction │ 1  8  │   96   │  ⅕
    Oxford         │ 0  8  │   24   │  ⅓
    Coventry       │ 0  5½ │   22¼  │  ¼
    Birmingham     │ 0  5¼ │    5½  │ 1
    Coventry       │ 0  2  │    5½  │  ⅓
    North Stafford │ 1  9  │   67   │  ⅓
             Total │ 7  6  │   220¼ │

[256] The principal elements of this charge are:—

                                                         Per Ton.
                                                         _s.   d._
    Actual cost of transport                             10    0
    Tolls from London to Preston Brook                    5    2
    Bridgwater Company’s charges         5 _s._ 6 _d._ to 7    6

[257] Appendix to ‘Report of Select Committee on Canals,’ p. 236.

[258] The inland navigation rates of Germany are established
according to the following scale (‘Journal of Statistical Society,
1888,’ p. 391):—

                                            Per Ton per Mile.
    (_a_) Goods in bulk, loaded in boats
          and towed in trains              ·18_d._ to ·29_d._
    (_b_) Goods in bales, towed in trains  ·24_d._ to ·38_d._
    (_c_) Goods in bales, carried by
          steam carriers                   ·39_d._ to 1·0_d._

[259] ‘Bulletin du Ministère de travaux publics,’ Nov. 1887.

[260] ‘Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers,’ vol.
xiv. p. 55.

[261] Paper on “Inland Transport in the Nineteenth Century by Land
and by Water,” ‘Journal of the Society of Arts,’ 1888.

[262] Ibid.

[263] Report on Wilts and Berks Canal, 1882.

[264] Paper on “Inland Transport in the Nineteenth Century by Land
and by Water.” By F. R. Conder.

[265] Select Committee on Canals, Report, 1883.



The cost of transport, whether by land or by water, is necessarily
largely affected by the method of propulsion or traction employed. On
the ocean, on lakes, and, for the most part, on rivers as well, steam
and wind are the systems available. On canals, however, the wind is
practically impossible as a motive power, and steam is not always
convenient. It has, therefore, become necessary and customary to employ
other methods. Of these, the most common in Great Britain is horse
traction, which, however, is often varied by manual labour on the
towing path. In either of these forms, traction is slow, tedious, and
costly, but there are many cases in which it is not possible to make
use of any other system. Much depends upon the width of the canal, the
number of locks that have to be passed through, and other conditions
that affect the problem. It has, however, been placed beyond all doubt
that where steam traction can be introduced, it is much more economical
than either horse or manual labour. Steam may, of course, be employed
in either of two ways—either in the form of a tug-boat, with a number
of barges in tow, as on the great lakes of the United States; or, where
the locks are not long and wide enough to permit of this system, in
the form of a locomotive, instead of a horse, on the towing-path. The
former system is, of course, much more general, and, so far as it is
possible to judge from recorded experiments, much more satisfactory
than the latter. But there are few towing paths that could not be
adapted for a narrow-gauge railway, and a small locomotive engine
might, therefore, be frequently employed where a steam-tug was out of
the question.

Besides the systems of traction already named, there are various
systems of chain towage that have been employed, especially on the
Continent, with more or less satisfactory results. These usually take
the form of ordinary chain towage, by an endless chain or rope, laid
along the bottom of the canal in lengths of two or three miles, the
tug being drawn along by the engine pulleys engaging with the rope or
chain; or endless chain towage, by which, as practised on the Rhone,
the tug carries two independent engines, each of which puts in motion
an endless chain drawn along by the tug. This chain, on the Rhone,
receives a motion like that of the bucket chain of a dredge, but the
upper part remains horizontal, while the lower follows the bottom of
the canal, the length and weight of the chain being determined by the
adhesion necessary to draw the tug.

Another system which is practised in France to some extent, and
especially on the Rhone, is that of a keel carrying at the stem or prow
a large wheel with cams, which draws the boat along by pushing against
the bottom, the initial motion being given by a steam engine.

The moving of boats upon canals or narrow rivers, where sailing is
impracticable, has always been attended with difficulties. Where the
width and depth of water will admit, long oars have been used, worked
by one or two men on each side of the vessel, as is done on the coal
barges or lighters on the Thames. On the Tyne, at Newcastle, these
keels are said to have been in use ever since 1378, and are rowed by an
immense oar on one side, another being used at the stem to steer by,
and so to counteract the tendency of this strange mode of rowing.

It is said that the large oar is hung by an iron ring, so as to admit
of its being laid on the gunwale of the keel, when not in use, but not
of its being removed. Owing to the want of any regular and proper path
on which horses could travel by the sides of rivers, the first hauling
or towing of boats was performed by men. This still continues to be
the case on the canals of China and some other countries; and in this
country most of our navigable rivers were without horse towing-paths
until the early part of the present century. Formerly ten or fifteen
men were seen tugging at the hauling line of a barge on the Thames
in the meadows of Twickenham. A good horse-path now begins at Putney
bridge, on the south side, and continues uninterruptedly on one side
or other of the river to the extreme points of the navigation. These
essential appendages to navigation were even more recently adopted on
the Severn river. The towing path on many of our old navigations is
continually interrupted and broken off by mills and other obstacles
without any bridges for the crossing of the towing horses and boys. On
the Ouse river, below Bedford, the towing-path used to be interrupted
at the end of almost every field by high and dangerous stiles, over
which the ill-fated navigation horses had to leap, encumbered by their
harness and the heavy rope.

The records of the machines approved by the Academy at Paris, and
the Cabinet of M. de Servier, printed in 1719, contain plates and
descriptions of many different contrivances, designed for the
propelling or rowing of boats on canals and rivers. One of these
systems depends upon gaining an impulse or hold against the ground at
the bottom of the river or canal, in one of which a small boat moved
by oars was proposed to be employed in successively carrying forwards
and dropping anchors whose ropes were to be attached to a horse-gin, on
board of a barge, which was designed to tow or drag a great number of
others. In another, a spiked wheel was proposed to roll on the bottom
of the canal, attached by a frame, movable on hinges, at the stern
of a barge, where a roller, turned by a winch, was to give motion to
the spiked wheel, and propel the barge by means of an endless rope
or chain. A second kind depended upon the same principles as an oar,
except in the construction and mode of applying the power.

On the 20th of July, 1796, one Thomas Potts took out a patent for the
use of a large flap or oar moving upon a horizontal hinge, attached
to a framed lever at the stern of a barge, intended, when the handle
of this lever was lifted up by several men, to turn on its hinge and
present but little resistance; but on the descent of the lever, its
whole surface was, by the action of the men at the lever, to be exerted
on the water for propelling the barge.

In the year 1801, one Edward Steers took out a patent which seems to
have differed but little from the above, except in having two paddles
or oars. Robert Beatson took out a patent for applying the principle
of luffer boards or Venetian blinds to several purposes, which he
has explained at length in an essay printed in 1798; and he proposed
to propel ships by large oars or fins of this kind to be hung on the
sides thereof by hinges, and worked by a lever, as a rudder is by its
tiller-poles, with square frames fixed on their ends, to push against
the water behind the vessel. A third kind, depending on the reverse of
the action of an undershot water-wheel, has had many advocates.

Thomas Savery, in 1698, proposed the use of six or eight paddles, like
those of a water-wheel, on each side of the vessel, fixed on an axis
across the same, by the force of a capstan to be turned by men.

In the year 1781, the Abbé Arnal proposed to apply the power of a steam
engine on board of a vessel for working paddles.

Soon after this period, there was employed on the Thames, at
Westminster, a small barge with a water-wheel in a cavity in its
stern, with a steam engine for working it, which was said to be the
contrivance of Earl Stanhope, and had been tried with success against
the tide in the river. In the year 1797 a vessel having rowers by its
side, that made 18 strokes per minute, from the action of a steam
engine on board, was tried on the Sankey Canal near Liverpool, by which
it was propelled 10 miles and back again to the same place.[266] About
the year 1800, Messrs. Hunter and Dickenson, took out a patent for a
propeller for ships, which was tried in January 1801, on board of a
Government sloop off Deptford on the Thames, and the sloop thereby made
way against the tide at the rate of three knots an hour.[267]

In the Journal of the Royal Institution, about the year 1802, there is
a description of an improved application of the steam engine to the
turning of a wheel for propelling boats; the cylinder of this engine
was horizontal, and the wheels with paddles were in a cavity in the
stem of the boat, which, therefore, had two rudders, one on each side
of the wheel, connected together by cross rods. A vessel of this kind
was constructed for the Forth and Clyde Company under the direction of
Mr. Symington, the inventor, and, in a trial made in December 1801,
drew three vessels of 60 and 70 tons burthen each, at the rate of 2½
miles per hour on their canal.[268]

Robert Fulton exhibited a vessel on the Seine at Paris, in August 1803,
having two wheels with paddles, worked by a steam engine, and it was
reported that two other vessels were towed by it against the stream at
the rate of three miles per hour. A fourth kind of boat propellors,
depended upon the rotary motion of a screw or fliers, like those of a
jack. Daniel Bushnel, in his attempts to navigate submarine vessels,[269]
used oars, placed near the sides and top of the vessel, formed upon the
principle of a screw, the axles of which entered the vessel, and by
turning the same one way, the vessel was made to advance or descend by
a contrary motion of the screw. John Vidler contrived a vessel—which
was tried in the Thames at Westminster, about 1810—that had a boom
hung by a universal joint (hooks) at the stern to a rotative axis,
turned by a capstan upon the deck of the vessel. At the end of this
boom was fixed a circle of strong flyers, just like those of a jack,
which, by striking the water obliquely as the boom was turned round,
propelled the vessel forward. Near to the flyers there was a collar
on the boom that turned easily therein; to this collar ropes were
attached, which were carried to different parts of the stern of the
vessel, and by means of which the boom could be stopped when in motion,
if it was desired to stop its propelling action on any temporary
occasion, or the flies thereof could be let down into the water to any
depth required, or be turned aside from the direct line of the vessel
to steer her on any course, without expending so much of the propelling
power upon the rudder as was usually done in steering.

These are but a few of the many services that have either been proposed
or applied to the propulsion of boats on rivers and canals. Most of
them, it need hardly be added, were found to be failures, although in
some cases they contained the germs of the remarkable progress that has
since taken place in the matter of propulsion generally. The number
of patents that have been taken out with a view to overcoming the
difficulties incidental to canal haulage have been legion. The real
gist of the matter is that no two waterways present exactly the same
conditions, and no system of transport will be found to answer equally
well in all cases, unless the circumstances under which it is applied
are identical and parallel. Hence, it becomes important to show what
has been done on different waterways to meet the special conditions
that have existed, and the results of these different applications.

In the earliest traction experiments made on the Elbe in 1720 a hempen
rope was fastened on shore, the other end being wound up on board, and
vessels were thus propelled. Nothing better than this rough system
obtained for a hundred years, when, in 1820, Messrs. Tourasse and
Courteaut designed special flat-bottomed tugs, 75 feet long and 17 feet
wide, with a horse capstan for winding up the rope; and subsequently,
on the Seine, a 6 horse-power steam-engine was substituted for the
horse capstan.

Chains next took the place of hempen ropes, and between 1820 and
1830 many chain-tugs were employed on French rivers; but the first
systematic service was carried out in 1846 between Paris and Montereau
(65 miles) with tugs designed by Mr. Dietz, which in their essential
features are similar to those in use at the present day. These tugs
drew 18 inches of water, and were fitted with engines of from 35 to 40
horse-power, actuating the drum on which the chain was wound, two sets
of gear being provided for going up and down stream, respectively. The
boiler pressure was 5½ atmospheres, and the expenditure of fuel 5½ lbs.
per horse-power per hour. Subsequently the chain was laid further up
the Seine, and it was also applied to some rivers in France.

In Germany, in 1866, chain-tugs were running on 200 miles of the Elbe,
and in the next ten or twelve years this system was in use on the
Saale, the Brahe, and the Neckar.

The Elbe tugs are 138 to 150 feet long and 24 feet wide, with 18
inches draught. On the other rivers of Germany they are somewhat
smaller. The sides are of ¼-inch iron plate, and formerly the bottoms
were of ½-inch iron, but now they are built of 4-inch pine planks,
as suffering less from abrasion on dragging over a rough bed. There
is a rudder at each end, the wheel being amidships. The engines are
from 60 to 70 horse-power, and work with a pressure of from 5 to 7
atmospheres. In slight currents a single drum is sufficient, the chain
being kept pressed against it by rollers, and the drum is nicked to
prevent the slip of the chain, but ordinarily there are two drums,
to which the engine power is transmitted by two sets of gearing with
different rates of speed—one for working up stream, with great power
and small speed; the other for down stream, with less power and greater
speed. Projecting over each end of the tug are booms furnished with
guide-rollers for the chain, which give increased steering facilities.

The chains are from ¾ to 1 inch thick. When fractures occur, which is
seldom, it is generally at the moment of the chain being first wound
round the drum. Each drum is fitted with a brake, and at the ends of
the booms there are clips, designed to prevent a running out of the
chain in case of the brake failing to hold.

Chain-towing has so increased on the Elbe that in 1874 there were
twenty-eight tugs running regularly between Hamburg and Aussig (420
miles). On the Neckar, at the same date, five tugs were employed on 56
miles of chain, and this was to be extended for 30 miles more, from
Heilbronn to Cannstatt. Experience has shown that chain-tugs have great
advantages over paddle-tugs, even in smooth water, for in the latter 60
to 70 per cent. of the power is lost in slips. Another advantage of
chain-towing is that it produces no wash or swell. The charge for
transport by this system is said to average about ¼_d._ per ton per

In 1865 Mr. de Meseil, a Belgian, introduced a system of transport
where a wire rope was substituted for the chain. The same system was
taken up and improved by Max Eith of Wurtemburg, and worked with
success on a 40-mile section of the Maas (from Namur to Liége). It was
subsequently employed on canals in Holland and Belgium, and also on the
Rhine. Extensive trials were also made on the Danube with satisfactory

A wire-rope tug company in 1873 laid down the line from Bingen to
Rotterdam, but worked the upper section only themselves, viz. from
Bingen to Ruhrort (155 miles). From Ruhrort downwards a concession
was granted to a Dutch company, who employed a special kind of tug,
in which the rope passed over drums inside the vessel, similar to the
chain-tug system; but the usual arrangement of having the rope outside
the tug has been found most convenient, as it enables it to be easily
cast off and taken up again when two tugs meet.

The wire rope generally used on the Rhine is formed of forty-nine wires
0·189 inch thick, is 1·7 inch in diameter, and weighs 4¾ lb. per yard.
It usually costs 10 _d._ per foot, which is about one-third the weight
and cost per foot of an iron chain of equal strength.

The first wire-rope tugs at work in Holland and Belgium had a 20
horse-power engine for the driving wheels, and another 10 horse-power
engine to work a screw when going down stream clear of the rope. At
each end, outside the tug, there are guide-wheels to keep the rope
clear of the vessel, and at the centre are two large wheels which lead
the rope on to a Fowler’s clip-drum, against which it is kept pressed
by small rollers. To pick up the rope and pass it over the wheels and
drum takes a quarter of an hour.

The Danube Company’s tug _Nyitra_, which resembles the Rhine tugs, is
140 feet long, 24½ feet wide, and draws 3½ feet of water; the clip-drum
is 10½ feet, and the adjoining wheels about 9 feet, in diameter.
Against a current of 4¼ feet per second, it can draw eight barges, with
a total load of over 2000 tons, at a speed of 3 miles an hour, with
useful effect of 75 per cent. In chain-tugs this percentage is higher
on account of the greater flexibility of the chain. Fractures of the
rope seldom occur, in spite of the rocky bottom in certain sections of
the river. The life of a wire rope may be taken at from four to six

It has been found that wire-rope tugs cannot work in less than 3 feet
of water, or only with difficulty, whereas chain tugs can work in
one-half of that depth. As regards steering facility, they are much
alike. The delay caused by fractures is an important item in the
comparison. Repairs to chains usually occupy considerably less time
than repairs to wire ropes. Chain tugs in any depth under 3 feet, and
in sharp curves, are said to be preferable to rope tugs; in moderately
strong currents, and in larger curves, they are about equal; but in
canals, and in large deep rivers, rope tugs are the best, and both are
superior, in ordinary circumstances, to paddle tugs.

In canal tunnels, as in the 4-mile section between Mons and Paris,
where steam cannot be used on account of the smoke, chain tugs, worked
by a horse capstan, tow a barge through in one-third the time, and at
one-fourth the cost, of the former system, when men were employed for

Where strong rapids are met with, special appliances called “grapins”
are sometimes employed. This consists of an iron wheel of about 20 feet
in diameter and 17½ tons weight, furnished with projections or picks,
fixed in a well-hole at midships, and worked by a chain attached to the
paddle-shaft. On ascending a river the “grapin” is lowered till the
picks grip the bed, on which the wheel slowly turns, and the paddles,
working at the same time, in this way tow barges over the strongest
rapids. Busquet’s tug, which is used in France, works on a chain,
though it is similar to a wire-rope tug. The _Baxter_ steamboat, used
on the Erie canal, was the outcome of a competition invited by the
State of New York for a prize of 20,000_l._ for the steamer which best
fulfilled the following, viz. a mean speed of 3 miles per hour with a
load of 200 tons, small cost, and no wash or swell. This steamboat is
100 feet long, 17½ feet wide, and about 9 feet deep, with a flat bottom
and vertical sides, and, including engines and coal, weighs 52 tons. It
carries a load of 200 tons, with a draught of 6 feet of water, and has
an average speed of about 4 miles, but can work up to 7½ miles an hour.

On the Saar coal canal Jacquel’s steam-tug system is in use, where the
screw is within the body of the vessel, and surrounded by a cylinder,
and is fed with water by two large channels leading from the sides of
the vessel to the front of the screw.[270]

The tugs of the Rhine are large, very tapering vessels; some of them
have engines of from 600 to 700 horse-power, and they are provided
with all the latest improvement for economising fuel. Vessels with two
screws are preferred, as combining adequate power with small draught;
nevertheless, when the river is very low, paddle-wheel tugs of the old
type have to be resorted to. Towing by aid of a submerged cable was
started some years ago, but it has since been abandoned, except in the
most difficult part of the river between St. Goar and Bingen, where it
has proved serviceable, especially when the water is low. A serious
disadvantage of this system is that in descending the river the tug has
to let go the cable, and act simply as a tug, for which it is not well

Improvements have been introduced in the vessels as well as in the
tugs. Narrow iron vessels have been substituted for the broad wooden
barges in order to reduce the tractive force. Some of these vessels
are 1000 tons register; but vessels from 400 to 500 tons are the most
common. On the Rhine, vessels forming one convoy are not connected
together in trains, as in France, but each is provided with its tug,
which is a great advantage where the navigation is difficult.

Human labour is still employed for towage on some of the Dutch,
Belgian, and German canals. Boats of from 15 to 26 tons are towed
by men at a speed of 1 to 1⅓ miles per hour. Dr. Mitzen, a German
authority, allows for this system of transport a duty of 11 miles a
day, including all stoppages. Steam-tug boats on the Belgian canals are
restricted to a speed of 2⅔ miles per hour, and on the wider rivers
to 4½ miles per hour. On the canal joining the Tiege to the Vistula,
steam-tugs draw trains of barges 410 feet long, the speed being
restricted to three miles per hour. The steam-tugs put by Mr. Beardmore
on the river Lea towed from 50 to 60 tons, at from two to two and a
half miles per hour, in the cuts, three to three and a half miles per
hour in the larger sections, and five miles per hour in the Thames. On
the Grand Junction Canal the speed of a steamer towing one vessel is
put from three to three and a half miles per hour. On the Rotterdam
Canal, four boats, of 130 tons each, are towed by a screw steamer.

Several attempts have been made on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to
introduce steam towage, and in the year 1879 the company tried a screw
steamer with compound condensing engines, to tow six 40-ton barges on a
river or deep canal.

It was very quickly discovered that the vessel was next to useless
on a shallow canal—the section of that particular waterway only
averages from 40 feet to 50 feet in width at the surface, with flat
sloping sides under water, tapering down to a mid-channel or gutter
with an average depth of only 4½ feet—inasmuch as with that depth (in
mid-channel only) a screw propeller of sufficient diameter could not be
used to utilise the power of the engines without a very great amount of
“slip” and churning of the water instead of doing useful work. It was
also found that when the least obstruction took place by meeting other
barges near bridges or sharp curves, causing the slowing up or stoppage
entirely of the tug, the barges in tow would, so to speak, insist on
running pell-mell into one another, for the simple reason that they
could not apply a brake, and besides they used to get zig-zagged across
the canal in every direction, which often caused a delay of fifteen or
twenty minutes before all could be marshalled and got under weigh again.

Another attempt has since been made, which utilised the power of the
engines with more success. Two narrow boats of about five feet beam
were braced side by side under one deck, with a longitudinal space of
about three feet between each, and in this space was one paddle-wheel
with a long-stroke horizontal engine on deck over each boat (two
engines) driving a crank on each end of the paddle shaft, set at
right-angles, and across the deck stood a locomotive boiler, each boat
carrying its own proportion of the weight of the boiler. The funnel had
to be placed at an angle of 45 degrees, so as to get under the very low
bridges. This steamer towed fairly well five barges of coal, but caused
a great waste in the canal, to the injury of the banks, and was subject
to the steering difficulties whenever any obstruction took place, which
in this canal are frequent, owing to its very tortuous character.

The ordinary barges on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal have been utilised
as tugs by putting in small engines of just sufficient power to drive
a screw propeller as large as could be made available without a large
percentage of positive “slip,” each tug carrying a paying cargo. When
the first barge was fitted up in this way, it was found that it would
tow two others very well at two miles an hour. In some parts of the
canal where the depth is a little greater the speed would rise to 2½
and 2¾ miles an hour; and under similar conditions, with only one
barge in tow, as high as 3¼ to 3½ miles an hour. At the latter speed,
however, the displacement sets up a rolling wave along banks, which
does injury, whereas at 2 to 2½ miles an hour there is no perceptible
disturbance of the water at the sides, and only a very slight
disturbance in the centre.

A number of these steam barges are now employed on this canal, in
addition to one for towing through Foulridge tunnel, one mile in
length. This tug has both ends alike, with two propellers, one at the
bow and one at the stern, as well as a rudder at bow and stern, so
that the boat does not require to be turned about at each journey.
Prior to the adoption of this tug, all barges had to be worked through
the tunnel by men, who lay on their side on the gunwale of the boat,
pushing it along with their feet against the tunnel wall, and taking
2 to 2¼ hours to travel the mile, whereas the tug tows two and three
loaded barges at a time the same distance (one mile) in twenty to
twenty-five minutes, the only hands required being the engineer and
helmsman. The engine and boiler are placed as far aft as possible. The
form of propeller is the result of a very exhaustive and costly series
of experiments. With full-size ones in actual work, it gives the best
results in shallow waters. It would not, however, be well adapted
for deep-water towage. The helmsman can perform the following duties
without leaving his helm, viz., start, stop, or reverse the engines,
lower the funnel at bridges, blow the whistle and use the auxiliary
steam jet for funnel. He can also observe the conditions of his boiler,
for he has the water-gauge and steam-gauge in full view before him.

Mr. Ald. Bailey, of Salford, has given the following interesting
details of the cost of a steamer for twenty-four hours’ work, towing
two barges fully loaded, on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal:—[271]

                        COST OF STEAMER.
                                                           £  _s.  d_.
    One captain                                            0   4   8
    One mate                                               0   4   8
    Two ordinary hands                                     0   8   0
    Gas coke for engines:
           24 cwt. at 6_s_. 8_d_. per ton                  0   8   0
    Tallow (2 lb.) at 5_d_.                                0   0  10
    Oil (2 quarts) at 10_d_.                               0   1   8
    Stores, waste and lights                               0   1   0

                        COST OF TWO BARGES.

    Two captains at 4_s_. 4_d_.                            0   8   8
    Two ordinary hands at 4_s_.                            0   8   0
    Five per cent. interest, and 10 per cent.
       depreciation, on first cost of steamer and
       barges (£1000) for one day                          0   8   3
    Fifteen per cent. of steamer and barges for
       repairs per day                                     0   8   3
                                                          £3   1   8

The distance averaged in twenty-four hours (including locks) was 40
miles. The weight carried was—steamer, 35 tons; barges, each 40 tons;
total 115 tons. The cost was about one-sixth of a penny per ton per

Mr. Bartholomew, of the Aire and Calder Navigation, has introduced a
system of a train of boats about ten or twelve in number, each carrying
about 40 tons, 20 feet long, 16 feet wide, and 7 feet 6 inches deep,
propelled by a steam tug.

By having a tug behind the train of boats, greater control of the
steaming power is obtained. The boats are threaded together by means
of wire rope controlled by two cylinders which are self-acting, and
are under the charge of the man who is steering. By lengthening and
shortening the wire ropes on each side of the train, it can be guided
to go to any curve by making it convex or concave, the train being
left to rise and fall vertically according to any little variation of
headline. Buffers are attached to the ends of the boats, which have
a tendency to bring them back again into line in case of any slight
disorganisation caused by wind or water, the full control of the train
and its direction being under the guidance of the steerer.

This system, however, could not be introduced on many of the canals in
England, unless larger locks were made, or inclined planes to get from
one level to another. The system has been well described as a train of
waggons on water without wheels.

On the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal, Mr. Clegram found that, after
allowing 15 per cent. for interest and depreciation, the cost of steam
haulage amounted to 1/11th of a penny per ton per mile, being a saving
of two-thirds as compared with horse power. With a heavier trade,
however, which allowed the barges to be more generally employed, the
work was done for 1/16th of a penny per ton per mile.

In a number of cases both chain and wire rope haulage has been tried
unsuccessfully on English canals, but that, no doubt, has been owing
to their peculiar local circumstances. The wire rope system has been
tried on the Bridgwater Canal and found unworkable owing to the large
number of bends and turns and the difficulty of working the traffic
in different directions. The chain system of haulage was tried on the
Grand Junction Canal of Ireland as far back as 1860, but it was soon
abandoned as impracticable, and steam power was substituted.

On the canals of Deûle and Neufossés locomotive haulage is employed for
a total length of about 50 miles. The line is of metre gauge, and the
locomotives, of which there are twenty-two, weigh from six to ten tons
each. The speed employed, however, is only about 1¼ miles per hour, at
which rate each locomotive can draw about 1000 tons.

In some interesting experiments lately made on French canals, a railway
was laid down on the towing-path, about a yard from the brink of the
canal, and a small locomotive of about four tons weight was placed upon
it. The wheels were coupled and geared, with a driving wheel making
140 revolutions per minute, and allowing a maximum speed of 7 miles
per hour. The engine, which was worked by one man, was attached to a
cable about 80 yards long, and then drew a team of barges with complete
success. It was found capable of drawing a net load of 100 tons of
goods for each ton of its own weight. The actual speed was 2·4 miles
per hour, and the average speed, allowing for stoppages, 1·8 miles
per hour. With horses the average speed on the same canals was only
0·9 mile per hour, so that an important saving in time, as well as of
expense, was obtained. The system has since been tried on a larger
scale upon the canals between Dunkirk and Paris.

It seems, on a survey of the various systems heretofore applied to
canal towage, that they may be divided into two categories. In the most
important of these, the fulcrum lies out of the water, as in chain
and wire-rope towage, in the employment of grapplers, in locomotive
towage, and in the use of horses and men. In the other category, we
find paddle-wheels and screw-propellers, which have their fulcrum in
the water. In the former category, the amount of power utilised is much
greater than in the latter, and, for that reason, chain, wire-rope, or
locomotive towage would appear to be preferable, more especially so, as
the use of screw propellers or paddle-wheels has a tendency to damage
the embankments of the canal, and thereby to increase the expense of



During the year 1888, experiments were carried out on the Saint
Maurice canal with a system of cable haulage introduced by M. Levy,
which seems to be of some value. An endless cable, supported by
pulleys on posts along the banks of the canal, is set in motion by
a hauling engine situated at some convenient point, and the barges
which are attached to this cable are thus drawn along. On one side of
the canal the cable runs in one direction, and on the other side it
runs in the opposite direction, so as to accommodate both up and down
traffic. Notwithstanding the extreme simplicity of the idea, there
occur considerable difficulties in its practical application, the most
formidable of these being the danger that, by the oblique pull from the
barges, the cable may be thrown off its supporting pulleys into the
water, especially where there occurs a bend in the canal. To prevent
the cable from leaving the pulleys, the latter are provided with deep
flanges; but as these would prevent the easy passage of the oblique
hauling rope, some special provision had to be made for this purpose.
The flange on the water side of each pulley has two gaps, as shown in
the drawings (pp. 405-406), and as the cable with its hauling rope
passes into the groove, one or the other of these gaps engages the
oblique rope, but not the cable which passes on in a straight line. The
rope passing through the gap is thus shunted out of the groove, and
passes clear of the pulley. The attachment of the rope to the cable is
shown at 3. At certain intervals along the cable are attached ferrules,
between which is a shackle A, which can freely revolve. Through this
shackle is passed the hauling rope, made fast upon itself by an easily
detachable clamp D, from which a line is taken on board. By a pull at
this line the clamp is unfastened, and the hauling rope is slipped
through the shackle, so that the man in charge of the barge can at any
moment disconnect the latter from the cable. The speed of the cable is
from 2¼ to 2½ miles per hour, and with this speed no difficulty was
experienced in making the attachment. The difficulty, however, was to
impart motion to the barge without unnecessarily straining the cable.
It will be easily understood that when a weight of 200 tons to 300
tons has to be set in motion, even at a comparatively slow speed, the
acceleration must not be too great, otherwise the strain on the cable
and hauling rope would be excessive. The attachment must therefore not
be an absolutely rigid one, and, to give time for the gradual starting
of the barge, the hauling rope is taken round a brake drum, and allowed
to slip at first, so that the barge may be gradually set in motion;
the brake is then locked, and the only further attention required is
the steering. At the end of the length of canal served by the rope,
the bargeman simply pulls the line, and the momentum of the barge
is sufficient to carry it on to the next section, where it would be
similarly attached to a running cable.


The illustration on p. 404, reproduced from _Industries_, shows
the engine house by the side of the canal bank: and a plan of the
experimental installation as at present carried out is shown on p. 405.
The results have been so encouraging, that it is intended to equip
about 6½ miles of canal with this system. Compared with horse haulage,
there is said to be a considerable gain in speed; and, as far as can
be judged at present, the cost of haulage is reduced from 10 to 30 per


[266] ‘Monthly Magazine,’ vol. iv. p. 75.

[267] Ibid., vol. xi. p. 195.

[268] ‘Agricultural Magazine,’ vol. vii. p. 152.

[269] ‘Transactions of the American Philosophical Society,’ vol. iv.
p. 303.

[270] These particulars are abstracted, through the “Minutes of
Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers,” from the
‘Zeitschrift für technische Hochschulen’ for 1881.

[271] Paper read before the Manchester Association of Engineers.



The main difference between rivers and canals, is that the former are
usually capable of being navigated without any artificial provision
for overcoming differences of level, whereas canals are so constructed
that differences of level are overcome by locks or lifts. There
are, of course, many cases in which the navigation of a river is
suddenly and effectually obstructed by differences of level which are
unsurmountable. This is notably the case on the Niagara river, where
the falls of that name interpose a bar to the further navigation of a
stream which would otherwise be the natural connection between lakes
Erie and Ontario. The same sort of obstruction is interposed to the
navigation of the Gotha river in Sweden, by the Falls of Trolhätta.
There are many cataracts on the Mississippi river and its tributaries
which render navigation all but impossible. These natural barriers have
in many cases been got over by the risky and difficult operation of
“shooting the rapids”—a feat in which the red Indian navigators have
long excelled. But while it may be possible with a canoe to overcome
such obstructions without absolute disaster, it is manifest that
such risks could never be run in the everyday business of commercial

For these reasons, it has, in not a few cases, been found expedient to
overcome the obstructions to river navigation that are interposed by
rapids or cataracts, by constructing an artificial waterway parallel
to the falls, on which the rise or fall of the natural waterway is
surmounted by locks or lifts. The Welland Canal performs this function
in Canada, and the Gotha Canal in Sweden. There is practically no limit
to the differences of level that may be met by this arrangement, always
assuming that water supply can be commanded at the summit.


Obviously, however, on canals, as on rivers, the fewer locks or lifts
the better. The process of passing through a canal lock is tedious,
and while it involves a considerable expenditure of time, it involves
also a corresponding amount of cost. For ship canals, it is much better
to have no locks or lifts whatever. This aim was kept in view in the
laying out of the Suez and Panama Canals, but on the latter canal,
the cost of cutting through the Culebra mountain was found to be so
very considerable, and the financial position of the company was so
unsatisfactory, that M. Eiffel submitted a proposal to make use of
locks, which was adopted by M. de Lesseps and his colleagues as a
_dernier ressort_.[272] The Panama Canal has proved that the avoidance of
locks can only be purchased in an uneven country at an immense cost,
and the canal engineer has therefore to consider whether the resources
at his disposal will enable him to pay the price involved. The proposed
Nicaraguan Canal is another enterprise that presents some interesting
problems of this description. This canal will make use for a great
part of the total distance between ocean and ocean—169 miles—of
Lake Nicaragua, and as that lake is 600 feet above sea level, it is
manifestly necessary to make use of locks. In other words, as the lake
cannot be brought to the tide level of the canal, the canal must be
carried up to the level of the lake.

A lock chamber, enclosed by a double pair of gates is said to have
been employed for the first time in Italy in 1481, the designers
and builders having been two clock-makers in Viterbo of the name of
Domenico. The State of Venice was the first to adopt the system, but
before the end of the fifteenth century, Leonardo da Vinci had united
the two chief canals of Milan by six such locks, having a fall of 17

On one of the canals constructed in Italy, between Padua and Vicenza,
about the fifteenth century, there are several sluice-gates, or
_pertuis_, which are said by Cresy[274] to have been thus contrived:—

“The lower beam of each gate was framed with the head and heel posts,
so as to allow a space of 6 inches between it and the sill. From the
middle beam to the top, the gates were planked over in the ordinary
way; the lower part was left open, or in skeleton framing, and was
closed by paddles or sluices, which were moved up and down by a rack
and pinion. When the paddles were let down, they descended 3 or 4
inches lower than the surface of the floor on the lower side, which
acted as a rebate, against which they pressed, and effectually shut the
lock. They also had a bearing against the lower cross-beam of the gate,
and the head and heel posts rested on square stones made fast in the

“To make use of gates upon this construction, it was necessary first
to raise the paddle as high as the lower cross-beam, which permitted
the water to pass through at the foot of the gate. The paddles were
then elevated to the height of the middle beam, which was placed at the
ordinary level of the water, usually 4 or 5 feet deep upon the sill.

“These gates were easily opened, as the boarded part was entirely out
of the water, and a deposit on the floor of the chamber of the lock
could form but little obstruction, as from the scour of the water
the greater part would be washed away. The only serious objection to
this early contrivance in aid of internal navigation is the injury
that vessels might sustain at the time they were passing through,
when one half of their length would be out of the water, producing
a considerable strain upon them. The water passing through a space,
walled in on both sides, would, to a certain extent, allow the barge
or vessel to slide down an apparent plane; but, before it could again
resume its level position, it would be subjected to another strain.
These side walls were, however, made of considerable length, a foot
being usually allowed for every inch of fall; a timber floor was laid
throughout, to prevent the force of the water from deepening and
undermining the foundations.”

The Chinese, who have early distinguished themselves in many inventions
that have been worked out and improved upon under our Western
civilisation, introduced piers into their rivers and canals, in order
to overcome the difficulties incidental to falls or shoal water. These
piers have been termed by De la Lande half locks, and it has been
remarked by Chapman that the casual position of two pairs of piers
near to each other has no doubt suggested the invention of locks, as
it would be seen, when the gates of the lower piers were closed, and
of sufficient height, that the water would be nearly still between the
upper pair of piers, and afford an easy passage, so that, in place of
a single pair of piers, two pairs would be erected sufficiently near
to each other for the purpose, and capacious enough to hold a fleet
of boats. It would soon afterwards be found that in dry seasons the
waste of water was greater than could be conveniently afforded, and the
operation was tedious for single boats. Thus would progressively arise
the invention of locks with walled chambers and sluices through their
gates and walls. There are, or were recently, on some rivers, locks of
the first construction, composed simply of two pairs of piers, without
any connection of walls or pavement between them. The Kennet and the
Lea have unwalled locks. Thomas Telford, when projecting the Inverness
and Fort William Canal, on account of the great plenty of water, and
size of the vessels to be used, proposed not to wall the locks the
whole length, but to have earthen banks between the two pair of piers
of masonry that support the upper and lower gates of the locks.

It appears from M. De la Lande’s ‘Traité des canaux de Navigation,’
that the first lock was supposed to be erected in the year 1488, upon
the Brenta, near Padua; and that shortly after, the two canals of
Milan, between which there was a fall of nearly 34 feet were joined by
means of six locks, similar in principle to those at present in use.
The first lock that James Brindley erected appears to have been at
Compton, on the Stafford and Worcester Canal; but they were not at that
time uncommon in England, on several of the rivers, and on the Sankey


William Reynolds, of Ketley, in Shropshire was the first who
contrived and executed an inclined plane (which was completed in
1788) for the passage of boats and their cargoes. It was found to
answer the purpose, and continued in practical use. Thomas Telford
has thus described the plane, in ‘Plymley’s Agricultural Report of
Shropshire’ (p. 291): “Mr. Reynolds having occasion to improve the
mode of conveying iron, stone and coals, from the neighbourhood of
the Oaken-gates to the ironworks of Ketley, these materials lying
generally at the distance of about a mile and a half from the
ironworks, and at 73 feet above their level, he made a navigable
canal,” called the Ketley Canal, “and instead of descending in the
usual way, by locks, continued to bring the canal forward to an
abrupt part of the bank, the skirts of which terminated on a level
with the ironworks. At the top of this bank he built a small lock,
and from the bottom of the lock, and down the face of the bank, he
constructed an inclined plane, with a double iron railway. He then
erected an upright frame of timber, in which, across the lock, was
fixed a large wooden barrel; round this barrel a rope was passed
and was fixed to a movable frame; this last frame was formed of a
size sufficient to receive a canal boat. These boats were 20 feet
in length, 6 feet 4 inches wide, 3 feet 10 inches deep, and each
carrying 8 tons, and the bottom upon which the boat rested was
preserved in nearly a horizontal position, by having two large wheels
before and two small ones behind, varying as much in the diameters
as the inclined plane varied from a horizontal plane. This frame was
placed in the lock, the loaded boat was also brought from the upper
canal into the lock, the lock gates were shut, and on the water
being drawn from the lock into a side pond, the boat settled on a
horizontal wooden frame, and as the bottom of the lock was formed
with nearly the same declivity as the inclined plane, upon the
lower gates being opened, the frame with the boat passed down the
iron railway on the inclined plane on to the lower canal, which had
been formed on a level with the Ketley iron works, being a fall of
73 feet. Very little water was required to perform this operation,
because the lock was formed of no greater depth than the upper canal,
except the addition of such a declivity as was sufficient for the
loaded boat to move out of the lock; and in dry seasons, by the
assistance of a small steam engine, the whole of the water drawn off
from the lock was returned into the upper canal by means of a short
pump. A double railway having been laid upon the inclined plane, the
loaded boat in passing down brought up another boat containing a load
nearly equal to one-third of that which passed down. The velocities
of the boats were regulated by a brake acting upon a large wheel
placed upon the axis, on which the ropes connected with the carriage
were coiled. It appears that this plane has an inclination of about
22°, except near the extremities, where it diminishes to about 111°;
and that about 400 tons of coals usually descend thereon daily.” In
1789 a copper medal, or halfpenny, having a representation of this
plane on one side, and of the cast-iron bridge at Coalbrookdale on
the other, was struck and issued by the Coalbrookdale Company. After
the practicability of inclined planes had been established, by the
success of the Ketley plane, few Acts were passed for a new canal,
without a clause authorising the company to erect inclined planes,
instead of locks, if they should be found most advisable.

At Walkden Moor, an underground plane was completed in October 1797,
upon the Bridgwater Canal, similar to the Ketley plane above described.

Reynolds introduced another form of inclined plane on the Shropshire
Canal, where there were three planes employed of 120, 126, and 207
feet rises. The Act for this canal was obtained in 1788, and it
was completed and opened in 1792. These planes were of the same
construction as those at Ketley, except that there were no locks at the
top of the descending planes, but the latter were continued above the
surface of the water in the upper canal and terminated in a cross beam,
from which another plane and railway descended into the upper canal,
this being intended to avoid the waste of water which locks at the top
of the planes occasion.

The first incline up which barges were conveyed in a large caisson
containing water was at Blackhill, on the Monkland Canal, near Glasgow,
the system having been previously introduced, on a small scale, on
the Chard Canal in Somersetshire. The Blackhill incline, with a rise
of 96 feet, and a gradient of 1 in 10, replaced two flights of four
locks each. The wrought-iron caisson, 70 feet long, and 13⅓ feet wide,
runs on twenty wheels, and carries barges of 60 tons on the incline.
An incline with larger caissons was constructed at Georgetown in 1876,
in substitution for two locks connecting the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
with the Potomac. This incline rises 39 feet, with a gradient of 1 in
12; and barges of 115 tons are transferred from the lower to the upper
reach in 8 or 10 minutes. The caisson is 112 feet long, 16¾ feet wide,
and 7⅚ feet high. It is carried on three trucks, with twelve wheels
each, and is drawn up by wire cables worked by a turbine.

A canal incline, as described by Mr. Vernon-Harcourt,[275] consists of
two lines of way, laid on a steep uniform gradient, on which barges
are drawn up or let down, by wire cables, from one reach to the next,
either resting on a cradle, or water-borne, in a caisson, running
on wheels on the incline. The cables wind round a drum at the top
of the incline; and the ascending barge is generally more or less
counterbalanced by another descending, whereby the tractive force
required to pull the barge up is considerably reduced. Primitive
inclines exist on the Bude Canal in Cornwall. Inclines are often
used, as alternatives to locks, as at Hampton Court, on the Thames.
Inclines, up which barges are drawn in cradles, were carried out on the
most extensive scale on the Morris Canal in America, where there are
twenty-three inclines with gradients of 1 in 10, and an average lift of
58 feet. The largest of these is 1100 feet long, and rises 100 feet;
and barges of 70 tons are drawn up the inclines.


In the great majority of cases, however, locks are the means adopted
for overcoming differences of level. In Great Britain it is calculated
that on the existing canal system of 2240 miles, there are 1901 locks,
being at the rate of one lock to every 1·37 miles of canal, of which
931, or nearly one-half, are 80 feet long or more.[276] This, of course,
means very slow transport and great loss of time. On the canal system
between Birmingham and London there are about 130 locks in all.

The loss of time due to the passage of locks arises from two causes,
one of which, as Mr. Conder points out,[277] it is easy to calculate,
while the other varies extremely according to the management of the
line, and the nature and volume of the traffic. The rise or fall of the
water in the lock occupies an ascertainable time, ranging from three
to six minutes; but the time lost in entering and leaving the locks
is less easy to calculate. With perfect arrangement the loss is very
small; frequently it is, in fact, very considerable. “In the event of a
heavy traffic being thrown on our canals, it will probably be advisable
to double the locks, a communication being made practicable between
the pair, in order to save half a lock full of water at each passage.
With this arrangement much time as well as much water may be saved.
The average retardation due to the hydraulic requirements alone of
the locks on the English canals is from 1¾ to 2 minutes per mile, the
average rise to be overcome being under 6 feet per mile of canal.”

In France, on all the more important canal routes, the locks are
designed to accommodate the large _péniches_ or boats of 270 tons
burden, 116 feet long, and 16 feet beam, which are the usual craft
employed. In cases of exceptional traffic, the locks are made 130
yards long by 13 yards wide, in order to allow of several vessels
passing through together. These arrangements are very favourable to the
transport of large quantities of freight, so much so, that it is no
unusual thing to see 25 to 30 barges, each laden with 270 tons of coal,
towed by a small tug of 20 horse-power, working a submerged chain or
wire rope, which the tug raises from the bottom as it progresses, the
rope being nipped between revolving pulleys.

The time occupied in passing through a lock on the French canals used
to amount to from 16 to 20 minutes at least. The time is spent in
filling or emptying the lock, in closing and opening the lock-gates,
and in passing the barge into and out of the lock-chamber. The
adjustment of the water-level in the lock-chamber may be hastened
by large sluices in the side walls of the lock. The moving of the
lock-gates can be rapidly effected by hydraulic machinery. Delays have
been experienced in dragging a barge into or out of the lock when it
is nearly the width of the lock-chamber, owing to its acting like a
piston, and preventing the flowing back of the water along the sides;
but this inconvenience can be obviated by carrying the culverts for the
sluiceways all along the side walls, and providing lateral openings
through which the water finds an exit.

The dimensions of the canal locks resolved upon in France, under the
extension scheme of 1878, was 126·2 feet in length by 17 feet in clear
width, and 6·56 feet of water on the sill of the lock-gate. Boats of
120 tons burden can make use of such locks without difficulty. No canal
in England, except the Gloucester and Berkeley, has locks of this size.
The nearest approach to such dimensions is that made by the Grand
Junction Canal, with locks 87 feet 6 inches long, 15 feet in the clear,
and a depth of 5 feet, allowing, however, for the passage of an 80-ton
boat only. The Grand Union Canal, which is connected with the Grand
Junction, has only locks of 78 feet by 7 feet 2 inches. It has been
computed that the difference between the cost of locks for a 120-ton
boat and that of locks suited for an 80-ton boat is not more than
3000_l._ per mile.[278] Assuming the accuracy of this figure, the cost of
enlarging the dimensions of the principal British canals ought not to
be a serious item.

Locks provided with sluiceways running the whole length of the side
walls have been constructed on the Aire and Calder navigation, on the
Scheldt and Meuse Canal, and the Canal du Centre of France. These
large sluiceways ensure the rapid filling or emptying of the lock;
and by making several side openings along the side walls into the
lock-chamber, the inflowing or outflowing currents are distributed so
as to have no injurious effect on the vessel inside.

[Illustration: _DOMINION OF CANADA._





_E & F N Spon. London & New York_



Balanced cylindrical sluice-gates, rising and falling vertically in a
circular well communicating with the sluiceways, have been adopted at
the new locks of the Scheldt and Meuse Canal, and the Canal du Centre,
for opening and closing the sluiceways easily and rapidly. The enlarged
locks on the Canal du Centre can be filled or emptied in two minutes;
and the passage of vessels through the locks takes less than half the
original time.

Mr. E. J. Lloyd, speaking from experience of canals in the Midlands, is
of opinion that a multiple of the present size of lock which prevails
throughout the Midland district would be best. This would enable the
existing craft on those canals, and also most of the barges on larger
navigations, to be used in the most economical way possible. It would
greatly simplify the conduct and management of low-class mineral
traffic, which does not require any care, and could be treated in a
similar manner to traffic of the like description on railways—no crews
being attached to the boats, which could be detached from the trains,
and left at any roadside wharf, until they could be unladen at the
convenience of the owners.

There is, no doubt, as Mr. Lloyd points out, a distinct advantage in
small craft for such traffic, as it is obvious that a coal merchant
could purchase small boat-loads of different classes of coals, to suit
his customers, who could not find capital and wharf space for large
cargoes of one class of coal only, and this would apply in equal degree
to traffic in road-stone, bricks, drain-pipes, building materials,
and many other classes of undamageable goods, and these small craft
might also ply successfully on short branch canals, in districts which
would not produce a sufficient traffic to warrant a large expenditure
in improvement. Such locks would also, of course, accommodate craft
sufficiently large to cross the estuaries of rivers, and to approach
any docks with safety, and if sufficient depth of waterway is provided
in the improved main lines, say 8 feet, or thereabouts, short coasting
voyages might also be undertaken by craft specially constructed to do
so, and also to navigate the canals.[279] Mr. Lloyd thinks that the heavy
cost involved in constructing canals of sufficient size to pass craft
suitable for coasting and short continental voyages would be fatal to
cheap conveyance.

The largest locks hitherto constructed are those on the St. Mary’s
Falls Canal, in the United States, and the Welland Canal in Canada.
On the former canal the lock opened in 1851 is 515 feet in length and
80 feet wide. The great tidal lock at Eastham, on the Manchester Ship
Canal, will be 600 feet long and 80 feet wide.

_The Welland Canal_, which is in some respects the most important in
Canada, was begun by a private company in 1824 and opened in 1829. The
original locks were of wood, 110 feet by 22 feet by 8 feet, and they
bulged out on each side of the chamber to such an extent that they had
to be hewn down from time to time to let vessels pass through. The
canal was enlarged in 1841, and again in 1871, the depth of the canal
having, on the occasion of the last enlargement, been increased to 14
feet. The drawing (p. 415) shows the general plan of the enlarged lock
on this canal. It is 270 feet between the gates, 45 feet between the
side walls, and has 12 to 14 feet of water upon the mitre sill.

The entire system of locks on the _Manchester Ship Canal_, now under
construction, will be as under:—

       Three locks at Eastham, namely, one 600 feet long by 80
     feet wide; one 450 feet long by 50 feet wide; one 150 feet
     long by 30 feet wide.

       Two locks at Latchford, namely, one 600 feet long by 65
     feet wide; one 450 feet long by 45 feet wide.

       Two locks at Irlam: similar to Latchford.

       Two locks at Barton: similar to Latchford.

       Two entrance locks to docks: similar to Latchford.

       Small lock (Weston Marsh Lock), 229 feet long by 42 feet
     8 inches wide, to connect the ship canal with the Weston

       Weston Mersey Lock, opposite Weston Point; 600 feet long
     and 45 feet wide.

       Bridgwater Lock, opposite Bridgwater Dock, Runcorn, 300
     feet long and 45 feet wide.

       Runcorn Old Quay Lock below Old Quay Docks, Runcorn, 300
     feet long and 45 feet wide.

       The three locks above mentioned connect the ship canal
     with the Mersey Estuary at their several points.

       Two small barge locks at Walton and Stockton Heath,



The largest canal locks hitherto contemplated are those designed by
Col. Blackman for the proposed _Nicaragua Canal_. They are 700 feet
long, 100 feet wide, and with 30 feet depth of water over the sill;
whilst the lift proposed is from 50 to 120 feet. The filling of the
lock-chamber was to be rapidly effected through 18 feet cast-iron
pipes, built into the side walls along the whole length on each side,
connected across the bottom of the lock-chamber by a series of 3-feet
pipes, perforated by a number of 2-inch holes, from which the water
was to be distributed over the whole area of the chamber in numerous
small streams, so as to avoid any prejudicial agitation of the water.
The emptying was to be similarly effected; and where a saving of water
is important, the pipes were to discharge at the lower end into a
series of long ponds, formed in terraces, so that most of the water
might be used again for filling the lock. These arrangements are a
large extension of the system of sluiceways, all along the side walls,
with lateral openings, and of side ponds, already referred to. The
most novel feature was the form of the caisson-gate, proposed to be
constructed of wrought iron and steel, which, being increased in width
towards the bottom, would become stronger in proportion to the depth,
as the water-pressure increases.


The adoption of hydraulic lifts, in the place of locks and inclines,
has recently come prominently to the front. The first lift of this
description[280] was erected on the Weaver Navigation in 1875, for the
purpose of connecting that river with the Trent and Mersey Canal. In
this case the difference of level between the canal and the river is
rather over 50 feet. Two wrought-iron troughs are employed to raise
and lower the barges. The troughs are 75 feet by 15½ feet, and have 5
feet depth of water. They rest on a central hydraulic ram, three feet
in diameter, working in two hydraulic presses underground, which can be
connected at pleasure, making the troughs counterbalance one another.
One trough ascends as the other descends. Hydraulic power is only
required when the descending trough reaches the water in the lift-pit,
the motion of the troughs being effected by removing about six inches
from the lower trough. This arrangement is very economical of time,
inasmuch as a 100-ton barge can be transferred from the river to the
canal, and another from the canal to the river, in eight minutes.
Although the difference of level, as already stated, is 50 feet, only
the final lift of 4½ feet requires the expenditure of hydraulic power.

La Louviére hydraulic lift, which was only completed during the summer
of 1888, is the largest hydraulic canal lift in the world. It was
constructed for the Belgian Government by the Société Cockerill, of
Seraing, from the designs and under the superintendence of Messrs.
Clark, Stanfield and Clark, of Westminster, the consulting engineers of
the Government, and the patentees of the system. The difference between
the levels of the upper and lower canals—that is, the height the boats
are raised—is 50 feet 6¼ inches. The lift consists of two pontoons
or troughs, each 141 feet long by 19 feet broad, with 8 feet draught
of water, and are capable of holding the largest size of barge that
navigates the Belgian broad-gauge canal system. Such barges are capable
of taking 400 tons of coal or other cargo, so that the total weight of
the trough, water, and barge is not much under 1000 tons. This immense
weight is supported on the top of a single colossal hydraulic ram of 6
feet 6¾ inches diameter, and 63 feet 9½ inches long, working in a press
of cast iron, hooped continuously for greater security with weldless
steel coils. The working pressure in this press is about 470 lb. to the
square inch. The time actually occupied in the operation of lifting or
lowering is only two and a half minutes. (See illustration at p. 141.)

It is probable that there is a greater liability to accidents, with
lifts than with either locks or inclined planes. Where a dead weight of
some hundreds of tons has to be moved bodily, it must, of course, be
necessary to provide correspondingly strong machinery, and this is not
to be done without considerable cost. Several accidents have, indeed,
recently occurred in hydraulic presses for lifts. One of these occurred
with a steel press which burst under a pressure of 70 atmospheres.
Another happened with a riveted steel-plate press, which leaked and
rent under pressure.

On the Brussels and Charleroi Canal it was recently proposed to apply
an hydraulic lift, for which the Cockerill Company made a cylinder,
in which tightness was obtained by the use of cast iron, and strength
by the use of steel, the cylinder being cut with projecting rings,
turned to receive steel hoops, which were bored to a slightly smaller
diameter, put on hot, and allowed to contract. A cylinder 2·06 metres
(6 feet 9 inches) in diameter and 2 metres (6 feet 7 inches) high, was
subjected, by means of force-pumps, to an internal pressure of 131
atmospheres, or four times that which would be required in practice.
The French engineers, following the Seraing system, formed their
cylinders of a series of steel hoops fitting one into the other, and
with the flanges of the two outside hoops drawn together by tie-rods,
the inside being lined with brass 0·0025 metre thick, applied with the
mallet, so that the water may not come into contact with the joints. A
trial cylinder was tested up to 170 atmospheres without yielding. On
the Brussels and Charleroi Canal, however, it was decided to substitute
a tunnel for the intended lift, so that the Cockerill cylinders were
not applied.

Inclines, or lifts, are said by some authorities to effect a great
economy, both in time and water, as compared with flights of locks.
Much, however, must depend upon local circumstances.

One problem that is likely to press for solution in the immediate
future is that of constructing locks or lifts that will enable ship
canals to be worked with facility and economy. The proposal of the late
Mr. Eads to construct a ship railway across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
was intended to overcome the necessity of such a canal, and was,
indeed, a form of lift, of the practicability of which, however, we
still await a conclusive demonstration. There is, of course, a natural
limit to the size of locks that it is possible to work. That limit,
however, does not appear to have been reached in any locks hitherto
constructed. The Eastham locks on the Manchester Ship Canal will be
the largest hitherto made; but we have seen that locks, even 100 feet
longer, have been proposed for the Nicaraguan Canal. Of course, by
the application of steam power, canal locks may be made of larger
dimensions, and there are some instances in which such power has been
attended with much advantage.

In 1868, steam-power was applied to the locks of the Delaware and
Raritan Canal, and is said to have increased their capacity for
traffic, and therefore that of the canal, by 50 per cent. The engine
has two cylinders, 6 inches diameter, 12 inches stroke, and works a
3-feet drum, actuating a 1-inch wire rope, which passes over rollers,
along the face of the lock, and round sheaves above and below. To this
rope the boats are attached and hauled in and out, two at a time. The
engine also raises and lowers the valves, opens and shuts the gates,
and in one case works a swing bridge. For large docks (e. g. 600 feet
by 800 feet) it has been proposed[281] to admit and take off the water by
channels the full width of the length of the lock, the water entering
and leaving the lock by a number of small sluiceways, through the
walls at right angles to the axis. This water should, if possible, be
supplied, not from the reach above, but from separate reservoirs. There
will thus be two waterways at right angles to reach each other, one
longitudinal for the passage of vessels only, and one transverse, for
the passage of water only. This avoids the expense of maintaining the
paddles in the lock gates, and all the risks attending longitudinal
currents. The canal should be widened above and below by floating
pontoons, not by fixed walls. The height of the lift may be varied
as required up to 30 feet; a lift of 33 feet has been worked for
twenty-five years with ease and safety.


[272] These locks will be found described and illustrated in a
previous chapter.

[273] Zendrini’s ‘Della Acque Correnti,’ c. 12.

[274] ‘Encyclopædia of Civil Engineering.’

[275] Report of the Conference on Canals and Inland Navigation, held
at the Hall of the Society of Arts in 1888, p. 5.

[276] Report of the Select Committee on Canals, 1883, p. 125.

[277] Paper on “Inland Transport in the Nineteenth Century by Land
and Water.”

[278] Mr. Conder on ‘Inland Transport in the Nineteenth Century by
Land and by Water.’

[279] Report of the Conference on Canals and Inland Navigation,
‘Journal of the Society of Arts,’ for 1888.

[280] On the Great Western Canal, a simple lift, with two
counterbalancing troughs, was used in the early part of the century,
but it was not found successful.

[281] Min. Proc. I. C. E., vol. lxiii. p. 350.



In the laying out of a canal there generally comes a juncture at which
the engineer has to choose between a tunnel, a flight of locks, a lift,
or series of lifts, and, finally, an embankment. There are also cases,
although these are comparatively rare, in which a valley has been
crossed, and the level of the water maintained, by aqueducts.

Tunnelling is always a costly operation, and it seldom happens that it
gives a considerable advantage, if any, over locks in the matter of
speed. Nevertheless, many of the early canal engineers were partial to
tunnels, and hence there are many examples of such structures on the
canal system of Great Britain. Of some of these we may suitably furnish
particulars before proceeding to refer to more recent works of the same

One of the earliest canal tunnels of which we have any record was
constructed by Brindley on the Bridgwater canal. This tunnel gave
the Duke access from his canal into the coal works at Worsley, and
after it had proceeded for some way straight into the hill, came at
a great depth to be under a small brook or constant stream of water,
by the side of which a large water-shaft was sunk, and a drum and a
large brake-wheel erected over it, of such size that a man who stood
before the lever had his two hands at liberty to pull the lines which
connected the valves, and give signals to those below, while by lunging
or stepping forwards, with his breast against the lever, he could in
an instant stop the machinery in any part of its motion, or regulate
the same at pleasure. There were two water-tubs, which were very large,
and had a valve and pin to empty themselves quickly when they arrived
at the bottom. They were suspended by large ropes or cables from the
drum, while other large ropes descended therefrom through another or
coal-shaft, by the side of the middle or principal tunnel, into and
over the navigable tunnel, which is there at some 60 yards lower level.
On this level, canal boats were used, similar in their dimensions to
those above, and containing boxes, which being filled with coals at the
several terminations of the canal, in the seams of coals, were pushed
along by means of rings fixed along the roof of the tunnel at the
proper height for a man, who walked on the top of the coals, to lay
hold of, and shove the boat along by. The boat having arrived under
the coal shaft, and one of the water-tubs being at the top of its
shaft, the coal rope answering thereto was hooked on to the box of
coals, and the descent of the water-tub, immediately on the ringing of
a bell, drew up the same to the level of the principal canal, where,
being drawn aside over an empty boat, it was lowered into the same by
a slight reversion of the motion of the machine, when the interval
of emptying the tub at the bottom by its valve gave time for hooking
another box to the other rope which was at the bottom, when the other
water-tub was filled, and the machine was suffered to move by the man
who leant against the brake.

This arrangement was contrived and erected by James Brindley, and it
was so constructed that when coals were not drawing, the alternate
descent of the water-tubs worked some very large pumps, which were
sufficient to lift all the mine water of the lower level into the
middle canal, and to keep the lower canal always at the proper height
for navigation.

The same tunnel of the Bridgwater canal was continued a considerable
way farther into Worsley Hill, until, under Walkden Moor, another
subterraneous canal or tunnel begins, at 35½ yards higher level, being
nearly 60 yards from the surface. From the surface two shafts were
sunk, one terminating in and over the upper tunnel or canal, and the
other in and over the middle or principal canal. There is another canal
still lower, and after passing close by the canal above. Between these
shafts a large drum was erected on the surface, with a brake-wheel and
a pair of strong ropes. An old account of the working of this tunnel
states, that “two boats being arrived at the shafts on the upper canal,
one of them loaded with boxes of limestone that was wanted at the
furnaces, and another with boxes of coals intended to be transferred
into an empty boat in the middle canal, the ends of the two ropes were
fastened to a box of coals and a box of limestone, when the superior
size and weight of the coal boxes drew the limestone to the surface,
to be there landed and deposited, at the same time as the box of coals
was deposited in the lower boat, ready to proceed on the canal to
Manchester or other places.”

This method was, in 1797, superseded by an inclined plane for letting
down the boats laden with coals from the higher to the middle level,
and returning the empty boats and boxes.

At Brierley Hill, near Coalbrook Dale, the extremity of a branch of
the Shropshire canal, great quantities of coal and iron, in crates
made of iron, were let down one of two shafts, which connected with
the termination of the canal above, and the ends of a railway in a
tunnel below, from which limestone in similar crates was drawn up the
other shaft to be placed in the boat. A barrel and brake-wheel were
fixed between the tops of the shafts, and cranes with jibs, by which
the crates could be raised and moved from the boat over the shaft or
the reverse. These shafts, which were 120 feet deep, were not found
to answer, in point of expense, so well as inclined planes, and Mr.
Telford informs us (‘Plymley’s Report,’ p. 296-307) that “inclined
planes have been substituted, on which crates of coal or iron pigs, or
goods descend, and draw up other crates containing limestone for the
use of the ironworks above, by means of ropes, a drum, and brake-wheel,
with a much less portion of manual labour, and more expedition, than
was done by the shafts above mentioned.”[282]

Marsden tunnel, on the Huddersfield Canal, is 5280 yards in length;
Sapperton, on the Thames and Severn, 4300 yards; Penfax, on the
Leominster and Kington, 3850 yards; Laplat, on the Dudley Canal, 3776
yards; Blisworth, on the Grand Junction Canal, 3080 yards; Ripley, on
the Cromford, 3000 yards; Dudley, on the Dudley Canal, 2926 yards;
Harecastle, on the Trent and Mersey canal, 2888 yards; Norwood, on
the Chesterfield Canal, 2850 yards; Westheath, on the Worcester and
Birmingham Canal, 2700 yards; Morwelham, on the Tavistock Canal, 2500
yards; Oxenhall, on the Hereford and Gloucester Canal, 2192 yards; and
Braunston, on the Grand Junction, 2045 yards.

The longest tunnels that have been proposed, besides those stated
above, were one of 5 miles on the once proposed extension of the
Manchester, Bolton, and Bury Canal to the Calder river; and one of 4¼
miles on the Portsmouth and Croydon Canal, through the chalk hills to
the south of the latter place.

The towns of Manchester, Kidderminster, and Southampton have been
partly tunnelled under by the Bridgwater, the Stafford and Worcester,
and the Southampton and Salisbury Canals respectively.


_E & F N Spon London & New York_



There are several long tunnels on the Birmingham Canal system, having
an aggregate length of 6¼ miles. Two of these—the Dudley Tunnel and
the Netherton Tunnel—pass under the Rowley Hills, and are each about
two miles in length. The former was constructed in the last century.
The waterway is about nine feet in width, and there is no towing-path,
the boats being propelled by two men, lying on their backs on the boat,
their feet performing a sort of walking motion against the sides of the
tunnel, this is called “legging.” The Netherton Tunnel was constructed
in the year 1858; it has a waterway 17 feet in width on either side.
Both of these tunnels have, from time to time, been seriously injured
by mining operations, and in the case of the Netherton Tunnel, the
injury is stated to have been caused by the mine-owner illegally
working minerals that had been previously purchased by the canal
company. (See illustration of Dudley tunnel.)


Sir Walter Scott spoke to Southey of the viaduct on the Ellesmere Canal
as the most impressive work of art he had ever seen. This viaduct is
situated about 4 miles to the north of Chirk, at the crossing of the
Dee, in the romantic vale of Llangollen. The north bank of the river
is very abrupt; but on the south side the acclivity is more gradual.
The lowest part of the valley in which the river runs is 127 feet
beneath the water-level of the canal; and it became a question with the
engineer, whether the valley was to be crossed, as originally intended,
by locking down one side and up the other which would have involved
seven or eight locks, or by carrying it directly across by means of an

The aqueduct is approached on the south side by an embankment, 1500
feet in length, extending from the level of the waterway in the canal
until its perpendicular height at the “tip” is 97 feet. Thence it
is carried to the opposite side of the valley, over the river Dee,
upon piers supporting nineteen arches, extending for a length of 1007
feet. The height of the piers above the low water in the river is 121
feet. The lower part of each was built solid for 70 feet, all above
being hollow, for the purpose of saving masonry as well as ensuring
good workmanship. The outer walls of the hollow portion are only two
feet thick, with cross inner walls. Upon the top of the masonry was
set the cast iron trough for the canal, with its towing-path and side
rails, all accurately fitted and bolted together, forming a completely
watertight canal, with a waterway of 11 feet 10 inches, of which the
towing-path, standing upon iron pillars rising from the bed of the
canal, occupied 4 feet, 8 inches, leaving a space of 7 feet, 2 inches
for the boat. The whole cost of this part of the canal was 47,018_l._,
which was considered by Telford a moderate sum compared with what it
must have cost if executed after the ordinary manner. The aqueduct was
formally opened for traffic in 1805. “And thus,” says Telford, “has
been added a striking feature to the beautiful vale of Llangollen,
where formerly was the fastness of Owen Glendower, but which, now
cleared of its entangled woods, contains a useful line of intercourse
between England and Ireland; and the water drawn from the once sacred
Devon furnishes the means of distributing prosperity over the adjacent
land of the Saxons.”

The Barton Aqueduct on the Bridgwater Canal, is about 200 yards in
length, and 12 yards wide, the centre part being sustained by a bridge
of three semi-circular arches, the middle one being of 63 feet span.
It carries the canal over the Irwell at a height of 39 feet above the
river—this head room being sufficient to enable the largest barges to
pass underneath without lowering their masts. The bridge is entirely of
stone blocks, those on the faces being dressed on the front, beds, and
joints, and with cramped iron. The canal, in passing over the arches,
is confined within a puddled channel to prevent leakage, and is in as
good a state now as on the day on which it was completed.

The embankments formed across the low grounds on either side of the
Barton viaduct were considered very formidable works at that day. A
contemporary writer speaks of the embankment across Stretford meadows
as “an amazing bank of earth, 900 yards long, 112 feet in breadth
across the base, 24 feet at the top, and 17 feet high.” The greatest
difficulty anticipated was the holding of so large a body of water
within a hollow channel formed of soft materials. It was supposed at
first that the water would soak through the bank, which its weight
would soon burst, and wash away all before it. But Brindley, in the
course of his experience, had learnt something of the powers of clay
puddle to resist the passage of water, and he finished the bed of this
canal, so as to make it impervious to water.

Not the least difficult part of this undertaking was the formation of
the canal across Trafford Moss, where the weight of the embankment
pressed down and “blew up” the soft oozy stuff on either side; but the
difficulty was again overcome by clay puddle. Indeed, the execution
of these embankments by Brindley was regarded at that time as
something quite as extraordinary in their way as the erection of the
Barton Aqueduct itself.


Mr. Jebb has pointed out[283] that one of the most important duties
of the canal engineer, and certainly one of the most anxious, is to
take all practicable precautions for the prevention of any of the
embankments giving way by the overflow of water during heavy rainfalls.

In some districts at such times an enormous volume of water discharges
directly into the canal; this has to be got rid of. Self-acting weirs
are constructed at convenient points, and these are sufficient to keep
the water within bounds at ordinary times; but in times of flood other
means have to be used. The old canal “let-off,” as it was called,
consisted of a wooden frame (fixed in the bed of the canal), to which
was attached a hinged lid; this lid was pulled up by a chain fixed
to the lid when necessity required—that is, if the chain could be
found, and also sufficient power obtained for the purpose; for when the
let-off had not been used for a considerable time it became covered
with mud, and it was often as much as half-a-dozen men or a horse could
do to pull up; this accomplished, however, the water rushed out at once
with great force (as there was no means of regulating the discharge),
the sudden rush often causing trouble with the owners and occupiers
of the adjoining lands. Mr. Jebb has replaced some scores of these
let-offs by sluice valves of similar capacity, worked by racks and
pinions. The discharge of water can thus be exactly regulated, and one
man only is required to work them. The valves are tested every month to
see that they are in working order.

For the proper and economical maintenance of the towing paths, it is
necessary to have a staff of experienced men. Mr. Jebb recommends, as
a material for metalling, limestone _débris_, or what is locally known
in Birmingham as “raffil” or “bavin.” He finds that it sets soon, and
lasts for years if properly laid down—broken furnace cinders, covered
with good ashes, are largely used in the Black Country—the paths
should, of course, be well drained.

On the Birmingham canal, between Longford and Manchester, the sidelong
ground was cut down on the upper side and embanked upon the other by
means of the excavated earth. This was comparatively easy work; but
a matter of greater difficulty was to accommodate the streams which
flowed across the course of the canal. For instance, a stream called
Cornbrook was found too high to pass under the canal at its natural
level. Accordingly Brindley contrived a weir, over which the stream
fell into a large basin, from whence it flowed into a small one, open
at the bottom. From this point a culvert, constructed under the bed
of the canal, carried the waters across to a well, situated on its
further side, where the waters,