Thursday, 2 October 2014


This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been researching from old newspapers and magazines the last 200 years or so of the inland waterways. With particular interest in the issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 
Sunday Times
Sunday 8 October 1933

One million pound is to be spent on bringing Britain's network of canals up to date. Canals, looked upon by some people as a rather old-fashioned form of transport, are making a sensational come back.

The "Sunday Chronicle" was told the secrets of the national transport "war" which lie behind this huge scheme. An official of the Grand Union Canal Company which operates the miles of inland waterway between London and Birmingham, described how this system is being equipped for the big transport battle of the future which will arise from the Salter Report.

The canals hope to carry much of the heavy traffic which today goes by road, but for which roads were never made. More than 1000 men will be engaged on our new reconstruction scheme, the official said. The work in hand includes the building of new canal banks, capable of standing up to the wash of much larger and faster craft. Then there are new locks able to hold boats and ' barges twice as wide as those in operation today.

This scheme is the greatest development in the use of canals for more than 100 years, and as a result the canals expect to carry more merchandise than they have ever done since the introduction of railways and motor transport. The canal of the future will be a deep, wide inland waterway with large and powerful motor barges scudding along it, said the Grand Union official. The days of the leisurely horse drawn barge are numbered.

At present it is estimated that 50,000 people are engaged on the various canal systems, but when the new plans are completed and more traffic is diverted to them that number will be greatly increased. Already a number of canal barge are being taken out of store and put back into traffic, for since the fierce competition of road transport many barges have been sunk in still water to keep them in good condition.

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