Saturday, 31 May 2014

Comparing Canals in 1907

This is just one of a series of old newspaper articles looking at the inland waterways and the things that were effecting the inland waterways. The most active periods for evaluation and change was always just prior to the two world wars. Between the wars the ownership of the canals changed hands and the railway companies bought up the canals to get rid of competition. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all, is the problems that beset the canals are still prevalent today.  Reading old newspapers can throw up some interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

The Advertiser
8th August 1907

The ancient method of transportation by inland waterways has apparently recovered from the severe blow inflicted upon it by the introduction of railways and is receiving new attention in most of the leading countries of the world. The modern development was the subject of an interesting discussion at a recent meeting of the Royal Geographical Society in London, when Mr. G. G. Chisholm read a paper in reference to the conditions which determine the advantages or disadvantages of this mode of carriage over others. It was shown in the course of the discussion that the improvements effected in many rivers for the purpose of rendering them navigable and the construction of important internal canals are among the most remarkable achievements of the age, and that the trade carried on by means of these waterways is of colossal dimensions. Germany takes a foremost place in the commercial utilisation of inland waters. The magnificent artery of the Rhine lends itself readily to this purpose, and in conjunction with the canals, and river connected with it forms the great outlet for the trade of South Germany. At a cost of £8,000,000 improvement, have lately been made in the channel of the Rhine which allow large sea going ships to ascend as high as Cologne and barges of 2,000 tons navigate the rivet and its branches. Vessels of 800 tons can reach Strasbourg. There are no locks from Strasbourg to the sea, and very few on the subsidiary waterways. This condition immensely enlarges the possibilities of water traffic. An average train of barges hauled by a steamer will carry' about 4,000 tons, and the speed up stream is about three miles and a half an hour. Down stream it is more than double this rate. The populous towns which line the banks of the river supply an enormous trade for the Rhine vessels.

It is sufficient to state that the traffic at the Dutch frontier was in 1905 up stream 12,533,000 tons, and down stream 8,119,000. As a matter of comparison it is interesting to note that the Manchester Ship Canal carried in the same year 4,250,000 tons. The canal system of North Germany provides for almost as great a volume of trade as that of the south. Berlin is connected with Hamburg and Stettin by canals, and the total quantity of goods delivered at the capital during 1905 amounted to 7,364,000 tons.

There are other European countries in which inland waterways are as conspicuous as national highways of traffic. England possesses an antiquated system, quite inferior to those of the Continent, yet the Board of Trade .returns show that the annual volume of canal trade amounts to something like 34,000,000 tons. With the improvements that are suggested this would be vastly increased. The French inland waterways constitute a splendid system. Vvnen the projected 'canal through the middle of France is completed large vessels will be able to go from the Mediterranean io the English Channel. The vast work of improving the. French canals in recent years has cost about £60,000,000. There are 3,000 miles of .canals, 2,000 miles of canalised rivers, and 2,000 miles of navigable rivers. The, inland waters of Norway and Sweden play an essential part in the national economy. The great timber industry is absolutely dependent upon them.

The fallen trees in quantities' amounting to thousands of tons are brought in winter from the forests by chutes on the snow to the rivers and canals, and are easily floated to their destination. Russia has a grand river system', that has added to its utility by extensive canal, works, so that internal' navigation is possible in almost every part of the Empire in Europe. The Volga and the Neva are connected by a canal which admit of the passage of vessels up to 1,000 tons. The Volga and the Don are at an estimated cost of £4,000,000, to be connected by a canal which will allow of vessels passing through the heart of Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The works for the improvement of inland navigation now, in progress or projected in different-European countries are numerous, and public money is liberally spent upon them.

America, with its vast extent of territory and its great 'rivers and lakes, affords immense scope for internal navigation and its extension by means of canals. Much of the water-borne trade of the American continent is really coastal traffic, as it is carried on between the great lakes and the ocean. There are two waterways forming arteries of commerce from the interior to the seaboard, one Canadian and the other belonging to the United States. The Dominion system connects the great, lakes through the St. Lawrence with the sea. Large ocean vessels can now go up the great river as far as Montreal, while the entire waterway above that point has a minimum depth of 14 ft, which the Dominion Parliament has recommended shall be increased to 22 ft. for the whole route. The success attending this waterway has inspired the Canadians with the idea of a supplementary project known as the Ottawa and Georgian Bay scheme, the estimated cost of which is £25,000,000. By the proposed new waterway ocean going vessels would be able to reach the middle of the continent, obtaining their grain cargoes at Fort William in Canada and Duluth and Chicago in the United States. The American canal system corresponding to the, Canadian starts near Buffalo, on Lake Erie, and enters the Hudson River between Troy and Albany. It is 366 miles in length, and was begun about a century ago.

The state of New York is now spending £21,000,000 in improving it to carry barges of 1,000 tons. The magnificent natural inland waterway of the Mississippi has no parallel in Europe, and its improvement has been accomplished by the National Government. The United States authorities have on hand works of this kind estimated to cost £80,000,000. The most important is a great ship canal from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi, giving an uninterrupted waterway from Chicago to New Orleans. These projects are a great example and encouragement to a country like our, own, which possesses facilities for internal navigation that only need skill and energy for their development.

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