« PreviousContinue »
however, is fortunately quite optional. The breakfast is served between six and seven o'clock, dinner at eleven, and tea at five. The American canal travelling certainly forms a great contrast to that of Holland and Belgium. The boat in which I was conveyed on the canal between Ghent and Bruges, for example, was commodiously fitted up with separate state rooms, containing one berth in each, and was, in other respects, a most comfortable and agreeable conveyance. But I trust the reader will not form an estimate of American travelling from what has just been said, nor take this single (specimen of it as a criterion of the whole. In the eastern and earlier settled districts of the country no such grievances have to be suffered, and there are many hundreds of persons in that part of the United States who hardly believe in their existence. So long as the traveller keeps on the east of the Alleghany Mountains, all goes on smoothly, but if he attempts to cross their summits, and to penetrate into the "far west," he must look for treatment such as I have described. There is indeed as great a difference in this respect between the seaward and interior States of North America as there is between the counties of Kent and Caithness.
But I return from these petty troubles to the consideration of a subject of more importance, namely, the works which have been employed in forming the inland lines of water communication in America. These are of two kinds, called "Slackwater" or " Stillwater" navigation and Canals. The slackwater navigation is the more simple of these operations, and can generally be executed at less expense. It consists in improving a river by the erection of dams or mounds built in the stream, by which the water is dammed back, and its depth is increased. If there be not a great fall in the bed of the river, a single dam often produces a stagnation in the run of the water, extending for many miles up the river, and forming a spacious navigable canal. The tow-path is formed along the margin of the river, and is elevated above the reach of flood-water. The dams are passed by means of locks, such as are used in canals. This method of forming water communication has been extensively and successfully introduced in America, where limited means and abundance of rivers rendered it peculiarly applicable. One of the most extensive works on this principle in the country was constructed by the Schuylkill Navigation Company, in the State of Pennsylvania, and consisted in damming up the water of the river Schuylkill. It extends from Philadelphia to Eeading, and is situate in the heart of a country abounding in coal, from the transport of which the Company derives its chief revenue. It is 108 miles in length, and its construction cost about L.500,000. This line of navigation is formed by thirty-four dams thrown across the stream, with twenty-nine locks, which overcome a fall of 610 feet. It is navigated by boats from fifty to sixty tons burden. These dams are constructed somewhat on the same principle as that erected on the Schuylkill at Fairmount water-works, near Philadelphia. A detailed description of this dam is given in the chapter which treats of water-works.
One great objection to this mode of forming inland navigation, is the necessity of constructing works of great strength, sufficient to enable them to withstand the floods and ice to which they are exposed, and by which they are very apt to be damaged, or even carried away. Accidents of this kind, however, may be in a great measure guarded against by making a judicious selection of situations for the dams and locks, and placing them in such a manner in the bed of the river, that the current may act on them in the direction least detrimental to their stability, as has been done in the dam at Fairmount water-works just alluded to.*
The number of boats which passed through the locks of the Schuylkill navigation in 1836 was 24,470, the tolls on which amounted to L.14,043. The various articles taken up the river during that year weighed 61,079 tons, and
* Sir Wm. Cubitt has formed several reaches of slackwater navigation on the Severn, by erecting dams of masonry, which have been very successful. (Stevenson's Canal and River Engineering. A. and (.*.Black. Edinburgh, 18580
those brought towards the sea 570,094 tons, of which 432,045 tons were anthracite coal, from the State of Pennsylvania.
Slackwater navigation also occurs at intervals on many of the great lines of canal. About 78 miles of the Eideau Canal, in Canada, are, as formerly noticed, formed in this way, and in the United States it is met with on the Erie, Oswego, Pennsylvania, Frankston, Lycoming, and Lehigh Canals. The works which have been executed in forming most of the water communications in America, however, are not generally of the slackwater kind, but resemble the canals in use in Europe, being, in fact, artificial trenches or troughs, with locks to enable vessels to pass from one level to another. The locks are furnished with boom-gates, which are opened and shut by a long lever fixed to the tops of the heel and mitre posts. The sluices by which the water is admitted into the locks are placed in the lower part of the gates. They are in general common hinge-sluices, opened by means of a rod extending to the top of the gates, and worked by a crank handle.
The canals of this construction in the United States are so very numerous, and resemble each other so much, that I do not consider it necessary to give a detailed description of the various works which have been executed on all of them, but shall content myself with giving a brief sketch of the Erie Canal, which was the first in America on which the conveyance of passengers was attempted, and is the longest canal in the world regarding which we possess accurate information.
The Erie Canal was commenced in 1817, and completed in 1825. The main line leading from Albany, on the Hudson, to Buffalo, on Lake Erie, measures 363 miles in length, and cost about L.1,400,000 sterling. The Champlain, Oswego, Chemung, Cayuga and Crooked Lake Canals, and some others, join the main line, and, including these branch canals, it measures 543 miles in length, and cost upwards of L.2,300,000. This canal is forty feet in breadth at the water line, twenty-eight feet at the bottom, and four feet in depth. Its dimensions proved too small for trie extensive trade which it had to support, and, as already stated, the depth of water was, when I saw it, being increased to seven feet, and the extreme breadth of the canal to sixty feet. The country -through which it passes is admirably suited for canal navigation, and there are only eighty-four locks on the main line. These locks are each ninety feet in length, and fifteen in breadth, and have an average lift of eight feet two inches. The total rise and fall is 692 feet. The towpath is elevated four feet above the level of the water, and is ten feet in breadth. The Erie Canal begins at Buffalo, on Lake Erie, and extends for a distance of about ten miles along the banks of Lake Erie and the river Niagara, as far as Tonewanta Creek. By means of the slackwater navigation, formerly described, the channel of the Tonewanta is rendered navigable for the distance of twelve miles, and the canal is then carried through a deep cutting, extending seven and a-half miles, to Lockport. Here it descends sixty feet by means of five locks excavated in solid rock, and afterwards proceeds on a uniform level for a distance of sixty-three miles to Genessee Kiver, over which it is carried on an aqueduct having nine arches of fifty-feet span each. Eight and a half miles from this point it passes over the Cayuga marsh, on an embankment two miles in length, and in some places, seventy feet in height. It then passes through Lakeport and Syracuse, and at this place the "long level" commences, which extends for a distance of no less than sixty-nine and ahalf miles to Frankfort, without an intervening lock. After leaving Frankfort, the canal crosses the river Mohawk, first by an aqueduct of 748 feet in length, supported on sixteen piers, elevated twenty-five feet above the surface of the river, and afterwards by another aqueduct 1188 feet in length, and at last reaches the town of Albany.
Albany is the capital of the State of New York, and contains a population of about 30,000. It is situate on the west, or right bank of the Hudson, at the head of the natural navigation of the river; but some improvements have been made, which enable vessels of small burden to ascend as far as Waterford, thirteen miles above Albany. One of these improvements has been effected by the erection of a dam across the Hudson 1100 feet in length and 9 feet in height, at a cost of upwards of L.18,000. The lock connected with this dam measures 114 feet in length and 30 feet in breadth. Albany, however, may be said to monopolize the trade of the river, and, in addition to the interest it possesses as a place of great commerce, it is important from its position at the outlet of the Erie Canal, and has a large basin or depot for the accommodation of the boats or vessels. This basin, which has an area of thirty-two acres, is formed by an enormous mound, placed parallel to the stream of the Eiver Hudson, and enclosing a part of its surface. The mound is composed chiefly of earth, and is 4300 feet in length and 80 feet in breadth, and being completely covered with large warehouses, it now forms a part of the town of Albany, with which it is connected by means of numerous drawbridges. The place has, in consequence, very much the same appearance as many of the Dutch towns. The lower extremity of the mound is unconnected with the shore, a large passage being left for the ingress and egress of vessels, but its upper end is separated from the bank of the river by a smaller opening, which is closed, when necessary, to prevent ice from injuring the craft lying in the basin. A stream of water is generally allowed to enter at the upper end, which, flowing through the basin, acts as a scour, and prevents it from silting up. The mound is surrounded by a wooden wharf like those of New York and Boston, at which vessels discharge and load their cargoes. This admirable basin forms a part of the Erie Canal works, and cost about L.26,000.