United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

Preliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report online

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"light railways." As in Belgium and France, these light railways
gather up traffic and bring it to the termmals along the canals. The
problem of bringing freight to the canals is not so great as might be
expected, simph' because a large proportion of the industry of Ger-
many has been built up since the waterways were developed. A
manufacturer intending to establish a plant ordinarily considers with
great care the question of whether he will desire most to employ rail
or water transportation. If his business requires a great c[uantity of
a particular Idnd of raw material, as coal, cotton or some other bulky
article, he may be expected to seek a location convenient to a water
trunk line, from whicli at the same time he will be able to secure a rail-
road switching coi^iection. This is the ideal situation for a large
establishment. Such a concern can use either kind of transportation,
depending on conditions. Traffic which must be sent in great haste
can employ express steamers or railroad cars ; coal or other raw
materials may be brought by barge. At seasons when freights by
water are very low it is possible to lay in large quantities of fuel or
raw material at a considerable saving m freights.


This question of bringing freights to the waterways is necessarily
one of great importance. The railroad is able at comparatively little
expense to give a switching connection with any factory which prom-
ises a satisfactory tonnage. In England one method which traders
allege was extensively practiced by the railroads in order to put the
canals out of business was to deny facilities, switching connections,
car supplies, etc., to industrial establishments whicli to any consider-
able extent attempt to divide their business vnih the canals. But
when the same interest, namely, the Government, controls the two
systems of transportation it becomes a com])aratiycly easy matter to
secure connections ^-ith both of them and to divide the tonnage in
such manner as to produce the most economical result.


The terminal railroad so familiar in the United States, which is built
to handle the freight of a great industrial establishment and to connect
it with the tracks of the railways, has its counteipart in the waterway
scheme of Germany. A big plant often provides its own canal termi-
nals in the form of private docks and slips comiecting with a canal or
river. Barges are thus loaded at the private dock and then floated
out upon the public waterway for dispatch to their destination. The
problem of getting freight to the canals is not nearly so serious, in
actual experience, as it has been represented by some people who
incline always to exaggerate the difficulties of water transportation.


The great Kaiser Wilhelm Canal, across the southern section of the
Jutland Peninsida, was built primarily for strategic reasons, relating
to the handling of the German navy. The expectation was that it
would have comparatively small commercial importance. It cost
about $38,000,000, and almost from the day of its opening the mer-
chant tonnage passing tlii'ough it greatly exceeded all estimates that
had been made. It has proved a valuable addition to German com-
mercial facilities, and is pointed to as one of the most striking proofs
of the statement that almost any great commercial facility will ulti-
mately become profitable. The business goes where facilit}' is pro-
vided for it. Even the Manchester Ship Canal is now considered to be
assured of ultimately maintaining itself and paying the fixed charges
on the great capital debt incurred in its construction.


Aside from Belgium and Holland, probably a larger proportion of
all traffic is moved by internal waterways in France than in any other
European country. In Germany the authorities indicate that from 16
to 20 per cent of the nation's internal traffic, aside from that which
moves over country roads, is handled by the waterways; in France
the proportion is somewhat higher and may reach 25 per cent. At
Paris, Dunkirk, Lyons, Havre, and other important commercial cen-
ters the tonnage is now about equally divided between rail and water.

In France, as in other countries, it has been necessary to protect the
traffic by water against the ruinous competition with which enter-
prising railroad traffic managers threatened it when permitted to act
entirely on their own initiative. It has already been pointed out that
in a cut- throat competition between water and railways, the railways
have naturally the advantage, because they can deliver freight prac-
tically everywhere, while the waterways are restricted to a much
smaller proportion of available markets. Therefore, if permitted to
do so, the railroads can force shippers to use their facilities, even at
competitive points, on pain of being denied the most favored terms
at noncompetitive points.

A number of years ago some of the French railroad managers under-
took to drive the canals out of business, and but for the vigorous
measures which the Government employed, would have, in a consider-
able measure, accomplished their purpose, xit present, however, the
serious possibility of such a result is past, because the uniform policy


of government administration is to develop the t\v o systems of trans-
portation, in the confident belief that on the whole the best interests
of the country will be thus subserved. French managers of private
railroad enterprises have devoted much effort at times to convince the
]niblic that it is bad economy to spend large amounts of public revenue
on waterway development. Instead of attaining their purjDose, the
railroads have by this very campaign added strength to the sentiment
in favor of direct Government operation of the railroads, and have
done no small part toward developing the public sentiment which has
made it possible to expend much public money in enlarging and
improving waterways. In short, France is plainly determined that
whatever ma}^ be showTi by railroad statistics about the comparative
cost of moving freight by rail and water, the best method of securing
effective regulation of freight is by development of the waterways.


As a result of the success of some of the railwaj^s in securing control
of private canals which were promptly deprived of a large propor-
tion of their toimage, and also because of efforts of the railroads to
take business away from publicly owned canals by cUnt of extreme
competition, the railroad administrative authorities some years ago
fixed a general rule that railroads must charge a somewhat higher rate
than waterways. From time to time tliis has been much modified in
particular cases, but the rule still stands and the waterways are pro-
tected by it in their proportion of traffic. There is a feeling that
wliile the railroads probably could in a comparatively few j^ears, if
permitted, take much of the traffic from the waterways, the result of
such a proceeding would necessarily be to increase the cost of traffic
by rail. In the first place, like nearly all the other railroads in the
world, at present, the French lines find more trouble in moving the
traffic that is offered to them than in securing traffic to move. Con-
sequently if a large proportion of the business now moved by water
were thrown upon the railroads, the facilities of the latter would soon
prove utterly inadequate, and a great capital expenditure would be
necessary to enable them to do the business. So that, in the aggre-
gate, the cheapest transportation is believed to be insured by the
utilization of both rail and water.

The French waterways system is based on improving rivers and
linking them by canals. The great rivers, which form the basis of
this system, are the Loire, the Rhone, the Seine, the Dordogne, and
the Garonne, their various navigable tributaries, and a number of
smaller streams that haA'e been extensively improved and made useful
for navigation. The greatest waterway enterprise which France has
undertaken is that connecting the Mediterranean with the Bay of
Biscay across the southern part of the country. For years there has
been a water connection through this region, consisting in part of the
Garonne, which flows into the Bay of Biscay and is connected with
the Gulf of Lyons by a canal.

Following a considerably (hn"erent route, an enlarged canal is now
imder construction that will be of much greater commercial value and
possibly of military significance by reason of allowing passage of
naval craft. Despite great engineering difficulties, o%\ang to varia-
tion injevels, the success of the scheme seems certain. As in the case


of the Kiel Canal in the north of Germany, the strategic consideration
has had weight , but it is expected that when the canal is fuiished its
commercial importance and value will prove very great.

The Scheldt, Moselle, Meuse, Somme, and Adour rivers play only
less important parts than the streams already mentioned. None of
the French lakes is of sufficient size to be particularly useful in the
transportation scheme. The relation of the rivers in the north of
France to the French-Belgian international transportation scheme
has been pointed out.


It was during the latter part of the seventh decade of the last century
that the French began to be convinced that railroads should not be
permitted to monopolize internal transportation. The dissatisfac-
tion with railroad facilities and rates was so acute that even during
the depression followdng the Franco-German war more than
$50,000,000 was spent in a very few years in improving waterways,
including the important harbors. Out of this sum a great work was
accomplished in the improvement of navigation on the Seine, leading
up to Paris, and the great Eastern Canal (Canal de I'Est) was con-
structed. The development of the canals in the north of France and
the improvement of rivers in that section was also carried to a con-
siderable extent during tins period.

The results of these works so w^ell satisfied the country that in the
latter part of the seventies a programme was taken up for developing
the waterways in systematic fashion. It was proposed to secure the
largest possible mileage of water routes connected throughout and
fitted to carry large barges of uniform size and construction. It was
contemplated that these first-class water routes should be available
for barges of 300 tons, and should have a minimum depth of 6 feet
7 inches, with locks of minimum length 127 feet and minimum width
39 feet.

In the next ten years nearly $100,000,000 w^as spent on this project,
and the mileage of waterways of this type was increased from less
than 1,000 to 3,000 miles. Most of this expansion was in the improve-
ment of rivers, but no less than 401 miles of new canals were built.
The Eastern Canal was completed, and an important connection was
constructed between the Oise and the Aisne m order to connect the
Department du Nord, where there are important coal fields, with the
eastern industrial region by a more direct route than had theretofore
been available.

The port of Havre had been conducting much of its business at a
disadvantage because the water craft on the Seine from Paris to Havre
were required to pass into the estuary of the Seine, where the waters
were frequently so boisterous as to make the operation difficult and
dangerous. Accordingly, to avoid the necessity that these smaller
river craft should navigate the tidal water of a great estuary, a canal
was constructed from Havre to Tancarville, paralleling the lower
reaches of the Seine, through wliich the river boats might pass and
avoid the lower river.



The Rhone River, wliich has its source in the Swiss Alps and runs
throughout the important part of its course nearly south in south-
western France, empt^dng into the Gulf of Lyons, has presented one
of the most difficult problems wliich French waterway engineers
have had to meet. It is the swiftest of the large French streams,
and in many places there were rapids wliich made navigation impos-
sible during most of the year, until after great improvement works
had been carried out. On these works a great deal of money has
been expended. The water has been confined into a narrow channel
deepened by means of longitudinal dams ; then, in order to conserve
the supply and reduce the current, transverse dams have been em-
ployed where needed. The Rhone, as a result of these improvements,
presents a fine type of what may be properly called the canalized
river. Throughout the more important part of its length a depth
of 4 to 6 feet is secured, practically throughout the entire year, and
most of the time a great depth is available. Thus a stream that
naturally was almost worthless for navigation has been converted
into an important waterway.

The Seine yielded more readily to the purposes of the engineers,
for its current was slower and volume larger. Craft drawing 9 to 10
feet of water now operate in great numbers from Paris down to Rouen,
about 150 miles, throughout the year; while from Rouen to the
mouth of the stream a still greater draft is possible.

On some of the French streams the engineers have employed in

E laces a method of improvement whose efficacy was at first doubted,
ut which has been developed to remarkable success. It was not
always practicable to build permanent works paralleling the channel
for the purpose of confining the waters and increasing the depth,
because in seasons of high water these were an obstacle to navigation,
and moreover, it was impossible to make them so substantial that they
would not be destroyed by the current. So, for reaches where a
method of confining the water in a narrow channel during a season
of low water was absolutely necessary, movable lateral dams or bar-
rages were built, which confine the water and increase its depth in dry
season, and can be removed so as not to obstruct the channel, or be
destroyed in times of high water.

The locks on the northern streams and canals have been reduced to
the smallest possible number consistent with maintaining a proper
depth of water, and many have been built so large that it is possible
for a towing steamer with a train of barges to be accommodated in
a lock.


The Eastern Canal follows along the eastern frontier of France,
from Gibet on the Belgium frontier along the Meuse River, reaciiing
its farthest eastern point at Golbey; thence it nms in a southwesterly
direction along the Saone River to Chalon sur Saone, thence follow-
ing the Saone south to Lyons. At Lyons the Saone empties into the
Rhone, and from here to the Gulf of Lyons the Rhone, improved as
already described, is used.

This so-called Canal de TEst. is really only in small part a canal.
It includes the improved courses of the Meuse and Saone, connected


by canal. Tliis route has a total length of 268 miles. It cost about
$20,000,000 and is rated one of the cheapest waterways in France.

On the other hand, the canal paralleling the estuary of the Seine
from Tancarville to Havre, although less than 16 miles long, cost
$5,000,000, being one of the expensive pieces of work.

The Marne is connected with the Saone by a canal nearly 100 miles
long, costing nearly $20,000,000; and about $20,000,000 has been
spent >.on the improvement of the Rhone fi'om Lyons to the ^lediter-
ranean, a distance of some 200 miles. Since the general scheme of
unifying the waterways was taken up in 1878 the expenditures on the
Seine from Paris to Rouen, about 150 miles, have aggregated to date
about $150,000 a mile.


Four or five years ago the Government set at work on a scheme of
further improvement, contemplating the expenditure of nearly
$100,000,000 on new canals and river improvement. The Senate cut
the immediate programme in half, but it is expected that the whole
will ultimately be carried out. Part of the w^ork has been accom-
plished, but the large proportion is still under construction. There are
to be additional works on the Seine and the Rhone, by which the Rhone,
in particular, is to be much further improved, so as to give greater
depth. Over $25,000,000 will probably be required in carrying out
plans for the Canal du Nord-Est, which will improve the water commu-
nication between Dunkirk, the coal fields of the north and the indus-
trial section of the east. The Loire River, which empties into the
Atlantic about midway of the western coast of France, and by which
navigation can be carried far into the interior of the country, is being
connected with the Rho'ne by a canal 80 miles long that will cost
about $25,000,000. Tliis canal would be of httle value without
extensive improvement of na\dgation on the Loire, which constitutes
part of the programme. Without these the economical navigation
of the river would be impossible farther inland than Orleans. The
stream is to be improved, however, both below and above Orleans.
When these works are carried out, it will be possible to navigate from
the Atlantic, at the mouth of the Loire, through the interior of France
to the mouth of the Rhone on the Mediterranean. This route will be
a very long one, and must not be confused with the shorter one, to
wliich reference has been made above.

For a variety of reasons methods of traction on French canals have
not improved so much as on the German. Horsepower is more
extensively used in France now than in Germany, and on some of the
rivers which have difficult currents the towing chain is employed.
Nevertheless, the use of steam tugboats has increased rapidly in
recent years, and as the capacity of the waterways becomes larger
steam is crowding out more primitive means of propulsion.

The Seine is the most important waterway in France. From
Paris traffic destined for the north, by way of the water routes which
serve the northern provinces and connect with the Belgian system,
goes through the Seme to make its connection \vith tliis northern sys-
tem, while traffic to the west by way of Rouen and Havre likewise
uses the Seine. Tonnage on this stream in twenty years nearly
tripled, wliile the average rates charged on it fell 20 to 25 per cent.


By far the most important water traffic in France is in the section
from Paris northward. In this region again there is a similarity be-
tween France and Germany. The rivers of tlie south of France, for
topographical reasons, do not adapt themselves so readily to naviga-
tion, and moreover there is no possibility of uniting them with the
systems of other countries, to promote international traffic. On the
other hand, the waterways of the north of France handle a maximum
of import and export business from and to Belgium, Holland, and
Germany, as well as to the world overseas through the ports along
the English Channel.


Since the definite inauguration of the large and systematic scheme
of waterway improvements in 1878, the proportion of French traffic
handled by the waterways as compared to the railroads has steadily
grown. The railways have indeed enjoyed a very great increase in
business, but the growth of tonnage on the waterways has been
greater in proportion than on the railways. It is beheved by some
French authorities than when the gi'eat scheme of improvement on
wliich the country is now at work has been completed, the tonnage of
the canals and rivers may reach one-third of the total freight move-
ment of the Republic.

The French policy in iinancing waterway improvements has devel-
oped along lines parallel to those wliich mark the latter-day German
opinion on this subject. Originally, when the Government took up
vigorously thp proposal to better the waterways, it was the intention
to make them all toll free. This prevailed for a long time. Likewise,
the local governmental authorities were seldom called upon for impor-
tant contributions to the expense.

But more recently, as the investments in waterways have become
larger, and as the voice of protest has been raised from those regions
which object to being taxed for waterways built in distant parts, the
plan has been favored of di^^dmg the cost between the Government
and the cities or departments. In some cases, the plan for doing this
has been very similar to that already described in connection with the
German waterways, namely, of having the Government find capital
and carry out the improvements, on condition that the local govern-
mental division guarantee certain maintenance charges and interest.

The later policy in France is to exact tolls for use of waterways,
particularly canals. This system of charges is not yet fully devel-
oped, and there is much protest against it. It is by no means certain
WTiether ultimately the scheme of charging tolls will be kept in general
effect. In any case, the tolls thus far imposed have generally boon
moderate, and proportionate to the number of locks or other works
on the routes.


Reference having been made to the fact that in periods of unre-
strained competition between railroads and waterways the railroads
have been able to come out victorious, it is fair to explain that com-
petitive methods were often employed by the railroads such as would
not be permitted at all in the Ignited States. For instance, the illus-
tration may be used of a manufacturer located so that he can divide


his freight between the rail and water routes. There is another
manufacturer m the same hne, whose factory is at some distance
from water connection, but who has raihoad switching facihties.
The manufacturer who enjoys the double facility divides his business,
while the one who has only railroad connection sends and receives
his entire tonnage by rail. The railroad manager concludes to com-
pel the movement of all the traffic from both factories by rail. Accord-
ingly, he proposes to the manufacturer whose business he already
monopolizes to give preferential rates to his products, as against those
of the manufacturer who is dividing his tonnage. As the railroad
can reach all markets, while the waterway can reach only a portion
of them the manufacturer who thus has the benefits of preferential rail
rates enjoys a great advantage. The result is that the competitor
can be forced to give his entire business to the rail route. In inves-
tigations of competition between railroads and canals it has been
brought out that these exact methods have been frequently em-

One of the means adopted by the railroad administrative author-
ities to prevent this sort of thing was the requirement that if a rail-
road reduced its rates for the purpose of attracting the tonnage of a
particular establishment, then it must make the same reduction as to
the business of all other establishments similarly located. In other
words, the giving of special preferences for the express purpose of
taking traffic from the waterways was forbidden. This regulation
alone has had a great influence in saving the water routes from unfair
competition by the railroads. A number of years ago the Midi
Railway system and the Canal du Midi engaged in a bitter competition
for traffic, which resulted in a complete victory for the railroad, to
which the canal was finally leased. The result which followed was
exactly what has followed in similar circumstances in Great Britain
and the United States — the railroad took the business. Later,
pressure enough was brought to bear to compel the cancellation of
the lease, and the canal was once more in business.

Despite the difficulties of navigation of the Rhone, and the neces-
sity of increasing the depth and deceasing the current, the cost of
moving freight on this stream is very reasonable. The railways
competing with this route have been compelled to lower their rates,
and indeed for a long period the tendency in practice has been toward
reduction of freight tariffs, though at present, as in the United States,
the increasing cost of wages and of all kinds of supplies has operated
to prevent, for the time being at least, further reduction. But there
is no doubt that transportation rates, as a whole, are decidedly lower

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 46 of 83)