United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

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

. (page 47 of 83)
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in France to-day by reason of the development of waterways. This
is true notwithstanding that it has been found necessary to protect
waterways against the ruinous competition which railroads would
have been glad to force upon them.


The port of Nantes, in its relation to the navigation of the Loire,
has afforded a good illustration of the benefits arising from improving
inland navigation. Nantes is the seat of an important sugar-refining
industry, which twenty-odd years ago was found to be suffering
severely because of the need of a waterway for sea-going vessels which


would enable them to come up from the mouth of the Loke to the
city. At first, improvement of the river was undertaken by process
of dredging it to a great depth, and then a great canal for ocean-
going vessels was undertaken to enable ships drawing up to 19 feet of
water to go up to the city. As soon as this canal was opened there
was a large increase in the tonnage and a great improvement in
general industrial conditions at Nantes. The tonnage of the port
greatly increased, and likewise the traffic of the railroads showed an
immense improvement. In ten years the water tonnage handled at
Nantes was multiplied by tlixee and a half. The city's industry was
saved from impending ruin, which would have caused inestimable
losses to owners of all classes of property there.

The port of Marseilles, one of the most important, if not the most
important, in France, some years ago felt the need of a direct inland
water connection with the Rhone, whose mouth is about 40 miles
west of the city. Accordingly a project was developed for the con-
struction of such a waterway, so that barges from the Rhone might
pass directly to Marseilles without either entermg the Gulf of Lyons
or transshipping overland. An arrangement was made by which the
expense of this improvement should be borne jointly by the national
government and the city. This illustrates the tendency to adopt the
German system of dividing expense between the State and the inter-
ested localities. In both Germany and France the impression is that
this method is likeh^ to result in a more rapid extension of the water-
ways system. The political objections, which were naturally urged
against large expenditures by the State for the benefit of limited
localities, lose much of their force when the expense is divided in this

There is also, in recent years, a tendency in France to provide,
partly by imposition of tolls and partly by exacting financial guaran-
ties from interested localities, for the ultimate repa3^ment of the
money invested in making these unprovements.

In the consideration of any great scheme of improving the water
highways of the United States, especially the rivers, it would seem
that carefid study ought to be made of this plan of requiring the local-
ities to show their interest in the enterprise by substantial financial
contributions. At least, it would seem that there is merit in enforc-
ing a requirement that cities provide terminal and harbor facilities if
the government bears the burden of improving the waterway.


During the last half of the last century there was expended on
the river improvement and development of Austria, exclusive of
Hungary, rather more than $100,000,000. Even this was regarded as
practically only marking the beginning of the real modernization of
these works. Accordingly in 1901 a scheme of expansion was inau-
gurated and provision was made by legislation for the expenditure of
about SoO,000,000 on further river improvement and canals. Of this
amount, onc-tliird was to be devoted to the rivers — widening, deep-
ening, and regulating their currents — and two-thirds to building
canals of modern size. After the money was provided there was a
long delay, owing to the desire of the Government's engineers care-


fully to study the situation and to experiment with the flow of water
courses, etc., in order to acquire a large fund of basic information to
guide their work. Only recently has the work of actual construction
contemplated under this appropriation been seriously inaugurated.

This project is regarded as in no way conclusive; the Government
designs when this expenditure has been made to place another great
sum at the disposal of the department of public works for more work
of the same kind.

The Hungarian Parliament has been hardly less generous in its pro-
vision for waterway improvements. After spending about $40,000,-
000, chiefly on rivers, very little having thus far been devoted to
canals, Hungary also is making provision for further development of
its system m harmony with the plans of the Austrian division of the
dual monarchy. In both these countries the railroads are mainly
State owned, and just as in Holland, Germany, France, Belgium, and
other countries, it is now the settled and unquestioned policy of the
Government to devote something like equal attention to the two par-
allel sj^stems of transport.


A great portion of the navigable length of the Danube River is in
the Austro-Hmigarian Empire. This is not only one of the world's
greatest rivers by reason of its length and volume, but there are few
which can compare with it for commercial significance. Latter-day
Austrian policy has looked largely to the east and southeast of Europe
for development of Austrian commerce, and to the great Danube,
which is to southeastern Europe what the Mississippi is to the central
valley of North America or the Yangtze to the great plains of south-
ern China. If development of the Danube and its great navigable
tributaries produces the results for wliich the Austria-Himgary Gov-
ernment hopes, tliis waterway system will one day carry the com-
merce of industrial Austria not only to the south-of-Europe States
of Bulgaria, Roumania, Servia, Turkey, and Greece, but will become
the liighway of a world trade that will reach to Russia, Asia ^Minor,
and the whole East. Nowhere has the picture of future commercial
development been painted in brighter colors than by those Austrian
statesmen who believe their great river is not only to be the means
of permanently and securely cementing together the elements of the
Empire, but is to make the firmly united Austria of the futm*e a
workshop, from whence shall go forth a great volume of manufac-
tured goods to all the near East.

The Danube is 1,800 miles long and is navigable from its mouth in
the Black Sea well into the interior of Germany. Beyond this it is
connected with the Rliine by a small canal, wliich is to be enlarged to
the utmost capacity that water supply and other ph^^sical conditions
will permit.

A study of the maps of Europe and North America suggests a
striking parallel between the relation of the Danube to southern
Europe and that of the Mississippi to North America. The Danube
has its great navigable tributaries, as the Mississippi has. Each
drains an Empire of splendid fertility and resource. The Black Sea,
into which the Danube empties, in this comparison corresponds to the


Gulf of Mexico. On the shores of the Black Sea and accessible to the
commerce of the Danube are the ports of a half-dozen countries, gate-
ways to unlimited markets. Likewise, the Mississippi and the Gulf
constitute the highway and the open door to the trade of Mexico,
Central and South America, and the West Indies.

Austria's navigable waters aggregate something like 4,000 miles in
length, and include, in addition to the Danubian system, a section of
the Elbe in Bohemia, about 200 miles long, one part of wliich has not
yet been made navigable for steamboats, but wliich is included in the
scheme of improvement. The Moldau, a Bohemian tributary to the
Elbe, has also been extensively improved in connection with the work
on the Elbe.


The most serious obstacle to navigation of the Danube is at Orsova,
in the extreme southeastern part of Hungary, just before the stream
enters Roumania. The stream here passes through a course of
rapids and cataracts, the "Iron Gates" presenting the most serious
menace to navigation. The stream passes tlu-ough a remarkable
formation of rocks, and the channel is very swift and dangerous.
Immense amounts of money have been spent for the control and
improvement of the river in tliis section, the works that have been
built being among the most remarkable of the kind ever undertaken.
Tolls are exacted for the use of the new channel at the iron gates, this
being the only place in Austria-Himgary where tolls are levied for
the navigation of a river.

The improvement made by the Hungarian Government at this
point cost nearly $10,000,000. As the navigation of the Danube was
guaranteed free to various nations under treaty arrangements it was
necessary, before tolls could be charged, to have a treaty stipulation
to that effect. Accordingly, in the treaty of Berlin, provision is made
for such tolls, designed to pay for the maintenance of the works, and
ultimately to amortize the State's investment in them. These tolls
as yet amount to much less than the annual interest on the loan plus
the cost of maintaining the works. The deficit is made up by the
Government of Hungary.

In general the Austro-Hungarian policy in river improvements has
been to divide the cost between the general government and the cities
or districts immediately concerned. Various divisions have been
agreed upon in different cases. It will, of course, be understood that
the Hungarian Parliament has entire control of these matters in
Hungary and the Vienna I-iegislature in Austria proper.

In'^ addition to something like $40,000,000 which the Hungarian
Government expended in river improvement during the last half of
the last century, nearly $70,000,000 has been invested by various
river improvenient organizations in lIungar3^ The investment of
$10,000,000 at the " Iron Gates" is also in addition to the $40,000,000
already mentioned; so that the total of these investments in Hungary
will pass the $100,000,000 mark, and brings up a round total for the
dual monarchy of over $200,000,000. This, in turn, while represent-
ing a period between forty and fifty years, by no means covers the
entire expenditure from which navigation derives benefits; for no
inconsiderable amount of work was done prior to the middle of the
last century.



As a result of the modernization of works the increase of waterway
tonnage that was to be expected has been taking pkice. In twenty
years the water tonnage of Hungary has approximately doubled, and
in Austria the increase has been in even larger proportion. Thus in
the five years endino; with 1890 the Danube Steamship Navigation
Company, the most important on the Austrian section of the river,
handled 1,203,000 tons of trallic, while in the single year 1900, after
improvements had been made, it handled 1,503,000 tons; in other
words, the tonnage for a single year was much larger than for five
years at the earlier period. Since 1900 it has been steadily increasing,
and is now probably 2,000,000 tons annually. These figures are
fairly illustrative of the development of this traffic in Austria.

The golden age of water commerce in Austria-Hungary, however, is
still in the future. Splendid projects of commercial development,
based on the idea of extending Austrian trade into all the Near East,
with the Danube as its chief artery, are in contemplation; and as
waterways are further improved the growth of business constantly
justifies the expenditure.


Of all European countries Holland alone presents a situation in
which the railroads have required to be protected against the compe-
tition of canals in order that they might continue in business. Hol-
land thus reverses the rule which applies to other countries.

There are two or three reasons for the great advantage the water-
ways have always enjoyed in Holland. In the first place, railroad
development was remarkably slow in Holland, because for many years
after other countries had engaged extensively in railroad construc-
tion Holland was not impressed with the necessity for adopting the
new method of transport. The Dutch waterway system was exten-
sive, reached to a very large part of the flat country's area, and was
cheap. Thus railroads, during the earlier period when railroads were
short local lines, found competition severe and were far from profit-
able. This experience discouraged capital from ambitious essays in

But Holland at last found that it could not rely on waterways alone
because international commercial relations were too important, and
its waterways could not keep it in commercial touch with Germany,
Belgium, France, and the rest of Europe. Other countries had devoted
their energies to railroads, and the great international waterway
scheme which is now so important in western and northwestern
Europe was only rudimentary. In order to get into touch with its
neighbors Hollanfl was forced to undertake railroad builcHng, and as
private capital was too wary the Government constructed the new


The commercial development and expansion following the State's
enterprise in railroad building have justified the policy. Before the
new railroads were opened some sections of Holland wliich had
once been industrially important had become almost dormant by


reason of their isolation. The Dutch Government built railroads not
with the expectation that they would be profitable as investments, but
because they were seen to be absolutely necessary to save the country
from industrial decadence. They have served this purpose, but they
have never been profitable. The policy was to construct the road-
wa3^s with money raised by the pledge of the State's credit, and to
lease these to private companies for operation. The private con-
cerns in the main provided equipment, but did not guarantee the
fixed charges on the Government's investment. If they had been
required to do this, they would soon have become bankrupt, for the
development of international traffic was slow and the railroads found
themselves unable to take from the canals anj great proportion of
the tonnage, Holland was thus the only country in wliich the State
provided both rail and water highways substantially free of capital

In the main the waterways were toll free. The only charge for
their use was that of the boats and barges. The railroads' situation
was quite similar, because the Government was compelled for many
years to pa}^ most of the interest on their capital debts. For a long
time, and until very recent years, the private companies' payments
to the Government never exceeded 1 per cent on the capital debt.
The important consideration from the Dutch point of view is not
the measure of profit the State has been able to extract from this
investment in railroads, but the revival of Dutch commerce and
industry. In France and Germany waterway systems were devel-
oped at State expense to supplement the railroads; in Holland rail-
roads were constructed by the State, and owned at a loss, to supple-
ment the waterways. In each case the policy has been so well vindi-
cated by results that it seems fair to say that no country's waterway
system can be so good as to justify neglect of railways, and no railway
system can be so perfect as to justify letting the waterways fall into

It is not the purpose here to present a detailed discussion of the
Dutch waterways, because it would add little to the impression that
may be gained from what has been said about those of Belgium. In
Holland, as in Belgium, the rivers have been the basis. Canals have
been built to connect the rivers one with another, to connect them
with seaports, and to bring the sea up to the important cities. "


Transportation by canal having been nearly universal in Holland,
and a canal system having been developed before anything like a rail-
road network was built, the railroads found themselves, when at
last they were ready seriously to compete for traffic, at a great dis-
advantage r?garding local business. Even with the advantage of
having no capital charge, railroads were unable to meet the water rates,
and for years passenger traffic was the larger reliance of the rail
routes for revenues. Then by reason of connection of the Dutch
with the German railwaj^s the through business began to he important
and productive. Encouraged by this increase in long-distance busi-
ness, the railroads next entered serioush^ the field of competition for
local freight, and in recent times have secured a fair showing. To do



tliis tliey have been compelled to make very low rates. The advan-
tage is still with the water routes and probably will remain there.

But in other ways Holland's experience repeats that of other
countries where rail and water liighways have been constructed side
by side. The gain of the railways in freight tonnage has not been
the loss of the waterways an}" more than the gain of the waterways
in other countries has been the loss of the railways. Here again the
rule has been demonstrated that commerce grows as better and
cheaper transportation is provided to encourage it. The waterways
probably have profited more extensively even than the railways by
the immense increase of business in the last quarter century. With
the development of the upper reaches of the Rliine and other German
waterwaj^s, Dutch water traffic has grown fast and has come to com-
pete vigorousl}^ with the long-distance international freight move-
ment, which at one time it was supposed could be handled only by
the railroads. Deeper and better waterways have brought larger
barges, and hardly less important than this, improvements in motive
power. The general introduction of steam towage and gasoline
motor barges has kept the balance well preserved between the two
systems wliile retaining the advantage on the side of the v>^ater routes.

It is impossible in the time and space at command to give a detailed
statement of the expenditures on the Dutch waterway system. An
estimate of $125,000,000 for the last forty years is probably on the
side of moderation. This figure makes no pretense of covering
expenditures of landowners in obtaining small naA^gable ditches
through their own lands, or of many local governmental divisions.
It does include the expenditures on about 1,000 miles of rivers and
canals, including the Amsterdam sliip canal, the work for preven-
tion of floods at the junction of the jSIaas and Waal rivers, the
Merwede Canal and other large works, which have absorbed large


A recent comparison of rates by rail and water on freight moving
over what in Holland are long routes, gives the following figures:

Rates by water and rail

Distance. Rate


Ore, Rotterdam to Ruhrort


Ruhrort to Amsterdam

Ruhrort to Rotterdam

Amsterdam to Arnheim

Amsterdam to Utrecht


Rotterdam to Ruhrort

Amsterdam to Wormervoer

Amsterdam to Groningen


Coal, Essen to Amsterdam

Ore, Amsterdam to Essen







Per ton.
SO. 30




31673— S. Doc. 325, 60-1-




Great Britain is chiefly of interest in a study of waterways because
of the sharp contrast it presents to conditions on the Continent.
British waterways have been neglected or have fallen into subordina-
tion to the railways.

Some reasons for inferiority of British waterways have aheady
been suggested. English industrial cities are located, to a great
extent, on or near the ocean, and neither railroads nor waterways can
compete with ocean traffic. The British railways do indeed attempt
this competition, even carrying great amounts of coal from northern
England to London. But there is a strong and probably increas-
ing impression among the traders that the railroads make no profit
out of this traffic, and that perhaps if they had attempted to handle
less of it then financial condition to-day would have been better than
the record of decreasing net earnings shows it to be. In order to
handle this traffic it has been necessary for the railroads to build
more tracks and supply themselves with more and more cars. Even
when these facilities are provided, they must still handle the business,
except to noncompetitive points, at rates which will meet those of
the ocean carriers.

Before the era of railroads, canals in Great Britam were highly
profitable, and there was an era of animated speculation m their
shares. The Duke of Bridgewater's Canal, fi'om Worsley's to Man-
chester and Liverpool, was the fu"st important artificial waterway
opened in England, having accepted its fii'st traffic in 1759. It was
successful from the very beginning, and initiated the era of canal
speculation, which was not confined by any means to the United
Kingdom, but which spread to the Continent, and for a long time was
quite as animated as railroad speculations became in America about
a century later. Some canal companies sustained heavy losses,
others made magnificent profits. The Duke of Bridgewater's Canal
is credited with laying the foundations of the industrial greatness of
Manchester, which in later years, with the revolution of transporta-
tion methods, was compelled, at immense expense, to construct a
canal connecting with the Mersey, so that gi-eat seagoing ships could
come up to the city.


What the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal did for Manchester the Aire
and Calder Canal did for Leeds. Bu-mingham likewise secured con-
nection by canal with Liverpool and the sea and reaped similar

In this earlier canal era of Britain, not only were all kinds of fi-eight
handled by water, but the passenger traffic on many routes became
highly profitable. As soon as the railroads came in, the passenger
traffic was immediately lost to canals, and presently the freight ton-
nage began to go the same way. The popular craze for railroad
investment made it impossible to get money to improve the water-
ways. Further than this, stockholders in canal companies, which
had been highly profitable before the advent of the railroads, showed
exceedingly poor business judgment. They refused to reduce their
rates to meet the competition of the railroads, apparently preferring


to do no business and earn no dividends rather than to lower charges
to produce more modest returns. Finally the railroads by various
devices secured control of a large proportion of the canal mileage,
and have pretty systematically taken the business away fi'om the

In the extensive investigation which the British Royal Commission
on Canals and Waterways has recently conducted, it has been repeat-
edly developed that one reason why the British waterways system is a
failure is to be found in the fact that it is not a system at all. Whereas
in Germany, France, and other countries effort has been constantly
made and great expenditures has been incurred in order to secure the
greatest possible approximation to uniformity, to accommodate the
largest craft, and to extend the system in the most advantageous
fashion, in Great Britain there has been practically no such effort.


Thus it was brought out before the commission that between Lon-
don and Liverpool, a route which might be expected to present mag-
nificent opportunities for business if a good water course were pro-
vided, there were 4 different gauges in the canal, the section of smallest
gauge accommodating boats no larger than 30 tons, while the largest
craft that could bo taken were only 80 tons. Comparing these with
the 300, 500, 1,000 and even 2,000 ton barges, of which long strmgs
are handled by towing steamers on continental waterways, the reason
for the inability of English canals to compete with the railroads is
made quite apparent. The British traders all assured the commission
that in their opinion nothing like system could ever be produced

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 47 of 83)