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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until some method of governmental control were used, and until the
canals were taken fi'om the raihoads and made distinctly a public

In this connection it must not be understood that the entire mile-
age of British canals has fallen into railway ownership. On the other
hand the figures show that internal navigations in the United King-
dom aggregate 3,901 miles, of which only 1,138 miles are owned by
the railways. But the ''mileage not owned by the railways, includes
of course much of the mileage of the navigable rivers." Taking out
this mileage of rivers and basing the comparison on canals only, the
railways appear decidedly to control the situation.


The British railway legislation applies equally to railwaj^s and
canals and gives the board of trade certain powers over the construction,
physical operation, rates and traffic arrangements of both. The rail-
way and canal traffic act of 1888 established the present railway and
canal commission. Its powers apply to railways and canals alike.
It provided that revised schedules of maximum tolls, rates and
charges, must be submitted to the board of trade. It was under this
provision that the board of trade prepared the maximum schedule of
freight rates enacted afterwards by Parliament and known as the
provisional orders acts. Under this authority the board provided
maximum rates not only for the railroads of Great Britain but for
149 canals.


The board of trade is empowered to require reports from canal com-
panies, showing the capacity of the canal for traffic, the capital, rev-
enue, expenditure, etc., and to make inspections of canals alleged to
be in bad condition.

An important provision prohibits under heavy penalties the use of
a railway company's funds for the purchase of a canal or an interest
therein without express statutory authority. The board of trade is
empowered to authorize the abandonment of derelict or useless canals,
and to release the owners from liability to maintain the same; and
the board is also authorized to give its permission to the transfer of a
canal to some body established to manage it, or to some local author-
ity. But such authorization must be confirmed by Parliament.
There is only one case in which the board has authorized the aban-
donment of a derelict canal. This was the Thames and Severn, which
having lost its traffic was taken over by a corporation in which various
neighbormg navigations were interested, as well as local governmental
authorities. This trust soon found itself unable to carry the burden,
and application was made to the board of trade to abandon it, which
was granted and afterwards confirmed by Parliament.


It was repeatedly brought out in the testimony taken by the royal
commission that agreements have been made between railroads and
independent canal companies, by which the canals bound themselves
not to charge less than a fixed percentage of the rail rates. The testi-
mony also indicated that the canals were practically compelled to
agree to these terms in many cases because if they refused the rail-
roads would force upon them a competition that finally would take
away all their traffic. But it was the testimony of many canal man-
agers that when they could make reasonable terms with the railroads
they were able to handle a large traffic at a profit. There was much
testimony as to the large quantity of coal handled by canals in differ-
ent parts of England, and it was shown that some of them have
succeeded in keeping, despite the competition of the railroads, a
heavy volume of this business. As to coal and other bulky
trafti'c it was repeatedly explained that the greatest difficulty the
canals experience is in securing a load for the trip ])ack toward the
collieries. When there is reasonable guaranty of back loading, coal
canals have generally been able to take care of themselves.

It was frequently charged by business men before the commission
that the railway companies seemed, as soon as they_ came into control
of a canal, to prefer to operate the canal at a loss in order that they
might divert the traffic to the railway. Thus in the case of the North
Staffordshire Railway, which controlled a canal of some importance,
it was pointed out that the railroad company's report to the board
of trade indicated that the railway was losing $150,000 a year by
reason of its control of the canal. This was one of sundry instances
in which a railroad had taken control of a canal under guarantee to
pay a fixed interest on the canal company's capital. It appeared in
this and like instances that the railroad year by year made up from
its own revenue a deficit of the canal, and yet never seemed to attempt
to improve conditions on the canal so that it could earn its own w^ay,
apparently preferring to do the business by rail and pay the deficit.



Mr. H. W. Empson, representing the York Chamber of Commerce,

said in this connection:

My experience is that at the present time a determined effort is being made by
our railroad companies to strangle the water traffic with a view to getting the transit
arrangements in their own hands, and so by destroying competition to enable them
to charge higher rates and thus handicap our manufacturers in their endeavor to
compete with foreign rivals. This has been especially noticeable since the railroads
acquired steamers for the continental traffic. I have had several consignments from
the Continent ordered to be transshipped into steamers at Hull which have fallen into
the hands of railroad companies. In fact traffic intended to come by water is being
constantly diverted to the railway at Hidl and Goole. I might further venture to
give another illustration. I remember many years ago we had a steamer daily carry-
ing goods between Hull and York at rates considerably below the railway. Owing
to difficulties at certain times in the navigation, this was discontinued, when imme-
diately the railway rates were increased 25 to 30 per cent.


Mr. Empson, in answer to an inquiry as to whether lie could give
any comparison of competitive rates between water and rail showing
that the water rate effected a saving over rail rates, prepared a sched-
ule givmg competitive rates under which the waterway effects a
saving in some cases of 50 per cent, as against railroad rates, between
York and London, Selby and Hull, York and Hull. The schedule

Effect of water competition on railway rates between York and London, Selby and Hull,

and Yoi'k and Hull

[Extract from Mr. Empson's proof of evidence: " By the annexed schedule of competitive rates you
will see that the waterway effects a saving in some cases of 50 per cent over railway rates, as between
York and London, Selby and Hull, York and IIull."]



Hull to York

Newcastle or Tynemouth to York

Leeds to York

London to York

Grain, Selby to Hull

Cocoa, London to York

Sugar, London to York

Treacle, London to York

Rice, London to York

Grain, Hull to York

Timber, Hull to York

Hull to York

York to Scarborough (same distance as Hull
to York).


2s. 9d. to 3s. per ton

6s. 9d. to 8s. per ton

3s. 9d. to 4s. per ton

7s. 2d. to 7s. Sd. ; 6d. extra

under 50 tons.

Is. lOd. per ton

18s. 4d. per ton

18s. 4d. per ton; if free on

wharf, 15s. lOd.

15s. lOd. free on wharf

18s. 4d. per ton

Is. to 2s. per ton by barge

loads (average cost Is.

9d. per ton) .
3s. 6d. per ton

8s. per ton; 5s. 6d. per ton

in 50-ton lots.
13s. 9d. per ton


4 tons, 5s. lOd.; 7 tons,

7s. Ud. per ton in 5-ton

loads or over.
5s. per ton in 5-ton lots.
15s. per ton in 4-ton lots

or over.
3s. 9d. per ton.
27s. 6d. per ton.
24s. Id. per ton.

20s. per ton.

24s. 2d. per ton.

5s. lOd. per ton in 4-ton

lots; 5s. per ton in 10-

ton lots.
5s. lOd. per ton.

9s. 2d. per ton; 7s. 6d.
per ton in 50-ton lots.

It was the conviction of many witnesses that on the conservancy
boards which manage the navig;ation and improvements of many
British rivers and harbors, the railways are very frequently altogether
too strongly represented. It was charged that even on such impor-
tant rivers as the Clyde, Tyne, and Tees, the railroad interests had
become so influential that almost no progress had been made for


many years. This criticism related to a period when these rivers
were under a species of municipal control, and it seems to be decid-
edly the opinion that the railroads or related interests in municipal
politics had prevented improvements. Later these particular
streams were placed under the conservancies and conditions improved.
The testimony seemed to indicate the opinion among traders, how-
ever, that the railroads were liable to make themselves influential to
the detriment of waterway interests, no matter what kind of admin-
istration was in charge of the waterways, if they could thereby
improve the traffic of the roads.


Mr. Lanclot Foster, an alderman of the city of York and at one
time lord mayor, told the commission that it was necessary to free
the waterways from railway control and to prevent the railways from
carrying goods at especially low rates to points served by water with
the express purpose of liilling navigation and then diverting the
traffic to the rails. He said :

The railway companies with their extensive ramification of lines and heavy traffic
carried can quote a low rate for places served by navigation without any serious loss,
owing to the opportunities of recouping themselves in the case of rates to places not
so served. Such a course means the ruin of the navigation. When the low rate has
served its turn the railway companies .then raise their rates to paying figures.

Mr. Foster cited the case of the Northeastern Railways' control of
the navigation of the Derwent River. The navigation was purchased
by the company in 1865 at a cost of £40,000. Thereafter the tolls
and dues were enormously increased. Mr. Foster said:

In evidence given at a board of trade inquiry in 1893, the president of the Malton
Traders' Association, stated that when the Northeastern Company got control of the
navigation, the tolls on coal fi'om Derwent Mouth to Malton (a distance of 40 miles)
were raised from 4d. to lOd. per ton, then again to Is. 6d. and eventually to 2s. 6d. per
ton. Not satisfied with this it was proposed to fmther increase the rate from 2s. 8d.
to about 3s. 8d., and I may say that the dues on coal in the Ouse River for a longer
distance are 2d. per ton. There is a canal in connection with the Derwent — that is,
the Pocklington Canal — which is now absolutely derelict; that is, as far as Canal Head;
according to the railway company's schedule of tolls published in 1863, one of which
I have in my possession, and of which I do not know whether there is another extant,
because I know when anybody had one the railway company borrowed it, and never
returned it, and I believe the one I have is practically the only one extant, that
shows in 1863 the rates for coal cinders and slack were 3s. per ton to Canal Head, a
distance of 22 miles. We sent coke from York to Hull regularly and the tolls are only
2d. per ton for the whole distance of 60 miles. That shows the difference between
waterway and railway management. In the face of these proposals and the fiu-ther
increase of dues, a Derwent navigation committee of riparian owners and agi'icul-
turists, Lord Londesborough and several other important land owners protested, and
80 strong was the opposition that the objectionable clauses were ultimately with-
drawn. As an agriculturist trader on the river over a long period, perhaps for 30
years, I can speak from personal experience of how the trade has been handicapped
by the exceptionally high tolls charged on the River Derwent. Old residents in the
district can remember the time when over 40 vessels traded to Malton with coal and
other goods, bringing back timber, etc. Now the traffic is practically extinct.


Mr. Foster also outlined the history of the Ripon and Borough-
bridge Canal, on the River lire, which is also a tributary of the Ouse.
This canal is owned by the Northeastern Railway, having been bought
in 1847 at a cost of £34,577. In 1869 twenty vessels were engaged


in coal trade on the canal. In 1894 the company sought parliamen-
tary authority to sell their interest in the canal, but a deputation
of business interests and neii^hboring navigations protested so strongly
that the company withdrew the request for such permission, and sub-
sequently offered to give the canaf to the city or York provided the
city would underwrite the obhgation attacliing to it. This was
declined owing to the state of the canal and the entire absence of
traffic. Mr. Foster said the canal is now absolutely derelict and it is
impossible for boats to travel upon it. The traffic has been diverted
to the Northeastern Railway. The canal's length is only about 9
miles, and the railway's charge for hauhng coal is 9M. per ton.
Prior to the passing of the railway and canals act, the coal was Is.
11 id. per ton, wliile on the Aire and Calder Canal, an independent
waterway, the charge is lOd. per ton for 23 or 24 miles with locks;
and on the Linton Lock Navigation of 8§ miles it is only A^d. per
ton, the Linton being another canal independent of railwaj^ control;
and finally, Mr. Foster said that on the Ouse the charge for the entire
length, wliich is much greater, is only 2d. per ton.

These cases are only typical of a great number which were eluci-
dated in the testimony before the Commission.

The industrial witnesses insisted that one reason why the canal
traffic had fallen off was that the railroads were not compelled to
make joint rates and establish through routes in connection with
canals. Reference was constantly made to the contrast which con-
tinental conditions presented in tliis regard. Mr. Empson cited a
case in German experience vnih which he was famihar. He said:

A manufacturer at Freiberg, a town about 20 miles from Frankfort, told me lie got
his coal from Ruhrort on the Rhine by water to Frankfort, whence it was transshipped
to the railway, thus saving some 6d. per ton over the through railway rates. I think
it very important that some arrangements be made for compelling railway companies
to give facilities for the interchange of traffic with inland waterways. You have
already had evidence from several witnesses in Belgium and Germany that this inter-
change is effected to the advantage of manufactm-ers and the reduction of rates.


Mr. Empson in the course of his testimony, emphasized the fact
that in Germany's experience a great increase of railway traffic had
invariably followed the improvement in water facilities. His con-
clusion from all the evidence he had been able to adduce was that far
from injuring the business of the railroads, improvement and exten-
sion of waterways had invariably proved beneficial to the railroad
because it had been the means of originating a vast volume of new
traffic. In this connection he quoted a well-known engineer of
Frankfort, Mr. Lindley, thus:

Mr. Lindley states that the traffic on the river Main before the improvement works
were earned out was 10,000 tons per annxmi, and the traffic in 1887. the first year after
the improvements were carried out, was 495,000 tons, and in 1905 it had risen to
2,550,000 tons, and the reduction in freight on coal from the Ruhr district was 2s. per
ton, and for other goods from the Rhine district Ss. per ton. The dues levied vary
from l|d. to 3d. per ton. The largest boats have a loading capacity of 1,500 tons
drawing 8 feet of water. I might further add that as a result of this improvement
there has been a very great increase in the railway traffic. It is frequently said that
the improved facilities for water communications have an injurious effect on the traffic
of the railways, but this is an illustration to the contrary, and you will be aware of
probably one or two others. There is a similar case where the result of river improve-
ment has been to increase the railway traffic, the one recorded in connection with the
improvement of the river going up to the town of Nantes.



Mr. Empson cited the rates on timber from Hull to Selby, where
there is water competition with the railroads. Here the rate is 2s.
lOd. per ton, a distance of 30 miles, compared with which he quoted
7s. 6d. as the rate on timber from Howden to Selby, a distance of 10
miles, but over a route by which there is no water competition. He
ascribed the difference entirely to the fact that one route had water
competition and the other had not. He pointed out further that
sugar is handled by rail from Hull to York at 9s. 2d. per ton, and from
Harrogate and Malton to York at exactly the same rate. Yet the
distance from Hull to York is twice the distance from Harrogate and
Malton. The lower proportional rate from Hull he ascribed entirely
to the fact that there is a water route from Hull, whereas there is
none from Harrogate and Malton.

York's experience as an illustration

Mr. J. D. Morrell, director of a large industrial enterprise at York,
presented the following statement :

In considering the question of the value of the Ouse navigation to us, I would like to
point out the gain we had in the competition between the railway and the water car-
riers. In a place like York, where the railway company had a monopoly, without the
river we should be absolutely at their mercy.

To illustrate this I give a comparison of railroad rates lietween York and towns to
which there is effective water competition, and towns to which there is no effective
water competition. The comparison is between the ratio that the rates to those towns
bear to the maximum charges that the railway company might charge. I give examples
of rates to nine towns, divided into three groups:

1. Railway rates from York to ports to which there is effective water competition —
Goole, Hull, London.

2. Railway rates from York to ports to which there is not effective water competi-
tion — Bristol, Liverpool, Southampton.

3. Railway rates from York to inland towns to which there is not effective water com-
petition — Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham. The rates given are for * * * sugar,
glucose, cocoa, gum, almonds.

The average of the five rates to these towns is summarized below, the figures being
the ratio that the rates to the different towns bear to the maximum rate that the rail-
way companies might charge to these towns.


Percent.! II.

Per cent.


Per cent.


















Commenting on this table and the showing which it makes of rates
to places which do, and those which do not, enjoy the benefit of water
competition, Mr. Morrell said:

It will be seen from these examples that where there is no effective competition
the railway companies are practically charging up to the hilt.


Various proposals were submitted to the commission presenting as
man^' ideas how the waterway situation in Great Britain should be
improved. There was general agreement that the canals should be
divorced from the railways, but wide disagreement as to what should
be done with them afterwards. Some witnesses were of the opinion
that local "trusts" — that is, organizations of mimicipal and county


authorities, perhaps also including commercial bodies — should be
given control and supervision of the waterways in their various dis-
tricts, and that these "trusts" should be given parliamentary char-
ters authorizing them to exercise the necessary powers of managing
and constructing waterways, and also of issuing securities to raise

Developments of this idea included the suggestion of dividing the
United Kingdom into geographical divisions, based on topographical
conditions, each division to have its waterways placed in charge of a
trust on which the various local authorities should be represented.
Thus Mr. Arthur Lee, representing the Association of the Chambers
of Commerce, submitted a scheme for a system of main national
canals divided into 6 trusts. He called them the Midland Trust, the
Northeastern • Trust, the Northw^estern Trust, the Southwestern
Trust, the Southeastern Trust, and the Northern Trust. As illus-
trating his proposed scheme of administration, he proposed to turn
over to the Northern Trust the Aire and Calder Canal, the Leeds and
Liverpool Canal, the Calder and Hebble Navigation, the Rochdale,
Bolton and Bury Navigations. In this Northern Trust he would give
representation to the local authorities of the counties of Lancashire
and Yorkshire, and the towns of Liverpool, ]\lanchester, Salford,
Wigan, Chorley, Blackburn, Burnley, Bradford, Leeds, Goole, Wake-
field, Barnsley, Dewsbury, Halifax, Rochdale, Bolton and Bury.

In the Southeastern Trust Mr. Lee proposed to place the Grand
Junction Regent's, Warwick, and Napton, Warwick and Birming-
ham, Stratford from Kingswood to King's Norton, Coventry, Ashby-
de-la-Zouche Canals, the Leicester Navigation, and the Loughbor-
ough Navigation. In this trust he would have represented the local
authorities of the counties of Middlesex, Hertford, Bucks, North-
ampton, Warwick, and Leicester, and the towns of London, Buck-
ingham, Northampton, Coventry, Warwick, Leicester, and Lough-

Other proposals looked to the establishment of 4 instead of 6 of
these district trusts, and still others had in mind that the onl}^ satis-
factory scheme of administration w^as to have the Government
directly take over the canals and navigations and operate them on its
own account. Varying estimates were made of the expense to the
state of such a project, £20,000,000 probably representing a fair


The attitude of the British railways toward internal water traffic
is shown in an especially unfavorable light by the history of the Man-
chester Ship Canal. This canal is now in successful operation, and
connects the great manufacturmg center of Manchester with the
waters of the Mersey River. It is 35 miles long and can be navigated
by vessels drawing 26 feet of water. It is 300 feet wide at the water
level and 100 feet wide at the bottom. Although the Manchester
Canal is regarded in Great Britain and the United States as the most
striking project ever executed for bringing the ocean up to an inland
city, it is hardly more remarkable than a number of similar projects
which, in Holland, Belgium, Germany, and France, have attracted
comparatively little notice, because waterway development was so
much a matter of course in those countries. The Manchester Canal


has guaranteed the commercial prosperity of Manchester, and it
would require some ingenuity to make a satisfactory argument that
it has injured either the shipping business of Liverpool or the interests
of the railroads.

Yet the British railroads so vigorously opposed the construction of
this canal that it took five years or the most determined effort to secure
fi'om Parliament a charter for the work. Under this charter the city
of Manchester was to find the capital for the enterprise. The na-
tional Government had no real concern with the project, except as the
efforts of railroad lobbyists attempted to make it appear that there
were many reasons why such a canal could not possibly be a success.
After it was opened various elements, of which the attitude of the
railroads was an important one, made it doubtful for a long time
whether the canal would succeed. But latterly the tomiage has
rapidly increased and it has begun to pay interest on its capital debt.

A comparison of this seemingly unenlightened policy of the British
railroads with the more liberal one of the railroad administrations in
European countries seems worth while. Whereas in the Manchester
instance the Government was urged to prevent a great city providing
itself with a very necessary utility, in continental countries the gen-

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 48 of 83)