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No. 50, at the eastern end of the Jordan summit level, on the
middle division, was selected for the first lock to be lengthened,
and the results were awaited by canal officials with considerable
interest.



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Later Improvembnts of the Erie. 327

The question of insuflScient water-supply for the canal, espe-
cially on the eastern and middle divisions, had engaged the
attention of canal authorities and at this time seemed to be
regarded as of vital importance. Various legislative committees
had investigated the subject to a greater or less extent and had
reported thereon. The enlargements of the canal, the lengthen-
ing of locks and other causes, required the use of more water
to operate the cadal. From denudation of forest lands upon
water-sheds supplying canal feeders, from leakages, and more
than all from the selfishness and greed of owners of antiquated
leases and water-rights along the line, using more and more water
for private purposes, the supply was year by year growing com-
paratively less until the required depth could scarcely be main-
tained throughout the season. Remedies had been persistently
urged to remove the accumulated silt from the bottom and to
deepen the prism another foot. But as one discerning official
put it, the trouble was not at the bottom but at the top of the
water. More water was needed and both the State Engineer and
the Superintendent of Public Works urged" the speedy building
of additional storage reservoirs in the Adirondack region to pro-
vide an increased supply.

The annual message of Governor Hill, covering the period of
1885, is worthy of note from the fact that it did not contain a
single word of direct reference to the canals. Other subjects
seem to have engrossed public attention. The tonnage fell oflE
about a quarter of a million from that of the previous year, by
reason of lessened export demand. Navigation was oi)en only
two hundred and five days. The Comptroller, in his statement
for the fiscal year to September 30, makes the net canal debt
$3,675,971.39.

The experiment of lengthening the berme lock at lock No. 50
to twice its original length, or to two hundred and twenty feet
between quoins, leaving the lower gate intact, \o be used as a
middle gate in case of locking through a single boat, proved very
satisfactory. Power derived from a water-wheel was also used
in assisting boats through the lock. It was recommended*^ that
other locks, Nos. 47, 48, 49, 51 and 52, — all locking down west-

*^ Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1884.
^Report of State Engineer, 1886.



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328 HisTOEY OF New York Ganalb.

ward, be improved in the same manner. It was also urged that
the Forestport reservoir be speedily completed to increase the
water-supply of the Rome level.

Many people believed that by reason of the commercial advan-
tage and national importance of the Erie canal the Federal
Government should bear a portion of the expense of increasing
its capacity. Various measures to accomplish this result were
advocated. In the Legislature a concurrent resolution was
reported, asking the State's Representatives and Senators in
Congress to support the Weber bill (H. R. 1577), then pending.
This bill provided Federal aid to the State, to the extent of five
million dollars in United States two and one-half per cent bonds,
on condition that the State maintain a depth of nine feet in the
canal, with locks of double length, and a free waterway to the
commerce of the United States. The bill, however, did not
become a law.

The total tonnage of canals in 1886 was 5,293,982, an increase
of 562,198 over the previous year, which was attributed to the
partial cessation of a railroad rate war, which permitted higher
rates to be maintained and much traffic to be restored to the
canals.

Navigation was open two hundred and fourteen days. Depart-
ment reports contain little of interest for this period. It may
be noted that the tendency was to cheapen transportation by
quicker lockages and the use of three horses abreast on the
tow-path.

The lengthening of lock No. 50 had proved so satisfactory that
a similar improvement in other locks was deemed desirable. By
chapter 646, Laws of 1886, the sum of two hundred thousand
dollars was appropriated to double the length of the five other
locks heretofore mentioned, and, after the season of 1886 closed,
the work was carried to completion before the canal was opened
in 1887. Guard-lock No. 1 was likewise improved.

During this latter year further lock improvements were
authorized by legislative enactment. By chapter 113, Laws of
1887, fifteen other locks upon the Erie canal, eight of which
were to be east of and the remaining seven west of Syracuse, were
authorized to be similarly lengthened, $375,000 being appro-
priated for the purpose. Chapter 463 of the same year also



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Later Improvements of the Erie. 329

appropriated f28,000 for the /lengthening of lock No. 72 at
Buffalo.

The locks selected by the State Engineer and Superintendent
of Public Works for improvement under this statute were Nos.
46, 45, 44, 35, 34, 33, 32 and 31, east of Syracuse, and Nos. 53,
54, 55, 56, 60, 61 and 62, besides the designated 72, west of
Syracuse. These, together with the locks already lengthened,
secured this improvement to the longest possible stretch of the
canal. Contracts were let and work was pushed on them at
once upon the close of navigation. On lock No. 46, at Utica,
the canal authorities became involved in litigation with the Dela-
ware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company and work
was stopped thereon. (

The net canal debt September 30, 1887, was $2,583,121.16.
The total tonnage for the year was 5,553,805. Navigation
opened May 7 and closed December 1. The State Engineer urged
the lengthening of the remaining canal-locks, except the flights
at Lockport and Cohoes. Also the completion of the partly built
reservoirs supplying the. Syracuse-Utica long level with water.
The duty of registering boats was transferred by chapter 528,
Laws of 1887, from the Comptroller to the Superintendent of
Public Works.

Governor Hill's fifth annual message, covering the period of
1888, was, like his previous messages, noteworthy by reason of
the entire absence of direct reference to the canals, their history
or their needs. Nor do the department reports contain much
of general interest concerning that period.

The canals opend May 10 and nominally closed December 1,
although the release of east-bound boats continued about two
days longer, a .period of two hundred and seven days. During
the period of lock-lengthening the seasons of navigation were
purposely made as short as practicable so as to allow the con-
tractors all possible time for completing their work during the
winter.

The total tonnage was but 4,492,948, a decrease which was
substantially accounted for by the fact that before the opening
of the season canal rates were held by the boatmen higher than
shippers were willing to pay. While these rates were in abey-
ance, railroad agents were unusually active and secured the con-



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330 History op New York Canals.

tracts for carrying large quantities of grain, which would other-
wise" have been carried by the canals. Other influences were at
work toward the same end — ^short crops, which caused a
decrease in export trade, and a combination of traflSc interests,
which included the Union Steamboat Co. west of Buffalo, the
Erie Elevator Co. at Buffalo, and the Erie Railway to New York.
The so-called " Hutchinson " wheat corner, a gigantic speculative
deal of the time, also retarded shipments. The building of new
boats was also inactive, only eighty-five being registered. The
net canal debt at the end of September, 1888, was $2,066,370.61.

The locks lengthened under the statute of 1887 were completed
before the opening of navigation in 1888, except No. 46, upon
which work was not resumed, the injunction thereon not having
been set aside. By chapter 416, Laws of 1888, passed May 28,
f 200,000 was appropriated to lengthen additional locks upon the
Erie canal in a similar manner. Five or more of these locks
were to be east and two or more west of Syracuse. This statute
also carried an additional appropriation of f 100,000 with which
the Suj)erintendent of Public Works was authorized to deepen
the Erie canal by removing the accumulations of dirt from the
bottom wherever in his judgment the interests of commerce
demanded it, and to restore the waterway to its standard depth
of seven feet. The locks to be improved under this statute were
to be designated by the State Engineer and the Superintendent
of Public Works, so as most to facilitate and improve naviga-
tion, and numbers 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 63 and 64 were so desig-
nated. But the estimates of cost were later found to exceed the
amount of appropriation and it was decided to exclude number
26 from the list. Work on the other six was undertaken and
pushed to completion after the close of navigation.

In attempting the work of deepening and cleaning out the
bottom of the canal to a standard seven-foot depth under the
special appropriation for that purpose, serious diflQculties were
encountered. The statute required it to be done by contract.
It became evident upon investigation by the engineers that the
removal of quicksand, clay, loam, hardpan and other change-
able materials, found at various points, would endanger the
walls and do more harm than good. The appropriation, there-
fore, was not used, pending a more complete examination by the



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Latbr Improvbmbnts of the Erie. 331

engineers during the following spring, and it was sought to have
the statute so amended that the work could be done directly
under supervision of the Department of Public Works/*

The question of water-supply for the middle division of the
canal, which was to a great extent secured from the head waters
of the Black river, through the feeder at Booneville and thence
by the Black River canal to the Erie, was a subject of promi-
nence. The State Engineer caused careful investigation of the
history and locality of this source of water-supply to be made
during the year 1888 with special reference to the increase of sup-
ply and to the claims of mill owners and others interested. As
a result of this investigation, in his following report®* there was
presented an interesting and elaborate history of the subject.
As a conclusion he urged the raising or completion of the Forest-
port dam from fifteen feet to its originally-planned height of
twenty-one feet, to insure an adequate reserve of water-supply,
both to the canal and the interested mill owners. Sixty thom-
sand dollars was named as the estimate of .cost.

Claims for damages by reason of leakage from the Erie canaJ
at various points, largely caused from its location and construc-
tion during the period of its first enlargement (1836-62) along
side-hills and through gravelly or porous soils, had become so
numerous and such a never-ending source of loss to the State
that the Superintendent of Public Works urged a special appro-
priation of f 20,000 for drainage improvements to mitigate if not
abolish this evil.*^

By chapter 240, Laws of 1889, $20,000 was appropriated to b<^
expended by the Superintendent of Public Works in properly
ditching to carry oflf canal leakage where necessary to protect
the rights of property owners.

Also by chapter 274 of that session f45,000 was appropriated
to complete the construction of a storage reservoir above the
Forestport pond by a dam not to exceed twenty feet in height

The canal was open for navigation May 1, and closed Decern
ber 1, 1889. The number of new boats registered in 1880 wa?
fifty-eight. It may be noted, however, that with increased facili-

^Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1888.

** Report of State Engineer, 1888.

^Report of Superintendent of Pullic Works, 1888.



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332 HiSTOBY OF Nbw York Canals.

ties for speed on the canal and the preponderance of throngh
grain traffic much larger boats were the rule. The average ton-
nage of new boats for the period of four yearp ending with 1889
was two hundred and thirteen, while for the period of four years
prior thereto and ending with 1885, it was one hundred and
fifty-five tons."

The whole number of bushels of grain of all kinds delivered
in New York from May 1 to December 1, 1888 (canal navigation
season), was about 75,000,000, of which the New York Central
and Erie railways each carried about 11,000,000, the West Shore
railway about 7,000,000, and the canal about 33,000,000.

The total canal tonnage for 1889 was 5,370,369, an increase
over the previous year of 427,421, and an increase over the aver-
age of the past five years of about one-quarter of a million tons.
The total number of bushels of grain of all kinds shipped by
canal from Buffalo in 1889 was 41,985,824.

The Legislature of 1889 was active in making appropriations
for improvements. Ry chapter 54, Laws of 1889, |10,144.61 was
appropriated as an additional sum to complete the lock improve-
ments on the Erie canal, authorized by chapter 113, Laws of
1887, and by chapter 493, an unexpended balance of |1,961.64
under the last named statute was reappropriated for the same
purpose. Chapter 110, section 2, conferred the necessary author-
ity upon the Superintendent of Public Works to expend the fund
for deepening and cleaning out the canal under the previous
year's appropriation, either by contract or otherwise, as he might
determine to be for the best interests of the State, in compliance
with the request contained in his report. For the completion of
the improvement on lock No. 72, |2,055.51 was appropriated by
chapter 70, in addition to the |28,000 previously granted by chap-
ter 463, Laws of 1887.

Further improvements in the lengthening of locks were pro-
vided for by chapter 568, Laws of 1889. The Superintendent of
Public Works was directed to lengthen one tier of eight or more
locks on the Erie canal during the ensuing winter, the locks to
be selected by the State Engineer and himself so as to best pro-
tect and most facilitate and improve navigation, |215,000 being
allowed for this purpose. He was also directed to deepen the

^Report of Superintendent of Public Works. Tonnage Report, 1889.

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Lateb Improvements of the Erie. 333

prism to the standard of seven feet of water, f 120,000 being al-
lowed for this, but, at his discretion, he might use f 8,000 of this
sum for lock machinery to complete lengthened locks on the
western division. The lock-lengthening was to be done by con-
tract, the deepening, whether by "contract or day labor, was dis-
cretionary, and any surplus of the lengthening fund might be
used for deepening.

Lock 46 was not advanced during 1889. The following locks
were placed under contract: numbers 23, 24, 25, 26, 65 and 66.
These six locks consumed so much of the appropriation that the
other two authorized were not designated. Since 1886 twenty-
seven locks had been lengthened, and seven more (including lock
No. 46) were under contract. When these were finished, three
hundred and fourteen miles of canal could be used by double-
headers without uncoupling. The remaining locks were near
Cohoes, at Little Falls, Newark and Lockport, where the problem
of lengthening certain locks involved difficult questions that could
not be solved by the ordinary plan of lengthening.^^

Under chapter 110, Laws of 1889, amending chapter 416, Laws
of 1888, permitting the canal to be " bottomed out " by day labor,
a large force of men was employed as soon as the law became
operative on April 6, and between that date and the opening of
navigation on May 1, about one hundred miles of canal were
cleaned out.

In 1889 a revision of former estimates and surveys was made
by Captain Carl. F. Palfrey, Corps of Engineers, U. S. A., for
a twenty-one foot canal on two routes from Lake Ontario to
Niagara river and published, with profiles and estimates, as part
of the report of the Chief of Engineers, U. S. A., for 1889, at page
2434. In the same year a bill was introduced in Congress by
Representative Sereno E. Payne, as H. R. No. 582, 51st Congress,
first session, under date of December 18, providing for a commis-
sion to select one of these routes and appropriating one million
dollars for construction upon it. No action was taken by
Congress.'*

As showing the policy of the State to discourage private enter-
prise that interfered with the public welfare, the following inci-

*^ Report of State Engineer, 1889.

^Report on Barge Canal, p. 975. (Albany, 1901.)



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334 History op Nbw Yobk Canals.

dent is given. A Senate bill directing the construction of a sewer
under the canal at Utica was returned by the Governor without
approval on the principal ground that it was solely for the benefit
of the City of Utica and of no benefit to the canal or the State
at large.'*

Improvements in appliances for making quicker lockages still
occupied the attention of the authorities. Without the aid of
machinery it was difficult to get an ascending "double-header"
into a lock. A turbine wheel, set in the well at the head of the
lock and discharging through the culvert under the central pier
wall, operated rope cables which, passing over spools, were used
to haul the boats into and out of the lock. Wire cables had been
tried but proved unsatisfactory, as they were heavy to overhaul,
wore rapidly and broke easily. Iron frames were also substi-
tuted for timber frames. These were neat, strong, worked well
and saved much time, both in hauling in and starting out boats.
Friction brakes were also used. It was considered noteworthy
that in 18<S8, lock No. 54 was passed in nine minutes and forty
seconds, and lock No. 5G in ten minutes, by the aid of machinery.
It was computed that by using a twenty-two inch turbine wheel
with six-inch buckets, 5,406 cubic feet of water would be required
for operation, developing 8.18 horse-power.

Interesting experiments were also made under the direction
of the Superintendent of Public Works to determine how best
to increase the speed of boats passing down the locks, by opening
one or more of the paddle valves in the gates, thus creating a
current to aid in drawing boats into the locks and in flushing
them out. Deputy State Engineer, Arthur S. C. Wurtele, made
various deductions from the exi)eriment; among them, that it
was most advantageous to use only one paddle for drawing in,
as the use of more would render the boat liable to damage the
gates and coping, while for "swelling out" the use of two pad-
dles was advised. In drawing water through the valves, the
velocity was taken as proportional to the square root of the lift,
the velocity in chamber as proportional to the relative area of
the paddles used and the chamber, and the velocity of the boat
as inversely to these proportions, so that the time of entry would
be the same for all lifts, while the time of leaving would vary.

^Senate Dooumenia, 1889, No. 48.

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Later Impbovbmbnts of the Erie. 335

The average time for drawing in with one paddle was two min-
utes and fifty-two seconds, and the average time of swelling out
with two paddles was two minutes and fifty seconds. Taking
an average lift of nine feet, and considering the time of emptying
the lock as proportional to the square root of the lift, it was found
that the lockage could be made in eight minutes. The total
amount of water used in a nine-foot lock, with a normal capacity
of 18,597 cubic feet, was computed at 97,876 cubic feet. As the
time of lockage without the use of this method was estimated at
about twenty-seven minutes, there was a clear gain of about
twenty minutes to each lock, or twenty-four hours on the seventy-
two locks of the Erie canal.''**

But as against this advantage in time there should be noted
the enormous amount of additional water required for lockages,
in view of the difficulty which had already menaced the canal
from the frequent scarcity of water, especially on the high levels
of the eastern division.

In 1889 an exceptionally quick trip was made by the steamer
Cortez, loaded with 6,500 bushels of wheat. This was the last
boat to leave Buffalo for tide-water, and make the trip in the net
time of four days, ten and one-half hours.

Widening the tow-path to eighteen feet was decided to be a
necessary measure. Triple teams, drawing double-headers, were
the rule and that width was necessary to enable two such teams
to pass.''*

Replying to another Senate resolution of inquiry in relation to
the waters of Skaneateles lake, which were then being used by
the State for the Erie canal. State Engineer John Bogart esti-
mated the cost of providing the amount of water required for the
Jordan level, if the supply from Skaneateles lake were cut off,
at, approximately, f 1,325,000. The inquiry was prompted by the
desire of the City of Syracuse to divert the supply from the lake
for municipal purposes.

cruder the legislative grant in chapter 291, Laws of 1889, appli-
cation was made by the city water commissioners to the canal
board for the use of the water. After protracted hearings, con-
sent was refused, but later their engineers, with a representative

^Report of State Engineer, 1889.

^Communication from State Engineer to Senate, March 18, 1889.



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336 History of New York Canals.

of the State Engineer's department, made a survey of the water-
shed in question.

Chapters 476 and 493, Laws of 1889, reappropriated a balance
from chapter 424, Laws of 1887, and f3,000 for the improvement
of Oak Orchard feeder. Chapter 141, Laws of 1889, amended the
penal code as to adulterations, restricting the sale of ice cut from
the canal, to use only for cooling beer in kegs and to be con-
spicuously labeled " Canal Ice."

The net canal debt on September 30, 1889, after deducting sink-
ing-fund balances, was $1,585,534.66. Chapter 380, Laws of 1889,
became operative on June 6, making |2.00 per day the minimum
wages on all public works. This obliged oflBcials to lay off many
men during the summer so as to keep within the appropriations
and in other ways the law hampered the progress of work.

The net canal debt September 30, 1890, was 11,177,887.51. The
total tonnage for 1890 wjis 5,246,102, a slight decrease from the
previous year, due to deficiency in amount of grain carried. Of
this total tonnage the Erie carried 3,303,929. Of the total amount
of all grain receipts at New York the canals carried 30,082,900
bushels, or 38.72 per cent, leaving to be carried by all other routes
47,619,256 bushels.

The season of navigation opened April 28 and closed December
1. The total number of boats on the registry list at the opening
of the year was five thousand three hundred and sixty, to which
were added seventy-seven new boats registered during the year.

In 1890 a report, with maps, profiles and revised estimates,
was made by William Pierson Judson and was published as part
of H. R. No. 283, 52nd Congress, 1st Session, 1892, and as part
of Senate resolution of the 54th Congress, 1st Session, 1896,
and was also published separately under title of " From the West
and Northwest to the Sea, by way of the Niagara Ship Canal."
These estimates were for two routes from Lake Ontario to
Niagara river and for twenty-one feet depth of water. Reports
were also made to Congi^ess in 1S90 by Representative Sereno E.
Payne, and in 1892 by representative C. A. Bcntley, and in 1896
by Representative C. A. Chickering and by Senator Calvin S.
Brice, in each of which the commercial and engineering aspects
of the case were fully presented and favorably discussed.^^

^Report on Barge Canal, pp. 975-976.

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Later Improvements op the Erie. 337

Chapter 314, Laws of 1890, approved May 9, entitled "An
Act to Establish and Maintain a Water Department in the City
of Syracuse," conferred upon the Syracuse water board the right
to take water from Skaneateles lake in a thirty-inch pipe, pro-
vided that the board should first increase the storage capacity
of the lake suflSciently to store all the ordinary flow of its water-
shed, the State reserving the first right to use a sufficient quan-
tity for all the requirements of the Erie canal, the rights of the
city to be subject to the superior claims of the State.

By chapter 168, Laws of 1890, appropriations were again pro-



Online LibraryLeon George KranzManual of kinesiology → online text (page 33 of 99)