Sailing a ship on land
Happenings at 150 Church
The creation of the Port of Amherst spurned other considerations; one of them was the idea of a ship canal across the Isthmus of Chignecto a 17mile strip that separates Nova Scotia from New Brunswick.
This idea first came from a Colonel in the Royal Engineers at the nearby Fort in 1873.It would eliminate the long travel around Nova Scotia for heavy sea traffic plying between New England to the St Lawrence ports. The project was recommended to the home Government, but nothing was done.
An earlier survey, put forth by the New Brunswick Government also came to nothing, after the New Brunswick engineers went over the sites it concluded that the idea was impractical at that time due to the great differences Lifting docks were supposed to be situated at the end of the basins.
in the tidal flow on either side of the Isthmus...a 48 foot rise at Amherst and only five feet seven inches at Baie Verte.
In 1886 the idea of a ship railway to haul vessels across the Isthmus was considered so feasible that a company was formed in London England, and a capital of £650,000 was raised to defray the costs. Engineers were assigned with H.G. Ketchum in charge at the site.
A great number of sub-contracts were let for excavation, stonework, cranes, rails, cradles, wheels, hydraulic machinery and other incidentals. Rhodes and Curry were contracted to put up the necessary buildings.
The Engineered idea was simple. Ketchum visualized a cradle arrangement similar to an ordinary marine railway that would raise the vessel from the water at one end of the line. There the vessel would be moved on rollers to a level cradle resting on a great number of trucks travelling on all four rails. From there the cradle, pulled by two locomotives to the opposite end of the line, moved to another cradle, which would then be submerged to refloat the vessel.
In September 1890, the Fort Lawrence dock was a busy place.
The water in the lower left of the photo is part of the holding basin excavation, as work progresses on the work of the lifting dock. The steam shovel is filling tipping cars top dump along the rail line while the men on the right are laying track. Smoke can be seen from the steam boilers above the horizon, and the engine and boiler house with its 80 ft smokestack towers above the landscape.
The dimensions of the basin excavations were 775 ft long, 350
ft wide and 40 > 60 ft deep. Even today, this would not be a small undertaking.
Ketchum’s final plan, visualized a ship railway 17 miles long, with a dock, a ship holding basin, and lifting machinery at each end.
The Fort Lawrence water basin was to be 530 ft long, 300 ft wide and a depth of 40 feet. Two gates, each 30 ft high would span 60 ft gap at the outer end of this basin to maintain a working level of water in the dock. At Tidnish the basin would be dredged off shore.
The lifting docks would be situated at the inner end of the basins.
Niches let into the masonry of the identical docks would house the 20 lifting rams from which a massive steel grid would be suspended. The grid would contain the rails upon which would sit the cradle transporter. The cradles were built to handle vessels up to 1000 tons and a hull length of some 235 feet. The entire apparatus would be sunk to the bed of the dock, and the ship floated over top of it. A vessel could be raised or lowered in 20 > 25 minutes. When the grid and cradle were raised under the ship, keel and bilge blocks would support the hull and the grid would be raised to track level, where iron chocks hydraulically operated, would be shot under the ends of the grid beams to lock it to the masonry.
The cradles could be assembled in three sections; this depended upon the size of ship to be transported. The raised ship and cradle would be drawn off the grid by hydraulic capstans, and the two locomotives would be coupled to the front of the cradle and begin the 10 mile-perhour trip across the Isthmus. It was estimated that the volume of traffic to be handled would be 11,640,000 tons a year.
Mr Ketchum stated: “all the fears of the practicality of the ship railway and injury to vessels will disappear as if by magic with the transport of the first loaded vessel from Gulf to the Bay”
Next issue we’ll set out the construction problems, the near success and the crashing halt to the project.
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