Sail­ing a ship on land

Hap­pen­ings at 150 Church

The Amherst News - - COMMUNITY - Gor­don Good­win is a Di­rec­tor of the Mu­seum and is the re­tired Pres­i­dent and CEO of the G&G Group of Com­pa­nies

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.

A visit to the Mu­seum will pro­vide a com­plete view­ing of all the won­der­ful his­tor­i­cal photo, dis­plays and ar­ti­facts, for a min­i­mum visit fee.

The mu­seum fall/win­ter hours are now 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tues­day through Fri­day To gain pub­lic ac­cess, please con­tact Natasha Richard, Cu­ra­tor/Man­ager at 902-667-2561.

CuM­BEr­lanD COunty Mu­sEuM PhOtO

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