Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution quotes an interesting extract today from a new book on the history of India:
…the most important technological change for the transportation of heavy goods in nineteenth-century India was not the arrival of the quick, expensive railway: it was the move from pack animals to carts pulled by two or four beasts in the first half of the century. This was the process historian Amalendu Guha calls ‘the bullock cart revolution’. Throughout the 1860s and 1870s railways found it impossible to compete not only with bullock carts, but also with human-powered river transport. Rowing boats along the Ganges and Jamuna won a price war with the railways over the cost of transporting heavy goods. Vessels powered by human beings were able to undercut steam vessels elsewhere.
There is a description of the book (which I have now ordered) here.
How did transport in Ireland compare? In the first half of the century, road transport using Scotch carts dominated carrying. Within about 55 miles of Dublin, eastward of Mullingar on the Royal and Tullamore on the Grand, canal carriers did little business except in the heaviest goods: the Scotch carts, each drawn by one horse and carrying about one ton, dominated the trade. But the Scotch carts relied on there being good roads, which in many cases required government intervention of one sort or another.
But rowing boats do not seem to have been serious contenders on Irish inland waterways. They might have been used on the Shannon, to tow canal boats, and the idea was mooted, but nothing seems to have come of it. The problem, I suspect, was that there was little or no trade: when it did arrive, it did so because the steamers created it. And the capital cost of a large pulling boat might have been beyond the means of a small-scale entrepreneur who might have been able to afford a cart.
On the other hand, vessels powered by sail retained certain markets, including traffic across the Irish Sea, until the middle of the twentieth century.
Much about Irish transport history remains unclear to me.
Posted in Canals, Economic activities, Engineering and construction, Extant waterways, Foreign parts, Forgotten navigations, Historical matters, Industrial heritage, Ireland, Irish inland waterways vessels, Non-waterway, Operations, Rail, Roads, Sea, Shannon, shannon estuary, Steamers, The cattle trade, The grain trade, The turf trade, waterways, Waterways management
Tagged cart, India, Ireland, pack animal, railway, rowing boat, sailing boat, steamer, transport
There is a possible link between the Mahmoudié Canal, which ran from Alexandria to the Nile, and Irish waterways. I have not managed to establish a definite link to this Irish canal-boat but it is not ruled out either, and a few other Irish connections came up along the way: Oscar Wilde’s father, for instance, who wrote about the Boyne and the Corrib, and sent his most famous son to school on the Erne, travelled on the Mahmoudié Canal.
And did you know that, in the early 1840s, you could buy bottled Guinness and Bass in Cairo? Or that, to transport 50 people (including 12 ladies and 3 female servants) and 3 bags and 62 chests of mail across 84 miles of desert, you would have needed, in 1841,
- 130 camel men, donkey men and servants
- an escort of 17 Arab horsemen
- 145 camels
- 60 donkeys
- 12 saddle horses
- 12 carriage horses
- 7 carriage camels
- 12 donkey chairs: “for invalids, or ladies, the donkey-chair forms as easy a conveyance as a palanquin or sedan”
- 3 two-wheeled carriages
- 1 four-wheeled carriage?
Or that, to reduce the number of rats and insects on a cangia (sailing boat) on the Nile, you should sink it for two or three days before boarding?
You can read about all of that and more in this PDF. However, it’s not for the faint-hearted: it’s 51 pages, with over 300 endnotes (which you don’t have to read) and lots of links for those who are really interested. There are illustrations in some of the linked materials.
The Mahmoudié mystery v04 iwh [PDF]
Posted in Ashore, Canals, Charles Wye Williams, Drainage, Economic activities, Engineering and construction, Extant waterways, Foreign parts, Forgotten navigations, Industrial heritage, Ireland, Irish inland waterways vessels, Natural heritage, Operations, People, Politics, Restoration and rebuilding, Scenery, Sea, Shannon, Sources, Steamers, Tourism, waterways, Waterways management
Tagged Alexandria, Atfé, barge, boats, bridge, Cairo, camels, canal, Charles Wye Williams, Dublin, East India Company, Egypt, Grand Canal, India, Ireland, iron, lock, Mahmoudié, mails, Muhammad Ali, Napier, Nile, Operations, P&O, Pasha, Royal Canal, Shannon, steamer, Suez, trackboat, vessels, Waghorn, waterways, William Watson
Last week I gave the dimensions of the Shannon River:
Length: 770 feet
Breadth: 3 feet 6 inches
Depth: 1 foot 3 inches
Longest straight stretch: 90 feet
Tunnels: 6, totalling 356 feet, the longest 100 feet.
I added that it had a monorail link.
And so it did, in Bombay in 1902, at Lady Northcote’s Fancy Fete and Shannon River Show, with boats, a mono-rail, frocks, shamrocks and Art. Irresistible.
Posted in Ashore, Economic activities, Engineering and construction, Foreign parts, Forgotten navigations, Industrial heritage, Ireland, Non-waterway, Operations, People, Politics, Rail, Scenery, Shannon, shannon estuary, Tourism, Water sports activities, waterways, Waterways management
Tagged boat, Bombay, Dufferin, elephant, estuary, India, Lady Northcote, Marsland & Price, monorail, Mumbai, Paradise, river, Shannon