CANALS AND RAIL ROADS, No. 11
Mr. EDITOR:– In our first No. we questioned the soundness of the Valley in Virginia, in favour of a Rail Road, as the Great Improvement of this interesting section of our State. In the present state of public opinion in some parts of the Valley, to suggest a doubt of the superior claims to their attention, of a Canal along the Shenandoah from Port Republic to Harpers Ferry, will be considered a stubborn, perhaps an ignorant adherence to opinions, which the present state of facts has exploded. It is to facts we intend to appeal, in support of the superiority of the claims of a Canal over those of a Rail Road through the Valley This superiority rests, we think, on the result of a candid and accurate investigation of facts.
There are probably existing in the minds of many, some obstacles to a willing and impartial research into the actual state of facts now developed in different parts of our country and in England and Scotland, in relation to Rail Roads and Canals. These obstacles have been raised by various publications of the Engineers of the Baltimore Rail Road Company, and the frequent and zealous efforts of the Baltimore Press: and by the long and impolitic silence of the friends of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, in regard to that Work There is, indeed, an annual Report made to the Canal Company, by the President and Directors; but it is very partially circulated. It is only through the zeal of one paper, the National Intelligencer, that we ever hear any thing of the Canal in the Valley. The most discouraging accounts are frequently widely spread and generally believed in this part of Virginia respecting it, which are not noticed and refuted in the papers of the Valley. We have repeatedly heard it confidently stated, “that whole miles had given way,” “that nearly all the money of the Company had been already expended and nothing done beyond the Seneca,” &c. We have heard these representations made very recently. It is quite reasonable to expect, that the progress of two such Works as the Canal and Rail Road should be looked to in this part of the World as furnishing demonstrated conclusions on the subject of Rail Roads and Canals in general — Before we discuss the general question of these essays, it is obviously expedient to rectify some statements which have recently appeared in the papers of the Valley. The publication which seems to have had most authority with those in the Valley who have so confidently decided in favour of Rail Roads, was a Report made during the last winter to the Legislature of Maryland, by Mr. Knight, Engineer of the Baltimore Rail Road Company. Let us, Mr. Editor, turn our attention, in the first place, to this Report. We shall do so, not with a view to contest the correctness of his opinions about the superior advantages of Rail Roads generally; nor to question the accuracy of his estimates and calculations of the cost of the construction of the Baltimore Rail Road to the Ohio, but to point out some material inaccuracies in regard to the estimates, &c. of the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal from Georgetown to the same point. On the contrast of the estimated cost of the two works, as exhibited by his Report, Mr. Knight and those, who rely implicitly on it, place their convictions upon this interesting subject
Mr. Knight by way of proving, that Rail Roads were less expensive in their construction than Canals, takes what he states to be the estimated cost of the Baltimore Rail Road, and of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the one from Baltimore to the Ohio, and the other from Georgetown to the same point — After stating the aggregate estimated cost of each work for the same distance, he distributes the whole sum, over that distance by the mile, and thus exhibits the conclusion, that the average cost of the Canal from Georgetown to the Ohio, will be $78,000 per mile; and the average cost of the Rail Road from Baltimore to the Ohio, will be $38,000. Now, this view of the subject is altogether erroneous and unfair. The aggregate estimated cost which he assumed, for the Canal, was the enormous estimate of Gen. Bernard, of 22 millions and a half which estimate was reduced by more than one half by the practical estimate made by Judge Roberts and other gentlemen, who had been, and indeed, at the very time, were actually engaged in making Canals in Pennsylvania. Gen. Bernard was a military French Engineer, unacquainted with the price of labour, materials, and provisions– Judge Roberts and his associates were Civil Engineers practically acquainted with every circumstance attending the construction of Canals in this country at present. The reduced the estimate of Gen Bernard from Harpers Ferry to Georgetown alone, nine hundred thousand dollars; and it is a well known fact which has been published more than once, that the work has been done even cheaper than they charged it in their estimate. Materials, provisions and labour have been obtained at a less price, than Judge Roberts had estimated. While, therefore, this correction of the conclusion of Mr. Knight’s Report as it regards the Canal gives a totally different result, his aggregate estimate of the probably cost of the Rail Road is carefully kept by him within the least possible limits. But what are the FACTS of the case? The Canal so far has cost on an average per mile from thirty four to thirty five thousand dollars and the Rail Road has never been shown (the actual cost has been often and pointedly asked for) to have cost less, from Baltimore to Ellicot’s Mills, than eighty thousand dollars per mile! Decisive, however, as what we have states, is to falsify the conclusions of the Report of Mr. Knight, we must point out another inaccuracy, which has had great influence on the readers of it. To make more striking the greater cost of the Canal, Mr. Knight takes a single mile. This mile is that which passes the Point of Rocks, the point contested between the two Companies. This mile, he estimates, will cost the Canal Company more, if we recollect aright, than double the sum, for which the Rail Road can be there constructed. But we are not told, why this should be. When the statement is examined by those acquainted with the subject, it turns out, that he assumes, that in passing that point the Canal will be taken along the outer line, that is next the River, and the Rail Road along the level next the base of the mountain. In this state of things, the Canal Company would be thrown into the River and would be compelled to make a wall and embankment in the bed of the stream for an entire mile, thus quadrupling the ordinary cost; while the Rail Road would run along a level, and would be constructed as cheaply as any mile on the whole route.
When the cost of the Canal and Rail Road, so far as they are finished is stated, it is always proper, to remark, that each work has encountered the greatest difficulties that will again obstruct their progress.
Before we conclude this number, we will notice the misstatement, which we have alluded to, “that the Canal Company has expended nearly all their funds upon the part of the work now finished, small as it is.” No thing can be more untrue. Not one fourth of the money already subscribed has been called in. This is a fact easily and completely ascertained by any one, who has a doubt on the subject. It is often asked, Mr. Editor, ‘why has not the Canal been finished at least as far as the Point of Rocks?’ The reply which belongs to the question, is altogether satisfactory. In consequence of the average fall in the course of the River from a point above the Point of Rocks to the Moutn of the Seneca Run to which place the canal is now finished and in use, the Canal could not be sufficiently fed, or in other words, be supplied with water. Above Point of Rocks, is the place where the main feeders from the River, must be taken from the River into the line of the Canal. Every one knows, that the Canal Company is still prevented from passing the Point of Rocks by the Injunction obtained by the Rail Road Company. To finish the Canal to that Point, would be worse than useless, for the work would be left exposed to injury from the weather and other accidents. The Contracts had been given out to that place two years ago, in hopes of a decision of the Injunction; the section opposite to Noland’s Ferry has been done 18 months ago. In consequence of the injury it was sustaining, the work on the other sections was purposely stopped.
A Citizen of the Valley.
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