|THE INDUSTRIAL RAILWAY RECORD
© OCTOBER 1968
THE MANCHESTER SHIP CANAL
"The Manchester Ship Canal is the largest work of its class in this country; and the mechanical appliances used in its construction have been on the largest possible scale; in order to minimise the employment of labour and to hasten the completion of the work. The number of men and boys employed on the canal has never exceeded 17,000; and about 200 horses have been used. As the excavation amounts to 462 million cubic yards, of which 10 millions are sandstone rock, it is clear that any available number of men and horses would have been insufficient to do the work in any reasonable time. Ninety-seven steam excavators and eight steam dredgers of large power have therefore been employed. The spoil excavated has in most cases had to be taken several miles to the spoil grounds, the position of which has necessarily been selected where land was moderate in price. For this work and for the general purposes of construction, 173 locomotives and 6,300 trucks and waggons have been used.
"A railway has been laid along the whole course of the canal, in many places on both sides, with numerous sidings. These lines, with those laid in the bed of the canal for excavating purposes, amount to a length of 228 miles of single line. Flat-bottomed steel rails, 56lb to the yard, with fish joints, are laid on ordinary cross timber sleepers. The cost was about £630 per mile of single line The railway and its rolling stock are on a larger scale than some of the passenger and goods lines worked in this country or on the Continent.
"The rate of excavation has varied from ¾ million to 1¼ million cubic yards per month. As the work proceeded and the cuttings became deeper and the inclines steeper, and as the sandstone rock required blasting before the excavators could remove it, the rate of excavation in the bottom of the canal has been slower. The waggons are hauled out of the bottom of the cuttings by locomotive power, the gradients adopted being generally 1 in 30. Steam cranes were largely used in rock cuttings, and-for setting the masonry. There are employed on the works 124 steam cranes, 192 portable and other steam engines, and 212 steam pumps of various sizes, some being large Cornish pumps that had been brought from the Severn tunnel works. The large plant used consumes about 10,000 tons of coal per month.
"As soon as the late Mr T.A. Walker had. got possession of the land as the contractor, he showed great energy in commencing to erect huts, hospitals and chapels for the workmen; and much honour is due to him and his agents and engineers, not only for the way in which the work has been pushed forward, but also for the care taken for the comfort and welfare of the men. The greater part of the plant was specially constructed for the work; the remainder was principally brought from Mr Walker's contracts at the Severn Tunnel, and Preston and Barry Dock works. The total cost amounted to £943,610; the whole of the plant, huts, &c., are the property of the Ship Canal Company,"
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(Part of an article by E. Leader Williams, Engineer in Chief, which appeared in the 18th September 1891 issue of "Iron", before the canal was opened. First seriously considered at a meeting on 27th June 1882, it took four Parliamentary Bills before sanction to build the canal was given on 6th August 1885. The first sod was cut on 11th November 1887 but T. A. Walker, the contractor, did not live to see his work completed. After his death in 1889 the work was carried on by the Canal Company, and the Canal was opened from Eastham Locks to Ellesmere Port on 16th July 1891, extended to Runcorn on 9th June 1893, and throughout to Mode Wheel Locks (Manchester) on 1st January 1894. - Hon. Eds.)