Report of John B. Jarvis, Esquire, Civil Engineer.
Table of Contents

Title Page
Table of Contents
Maps Accompanying this Report
Copy of a Report of a Committee of the Honorable the Executive Council, dated 18th October, 1854, approved by His Excellency the Governor General, in Council, on the same day.
Instructions for J. B. Jarvis, Esquire, Civil Engineer, on the subject of a Canal between the River St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain.
STATEMENT shewing the Cost of a Survey for a Canal to connect the River St. Lawrence with Lake Champlain.
Report of Edward H. Tracy, Esquire, Civil Engineer.
Report of John B. Jarvis, Esquire, Civil Engineer.
First.-The Western Trade.
Second.-The competition the Canada Improvement must experience for the Western Trade.
Third. I now proceed to consider the 3rd Section of this Report, namely The Dimensions of Canal and Locks best adapted to the Navigation.
Fourth.-The Lumber and other Canadian Trade.
Fifth.-The question of Tonnage and Revenue.
Sixth.-Description of the several routes for the proposed Canal from the St. Lawrence to Lake Champlain, with Estimates of Cost.
Collecting our data.
Seventh.-The advantage of the several routes proposed, for the trade that is to be accommodated.
Report of Messrs. Maillefert and Raaslof, Civil Engineers, upon the Examination and Survey of the River St. Lawrence, from Prescott to the head of the Lachine Canal, and certain experimental blasting operations made during the summer of 1854.
Table A.

Third. I now proceed to consider the 3rd Section of this Report, namely
The Dimensions of Canal and Locks best adapted to the Navigation.

In regard to Locks, their dimensions should be such as will conveniently pass vessels adapted to the Navigation with which they connect. The first question, therefore, is, What is the size of vessels that will require accommodation? The ship Canal and Locks at the Sault Ste. Marie now in course of construction, and designed to connect Lake Huron with Lake Superior, has two lift locks that are 70 feet wide and 350 feet long. This Canal is about 3/4 of a mile in length. It is here designed to provide for side wheel passenger steamers. There being but two locks and a very short canal, renders it very proper in this case to provide for such steamers. The Welland Canal Locks do not provided for side wheel steamers, nor is there any occasion for such vessels to pass through it. The length of Canal, and the number of locks, preclude any profitable or useful object in the transportation of passengers through such navigation.

Side wheel steamers as passenger boats pass down the St. Lawrence, and return by a portion of the St. Lawrence Canals. These boats do not require so long a lock as would be required by the largest class of propellers that navigate the upper Lakes. But the side wheels require more width of locks than propellers. Is it probable the proposed Canal from the St. Lawrence to Lake Champlain will require locks of such width as necessary for side wheel passenger boats? I think not. It is even doubtful if they can be supported between Ogdensburgh or Prescott and Montreal, after the Railroad now in progress of construction, along the bank of the St. Lawrence, is put in operation. Railroads will wholly supersede this class of boats, except where they have ample room, and the best character of natural navigation; and even in such case, the Railroad will materially reduce their importance and usefulness, where it is practicable, and there is sufficient business for its support. The Sault Ste. Marie has been mentioned, as a case where the shortness of the Canal, and the small lockage connecting very extensive Lake Navigation on either side, renders it highly important to provide for the large side wheel steamers that navigate those lakes. These circumstances are materially changed at the Welland Canal, where the length of the Canal and lockage is too great to admit the idea of passenger boats. Nor do I think there is any ground to suppose that steam passenger boats would find employment in conveying passengers between Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain. It may be said there would be a convenience in occasionally passing such steamers, to which it may be replied that such occasions would not be of frequent occurrence, and would not repay the tax on freight vessels, that must be incommoded by the use of a larger lock than they require. The size of lock obviously should not be larger than sufficient for the convenient passage of the largest vessel it is intended to accommodate. It will pass such lock with the least delay. It is, therefore, considered that freight and not passengers is the business that is to be provided for in the proposed improvement.

During the past year some attempts have been made to introduce side screws into vessels. But as far as I have been able to learn, this method for propelling freight vessels has not been received with favour by experienced navigators, nor does it promise to supersede the stern wheel, which is more out of the way of the cargo, and allows better storage. Should side screws be adopted to any considerable extent, a wider lock would be required than for the stern screw. So far as I have been able to obtain opinions on this point, there does not appear sufficient probability of such use of side screws as to warrant the expense and the inconvenience to other vessels that must be incurred in providing for them. And the stern screw propeller appears to be the vessel that should govern in determining the size of locks.

I have obtained a list of 48 propellers, with their principal dimensions, and many particulars which have been put in a tabular form, see Table A., herewith appended. Only eleven (11) of these propellers can pass the Locks on the Welland Canal. Most of these propellers are employed in the navigation of the upper lakes. There are but two in the table under 300 tons burthen. The largest 850 tons. The greatest portion range from a few tons below 400 to a few above 600. The greatest length is 242 feet, the "Iowa," and her actual tonnage is 720, draws 11 1/2 feet loaded. The "Oriental" is 234 feet, actual tonnage 850, (22 feet more beam,) draws loaded 102 feet of water. The "Plymouth" is 225 feet in length, (loaded, draught not ascertained,) and carries 700 tons. These vessels can only carry full cargoes when the Lakes are at their greatest height. There are times occurring almost every year when vessels with over 9 1/2 feet draught of water cannot pass the St. Clair flats. Consequently those of greater depth must load lighter than their capacity, or depend on lightening when they reach the flats, or have occasion to enter harbours of a similar depth of water. The two most important Lake ports for outward bound tonnage are Chicago and Toledo. The entrance into the harbour at Chicago is kept open by excavations, so that vessels drawing 10 feet of water can, for the greater portion of the season of navigation, enter the harbour. Toledo is on the Maumee river, and 9 feet water is as much as can usually be depended on, though at times they can go in with l0 feet. Detroit river affords better water, and vessels that can pass St. Clair flats easily make Detroit.

In the enquiries I have been able to make as to the draught of water that vessels could carry, and make the harbours with safety on the upper Lakes, I have found considerable diversity of opinion among navigators. The range of opinion has been from 8 to 11 1/2 feet. It is admitted, however, by those that advocate 11 1/2 feet, that lightening will be often necessary, and this is considered to injuriously affect the profit of and cause delay in the voyage. It is an important fact that the most usual time of high water, (not regarding those rises and falls that occur in a series of years,) is in midsummer, and lowest at spring and autumn. The latter are the seasons of greatest pressure in freight. It is conceded generally that the largest vessels can only take full loads when the lakes are most favourable, and then only to the ports having the greatest depth of water. So far as I have been able to ascertain, it appears the most prevalent opinion that the larger class of propellers, both in relation to length and draught of water, have not been so successful in the economy of transport as those of less dimensions. The greatest weight of opinion I have been able to obtain is that a draught of 9 or 9 1/2 feet is as much as can be profitably adopted for general use, and that 10 feet is the extreme draught that should in any case be adopted, and only for ports of best water. In the opinion of several very experienced navigators, the propeller " Portsmouth," in her main features, is the best pattern for general use and economy of transport ; she is 175 feet long, and draws 92 feet water, cargo 5000 barrels of flour; some would add 5 feet, others 15 feet, to her length. This last addition would make her 190 feet long, and with a small increase of beam would enable her to carry 6000 barrels. Objections are made to greater length, on account of the increase of weight that is required to give the requisite strength, on a vessel of so small depth as must be adopted for Lake navigation.

To all these it may be said, the increasing volume of Lake trade will lead to improvement in harbours, to the deepening of St. Clair flats, and so essentially improving the depth of water, as to provide for a deeper vessel, and so far removing the objection to greater length. From what has been, it is hazardous to say what may not be done, in the improvement of navigation, where a large interest is involved ; and what now appears the best size for economy of transport may hereafter prove quite too small ; except so far as circumstances may enable us to judge of the probability of improvements, there seems no way of reaching a satisfactory conclusion in regard to the apprehension of the future. The question therefore is, What reasonable prespect [sic] is there that the Lake navigation will be essentially improved ? So far as I am acquainted with the Lake harbours, I do not see a prospect of any great change being made in the depth of water. But something of improvement will probably be effected.

It is not advisable to make the dimensions of Locks greater than will be sufficient for the vessels to pass ; as increase of size beyond what is required causes unnecessary delay in filling and emptying, and in handling the gates, and will be so far prejudicial to the navigation.

Regarding the present condition of Lake navigation, as connected with this improvement, it is believed the most economical transport would be secured by providing for propellers of 500 to 600 tons burthen, which would be secured by a lock 200 feet long, 36 feet wide, and deep enough to float a vessel drawing 9 1/2 feet water. It is not probable any width of vessel will be required that may not pass a lock of 36 feet in width, so far as shown in Appendix A., (and that shows nearly if not all the propellers on the upper Lakes.) There are but six out of 48 that could not pass the Locks on the St. Lawrence Canals ; some others could not load full depth, but would generally pass with ten feet water, and this is more than they generally draw. Hence it appears that the Locks on the St. Lawrence are of sufficient dimensions to pass Lake vessels, regarded as best adapted to present Lake navigation. If it shall ever appear necessary to enlarge them, it will be time to consider the measure when the contingency shall occur.

For the accommodation of present navigation I am of opinion that Locks 200 feet long, with 10 feet depth of water, and 36 feet in width, will provide for propellers adapted to make as economical a transportation as can be effected. In this I would recommend that the side walls of Locks be carried to a height that will admit one foot greater depth of water, whenever it may appear necessary to make such provision. No greater width than 36 feet is required, unless it is regarded necessary to provide for side wheel steamers, which does not appear probable, and if not necessary, should not be made wider, as it would be a disadvantage to what must be the great business of the navigation, namely, freight by sail or screw. If freight is to be the main business, as I do not doubt it will, side wheel steamers are not wanted ; for it is now well established on the upper Lakes, that propellers are decidedly more economical, and side wheel steamers can only be maintained where a large share of their business is passengers. If it shall be considered advisable to provide for greater length of vessel, say thirty feet, it may be done for about four thousand dollars per Lock. This additional length may be made at a future day, when it shall appear necessary. It must, however, be kept in view, that it can never be done so well or so conveniently as at the original construction ; and though I am persuaded that 200 feet, or at most 210, will be sufficient to meet the wants of the navigation, there is a possibility that a greater length may be found expedient at a future day, in the event of such improvements as have been mentioned; and such impression would mar the idea of a completed work, and injure confidence in its provision for the ample accomplishment of its object. It must therefore be perceived there is a conflict on this point, leaving some doubt, and as the interest is large, it may be the wisest cause to adopt the most liberal views. And, while I have doubts as to the necessity, I must confess that in view of all the probabilities involved, I am disposed to recommend two hundred and thirty (230) feet as a suitable length for the Locks (the distance between the Lock Gates is of course intended as the length,) and of sufficient depth for vessels drawing 10 feet of water.

There are but few Locks on the proposed Canal ; but as this question is necessarily connected with the Canal and Locks that already exist, and which must be made to conform to what is required to render the navigation complete, it was necessary to examine the subject with much care.

It has been stated that the St. Lawrence Locks need not be disturbed at present ; but the Welland Locks and Canal, (as intimated in your instructions to me,) must be enlarged. This will be necessary, independent of the proposed St. Lawrence improvement, in order to enable the Welland to maintain a vigorous competition with the Erie Canal, when enlarged as now in progress. As before observed, the large class of propellers recently brought into use on the upper Lakes are formed to cheapen transport, and when to this is added the benefit of the enlarged Erie Canal, the Welland route in its present condition must become inferior as a means of transport to the Erie Canal route. The Welland therefore must be enlarged for the maintenance of its own trade.

Canal.--The depth of water in the Canal should be at least one foot greater than the Lock, and if the Lock is designed for vessels drawing 10 feet the Canal should have 11 feet. The width of the Canal at the surface of the water should be 3 1/2 times the width of Lock, as the minimum in ordinary deep cuttings, and increased to 4 and 5 times, when the situation admits it, within reasonable expense. The top water width is therefore taken as a near approximation at one hundred and twenty-four (124) feet in heavy cuttings, and tile width at bottom 80 feet. This allows slopes of bank two horizontal to one of rise on each side. On the proposed route, the ground will admit favourably, for the greater portion of the length, a surface width of from 150 to 250 feet, which will greatly improve the navigation.

The Welland Canal, as well as the Locks, is too small for the convenient and economical navigation of vessels of the size that is to be provided for, and should be enlarged. Of the St. Lawrence Canals, the Cornwall, 150 feet wide, and the Beauharnois, 120 feet wide, with good lines of direction, are well adapted to the proposed navigation, especially the former. The Lachine Canal, though its width is technically the same as the Beauharnois, is not in general so large. To provide for a large trade in the Lachine Canal, it would be indispensable to enlarge it, or reduce the use of water, now drawn for hydraulic power. I take pleasure in speaking of the Cornwall and Beauharnois Canals as fine specimens of this kind of improvement. The four short Canals in the Williamsburgh district are too small for the navigation proposed. I suppose, however, these Canals are not much used for descending navigation, as the natural channel of the river allows, especially Steam Vessels, to descend with safety the small rapids, and for their return these Canals are mostly wanted, and therefore an enlargement of them is of less importance, and may be dispensed with. On the whole it does not appear that the St. Lawrence Canals are in any material respect deficient in capacity to provide for the class of navigation that is proposed, at least so far as now appears necessary, nor until provision shall be required for vessels of over 600 tons burthen.


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This volume was digitized from the collections of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston