« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
desire of bespeaking for the subject more careful attention by the public, and of inducing the managers of railroads to give publicity to such facts as will tend to the development of the more important economic and commercial features of railroad transportation. It is greatly to be regretted that at this day the managers of the railroads of the country, who are the depositaries of all exact information in relation to the economy of transport by rail, should have failed to collect and publish statistical and other information necessary to the solution of certain comparatively easy, but fundamental, economic questions. With very few exceptions, the railroad companies in this country have heretofore pursued the policy of concealing from the public, and even from their own stockholders, facts of vital importance touching the manner in which the roads intrusted to their care are managed, the line of policy pursued with reference to internal and external considerations, and the results of practical experience, upon which alone can be based sound and just methods of dealing with each other and with the public.
4.-THE INTERIOR WATER-LINES OF THE UNITED STATES.
The principal interior water lines of the United States are delineated on Map No. 2, at the end of this report. A full description of these lines having been presented two years ago in Report No. 307, Forty-third Congress, first session, (Report of Select Committee of the Senate on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard,) only such facts will be stated in this connection as may be necessary in order to complete the scheme of the present report.
The principal water-lines shown on the map are: First, the water-line connecting the Western and Northwestern States with Montreal, via the lakes, the Saint Lawrence River, and the Canadian canals; second, the water-line forming a commercial highway between the Western and Northwestern States and the port of New York, via the lakes, the Erie Canal, and the Hudson River; third, the Mississippi River and its navigable tributaries.
Upon the same map are also represented certain proposed water-lines aud works in course of construction.
THE CANADIAN WATER-LINE.
This water-line has been secured by the construction of the Welland Canal, connecting Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and overcoming the de. scent of the Niagara River between those lakes, and by the construction of the Saint Lawrence River canals, the latter consisting of six canals, varying in length from three-fourths of a mile to eleven and onefourth miles, constructed for the purpose of overcoming the obstacles presented to commerce by rapids in the Saint Lawrence River. Within the last twenty-five years rafts and steam vessels have descended the Saint Lawrence River from Lake Ontario to Montreal without passing through the canals, but boats employed in the transportation of the pro
ducts of the West and all vessels on their upward passage pass through the canals.
Both the Welland and the Saint Lawrence canals were constructed by the Canadian government. About $1,500,000 has also been expended in the improvement of the Saint Lawrence below Montreal, in order to secure to that city a channel of sufficient depth for vessels of the largest class engaged in ocean-commerce. In the construction of these works the people of Canada have expended about $30,000,000, and they have exhibited a remarkable degree of enterprise in the successful efforts which have been put forth in order to enable them to participate in the commerce of the great lakes. Their trade with the Northwestern States of this country constitutes ninety per cent. of their entire lake-commerce.
The Welland Canal is now being enlarged so as to adınit the passage of ressels of 1,000 tons, the canals and locks having been originally constructed for vessels of 500 tons. It is also in contemplation to enlarge the canals along the Saint Lawrence River, so as to admit the passage of vessels of 1,000 tons. Differences of opinion have prevailed in regard to the policy of enlarging the Saint Lawrence canals. It is thought by some that the passage of the large lake vessels of 1,000 tons through the locks of the Saint Lawrence canals would involve greater expense than the transshipment of western products at the foot of Lake Ontario into barges such as are now employed upon the Saint diLawrence River.
THE WATER-LINE CONNECTING THE WESTERN AND NORTHWESTERN
STATES WITH THE PORT OF NEW YORK. This line is formed by the lakes, the Erie Canal, and the Hudson River. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1826 formed the connecting. link in the highway of commerce connecting the States bordering on the great lakes with the Atlantic seaboard at New York, and this line remained for nearly twenty-five years alniost the sole avenue of that commerce. Under the stimulating effect of this great advantage over all the other Atlantic sea-ports, New York City at once entered upon a career of unexampled prosperity and became the chief commercial and financial center of the western world. Great changes have, however, taken place during the last ten years with respect to commercial intercourse between the West and the seaboard, in consequence of the construction of railway lines.
The great trunk lines to the several Atlantic sea-ports now form are. nues of commerce quite as important and as effective in determining the course of trade as the Erie Canal. During the year 1876, 83 per cent. of the total grain receipts at Atlantic sea-ports was by rail, and only 17 per cent. by canal. This subject is more fully treated of in another part of this report, entitled "The competitive forces which exercise a controlling influence over the commerce between the West and the seaboard with respect to the commercial interests of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore."
The Erie Canal was originally but 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep, with a single line of locks, admitting the passage of boats of 76 tons. It has, how. ever, been enlarged to a width of 170 feet and a depth of 7 feet, with double locks of sufficient capacity for boats of 240 tons. The present maximum capacity of the canal is far beyond the demands of the commerce upon it. The enlargement of the Erie Canal is said to have reduced the cost of transportation upon it about 50 per cent.
THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.
Before the introduction of railroads the Mississippi River and its navigable tributaries formed the only line of transportation to the Gulf ports for the products of a large part of the territory now comprising the Western and Northwestern States. The city of New Orleans became the exclusive sea-port for this extensive river-commerce, and for many years held a commercial position similar to that held for nearly a quarter of a century by the city of New York by means of the commercial highway formed by the lakes, the Erie Canal, and the Hudson River. But already several trunk railroads have been completed which constitute important highways of commerce between the Western States and the Southern States. The construction of these roads is rapidly producing changes in the course and conditions of commerce. Freights, such as were formerly shipped to New Orleans, Galveston, and Mobile, and thence to the North Atlantic States, are now to a very considerable extent shipped directly east by rail to Savannah, Charleston, and Norfolk, or seek the direct, all-rail "overland route” by rail from the Gulf States, crossing the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, and thence passing over the great east and west trunk lines. Commodities are also shipped from the Atlantic States to the Gulf States over the same routes. But the Mississippi River is still and will always continue to be the most important avenue of commerce between the West and the South, not only with respect to the commerce actually carried upon it, but in the influence which it will ever exert toward regulating rates on competing rail-lines, especially for the transportation of the heavier commodities comprising the lower classes of freight and embracing agricultural products, lumber, minerals, &c.
This subject is treated of more at length in the section of this report entitled “The regulation of railroads through the competition of waterlines."
(a) The Mississippi River above Saint Louis.- Navigation on the Mississippi River between Saint Paul, Minn., and Saint Louis is subject to great fluctuation with respect to its navigable condition. During four or five months of the year this portion of the river is vavigable for the larger class of boats employed on the principal tributaries of the Missis. sippi River, but at times it falls to a depth of only 3 to 31 feet.
The Keokuk Rapids, 7.6 miles in length, have been orercome by the construction of a canal extending along the Iowa shore, and the Rock Island Rapids have been improved by means of excavating the natural channel so as to give a navigable passage 200 feet wide and 4 feet deep at extreme low water.
The Mississippi River above Keokuk, Iowa, is generally closed by ice about four and a half months in each year.
(b) The Mississippi River below Saint Louis.—The Mississippi River is parigable almost constantly from Saint Louis to New Orleans, a distance of 1,250 miles, for steamers and barges of the largest size. Occasion. ally navigation is obstructed during short periods on account of ice or low water. This section of the river, however, constitutes an inralu. able commercial highway, sufficient for all the demands of commerce. The Mississippi is navigable for ocean.vessels of the largest size to Vicks. burgh, and at times as far up as Memphis, but sea-going vessels seldom pass above New Orleans.
The general character of the navigation of the Mississippi River from Saint Louis to New Orleans is stated in the following table :
Average stage of water each year for nine years. Number of days less than 4 feet.....
34 Number of days over 4 feet and less than 6..
523 Number of days over 6 feet and less than 8....
1035 Number of days over 8 feet and less than 10.
69. Number of days over 10 feet......
1368 There is great need for the improvement of the navigation of this section of the river, by the removal of snags and bars, improvements which can be made at a cost trifling in comparison with the value of the commercial interests to be subserved.
(c) Mouth of the Mississippi Ricer.-The Mississippi River from New Orleans to the point where it separates into several “passes," forming its delta, has a depth of nearly 100 feet, yet at the mouth of each of these outlets or passes there are bars formed by the deposit of sediment, causing serious obstructions to navigation. The depth of water here raries from 12 to 16 feet. This has been the condition of the passes for many years, and it appears to be the regimen of the river under the action of natural forces.
Solong as commerce upon the ocean was principally carried on in vessels .not exceeding 400 or 500 tons burden and drawing from 10 to 14 feet of water, these bars presented no serious obstacle to the commercial prosperity of New Orleans; but within the last twenty-five years the size of vessels engaged in ocean-commerce has been greatly increased. Commerce upon the ocean is now largely carried on in vessels of from 1,000 to 5,000 tons, with a draught of water of from 16 to 23 feet, experience having proved the economy of vessels of this class for long ocean-voyages. Especially is this true with respect to ocean-steamers. Vessels of smaller size are now confined chiefly to the coastwise trade
and to trade with foreign ports of minor importance. As a natural result of this change in the size of sea-going vessels, the great sea-ports which are not accessible to ships of the larger class are doomed to commercial decadence. This bas been the unfortunate position of New Orleans during the last ten years on account of the obstructions to navigation at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
For several years the Government has annually appropriated sums averaging about $200,000 per annum for the purpose of employing dredging-boats at the entrance to the Southwest Pass. By this means a channel has been secured ranging from 15 to 20 feet in depth and from 50 to 200 feet in width. This is, however, an insufficient and very unreliable expedient. The storms which sweep over the Gulf of Mexico oftentimes obliterate every vestige of the channel formed by the dredg. ing-boats, and the work of opening a channel has to be repeated. Sev. eral plans were proposed for securing a deep channel to the Gulf.
Finally, by the act of Congress of March 3, 1875, James B. Eads, an eminent civil engineer of Saint Louis, was authorized to improve the mouth of the South Pass by means of jetties extending into the Gulf beyond the crest of the bar forming the impediment to navigation. The works now in process of construction were begun on the 17th of June, 1875, and have been prosecuted vigorously ever since. The jetties now extend from the land's end into the deep waters of the Gulf, confining and controlling the waters of the pass so that the depth across the bar, which is two and one-quarter miles in width, has been increased from about 84 feet (the depth before the work was commenced) to a wide channel with a depth of 21 feet. The attainment of the required depth of 30 feet is believed by eminent engineers who have officially examined the works to be only a question of time. The success of the jetty.system is believed to have been fully demonstrated.
While the commercial advantages which will be realized from the success of this enterprise will be of incalculable value to the city of New Orleans and to the entire valley of the Mississippi, embracing 1,200,000 square miles of territory, it will also, as an achievement in civil engineering, probably be of great value as developing a practicable method of improving the mouths and channels of sediment rivers and of protecting the alluvial shores of such streams.
During the past year many of the largest steamers and ships plying to New Orleans have used the jetties in entering the Mississippi, finding a much safer, wider, and deeper entrance than has ever before been secured in any of the other entrances to the river. The consolidation and permanent completion of the jetties will soon be commenced and prosecuted as rapidly as possible. If tbe hopes entertained in regard to the jetties shall be fully realized, the port of New Orleans will be placed upon an equality with the most favorably situated ports of the globe with respect to the facilities of navigation, and there seems to be no doubt that its commerce will thus be largely increased.