Modifications to the Erie Canal throughout the 20th Century

Jul 16, 2015 by

Modifications to the Erie Canal throughout the 20th Century

By Samuel Phineas Upham

The Eerie Canal represented a tremendous breakthrough in the early part of the 19th century. Through the 1800s, but as time went on the effect began offering diminished returns. Railroads had replaced, or grown, large sections of the canal and made others entirely obsolete. In addition, large sections of the canal were too small for the boats that were developed at the time.

Many of those modifications were developed in large part due to improvements in technology involved with excavation and flood control systems. These technologies let surveyors canalize river systems, which improved the ability of the Canal to funnel traffic. It also allowed engineers to widen the canal to provide for bigger boats.

That allowed barges up to 2,000 tons through the canal, which was an earnest attempt at keeping the canal a viable part of commercial shipping. Unfortunately, the move was seen as expensive and politically unpopular.

A major reason for the continued decline of the canal was the growth of railroads, which were able to service more parts of the country, and highways. Automobiles were becoming more affordable, and as a result a more ubiquitous part of life.

Today, the canal is mostly a recreational route through parts of New York, and a reminder of the past. There is a small population of manufacturers that still use it to move goods, but the canal isn’t as strong a channel for commerce as it once was. From May to November of each year, small craft and vessels are able to ride openly.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Twitter.

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