Friday, 18 March 2011

A Blistering success

Blist Hill Tub Boat Canal
March 2011

First up, its not really called the Blist Hill Tub Boat Canal, its just happens that the last remaining section of this waterway is preserved in the Blist Hill Museum Complex.

Tub Boat Canal at Blist Hill Museum

I have always looked a bit askance at Tub Boat canals, thinking that as they were never connected to the main system, and not navigable by "proper" narrowboats they were in some way second rate waterways, and of no real interest. Now, all that changed last year as I explored the Shrewsbury canal, which was originally built as a tub boat canal and then enlarged to full narrowboat dimensions when the link from Newport to Norbury Junction on the Shroppie was constructed. 

Tub Boat canal including The Gospel Train

Whilst the through route to Shrewsbury was upgraded, a whole network of tub boat canals operated for over a hundred years from Newport (Trench Inclined Plane) to Ironbridge, moving coal and minerals over the area now covered by Telford's sprawl. 

Wharf crane at Blist Hill

The boats may have been unpowered tubs, but they formed a vital element if the prosperity of the region. The tubbs were nearly full width (6ft 6") and with a depth of about four feet the horse drawn trains of tubs were incredibly effective.

Tub Boat at Blist Hill Museum

The big difference with these canals was their need to traverse hilly terrain with very limited water supplies. The answer was the development of the inclined plane, but more of that another time.

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