The introduction of railways has produced many astonishing changes in the course and channels of our internal trade, and not least among these changes is that which is just being shadowed forth by the completion of the several lines of railroad in the States of Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio, through the various points on the Ohio river. What this change is to be is already indicated by the delivery, on the sea board, of cotton, pork, and other Western produce, by way of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, now completed to Wheeling. The advantages which must accrue by thus delivering produce in the sea board markets in from ten to twenty days, instead of as formerly, by way of New Orleans in about three months, are too evident to be overlooked. Some enterprizing gentlemen engaged in the Western trade have investigated this subject thoroughly, and have become satisfied that the present means for passing steamboats around the falls of the Ohio (by the Portland canal) will soon become entirely inadequate to the increased commerce of the Ohio, which must result from these new outlets. With these views they have projected the following novel plan for increasing the facilities so as to pass steamboats of the largest class around these falls. It may be premised that the only present mode of passing boats intimes of low water, is by the Portland canal, on the Kentuckyside of the river ; this canal can only pass boats the dimensions of which do not exceed 180 feet in length and 48 feet beam over the guards, consequently the business must then be carried on by boats within these dimensions. Referring again to the project above mentioned:It is simply to construct upon the Indiana bank of the river a railway, the length oi which will be about one and a quarter miles, and the width about 72 teet, with proper locks at each terminus ; the whole to be of such magnitude as to be able, without discharging cargo, to pass steamboats of the largest class, or say about 350 feet in length and 80 feet beam over the guards. The difference in level between the head and foot of the falls may be assumed at about 24 leet, and it is proposed to lift the boat a part ol this height in the lock, and the balance by the grade of the railway. The power to be used will be one or mora stationary steam engines, applied to the moving of the carriage upon which the boats will be transported, by means ot a tow rope or chain. This project, although when first presented to the mind it appears chimerical and difficult of execution, will be found, upon thorough examination, to be perfectly practicable, and to present less engineering difficulties than many other important works already successfully executed. The plans have been submitted to several eminent engineers, to obtain their views as to the feasibility of the project, and without exception, they have all concurred in the opinion that the work can be executed without difficulty, and at moderate expense. The estimated cost ot the woik is $600,000, and it is estimated from reliable data that very soon after it is in successful operation, the receipts from tolls alone will not be less than $150,000 per year.
This article was originally published with the title "Novel Engineering Project—A Marine Railway One and a Quarter Miles in Length" in Scientific American 8, 24, 189 (February 1853)