Waterways links with India, Pakistan and Burma


Compartment boats were not just found on the Aire & Calder. There was a scheme for a train of boats closely coupled together in eighteenth century France, and a system similar to that of William Bartholomew was introduced on the Mittelland Canal in Germany during the Second World War, though the compartment boats were much larger and moved in rafts three wide and eight long.

What made me think of this was finding an illustration in a later nineteenth century engineering magazine. It was of a scheme proposed by a Mr. Taylor for use in India, and the drawing of his Railway & Waterway Grand Junction Station appears below.

There were many navigable and irrigation waterways built by the British on the Indian sub-continent, with steam boats being introduced in 1834. In the early days, there were small canals at places such as Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, but in the nineteenth century huge irrigation and navigation canals were built. The longest was the Ganges Canal, some 827 km in length, and the large river basins of the north were improved by almost 35,000 km of new channel and canal.

Were there any links between the Aire & Calder and these Indian waterways? Well, some cargoes certainly ended up on Indian sub-continent. Cotton cloth from East Lancashire could have travelled via Goole and Hull, and textile machinery certainly did. Howard & Bulloughs, from Accrington, were one of the best customers of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Textile machinery was fragile, and always the last cargo to be loaded onto sea-going ships heading for India. It was stored by the canal company, and when the ship was a couple of days from being fully loaded, the machinery was sent by canal boat to Liverpool or Hull. There it was loaded straight onto the ship, and the hatches put on ready for immediate departure.

The other link were the boats used on Indian waterways, many of which were built by the larger inland waterways boatyards in England. Several for the Irrawaddy Flottila in Burma were built by J S Watson, and between 1903 and 1909 some twenty-six barges were exported from the Trentside yard. They were used for carrying general cargoes or oil products. However one, No.138 Sabatin, which was built in 1908, had an unusual task. Its size was 200x27x8.5 feet, and could carry some 600 tons. And what did it carry? Well, it was fitted out for 24 elephants, with teak sheathed decks, electric light and water services.

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Mike Clarke
Milepost Research
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BARNOLDSWICK
BB18 6HX
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last revised: 9 November 2008