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10. Building the MSC. Series 2.


algy
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ExcavatingNortonStoneDelph.jpg

 

Entrance to Weston Point Docks.

EntrancetoWestonPointDocks.jpg

 

Canal cutting by the entrance to Weston Point Docks - 26th April 1893.

EntrancetoWestonPointDocks-26thapril1893.jpg

 

Entrance to Eastham Locks, riverside - 13th May 1893.

EntrancetoEasthamLocksriverside-13thMay1893.jpg

 

Entrance to Delamere Dock Weston Point Docks - 26th April 1893.

EntrancetoDelamereDockWestonPointDocks-26thApril1893.jpg

 

Ellesmere Port letting water into the canal from the river.

EllesmerePortlettingwaterintothecanal.jpg

 

Ellesmere Port Light House.

EllesmerePort-12thMay1893.jpg

 

Ellesmere Port veiwed from Poole Hall bank - 13th May 1893.

EllesmerePortfromPoolHallL.jpg

 

EasthamLocks-13thMay1893.jpg

 

CuttingEccles6thMay1890.jpg

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Algy, on the one titled "Ellesmere Port letting water into the canal from the river" any idea why they had that little island in the centre of the waterway with vertical planks of wood sticking up ? Seems a daft place to stand too if you ask me :unsure:

 

I guess they must have had to move it once the canal was fuller or boats would hit it :unsure:

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Algy, on the one titled "Ellesmere Port letting water into the canal from the river" any idea why they had that little island in the centre of the waterway with vertical planks of wood sticking up ? Seems a daft place to stand too if you ask me :unsure:

 

I guess they must have had to move it once the canal was fuller or boats would hit it :unsure:

Dizz, I honestly have no idea, my only observation is that the canal banks are rough and unfinished so whether it is some kind of testing procedure to be carried out then the water pumped out on completion, I don't know. :unsure:

 

Any one else have any suggestions :?:

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Found this other photo in my collection and an explanation as to what is going on.

 

T2171.jpg

 

 

To separate the Manchester Ship Canal from the Mersey Estuary at Ellesmere Port a large embankment was constructed. An important part of this work was the stopping up of the final gap between the two, a goal which took several attempts before the divide was in completely in place. Once the embankment was completed, the next step was to let water into the newly finished Canal cutting. Here we can see workers and engineers observing this important moment, as water gushes into the new waterway. This was the first section of the Canal ready for use, with Eastham Locks becoming open for traffic in July 1891.

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Thanks Algy :D But I don't get it :oops::oops: Is the bit in the middle the 'large embankment' and how would they then 'stop up' the gap.

 

Ooooh I'm sorry Algy but you know what I'm like when something is puzzling me (and even moreso when I have my 'dizzy dimwitt' head on)

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Thanks Algy :D But I don't get it :oops::oops: Is the bit in the middle the 'large embankment' and how would they then 'stop up' the gap.

 

Ooooh I'm sorry Algy but you know what I'm like when something is puzzling me (and even moreso when I have my 'dizzy dimwitt' head on)

 

Sorry Dizz I'm as 'miffed' as you with this one. :unsure:

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:shock: You know what that means...

 

..... we'll both become obsessed with the need to find out now Algy :lol:

 

I shall try a bit of 'digging later Dizz, I have to take 'she who shall be obeyed' shopping now!. :wink::D :grin:

What did you say "what am I a man or a mouse" 'pass the cheese please!' :D

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Algy have you ever read this ? I'm sure you will have but as I just happened to come across it I thought I'd post a link.

 

Journal of the The Manchester Geological Society, as addressed by Mr W Burnett Tracey in 1896

 

"The Mancehster Ship Canal, The Story in Brief from 1708 - 1896 "

 

http://www.mangeogsoc.org.uk/pdfs/centenaryedition/Cent_08_Tracy.pdf

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Algy have you ever read this ? I'm sure you will have but as I just happened to come across it I thought I'd post a link.

 

Journal of the The Manchester Geological Society, as addressed by Mr W Burnett Tracey in 1896

 

"The Mancehster Ship Canal, The Story in Brief from 1708 - 1896 "

 

http://www.mangeogsoc.org.uk/pdfs/centenaryedition/Cent_08_Tracy.pdf

 

Thanks for the link Dizz, here are two volumes from the Internet Archive both downloadable in pdf format of about 500 pages each volume, should keep you quiet for a while. :wink::D :grin:

 

http://archive.org/details/historyofmanches01leecuoft

 

http://archive.org/details/historyofmanches02leecuoft

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:shock: You know what that means...

 

..... we'll both become obsessed with the need to find out now Algy :lol:

 

Dizz, this may help you to understand what was going on in the photo below, I have added more text from the book "HISTORY OF THE MANCHESTER SHIP CANAL" Author: Sir Bosden Leech, (The book is out of copyright and open to the public domain), to illustrate the conditions that the navvies were working under at that time.

 

EllesmerePortlettingwaterintothecanal.jpg

My understanding is that the piles marked the centre of the start of working and also the centre point of where the Eastham lock was to be and as the filling with river water of this section at that time was tidal, the filling was purely to test the banks that had collapsed previously and when satisfied that the the bank would hold the water it would then be emptied on the recession of the tide at a later date, the gap plugged and work would continue to build the lock at Eastham. My theory and I could be wrong!.

 

1891

During May and the earlier part of June tremendous efforts had been made

to clear out the Eastham section and get it ready for filling. Nearly 3,000 men were

engaged in relays night and day. And there was great reason for this haste, because,

till the section was open and access given to Ellesmere Port, the temporary entrance

through the Ellesmere Port embankment could not be closed. By Wednesday 18th

June all the plant had been removed and the slopes were practically finished. Great

care was needed to prevent a rush of water doing damage. Next day the Works

Committee met at the Eastham end, and their Chairman, Mr. Platt, set the last

coping stone of this important section. To prevent a crowd the opening was kept a

secret. Mr. Leader Williams had some hundreds of men at work making final preparations

and cutting a hole in the dam (with boards to regulate the aperture) that

separated the canal from the estuary. This dam was at the Ellesmere Port end and

had been built to keep the tide out of the cutting. When the work was finished

there was a time of great excitement. The navvies stood with their tools in hand

watching the rising tide come nearer and nearer the opening. Then it gently lapped

over and sent a sheet of muddy water into the vast opening. In an instant the men

and visitors joined in a rousing cheer ; hats were thrown in the air and for a quarter of

an hour the locomotives never ceased sounding their whistles. Each day the water

was admitted through the cross dam for about an hour before and after high tide at

the rate of about 3 feet per day. In this cautious way it took more than a week

to fill the section a rush of water might have damaged the banks. The next step

was to open the canal to Ince, all ships for Ellesmere Port would then have to

come up the Ship Canal. The first vessel to actually use the canal was a small

launch that was lifted by a crane over the bank at Eastham for the use of the resident

engineers.

 

Quantities of granite had been received for the coping of the lock walls, and the piling for the sea wall to separate Ellesmere Port from the estuary was assuming gigantic proportions. This huge embankment was started from the centre, nearly opposite the old dock entrance, and it is estimated that 15,000 piles of 12 x 12 inch timber, each 35 feet long were driven ; thus 650,000 cubic feet of timber were buried under this one embankment.

Up to September 1890 all the work done was up the river ; now for the first time a dredger, the ‘Manchester’, commenced to cut a way from the Eastham approach of the canal entrance. This dredger was built by Simons & Co., Renfrew, and could remove 1,000 tons per hour. At Ellesmere Port the double piling of the embankment was well advanced, and the tipping of clay, rubble, etc., to fill the intervening space, was proceeding at the rate of fifty train loads a day, and there were twentyfive pile-driving engines busy at work every tide. To strengthen the embankment, the exterior and interior piles were tied together by hundreds of tie-rods 21/2” inches in diameter and 36 feet long. These were buried in the hearting and added to its stability.

 

The Manchester dredger was working energetically to open the passage from the

Sloyne to the Eastham dockgates, and by the first week in June the way was clear

from the sea to the outer lock. It was a proud moment therefore when Mr.

Samuel Platt, in his yacht the Norseman, entered the canal through the Eastham

Locks. She was the first vessel of any size to navigate the canal, and there was

great excitement, when, with her owner and Mr. Leader Williams aboard, she quietly

passed through the locks and anchored inside.

The next step was one of great risk and magnitude, viz., to close the passage

through the Ellesmere Port embankment left open to give access to that port, and

then, after filling the section with water, to dredge away the dam at the head of

the Eastham section. In order not to obstruct the Shropshire Union traffic it was

arranged this should be started on a Saturday and completed on Monday. The

tide for months had established a set route through the 250 feet opening in the

embankment, and to close this aperture in a few hours was no ordinary task An

army of men stood ready with many train loads of material at hand to be tipped into

the aperture at low water, in hope that before the returning tide the new bank would be

able to resist it. It was a fight against time. An effort was to be made to have the

opening closed and the dam cleared away early on the Monday afternoon, so that the

Norseman at the head of a string of Shropshire Union barges might sail up to

Ellesmere Port. But the engineers and directors had to learn that human hopes are

frequently but "vanity and vexation of spirit".

On Saturday, i ith July, as soon as the Shropshire Union traffic had passed out

and the tide was low, train loads of ballast were emptied as quickly as possible into

the chasm from both sides. The noise and smoke were almost unbearable ; all

the men were working at high pressure, and slowly the heap rose above the level

of the water. People walked across what had been a deep gulf. There was great

elation that the deed had been done so well and so quickly. But the test had to

come, and the engineers, though confident, were anxiously awaiting Neptune's attack.

Grievous was their disappointment when, as an old salt said, "she (the tide) rubbed her

nose against the bank and down it came ". At two o'clock on Sunday morning, to the

dismay of everybody, the tide forced a small hole, which quickly became a large one,

and then played havoc with all the new work, sweeping it away like a pack of cards

and repossessing itself of the old passage just as if nothing had happened. I well

remember receiving a telegram of the failure and hurrying down on the Sunday

morning to the scene of the disaster. I had to cross to Birkenhead, take the tram to

New Ferry and walk thence to Ellesmere Port. When I got there despair sat on

every face. The new route to Ellesmere Port must be opened by Monday afternoon

under a very heavy penalty, and the sea had set at nought the calculations of the

engineers. A council of war was held to determine the best way of coping with the

tidal invader. It was decided to repeat the attempt, but if possible on a more solid

basis. This time, instead of tipping soil and clay, it was arranged to start with heavy

boulders, and these were searched for in neighbouring spoil heaps by hundreds of men.

Thousands of tons were cast into the gap and heavy piles were driven to prevent them

moving about. On the top of the boulders thousands of tons of clay and soil were

tipped. From early morning on Sunday till 10 o'clock at night a grand spectacle of

perseverance, energy and skill was exhibited. By the time the breach was again made

good, every one was thoroughly worn out. All day long engines had been running

on lines that were scarcely fastened down after being placed, and if, in consequence, a

waggon tipped over along with its contents into the chasm it had to be buried, no

time could be wasted in recovering it. When the next high tide was due the bank

had been restored, every effort had been made to strengthen it, and there were good

hopes of the structure standing the strain. But all was of no avail.

" Vain was the help of man." The sea would not be denied and again forced its way up its usual

channel, defying all attempts to stop it. It tossed the bank over and washed away

the huge boulders as if they had been marbles, and after a stiff duel the engineers had

to admit themselves thoroughly beaten.

This second mishap prevented the usual packet (which had never missed since

1837) and its attendant tugs getting to Ellesmere Port, and the penalty for stoppage

was £3000 per day. By the kindness of the Shropshire Union Canal Company it was

arranged that the goods should be delivered at Eastham and taken by rail to their

destinations.

At a subsequent meeting of the engineers it was determined, as the place could

not be taken by storm, to lay regular siege to it, and to stop up the channel in a more

gradual way. Hitherto the empty canal had been a kind of inner vacuum and the

pressure outside had met with no resistance. It was determined now to proceed by

stages and to build up the embankment with layers of concrete and suitable material,

and then by raising the water in the canal to secure a uniform pressure on both sides.

The final effort commenced at 4.30 on Tuesday, the I4th July, and went on

unceasingly for some thirty hours when success was achieved. A gantry with a railroad

on it had been placed over the gap, and this materially assisted operations, as

from it the concrete was dropped into the aperture. To break the force of the tide,

dredgers and tugs had been moored outside in the estuary.

These mishaps succeeding one another in rapid succession created much consternation

in Manchester, and it was a relief when' the Mayor assured the Council that

the difficulties were only temporary and would soon be overcome. On the night of the

16th was issued the bulletin :

The first flotilla of traffic from Ellesmere Port passed down the Ship Canal into the river

Mersey at 8.45 this morning. Time occupied in passing through the Eastham Lock, seven

minutes. Ellesmere Port traffic will henceforward pass down the Ship Canal.

When the dam that separated the Eastham and Ellesmere sections had been

cut through sufficiently to allow the Earl Powis to pass up stream there was a roar

of welcome from all sides. Mr. Leader Williams received quite an ovation. The

opening was a great event, but unfortunately it did not bring much grist to the mill,

inasmuch as ships up to 400 tons are entitled to the free use of the canal as far as

Ellesmere Port. Previously they could only get there when the tide served. The next

move was to complete the canal to Weston Point, and to that end men were working

day and night near Ince Hall, where there is a deep rock cutting. And here occurred

a disaster which will never be forgotten in the neighbourhood, which swept ten men

into eternity and injured as many more. The cutting is perpendicular and about 60

feet deep. Ballast waggons were constantly bringing the rock by a circuitous route

from the bottom to spoil tips on the top. Along the top of the cutting was a siding

for empty trucks, with a dead end, and not far off were points where a lad stood, who,

by altering the lever, sent the trucks in the direction required. It so happened that on

the morning of the 18th July, night gangs were in the cutting, drilling and chipping

the rock by the aid of the lucigen light, and one gang of twenty men was directly under

the truck siding. By accident, or through carelessness, the lad at the points (17 years

of age) turned a train of twenty-three trucks, drawn by two engines, into the empty

truck siding instead of on to the line to the tip at Ellesmere Port These came

crashing along, and charging the dead end of the siding fell over into the hollow

below, right on top of the gang at work immediately beneath. Engines, trucks,

stone and men were in one almost inextricable mass, lit up by the lucigen light

The scene was appalling, and the shrieks of the injured and dying were awful. Men

rushed to the rescue, and by the aid of steam cranes released those still alive, who

were promptly conveyed to various hospitals or attended to on the spot by medical

men. Many who were not killed were maimed for life. Fortunately the six men

on the engines jumped for their lives and escaped with a few bruises. The lad at

the points who caused the disaster was arrested and charged with manslaughter, but

was eventually discharged.

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