-The Forth and Clyde Canal
-two hundred years of transportation

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


Traffic was able to use the canal from 1773 onwards and it readily became busy with various types of vessels carrying cargoes such as timber, grain, sugar, textiles and coal; on some occasions west-coast fishing boats used it as they headed eastwards to take advantage of the arrival of the herring shoals. The canal was very profitable at times and in 1816 the dividend was an enormous twenty-five per cent. However, its success was challenged by many factors, including competition from the railways and the deepening of the River Clyde which allowed large vessels directly into the city.

A variety of vessels were used on the canal over the years, including horse-drawn boats, paddleboats, propeller-driven craft and even locomotive-hauled boats; although the introduction of these newer `high-tech` types of boats greatly increased the speeds at which cargoes could be moved they also caused more erosion of the banks and consequently increased maintenance costs.

Railway companies were seen by many people as deadly rivals to the canals but, to the landed interests who could make money out of both forms of transport, the amalgamation of railways and canals made profitable sense. As a result, in the late 1860s the Caledonian Railway Company joined with the Forth and Clyde Canal, the Monkland Canal and some smaller railway companies.

This article is based on the guidebook "The Glasgow Guide".

This is the Hamiltonhill Basin which is one of the busiest parts of the canal. These workshops were built in 1790 and are still used by maintenance staff. Maintenance craft and houseboats are moored in the basin.

However, by that time Scotland`s trading patterns were changing; factories were being sited beside railway lines and the canal could not be deepened or widened in order to help it compete. The closure of Grangemouth docks to civilian shipping during the First World War dealt another cruel blow. In 1923 the company was taken over by the London, Midland & Scottish Railway and in 1948 the country`s railways and canals were taken into public ownership. By then the canal was unable to compete against road and rail transport and it was closed on 1 January 1963. It is now operated by the publicly owned British Waterways.
Next Forth and Clyde Canal article:
The canal today
Previous Forth and Clyde Canal article:
Port Dundas: Glasgow`s inland port
List of Forth and Clyde Canal articles:
Forth and Clyde Canal articles

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