Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

It’s that time again – the usual shuffles of staff among lock stations. Some   changes of note – Amy Roach is the Acting Lockmaster at Chaffey’s Lock, ably supported by Julie Lalonde-Savard. Dustin Bulloch is the Acting Lockmaster at Kingston Mills. Les Philp and Bill Glover have decided to retire.

Looks like being a “normal” season ahead – let’s hope that the weather is good and the tourists and boaters are numerous.

Here is the complete list.

2012 Lockstaff List


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I was given a Kindle for Christmas and have begun learning how to use it. I’ve been practicing on free ebooks from Gutenberg, which familiarizes me with how to use the thing, as well as getting to read some of the classics or even not-so-classic old books.

It got me thinking of doing an e-book on the Rideau. This at least has the merit (for me) of not involving printers) and lugging boxes of books around. Perhaps an historical fiction, based on real characters and real situations. Lots of examples out there and lots of free software to make it work.  I already have a few pages done and they work well (technically, not necessarily as great literature – no doubt that will come ) – yeah, right!

Onward and upward! Bastardi non carborumdum!

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Himself !!!

The Monday evening talk on Invisible Army went very well – about 35 people showed up – some from as far away as Kanata and Rideau Ferry. Gerry Covell, a retired lockmaster at Poonanmalee, came, and we went through the common travails of working around the Parks Canada personnel records.

Another gentleman brought the family genealogy of his distant ancestors – the Newman brothers, who were among the first lockmasters at Black Rapids, Clowes, and Nicholsons locks.

Creation of the “slackwater” canal flooded a lot of low-lying areas – shown in a “before and after” map of the Opinicon Lake area. Water management kept the water levels relatively stable to meet the needs of the steamers and the timber trade (which obviously went away, as road and rail pushed into the area).
I illustrated the difficulties of the early “roads” (so-called)  using Lockmaster Peter Sweeney’s diary (1839-1850) . He was a “travelling” man, as well as a “drinking” man, and his jaunts from Jones Falls to Brockville, Prescott, and Kingston sorely tested his stamina, but not his determination.
I focused on showing how the canal had successfully overcome its lack of long-term commercial success by recognizing (reluctantly) that the future lay in the tourism/ guiding/ cottage country area. Serendipity — the rise of the “back to nature” movement in the northern US in the 1880’s and the abundance of unspoiled nature in the Rideau Corridor was the catalyst.
My new projector, an Epson EX5200, worked like a charm!
All good!

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Take a look at the new page that I added, called The Good Old Days.

It gives us some insight into living conditions in the Rideau Corridor in the 1840s.  “Ansley’s Mills” is now Battersea, not so far from Brewers Upper and Lower Mills lock stations.

I plan to add other pages over time in order to illustrate just what the “good old days” were really like, for both city and country living. And … the examples will be based on eyewitness accounts and planned actions of local administrations: for example, there were constant struggles to get usable roads built. The example used here is no exaggeration.

Always open to comments, questions, etc.

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Spent long weekend under Sappers Bridge at Ottawa Locks – Rideau Canal Festival. On Sunday, Lt. Col. By came by and his avatar, who was channelling the great engineer, bought a copy of “Invisible Army” for him to get up to date on the Rideau Canal.

On Monday, the Lt. Col. came back to give me a quick review. He was annoyed by some of the careless incidents that he had read about, but otherwise was well-pleased with how things had turned out. The World Heritage site designation was especially gratifying.

A number of people who had bought the book earlier at places like Chapters – Sussex – Ottawa and Chapters – Cataraqui – Kingston came up to me to say enthusiastically that they had discovered that a grandfather had been a lockmaster; another couple had a grandfather who had been a swing bridgemaster. One man sheepishly admitted that he now understood his father’s stories – the father had been a Superintendent!

I think that we ought to bring Lt. Col. By out of retirement to teach high school history classes about the men and women who have made the Rideau Canal what it is, and the hardships, heartbreaks, and sacrifices that they made as part of their “life on the locks.”

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Building the Rideau Canal had inadvertently created excellent fishing, which supported an active resort industry and guding. In addition, the flooded low lands were extensively trapped. Guiding and trapping became a relied-upon source of income for many families. The focus of concern for these groups was the level of water drawdown in the winter. If it were too low or too sudden, fish might be trapped in shallow pools that would freeze to the bottom. This would also kill off many muskrats. The perceived problem stemmed from the practice of running off water as long as possible for water rights holders — mills and power companies.

Superintendent Wise had trouble with lock staff who were alleged to have manipulated the water levels at their station for illegal fishing. He wrote to Lockmaster James Jones — Smiths Falls Detached on April 15, 1887.

“Was it not possible for you to put in your stop logs without running your upper reach dry by which means you caused all the lights of the Electric Light Co. to be extinguished, at any rate you should have applied for authority before doing it.

It is stated it was done for the purpose of spearing fish and I desire to know if any fish were speared whilst the water was out — if any such work was done with your knowledge I should consider it my duty to suspend you and I must have your consideration that such was  not the case.”

Whatever the true reason for this incident, there is no doubt that the Jones family were keen fishermen. There is a painting on the porch of the lockmaster’s house at 1 Jasper Avenue in Smiths Falls, showing Arthur Jones with his boat and fishing tackle. He even did guiding. Enterprising fellow!

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It was Monday, June 5th, 1837 – maybe the grand-daddy of the “Friday Night Fights”. Anyway, Lockmaster Jones of Old Sly’s Lock , near Smiths Falls, was a reluctant participant. The steamer, Cataraqui, Captain Chambers, was tying a barge to the swing bars of the lock gates. Jones tried to stop him and was challenged to a fight. Jones described the incident in a letter to Capt. Bolton, the Superintendent–

” I told him I did not wish to disgrace the Public Works with a ruffin [sic] is his caracter [sic], he then spit in my face and immediately a fight commenced, the Challenge he gave was you or any Lock Laborer on the line of the Canal.

I humbly beg leave to state that if such Propossection [sic- proposition?] as this is allowed, I will run great danger at Passing this Boat at night, I am told that some of the men employed on the Boat run [sic] at me with cudgels and it is supposed I would have been severely beaten only for some of the Rafts men who took their weapons from them.”

No word on the number of rounds or the winner.

Captain Bolton responded promptly with By Law Rideau Canal 10th June 1837. The fastening of ropes and chains to any part of the lock gates or machinery was forbidden. Offenders would be charged 5 pounds if they refused to obey an order from the lock staff to remove the rope or chain.

The lock staff must have faced considerable abuse in trying to enforce regulations. It was a rough and ready environment, no doubt about it.

Things are more genteel these days.

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