Saturday, March 10, 2012

Toronto & Georgian Bay Ship Canal proposal

 Photo by Barry Wallace

King-Vaughan Townline Bridge over the East Humber River 

It was 154 years ago that Col. R.B. Mason, consulting engineer, presented his proposal for the 100-mile Toronto & Georgian Bay Ship Canal.   It was intended to dwarf the Welland Canal, with locks twice as long, twice as wide, and twice as deep.   The cost was to be unprecedented in Canadian history, but the rewards were predicted to be staggeringly immense.   It was also laid out to divide King Township, from top to bottom, along its 8th Concession.   Following is an excerpt from Mason's proposal regarding the King portion of the canal's proposed route.
"Along the valley of the Humber there are no engineering difficulties of an extraordinary character as far as the 23rd section, at the town line of Vaughan and King, where deep excavation through the ridges commences.   This excavation extends to the 33rd section, or ten miles.   The greatest depth to be excavated will be 197.76 feet, or 2.24 under 200 feet.   This will be the greatest depth from the summit.   The ridges present a gradual inclination north and south; the slope to the north being 5 1/2 miles in length, and the southern slope 4 1/2 miles; total length 10 miles.   The depth of this excavation will average 90 feet, and will contain nearly 48,000,000 cubic yards, and being composed, as far as can be conjectured, of light clay and gravel, will cost not more than 25 cents per yard, making a total of $12,000,000."
The photo above looks north, up the East Humber River, from just south of the bridge.   This is the exact point where Col. Mason stated the "...the deep excavation through the ridges commences".   The canal was doomed from the start.   There were many reasons, not the least of which was the rapid construction of vastly cheaper freight railways.   As one stands in the  river valley, pictured above, it is hard to imagine huge lake freighters slowing churning, up and down, through the surrounding hills, just south-east of Nobleton.
Please comment if you wish.
Barry Wallace

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