Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Chignecto Ship Railway

From Graces Guide

1875 Henry Ketchum wrote to the Daily Telegraph of St. John, proposing a ship railway across the Isthmus of Chignecto between the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with railway and steam communication to Prince Edward Island and graving docks at Baie Verte.

1881 Mr. Ketchum carried out a survey at his own expense and submitted a proposal to the Hon. Sir Charles Tupper, then Minister of Railways and Canals, offering to form a company to carry out the work, provided the Government would subsidize the undertaking, for about one-third the cost of a canal. This proposal was accepted by the Government, approved by Parliament, and a company, of which Mr. Ketchum was a director, was incorporated to carry out the project.

Mr. John G. Meiggs, on the report of Sir Benjamin Baker, undertook the contract and a company was formed in London to carry it out. Plans were prepared and submitted to the Chief Engineer of the Department of Railways and Canals, and, after much detailed consideration, formal approval was given by the Governor-General in Council in May, 1888.

1888 Work started under the superintendence of Mr. Ketchum and Sir Benjamin Baker, and were prosecuted vigorously until July, 1891, when, owing to financial reasons, they were stopped. At that time three-fourths of the work had been completed, including the hydraulic lifts for raising ships of 2,000 tons gross weight over 40 feet,together with the cradles for carrying and locomotives for hauling the ships

The ship-railway was 17 miles long in a straight line from Fort Lawrence on the Bay of Fundy to Tidnish on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with a dock at each end.

1896 Mr. Ketchum died suddenly.


The method of transport intended to be adopted was as follows:-

A vessel coming up the Bay of Fundy on the flood tide would pass into the dock and wait its turn to be lifted. Keel and bilge blocks having been arranged on a cradle, the cradle and gridiron would be lowered by hydraulic rams into the water and the vessel hauled over it by capstans and winches in the usual way. The gridiron would then be slowly raised until the vessel rested on the keel-blocks throughout the whole length, after which the sliding bilge-blocks would be pulled tight against the ship's bilge by chains attached to the blocks and carried up to the quay on either side. Lifting, by hydraulic rams and presses, would then proceed until the rails on the gridiron attained the same level as those on the main line; the ship and cradle would then be hauled on to the railway by powerful hydraulic winches and transported by locomotives across the isthmus to the hydraulic lift at the Tidnish end, where the converse operations would be effected to enable the vessel to resume her ocean voyage. Messrs. Easton and Anderson constructed the lifts and Messrs. Handyside and Co. the cradles.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Obituary of Henry Ketchum