Thursday, November 3, 2022

1915 The Waterford Flight, the first five locks of the Erie Canal

Lock #2: (Satellite)
Lock #5: (Satellite)

The Waterford Flight goes from near the mouth of the Mohawk River to above the Crescent Dam to bypass the Cohoes Falls. It uses five locks (numbered 2-6) to overcome the 169' increase in elevation in only 1.5 miles. [nycanals-waterford]
The lifts vary between 32.5' to 34.5'. [HAER-E5, p3]
The lock dimensions are 300' long, 42.5' wide and a 12' draft. [insight] (nycanals-E2 states a width of 43.5'.)

Frank Forte Photography posted
The Waterford Flight - Village of Waterford in Saratoga County, New York.
When they opened in 1915, the five locks of the Waterford Flight combined to form the highest lift in the shortest distance on any canal in the world. They raise and lower boats 169 feet in just over 1-1/2 miles, connecting the Hudson River with the Mohawk River above Cohoes Falls. Tugs, barges, and canal motorships used to line up to transit the flight. Today pleasure boats and paddle craft outnumber commercial vessels passing through the Waterford Flight. The NYS Canal System is central to an emerging world-class recreation corridor that also includes the Empire State Trail and the NYS Canalway Water Trail. No other state in the nation boasts more than 850 miles of interconnected navigable inland waterways and 750 miles of continuous trails. Festivals such as the Tugboat Roundup and annual paddling events introduce thousands of people to the nation’s most famous canal each year.
From the gallery exhibit - "An Erie Canal Odyssey - Waterford to Montezuma". © Frank J Forte / Frank Forte Photography
Frank Forte Photography shared

The original 1825 Erie Canal used 25 locks with up to an 8' lift along the southerly bank of the Mohawk River to climb above the Cohoes Falls. Because the locks were so close together, congestion was a major issue, and it could take a day to travel from Schenectady to Albany. So in 1831 the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad was built between Schenectady and Albany for passengers using canal boats west of Schenectady. The enlargement of the Erie Canal between 1835 and 1862 used 16 locks. In 1895, many of the locks were doubled and then later the westbound locks were doubled in length. Today's New York State Barge Canal was built in 1915. "The flight of five locks continue to serve pleasure craft and still provide the highest lift in the shortest distance of any canal built in the United States." [asce]

Lock #2 and the Old Champlain Canal Flight of Locks

The Old Champlain Canal flight of locks is on the right and the Erie Canal Lock #2 is on the left. This video allowed me to confirm that the old flight had at least three locks.
Street View, Jul 2022

The channel on the right in the above view was the Old Champlain Sidecut. Those locks were really narrow. On the right side below we see the north wall of Lock #2. In the middle background is the truss bridge from which I took the above street view.
The sidecut had five locks and it is now used as a spillway for this lock. [tug44]
Josh Schmid, Mar 2022

Cori Willson posted two images in Historic Erie Canal with the comment:


Lock #3

Street View

There is a dry dock next to the lock. It is the eastern dry dock for the Canal Corporation. "It is here where vessels are stored for the winter, repaired, and otherwise left to dock when not in use for long periods of time." [nycanals-E3]

View of partially completed Lock E3 from below (1907). (Annual Report, op. 78)

Lock #4

"When opened, the flights were the highest elevation in the shortest distance in the country for canal locks. It is speculated that they remain the highest elevation over the shortest distance for a canal in the world: for comparison, the Panama Canal is an elevation change of 85 ft. and the Welland Canal in Canada rises 326 ft. over 27 miles."
[I just computed, Locks #3-#6 of the Welland Canal have a combined lift of 187' in about a mile. insights also makes the mistake of claiming "the steepest lock flight rise in the world."]

Lock #5

Street View

The lock has a lift of 33.2'. "In April 2006, new gates were installed at the lock. Each one measured 55' tall, 25' wide, and 2.5" thick and weighed 55 tons.9"
In July 2005, a crack was discovered in a door of Lock E5, and temporary repairs were made. Later in February 2006, the lock was drained and new doors were installed, as seen here during the construction.
At the bottom of the right wall are a row of water tunnels used to drain or fill the lock during operation.
The lock has a lift of 33'.

Flood Guard Gate #1

The gate is lowered during floods to protect the locks. [tug44]

Street View, Aug 2021

Fortunately, by Aug 2021 they had removed the trees for some construction activity so that we could see the gate.
Street View, Sep 2011

3D Satellite

Flood Guard Gate #2

This gate is normally kept lowered as a precautionary measure. Since the gate is down, the counterweights are up and easy to see. [tug44]
Street View

The tour boat Grande Caribe enters Guard Gate 2 at the top end of the Waterford Flight. With a length of 183 feet and a beam of 40 feet in a gate that's only 42½ feet wide, I believe she has the right of way.

Common Lock Design

The valves are "wagon wheel" sluice gates that are roughly 7' wide and 9' high. They weigh 11,000 lb.

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