The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 2, 1881

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Further Calculations As Made By The Globe's Special Commissioner.


With the opening of the new Welland Canal a change will immediately be perceptible in the method of carrying grain to Kingston, and within a short time it is all but certain that schooners will be entirely replaced as grain carriers by barges. The bearing of this on our great water-way is of vast consequence. Under any circumstances it must greatly increase the business of the St. Lawrence and if the large class of barges coming into use between Kingston and Montreal are extensively employed, it will be surprising if the St. Lawrence does not within a few years carry a larger proportion of the grain of the Western States than does the Erie Canal. This expectation as to the future of our route might be put more strongly, but I prefer to leave the reader to draw his own conclusions from the statements I am about to make.

New Welland Canal Barges.

The new Welland Canal will admit of the passage of barges conveying from 75,000 to 85,000 bushels of grain, but it is probable that barges of about 65,000 bushels capacity will be found to best combine profit and easy management in canal navigation. A tow barge of that capacity will correspond very nearly in size to a steam barge carrying 50,000 bushels. To make transportation yield its greatest profits the owner of a steam barge should also be the owner of the consort, as in this way he will save the profits paid to steam barges or tugs for towage. A well-built steam-barge, such as is referred to, might be built for $60,000 or even less, but it is best to estimate its cost at $65,000, with the tow barge, ship builders inform me, can be built for about $55,000, thus making the whole cost of the pair $120,000.

Cost Of A Round Trip.

In order to ascertain the cost per bushel of carrying grain in vessels such as these I give an estimate of the expense of the round trip from Chicago to Kingston and back, deducting what can safely be considered an average return cargo.

The expenditure may, therefore, be stated as follows:

Trimming at Chicago $172.50

Tolls on cargo 690.00

Tolls on vessels 61.50

Wages 593.00

Fuel and oil 553.00

Board 125.00

Insurance 376.00

Interest at 6% on cost of vessel 654.00

Unloading 575.00

Ropes 50.00

Incidentals 100.00


During the past two seasons vessels delivering grain at Kingston have generally secured very fair return cargoes. American vessels of 20,000 bushels capacity invariably obtain iron or salt at Kingston or coal at Oswego in sufficient quantity to bring up their receipts on the return trip to nearly $600. Many Canadian vessels fare equally well. It is therefore to be supposed that two vessels with a capacity six times as great can scarcely fail, even in bad seasons, to secure cargoes of $600 each over and above the trifle which may be charged for canal tolls on the up trip. If $1,200 be assumed as the receipts for the return cargoes there will remain only $2,750 as the bare cost of carrying 115,000 bushels from Chicago to Kingston. The new method,

Vastly Cheaper Than The Old,.

will make the cost per bushel only two and four tenths cents against four and a half cents by a similar method of calculation under our present methods of transportation. If the whole cost - including 5 per cent for deterioration of vessels, 2 per cent more of interest than allowed in the above calculation (an extra interest on account of the insecurity of marine risks), and a liberal allowance for repairs - be taken into account eight tenths of a cent will require to be added to the 2 and 4 tenths cents a bushel, thus bringing the whole up to 3 1/5 cents a bushel, a rate at which a vessel owner could, after paying tolls on cargoes and all the other expenses of navigation and incurring the usual losses of vessel owners, yet make 8 per cent on his money. Against the eight-tenths of a cent here added, one cent must, however, be added to the estimate made of cost under the present St. Lawrence route method, bringing the cost of the latter from Chicago to Kingston up to 5 1/2 cents. A still greater increase must be made to the estimate of 6 cents per bushel as the cost of carriage from Buffalo to New York via the Erie Canal.

A Revolution In The Grain Trade.

From the above calculations it will be seen that the opening of the new Welland Canal, and the adoption of the steam barge and consort method of transportation, which must follow the opening, will have the effect of reducing the cost of grain carriage between Chicago and Kingston at least between 40 and 50 per cent. This alone should divert the grain trade of the Erie Canal to the St. Lawrence route, but it is only one of the factors of the revolution impending in the grain transportation trade of the continent.

Cheapening The Cost Below Kingston.

On the St. Lawrence a change is already taking place, which is destined to do for transportation between Kingston and Montreal what is certain to be done by the opening of the new Welland, and for the grain trade of the upper portion of the route. This change is the substitution of large river barges for the smaller ones now generally employed. In the last three or four years barges of nearly double the old size have been built, and last year the John Gaskin, of the Montreal Transportation Company Line, and the Huron, of the Kingston and Montreal Company, were launched, the latter a boat of 28,800 bushels of capacity and the former of 29,000 bushels. This company have still twenty boats in use, none of which exceed 13,000 bushels. This season the Montreal Transportation Company is building a boat to carry 40,000 bushels of corn on the river, and the opinion of good authorities is that even that capacity can be exceeded without deepening the canals. It only wants a large fleet of 40,000 bushel barges on the river to make the average cost of grain carriage between Montreal and Kingston as low as the following figures show it might be.

Cost Of The Round Trip To Montreal.

A tug boat of 100 tons register would suffice to tow down the river three barges each of 40,000 bush. capacity.

The voyage to Montreal and back can be made, with reasonable time at Montreal for unloading and receiving a return cargo, in about eight days. The wages bill for that time would be $89. The following would represent very fairly the cost of a tug for the round trip:

Wages $89.00

Fuel and oil 218.00

Board 14.50

Tolls 1.50

Interest at 6 % 43.00

Insurance 32.00

Harbour dues, etc. 40.00


Cost Of Barges.

On cargoes which have paid tolls on the Welland Canal no tolls are charged on the St. Lawrence. Wages are extremely low, the captain receiving from $120 to $150, and finding men and board. Three barges, costing $20,000 apiece, carrying in all 115,000 bushels, and towed by one tug belonging to the same owner, would cost as follows for the round trip. I include insurance, although the forwarding companies pay no insurance on their barges:

Trimming at Kingston, 1/4 cent per bushel $287.50

Wages and board 131.00

Tolls, say 1,800 tons register 27.00

Interest at 6 per cent 130.00

Insurance 96.00

Unloading 575.00

Incidentals 15.00


Cost of tug 438.50


Less Than One Cent Per Bushel.

Were there up return cargoes the cost of carrying this grain would therefore be a little less than 1 1/2 cents per bushel. But a return cargo of $300 receipts for each vessel, above the small charge for canal tolls, is to be depended upon. Deducting this $900 from the gross receipts, and $800 is left as the cost of transporting 115,000 bushels of grain from Kingston to Montreal, or only 7/10ths of a cent per bushel.

If the whole cost of carrying, including a third more interest than estimated above, five per cent of vessel's cost for deterioration, and a large allowance for repairs and all possible expenses, be computed 2/10ths of a cent should be added, so that a permanent rate of 9/10ths of a cent would yield to a forwarder, losing vessels to decay and accidents, eight % interest on his investment. Of course these calculations are based on the assumption that proper despatch will be used at Kingston and Montreal. Delays of a few days would raise the total cost of carriage a small fraction of a cent.

(**Note - This article is much shortened from the original Globe article which was three columns long. - editor)

p.2 Napanee News - str. Flight tows schooner.



The str. John Thorn brought here a large party of excursionists from Alexandria Bay this morning.

The schr. Pride of America has been placed in ordinary at Milwaukee until there is an improvement in freights.

The Island Belle had the misfortune to break a wheel again Saturday afternoon, which caused the passenges to be detained at Clayton. This is the second time the Belle has had a wheel broken this season.

The str. Magnet is bringing over large quantities of fruit from Charlotte and Oswego for transhipment east.The unloading of it at Swift's dock early in the morning is a really interesting scene. The fruit handled at present is principally apples. The peaches will arrive shortly.

The sailors, who were brought out from Scotland by Mr. D.D. Calvin some time ago, are now scattered over the lakes. Some of the men have returned to the salt water and are now engaged on ocean vessels. Others are still employed on the upper lakes. This morning one of the Scotchmen arrived in the city. He has been sailing on the schr. Twilight and just returned from Lake Huron.

There is trouble in Detroit regarding the burial of Dennis Mandeville, the Belleville sailor who died from injuries received by a fall on the schr. Antelope. His widow and three children arrived in Detroit with not enough money to buy a meal. She was provided for and the case referred to the Customs official. The latter refused to bury the body as it was that of a Canadian. The matter was referred to the Canadian authorities at Windsor, but they have done nothing. The State will have the body interred.


Str. Gipsy, Ottawa, pass. and fgt.

Str. Corsican, Hamilton, pass. and fgt.

Str. D.C. West, Portland, pass. and fgt.

Str. Alexandria, Trenton, pass. and fgt.

Str. Magnet, Charlotte, pass. and fgt.

Schr. T.R. Merritt, Chicago, 21,220 wht.

Welland Canal - Bound Down.

J.H. Breck, Bear Creek, Garden Island, timber.

Sligo, Chicago, Kingston, corn.

M. McRae, Chicago, Kingston, corn.

Lake Michigan, Toledo, Montreal, gen. cargo.

D.R. VanAllan, Chicago, Quebec, walnut logs.

Argyle, Chicago, Kingston, corn.

A Vessel Ashore.

Last evening the schr. Nevada ran ashore on Charity Shoal, which lies to the south east of Pigeon Island and near to Grenadier Island. The vessel left here at six o'clock last night for Oswego to load coal for Chicago. A telegram was received asking for a tug to pull the vessel off. The M.T. Company prepared the tug Bronson and only awaited permission to be granted to her by the American Government to commence operations. One of the sailors says that when the vessel ran ashore she had full canvass set. There is 4 ft. of water over the shoal. The vessel went ashore at midnight. Two sailors pulled the yawl to Nine Mile Point, a distance of ten miles and from there, securing a boat, came to Kingston. The distressed vessel will be taken off as soon as possible, as she is liable to chafe in her present position. About noon the Bronson went to her rescue.

Late Sailing Regatta - Field & Stream discusses race between Emma and Katie Gray, "shifting ballast."

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Date of Original:
Aug. 2, 1881
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 2, 1881