When I began my map quilt of the Ohio and Erie Canal I had no idea how deep I would get into the subject. Last Sunday I dragged my husband to a lock operation demo at the NPS Canal Exploration Center, and then surveyed the exhibits inside the center. First, here’s a photo of an actual quilt being worked on by one of the volunteers. (She was taking a break at the time.) You can tie just about any subject to quilting, somehow.
Opening and closing a canal lock isn’t exactly high tech. You get a few people to push or pull the horizontal beams attached to the gates. Those suckers weigh a few tons. When the lower gate is closed the lock fills up with water and raises the boat to a higher level for the next stretch of canal. If the boat is going the other way, the process is reversed.
I learned that each lock is 15 feet wide and 90 feet long. Canal boats were 14 feet wide and 80 feet long, which made for tight clearance. After the mules or horses were unhitched, the crew poled the boats into the locks and used the poles to keep the boats away from the lock sides.
Before 1850 some canal boats took paying passengers from Cleveland to Portsmouth, Ohio. A trip took about 80 hours, and to call the quarters cramped is an understatement. After 1850 railroads were the preferable transportation choice.
During the disastrous flood of 1913 the locks in Akron were dynamited to release the water backed up by the locks. There were 15 locks in a one mile stretch in Akron.
I think it’s time for me to step away from the lock, and concentrate more on the art part of my quilt. I did hear, though, that Canal Fulton operates horse pulled canal boat rides in season. . . .