History of Our Canals

Article excerpt

IT'S often thought that the use of canals for transport died out a century and more ago.

In fact, some at least have been used in this way until the second half of the 20th century.

Nonetheless, the coming of the railways did essentially usurp the primary function of canals.

The Shropshire Union Canal might well, in fact, have become a railway line.

The Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company was formed in the 1840s with the intention of switching from canal to rail freight by building tracks along the canal beds.

Fortunately, the proposal never materialised.

By the time of a catastrophic breach in the Shropshire Union''s Montgomery line in 1936, traffic had already begun to dwindle: but trade including metal, coal, chocolate and oil derivatives remained substantial on the main line, and continued beyond the 1960s.

The Shropshire Union Canal survived the transition from commerce to leisure.

It remains largely rural and the towpath forms part of several long distance walks. …