The Delaware and Raritan Canal, my first book for Arcadia Publishing, focused on the life of the Delaware & Raritan Canal, from its construction in the early 1830s through its demise as a freight carrier to its rebirth as a park in the late 20th century. This volume, The Delaware and Raritan Canal at Work, introduces new topics: businesses that operated along the canal, the variety of vessels that used the waterway, the nuts and bolts of how the machinery and structures operated, and a “then-and-now” comparison using historic photographs and the corresponding current view of the canal park. From its opening in 1834, the Delaware & Raritan Canal experienced great success. Due to the Civil War and the expansion that followed it, the 1860s and 1870s were the most profitable years for the canal. In fact, in 1871, a record 2,990,000 tons were shipped through the waterway – more tonnage than was carried in any single year on the much longer and more famous Erie Canal.
Because it was part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, all types of vessels utilized the Delaware & Raritan Canal. It provided boats with safe passage between the Chesapeake Bay and New England, avoiding the longer, more dangerous journey around Cape May and into the Atlantic Ocean. We will see tugboats, mule-drawn canalboats, steam freighters, luxury yachts, and even a submarine. (Professor John Holland used the Delaware & Raritan Canal to safely transport Holland VI, the first successful submarine, to Washington, D.C. for its trials before the U.S. Navy.) Many people are interested in how the boats were raised and lowered to overcome the elevation changes of the surrounding terrain. Using close-up photographs, the author explains the workings of the lift locks, spill gates, miter gates, drop gates, and swing bridges. During its 170-year history, the Delaware & Raritan Canal has undergone many changes.The homes of the locktenders and bridgetenders have been restored, or, in some cases, removed; others have been left to deteriorate. The locks themselves have been converted to dams that control the amount of water that is released to customers of the New Jersey Water Supply Authority. The authority has also altered some of the spillways and culverts, reflecting their new uses as water supply facilities. The famous swing bridges no longer swing to the side, having been changed, by the Department of Transportation, to fixed spans. Intersections and buildings along the waterway look vastly different, with some structures rebuilt, others replaced, and still others removed. Through the use of “then and now” photographs, the reader can compare many historic views with images of the sites as they look today. The images will be photographs from the collections of the Canal Society of New Jersey, the Franklin Township Public Library, local residents, and the author’s personal postcards and photographs.