Saturday, February 17, 2018

Back to the Hennepin canal

With warmer weather starting to approach it's time to decide where I'm going to venture out to this year. More abandoned trains? Obscure parks and museums? Forgotten memorials? Hopefully all of the above and More.  But one of the places I'll hit again for sure is that local treasure we call the Hennepin canal.

The idea for a canal was first raised in 1834 when the early railroads were unreliable, didn't go to every small town, and charged exorbitant rates to ship freight.  The idea was to cut a canal that would join with the Illinois river and then work its way up to Chicago and from there it could be shipped  all over the country.  Like all good idea's though, this met with some resistance. Namely who would pay for it.

The local citizens tried to get the government interested in the project but the administration took little interest. It wasn't until the Civil war broke out that the government start showing some interest. There was a fear that if England came out in support of the confederacy, the St. Lawrence river would be closed to union traffic and goods would  need to be shipped via a different route.  But that fear became moot as the war progressed.

It wasn't until U. S. Grant took office that the idea for  the canal started taking off. Grant had actually served on one of the local committee's before the war and remembered the dream of a local canal.  Construction began in 1890 with locks, gates, and lock tenders houses being constructed along the way and so after numerous delays and setbacks the canal was finally finished with the gates opening for the first time on November 15th, 1907.  The steamer chartered to carry the government  officials for the event, the S.S. Marion, was the first boat to travel the entire length of the canal.

In it's heyday the canal carried freight up and down the waterways but by the time it was constructed the reason For its construction had largely become irrelevant. The railroads had built spur lines that went most anywhere and even early roadways were coming into use.  Plus it was criticized as being too small for modern day boats to traverse.  A waterway guide from 1921 stated in part that:

"Craft traversing the canal shall not exceed 102 feet in length, Shall be no wider than 16 feet at the waterline and 14 feet 7 inches at the keel, shall not draw more than 4 feet 6 inches of water and shall be no higher than 11 feet 2 inches"

After  four decades of sporadic use, the Corps of Engineers determined it would need over 12 Million dollars in repairs, which the government deemed not worth expending. Because of this and other restrictions the canal fell into sporadic use as a transportation hub though it was still widely used for recreation and thus it was that after only 44 years it was shut down in 1951.

In 1970 ownership of the canal passed to the State of Illinois and today it is a recreation parkway widely used for fishing, snowmobiling, hiking and other outdoor activities. If you ever have an opportunity to visit one of the many locks and parks now open to the public I urge you to do so.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Hodge Podge

There are times when we go out on our adventures that we find something interesting to photograph but then for one reason or another I don't use the photo's.  Maybe there weren't enough pictures for a single post, or maybe I couldn't find any history on a subject and didn't want to just make up a story.

So today here is a slew of photo's that for one reason or another didn't make the cut. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The City of Savanna

Savanna IL. has a rich history as a transportation hub beginning with paddle boat steamers in the early 1800's and then the booming railroads which came through the area in the late 1850's.  Rail lines with names like the Northern Illinois Railroad company, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the Milwaukee Road, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe & Canadian Pacific.

While some of these lines are defunct, many are still going strong either on their own or through mergers with other lines. Even today Savanna serves as a major trans-shipment hub for the midwest. Trains can be seen and heard moving through town at all hours of the day and night.  And while modern trains are still bustling along there are reminders of past glories as well. 

Located in the town of Savanna is the City of Savanna. This may sound confusing until you realize that the City of Savanna is a restored vintage rail car that now serves as a train museum. Open seasonally and staffed by volunteers, the museum is chock full of railroad artifacts and memorabilia. Located just off main street, the car is under a protective awning and easily visible from the road.

Just behind the museum is another reminder of Savanna's glory days, a retired Milwaukee Road caboose #991933 now serving as the park office. And just down the road from That is a unique wooden sculpture commissioned by a local funeral home a few years ago to commemorate Savanna's rich railroad history.

So if you ever have a chance to take a drive, consider going up to Savanna and checking out all the unique treasure just waiting to be discovered.