The Last Mile

Unearthing History: NarrowBoat, Summer 2022

Andy Tidy

Andy Tidy explores the history of the railway interchange basins that were once prevalent on the Birmingham Canal Navigations

Chillington Wharf on the outskirts of Wolverhampton in 1975. Hugh Potter There is a popular perception that the coming of the railways struck the death knell for the canals, with the new rail companies buying out the older waterways to close them down and remove their main source of competition. There is some truth in this view but, as with many things in life, it is not as simple as that. Contemporary economic commentators would possibly describe the arrival of the railways as a disruptive innovation, maybe comparing it to the switch from CDs to streaming within today’s music industry, the old being ousted by a significantly superior alternative. Certainly, railways offered advantages over their canal predecessors in terms of speed, flexibility and cost of construction, and in many situations the transport solution they offered was a quantum step forward in the movement of both goods and people. I say many situations, but not all. The mid-1800s saw the refinement of th…

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