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Cargo Packaging & Handling

Traditional Techniques: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2014

Tom Foxon

Christopher M Jones

Tom Foxon and Christopher M. Jones look at how boats were loaded and unloaded over the years

We are used to seeing images of laden boats and barges under way on our canals and rivers, but at both the point of departure and arrival the cargo needed to be handled by some means into and out of the vessel’s hold. And even before cargoes were loaded aboard, some needed to be contained or packaged to transport them or to avoid damage. The absence of mechanised cargohandling equipment in the early years of the canal age led to the manufacture and packing of many goods in weights which could be handled manually. Up to 56lb can be lifted to chest height by one man. Examples were: pig iron, wrought iron in the form of ‘merchant bars’, bags of nails, metal fastenings, small chains, non-ferrous ingots andcanned goods packed in cases. Bricks were handled individually and often women were employed for this task. As the industrial age progressed, more and more new products were manufactured that needed to be transported in containers of one sort or another. This helped to…

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