ASME-Landmark:Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Scoop Wheel & Engines


As early as 1661, a need was seen for a canal that would link Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River as a shortcut between Baltimore and Philadelphia. By 1802, sufficient funds had been raised to incorporate the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company. The success of the Erie Canal in 1825 sparked Pennsylvania's concern that New York would become the center of trade with the West, and construction of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal began in earnest, including the excavation of a three-mile stretch through solid rock, known as the "Deep Cut." The canal opened in 1829 and, at the time, was only 13 5/8-miles long with a width exceeding 66 feet.

At the summit where canals suffer from lack of water, a steam pump was needed to lift at least 200,000 cubic feet of water an hour a distance of 16 feet. A contest was announced in 1848 for an effective pump design, with a grand prize of $300. Barnabas Bartols, an engineer of Merrick & Sons Company, devised the winning design: a 39-foot wheel with twelve buckets, driven by a Merrick engine. In April of 1852, the first test was conducted, and the apparatus proved to be a complete success.

The canal proved to be a strategic passageway in peacetime and during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. In 1919, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers updated the canal as part of the Intracoastal Waterway system. Today, the canal is over 400 feet wide and over 30 feet deep, with more than 22,000 vessels of all types using the canal—making it one of the busiest waterways in the world. See ASME website for more information