Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lockington Locks

Lockington Locks are an amazing remanent of Ohio’s canal era. They are part of the Miami & Erie Canal system (finished in 1845) connecting Toledo in northern Ohio to Cincinnati in the south. Midway between those two cities is Lockington, Shelby County (40.208°, -84.235°) where a series of 5 locks descends the south side of the Miami & Erie Canal summit. Here the change in elevation is 67 feet over a distance of 1/2 mile.

At the high point of this series of locks is Lock 1, or “Big Lock.” Made of limestone quarried in nearby Dayton it is one of the better known locks in the state. In the 1970s wooden supports were added to stabilize the structure and keep it from collapsing.

Another look down the lock chamber. All sorts of modern debris can be found at the base of the chamber. One poor kitty gave it’s ninth life exploring here.  :-(

Next down the hill we have Lock 2 (very clever how they named these isn’t it). This is a good view of the higher end of the lock where the water enters. The arrow on the right points out grooves that once contained curved iron bars that were part of the “goose neck.” The goose neck held in place the heel post of the lock gate. You can also see the recessed area where the lock gate fit when it was fully open.

Lock 2 is in better shape than Lock 1 and doesn’t currently need the wooden braces. This is the lower end of the lock where the water exits. The leaning wall is exaggerated by my camera’s wide angle lense, but all the locks are deteriorating and could really use some TLC.

Here’s some original hardware in the wall of Lock 3. I’m not sure of the purpose of the iron spike, but the cramp to its right was used to help hold the two adjoining blocks together.

At the base of Lock 3 you can see the original wood timbers (arrows) that formed the foundation of the whole structure. This foundation was then stabilized by wooden sheet pilings. However, the locks are now falling inward as this wood foundation rots away. Had the locks remained filled with water the wood wouldn’t be subjected to the elements that are now causing the deterioration.

Grooves cut into the limestone are a common sight—these are in Lock 4. They were made as the canal boats lashed themselves to the sides of the lock with rope as they were locking through. You’ll find lots of fossils too, like colonial and horn corals, and sea lily fragments, if you look for them. And pyrite is in evidence too—just look for the reddish stains on the limestone.

More of Lock 4—how sad! It would take millions of dollars for the Ohio Historical Society, who maintains these locks, to attempt to restore everything to their orginal solid state. OHS is in a world of financial hurt right now, so I wouldn’t hold my breath that this deterioration will be addressed any time soon.

I wondered to myself why anyone would stuff an old bicycle inner tube into an open joint in the wall of Lock 4. Well about it being a snake instead. Sometimes I don’t catch on immediately. Just like my cats, this little guy thinks that if his head is hidden from sight the rest of him can’t be seen either. His head is hidden to the left while his cute little tail can be seen down the gap to the right. Perhaps a Blue Racer?

Lock 5, the last lock in this preserved series. Like Lock 1 it has a skeleton of wood now to stave off collapse. Just south of this lock is the remains of an aqueduct that carried the canal over Loramie Creek and toward Lock 6 on the other side.

There are other canal remnants in Ohio to be explored, some more preserved than others—I’ll get to them in due time.