A map of the New Main Line (BCN)
The map displays a range of services available on the New Main Line (BCN). Simply click the box next to any service being displayed in the Map Key on the left of your screen.
A brief history of the New Main Line (BCN)
Summarised data for all 8 branches:
|Canal length :||15 miles|
The planning for the New Main Line canal arose from the over congestion on the Old Main Line. With only a single towpath, boats had a problem navigating past a boat from the other direction, having to negotiate both their horses and ropes.
Thomas Telford was asked to examine the problem and suggest alternatives. He described the existing canal as:
"… little more than a crooked ditch, with scarcely the appearance of a towing path, the horses frequently sliding and staggering in the water, the hauling lines sweeping the gravel into the canal, and the entanglement at the meeting of boats being incessant; whilst at the locks at each end of the short summit at Smethwick, crowds of boatmen were always quarrelling, or offering premiums for the preference of passage; the mine owners injured by the delay, were loud in their just complaints."
Telford’s proposal was to provide a widened and straightened canal from Birmingham to Tipton. The widened canal would be wide enough for 2 boats to pass, one in each direction and for there to be a footpath on both sides of the canal avoiding the issues of entangled horses and ropes.
The new canal between Birmingham and Smethwick straightened the loops of the Old Main Line canal. The old sections of the canal were left in place and are now referred to as The Loops, namely the Oozell’s Loop, Icknield Port Loop, Cape Loop, Soho Loop and Soho Foundry Loop. This allowed boats to access businesses along the original path of the canal.
Another point of congestion was the locks at each end of the Smethwick Summit. Telford created a cutting through the Smethwick Summit, removing the need for locks and providing lock-free passage from Birmingham to Tipton.
These improvements shortened the journey from Tipton to Birmingham, by 7 miles.
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