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Stoppages on the Main Canal of the Old Main Line (BCN)

A map of the Main Canal of the Old Main Line (BCN)

The map displays a range of services available on the Main Canal of the Old Main Line (BCN). Simply click the box next to any service being displayed in the Map Key on the left of your screen.

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Boat Yards
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A brief history of the Main Canal of the Old Main Line (BCN)

Canal Details
Canal length : 13.6 miles
Locks : 24
Boat Length : 72ft
Width : 7ft ins

The Birmingham Old Main Line Canal runs from Aldersley Junction on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal in the West to Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham.

The canal forms the ‘Main Line’ of the Birmingham Canal Navigations or BCN. The BCN is a network of canals that were built to transport materials in and out of Birmingham.

Brindley designed the canal to follow natural contours to minimise the number of locks. At the west end of the canal there is a flight of 21 locks to drop from the ‘Wolverhampton level’ (473 feet O.D.) to join with Aldersley Junction. At the east end of the canal there were 2 series of locks to traverse the Smethwick Summit. The Summit required a continual supply of water to replace the water used by the locks. Two steam engines were constructed, one at each end of the summit, in order to pump water from the Wolverhampton Level up to the Summit level. The ‘Smethwick Engine’ still survives today and can be seen at the Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum.

The Smethwick Summit caused a great deal of congestion caused by the time to traverse the locks but also with the problem of supplying enough water to feed the locks. John Smeaton was employed to provide a solution which was to dig a 1000 yard cutting. This did 2 things. The first was to remove 3 locks from each end of the summit but the cutting was at the Wolverhampton level which simplified the water supply issue.

For more detailed information, follow the links below: