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Coalisland Canal: Wikis

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coalisland Canal (sometimes known as The Tyrone Navigation) is a canal in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland and is about 7.2 km (4.5 mi) long. Construction of the canal began in 1733, but progress was slow and it wasn't officially opened until 1787. The canal was built to reduce the cost of transporting coal from the Tyrone coalfields to Dublin. An extension "Dukart's Canal", linked the coalfields with Lough Neagh via the River Blackwater. It was then planned to take the coal through the Newry Canal to Newry for transportation to Dublin.

Although a short canal, it rises about 76.2 m (250 ft) through seven locks and a series of inclined planes, called dry hurries or dry wherries locally,[1] to Coalisland, where there was an extensive basin. Dukart's Canal ran from here to nearby collieries via a series of dry hurries. The dry hurries are the only example in Ireland of non railed inclined planes, which were designed to raise and lower boats quicker than a lock or series of locks might have done. An inclined plane is a slope with big rollers on which the boats could be pulled up and down. The boats going down the slope were connected by chains round pulleys to the boats to be hauled up. Dukart's system at Coalisland was ahead of its time and did not work.

The canal failed to thrive in its early years and was nearly abandoned. Only the export of agricultural produce and the import of farm and mine equipment kept it open. In the 19th century serious repairs had to be carried out to save the canal, including dredging, rebuilding locks, establishing a proper lock-keeping system and creating proper towpaths. This transformed the old navigation into the Coalisland Canal and led to the development of Coalisland as an inland port. Trade on the canal did increase but to volumes expected.

In the 20th century traffic decreased due to competition from the railways and from motor transport. The last commercial operation was in 1946. In 1954 it was officially abandoned and relegated to the status of a drainage ditch. The basin was filled in. The Friends of the Coalisland Canal group was formed in the 1990s to raise awareness and to explore the potential benefits to the area of re-opening it. The group became a branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland in May 2003.

The former Coalisland Canal has left a significant legacy in Coalisland, including the 5 storey former corn mill, sited in the disused canal basin and dominating the town.

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