two thousand twenty
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Story & Photos by:  ROBERT STOPPER, LYONS

Visit Lock E-27 on the Erie Canal in Lyons, NY, and you will see a portrait of 100 year old history: the “mitre” gates (lock gates) are open, the “trash gates” are exposed, the “wagon body” valves are visible in the fill culvert (water tunnel), water lines mark the lock chamber walls, and the port holes, located near the floor of the drained lock chamber, 30 feet below the surface of the earth, are on display!

The producers of the above spectacle are the NYS Canal Corp employees from Section VI. Like the Canal builders of 100 years ago, during the recent weeks, they have braved brutal temperatures, whiteouts, gale force winds, and freezing rain as they perform maintenance and repair on the 100 year old structure.    A metal insignia on the miter gate displays the date “1913- Contract 48”.

Before work on the lock was able to begin, necessary equipment, such as scaffolding, ladders, pumps, drainage hose, and welding units, was moved from barges and stored on the lock wall.  A retaining dam was built at each end of the lock. Crane units on barges and heavy rigging units on shore hoisted steel ribbon rails into place to form the dams.

Once the temporary dams were completed, the canal water then bypassed the lock and flowed over the dam adjacent to the lock.  The lock was then “pumped out” with large diesel pumps. When the “pump out” was completed, sump pumps were then placed on the floor of the lock chamber to remove water from melted snow, rainfall, and natural seepage.  In an effort to prevent the temporary dams from shifting during an ice buildup, air bubblers were placed next to the ribbon rail dam.  Repair and maintenance work was then able to begin.

As one climbs down the scaffolding to the bottom of the drained lock chamber, 30 feet below the surface of the earth, and stands between the huge opened lock gates and stares into the massive lock chamber, one can only gasp in awe at the ingenuity and master craftsmanship of yesteryear...!  One can only imagine, dream, and wonder- what was it like to be a part of the work crew building this structure during the frigid winter - one hundred years ago...! 

Lock E-27 has an available usage space of 300 feet in length and “almost” 44 feet in width. On occasion, barges have “locked through” with only fractions of an inch to spare! Lock E-27 has a “rise” or “lift” of 12.5 feet.

Lock E-27 in Lyons, one of 35 locks on the Erie Canal, was begun in 1913 and first used for regular Erie Canal traffic on May 15, 1918. (Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Works, Albany, 1919).  

This article is Part 1 of 3


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1 Comment to "Lock E-27 From the Bottom Up ~ Part I "

  1. Gil Burgess Said,

    Thanks, Bob---Very interesting!

    Posted on Mon Feb 23, 09:42:00 AM EST


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