Transportation combination: getting a horse to power a boat

Horseboat

The book I'm working on is set in a river valley civilization, and the protagonist is traveling upstream from one city to another, so I had to do a little research into what travel method would make the most sense for her.

Fun Facts

  • Canals allow beasts of burden to pull 50x as much weight as they could pull in a traditional cart on a road.
  • In the 1600s, travel by horseboat was widely considered reliable, comfortable and cheap.
  • A horseboat pulled along a canal towpath can go about 7 km/hr, faster than walking and smoother than a coach.
  • Railroads rendered horseboats largely obsolete, but some still exist as tourist attractions.
  • Bridges built over horseboat canals needed to be smooth and curved in order to avoid snagging towlines.

No Stop, Only Go

Because it is very difficult to stop a narrowboat loaded with cargo, canals built for horseboating often had strapping posts for boatmen to wrap towlines to slow down the boats. [Read More]

Horse Paddle

In addition to towing narrowboats up and down canals, horses could be used to power the paddle boats that operated as ferries, the horses either circling a post and or walking a treadmill. [Read More]

Upkeep Upriver

Maintenance of canals is required for functional horseboating, including the cutting back of vegetation and dredging of relevant canals. [Read More]

Side Paddles

The Romans may have had ships yoking animals to wheels that moved paddles on the sides of boats in lieu of rowers, tho there's little hard evidence. [Read More]


If you found this article interesting, you may also enjoy my newsletter about boating.

Comments

Sign in or become a member to join the conversation.

You've successfully subscribed to Eleanor's Iceberg
Great! Next, complete checkout to get full access to all premium content.
Error! Could not sign up. invalid link.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Error! Could not sign in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Error! Billing info update failed.