Erie Canal Tugboats

Getting The Work Done

The story of The Erie Canal becomes more interesting the more it's told.  Enjoy each of our Classroom Collection video clips, and don't forget to scroll down this page for more images and information!

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Tugboats were used on the Hudson River from the earliest days of the Erie.
Steam powered tugboats on the Hudson River were an important component in the Erie's success right from the beginning. Canal barges were lashed together and towed en-masse back and forth from Albany to New York City by vessels like those above. This postcard is from 1906, just before the transition from animal power to diesel engines on the Erie itself. The original Erie (1825-1862) and the enlarged Erie (1862-1918) were both towpath canals - partly because the fragile banks of both canals couldn't stand up to the churning caused by steam-driven paddle wheels. The Hudson River on the other hand, couldn't have a towpath. Steam-powered tugs like the ones above were used to haul freight and passengers both ways between Albany and New York City.
Erie Canal tugboats like the Governor Cleveland are still in use today.
Heavy tugs like the Governor Cleveland are still needed in especially the eastern section today. Tugs are used throughout the system for maintenance and occasionally for helping large vessels to maneuver in tight spots.
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