Up The Ohio Canal

by BlueBook

Lock 42: Weigh

Presently, we reached our first lock, which lay at the foot of Dille St. It had a large roof over the lock, with a small house attached to it. 

“Captain?” I waved my hand in the structure's direction as we drew near. “What is that building over there?” 

“It’s the Weigh Lock; they weigh the boat here.”  Rosemary nudged the rudder over towards the lock wall, eyes affixed firmly to the bow.

“Weigh the boat? How?” I tilted my head. “I know locks can raise and lower boats, but weigh them?”

Rosemary gestured to the deckhands, and swinging the lock doors open they heaved the boat into the lock. The beams of the roof loomed worryingly close to my head, and I removed my hat, lest it be knocked aside.

“It works just like a regular lock, only we let all the water out. There’s a cradle down there, and the boat comes to rest on top of it.” Rosemary pointed a hoof at a beam which projected out from the side of the roof. “See that beam? It’s a big balance scale, just like the ones in your store.”

“So…” I glanced around the lock, which was becoming disconcertingly deeper with every passing word. A small, portly gentleman with a leaf of papers in hands was striding about overhead, officiously. “They charge a toll then, based on how much we weigh?”

Rosemary nodded, but then put her hoof to her chin. “Well, sort of. They weigh the whole boat, then subtract its weight, and charge us based on the load we’re carrying.”

I nodded slowly, but still did not understand. “But how do they know how much the boat weighs, unloaded?”

Rosemary pointed to the small round man. “That guy, the Weighmaster. He’s a State man; has a book that tells him how much every boat weighs. Every time a new boat comes on the canal, the State weighs them.”

“Huh.” The vision of boats being weighed like prized pigs made me smirk. “How much is the toll?”

Rosemary shrugged indifferently. “Depends. Since passengers weigh less than freight, we pay much less in tolls than the freighters.”

And with that the Sylph cleared the lock, and with the brief exchange of a coin purse, slipped out onto the Ohio Canal.