18401. Cumberland

No  other  town  on  the  canal  prospered  as  much  from  the  coal  trade  as  the  Queen  City  -  Cumberland.  Here  in  Cumberland  the  shipyards  employed  scores  of  craftsmen  who  built  and  repaired  coal  boats.  Here  in  Cumberland  the  boats  were  loaded  with  rich,  soft  coal,  mined  just  west  of  here,  and  destined  for  eastern  ports  like  Williamsport  and  Georgetown,
Here  in  Cumberland  many  boatmen  passed  their  winter  months  while  the  canal  was  shut  down  due  to  repair  work  or  ice.
In  1870,almost  one  million  tons  of  coal,  lumber,  cement  and  other  freight  were  shipped  on  the  C&O  Canal.
But  by  the  middle  of  that  decade,  the  B&O  Railroad  had  begun  to  chip  away  at  the  canal's  coal  trade.  You  see,  you  could  ship  more  coal  more  swiftly  on  the  railroad  than  you  could  on  the  canal.  It  would  take  under  a  day  for  a  train  to  travel  to  Washington  or  Baltimore.  A  trip  on  the  canal  boat  took  seven  days.  For  that  long  haul,  eventually,  the  trains  were  just  more  efficient.
Newspaper  articles  from  1877  in  the  Cumberland  Alleghenian  and  Times  stated  their  concerns:
"The  canal  is  the  only  surety  for...prosperity.  The  principle  income  of  this  region  is  from  the  coal  trade.  We  have  hundreds  in  Cumberland  dependent  on  coal  shipments  by  canal  where  Baltimore  has  ten  by  rail.  Five  hundred  canal  captains  have  their  all  invested  in  their  boats,  and  2,000  men  are  subject  to  the  captains.  Our  boat  builders  have  tens  of  thousands  dependent  upon  employment  of  these  men.  Our  businessmen  derive  half  their  profits  from  the...canal,  and  our  landlords  would  get  nothing  for  their  houses  if  we  lose  our  canal  trade."  But  over  the  years,  into  the  1880's,  trade  on  the  canal  did  decline,  mostly  due  to  competition  from  the  railroad.
But  Cumberland  did  survive  through  diversification.  the  town  prospered  with  businesses  such  as  iron  foundries  and  machine  shops,  steel  mills  and  tanneries,  flour  and  saw  mills  and  yes,  even  the  Baltimore  and  Ohio  Railroad.
To learn more about the Cumberland area, please click here:

http://www.canaltrust.org/discoveries/sites.php?siteID=7