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Barge to Carry Canal History

By Joyce Kryszak

Lockport, NY – A piece of Erie Canal history was rescued from the scrap yard and sent down the canal Tuesday on a new teaching journey into the future.

The Day Peckinpaugh is much more than a barge. She carries a large part of the history of the Erie Canal.

In 1921, the proud new, 259 foot barge began hauling grain from Michigan to New York City. She served with distinction, hauling coal during World War Two. Later it was cement, until she retired and was nearly forgotten.

Today, thanks to a last minute rescue from the scrap yard, the Day Peckinpaugh has been recommissioned. The barge was launched from Lockport Tuesday to begin a tour as a floating museum to teach the public about the canal's history. Carmella Montello is Commissioner of the state Canal Corporation.

"Everyone recognizes that we have this incredible resource in our backyard and now it's time to really grab hold of it, help communities really plan the next five years, and tell the world of this incredible asset that's in our backyard," said Montello.

The barge was purchased with $35,000 of public and private funds and will soon undergo a complete restoration.

But the floating museum is only one small part of a federal, state and local effort to bring new life to the Canal through heritage tourism.

The state Greenway project is linking canal towns with trails and parks. And the Canal is one of only 27 sites in the country to be designated a National Heritage Corridor site.

Duncan Hay is with the Corridor Commission. He says those who have kept the barge and canal operating all these years are the ones carrying the real traditions.

"There aren't any textbooks on how to run a canal, there aren't any textbooks on how to run a motor vessel," said Hay. "They're the ones who are carrying and handing it down, and those are the traditions that we really need to think about keeping alive, beyond simply preserving the structures and the vessels and what have you."

But he says keeping the canal and its locks sound are vital to preserving the canal's history.

Aiding that effort, the state yesterday announced a three hundred thousand dollar grant to help pay for the $3 million dollar restoration of Lockport's famous flight of five locks.