The Culvert at Medina
A Road Under The Erie Canal
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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Culvert Road near Medina in Orleans County is the only place where a road goes UNDER the Erie Canal. There's an error in the sign though: The original culvert here may have been built in 1823, but the one we see now was built for the Barge Canal enlargement in about 1916, as the photograph (below) shows.
This photograph shows the south side of the culvert being rebuilt for the modern Barge Canal enlargement (1905-1918). A wooden form supports the stones lining the tunnel until the mortar between the stones cures. Later when the form is removed, the weight of the stones pressing against each other will support them and help to keep the joints tight. The wall that the man is resting on above is a concrete liner constructed over this stretch to prevent leaks because the tunnel limits the amount of soil that can be embanked here over the highway itself. Here a man guides the keystone to complete the archway. Cranes handle the weight, lifting the stones with a device resembling ice tongs. Small shallow holes are chiseled into both sides of each stone to be sure the tongs don't slip.
This aerial view (shot from the north looking south) doesn't really show how deep the depression is on both sides of the canal in order to allow traffic to pass underneath. What happens when it rains? This whole area would be a small lake if there wasn't somewhere for the water to go. Fortunately, a small stream runs down from this spot (from the pond on the right) and empties into Oak Orchard Creek, which carries it north to Lake Ontario. Without that drainage, the road could not have passed under the canal here.