The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Ferry

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FERRY, a franchise or right to maintain a boat upon a river or other body of water and carry people, animals, vehicles and other property between certain places for a reasonable toll. It is considered to be in the nature of a public highway over the water, and the franchise can only be acquired by legislative authority, either directly, as by a special act, or indirectly, through courts, municipalities, counties, commissioners or other subordinate bodies acting under powers conferred by the legislature. The grant by which the franchise is given usually specifies certain conditions as to time, service, etc., and whether the privilege is exclusive within certain limits or not. Either an individual or a corporation may hold this franchise, and preference is given to riparian owners. A ferryman is a common carrier, subject to the same duties and liabilities.

Ferry-Boats. — Steam vessels are now employed for carrying passengers and vehicles for short distances across rivers, lakes and straits. On narrow rivers, ferries are frequently operated by means of a chain, lying along the bottom of the river, secured at both ends and passing over a drum on board the ferry-boat, the drum being revolved by the engine, or in small boats, by hand. This method is particularly suitable for working in foggy weather, or where there is a strong current. Another type of ferry-boat, used on the Rhine and elsewhere, is moved across by the combined efforts of the current and the pull exerted by a long moving chain which is fixed upstream. By directing the bow upstream, the pressure of the current against the side of the boat causes it to cross from one side to the other. The large ferry-boat for passenger traffic is now usually a screw-vessel having a screw at either end, it having been found that greater speed and more room could thus be obtained than with paddle-wheels. These vessels are found in large numbers in New York harbor where thousands of people are transported across the rivers and bay every day. There are also many large paddle-vessels, this type being usually selected for small or medium-sized ferry-boats. Large vessels are employed for conveying railway trains in places where it is impracticable or undesirable to construct bridges. These vessels are almost exclusively paddle-steamers, owing to the greater facility which they possess for stopping and reversing when being brought into position for running the trains on board. Vessels of this type plied on Lake Baikal before the opening of the circum-Baikal section of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. They are also employed at San Francisco and New York and on Lake Michigan.