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The Royal Canal is a canal originally built for freight and passenger transportation from the River Liffey at Dublin to Longford in Ireland.
1755 Thomas Williams and John Cooley made a survey to find a suitable route for a man-made waterway across north Leinster from Dublin to the Shannon.
1790 Work commenced at Cross Guns Bridge, Phibsborough in a westerly direction towards Ashtown. The project lasted 27 years before finally reaching the Shannon in 1817, at a total cost of £1,421,954. The canal passes through Maynooth, Kilcock, Enfield, Mullingar and Ballymahon has a spur to Longford. The total length of the main navigation is 90 miles, and the system has 46 locks. There is one main feeder (from Lough Owel), which enters the canal at Mullingar.
At the Dublin end, the canal reaches the Liffey through a wide sequence of dock and locks at Spencer Dock, with a final sea lock to manage access to the river and sea.
The canal is notable in that the Dublin – Mullingar railway line was built alongside the canal for much of the distance. The meandering route of the canal resulted in many speed-limiting curves on the railway. The canal was bought by the Midland Great Western Railway to provide a route to the West of Ireland, the original plan being to close the canal and build the railway along its bed.
Note: A well-researched book has recently (Autumn 2014) been published - 'The Royal Under the Railway'.
The Irish Waterways History website provides is a fascinating source of information on the Royal Canal and many other Irish waterways