The Yorkshire Waterways Museum offers an extensive collection of boats and a comprehensive display which tell the story of the Port of Goole, the transportation of coal, the lives of barge families, and the boat building tradition of the area. In the early 1600s, the River Aire was navigable to Knottingley, and boats carrying up to 30 tons traded on the river, which was tidal up to this point. The traders of Leeds were keen to have a navigable link to the town, to make easier the export of woollen cloth, but bills presented to Parliament in 1621 and 1625 had failed. William Pickering, who was mayor of Leeds, had made further attempts to obtain an act of Parliament for improvements to the river in 1679, again without success. As the 1600s drew to a close, a number of bills were passed for other rivers, and there was general support for river navigations. A bill was drawn up in 1698, with support from wool traders in Leeds and general merchants in Wakefield. John Hadley surveyed the Aire, and Samuel Shelton surveyed the Calder. Although the bill had a lot of support, it was opposed by the City of York, who feared that the River Ouse would be damaged by the scheme.
In 1817, there was a proposal for an Aire and Don Canal, to connect Knottingley to the Dutch River at Newbridge, with a branch to Doncaster, and another for a Went and Wakefield Canal, to connect Cold Hiendley on the Barnsley Canal to Newbridge on the Don. With revenue from tolls reaching £82,092 in 1818, which enabled a dividend of £54,000 to be paid, the company was in a healthy state, and proposed their own route from Haddlesey to the Dutch River. The destination was then changed to Goole, and John Rennie was asked to survey the route. Those opposing the scheme were placated by a clause which ensured the Aire to Airmyn and the Selby Canal would be maintained. In July 1821, Rennie proposed the construction of docks at Goole, rather than a lock into the river, and the company proposed that 7 feet (2.1 m) of water should be available. Rennie died in late 1821, and George Leather took over as engineer. Construction at Goole started on 28 September 1822, and the company eventually built much of the new town as well as the docks.
The Aire and Calder tried to work with the railways when they arrived in the 1840s, by making traffic agreements, but still suffered a significant drop in trade. Receipts dropped by one-third between 1851 and 1856. Thomas Hammond Bartholomew, the chief engineer, had been experimenting with steam power since 1813, and steam paddle tugs had been operating on the system since 1831. When he died in late 1852, two-thirds of the traffic was pulled by steam tugs. His son, William Hammond Bartholomew, replaced him and introduced tugs with propellers soon afterwards. These could tow ten keels, carrying 700 tons, but were held up at locks, as the keels had to be worked through one at a time. Between 1860 and 1867, the locks from Goole to Castleford were extended to 206 by 22 feet (62.8 by 6.7 m) to alleviate this.
In 1861, Bartholomew met with the chairman, Warde-Aldam, to propose a system of sectional boats, each consisting of six compartments, with a bow and stern section. The compartments or tubs would be unloaded into ships by a hydraulic hoist at Goole, which would lift them from the water and tip them over. Warde-Aldam thought that such a system could carry 45,000 tons of coal per year, and £13,382 was allocated for three train boats, a hoist, and hydraulic machinery to control the hoist and the lock into the docks. By late 1864, the prototypes were operational, with the stern section replaced by a pusher tug. Soon afterwards, extra compartments were ordered, as experience showed that a tug and seven compartments could fit into the larger locks. In 1874, Warde-Aldam noted that "...the people now call them 'Tom Puddings' from their wobbling gait." The length of the trains increased to ten or eleven tubs, but such a train was difficult to steer from the rear, and so the tugs moved to the front and pulled the assembly. In 1880 they carried 151,860 tons, and by 1913 there were 18 tugs, 1,010 compartments, and 1,560,006 tons were carried, 33 times Warde-Aldam's original estimate.
The museum is part of the 'Sobriety Project', a charity working with disadvantaged people include adults with learning disabilities, young people at risk of exclusion or excluded from school, people re-settling from custodial sentences and low income families. The organisation has been proactive in developing projects that impact positively on the lives of people in the Goole community and surrounding areas and supports local people to tackle local issues. The Museum is all on one level and all of the boats are accessible for people with physical disabilities by means of a ramp and lift. A wheelchair is available to borrow. Path slope is no steeper than 1 in 10. The paths are wider than 1 metre. There are no steps or barriers. Intact compact path surfaces with only slight irregularities, neat edges, drains immediately (no puddles). Boat trips are available leaving at 15 minutes past the hour.
Location : Dutch River Side, Goole DN14 5TB
Transport: Goole (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 360, 361 and GT stop a short pleasant walk away.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:30.
Tickets House: Free. Boat trips - Adults: £5.00; Children (under 12): £3.00.
Tel: 01405 768730