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Plank Roads

road, planks and feet

PLANK ROADS. Plank roads were once somewhat common in the heavily timbered portion of the northern United States and of Canada. The first plank road on this continent was built in Canada in 1836. These roads are practicable only where timber is plentiful and cheap, where stone or gravel is scarce and expensive, and where there is little or no water or rail transporta tion and consequently a great demand upon wagon roads. Only a few plank roads are now in existence, but such roads have been advantageous in the development of a new country.

Plank roads are usually about 8 feet wide, and occupy one side of an ordinary earth road, the other side being used to turn out upon and for travel during the dry season. The method of con struction most commonly followed is to lay down lengthwise of the road, two parallel rows of plank called sleepers or stringers, about 5 feet apart between centers, and upon these to lay cross planks 3 to 4 inches thick and 8 feet long. The ends of the planks

are not adjusted to a line, but form short offsets at intervals of 2 to 3. feet, to prevent the formation of long ruts at the edges of the road, and to aid vehicles in regaining the plank covering in turning onto the road. The planks were often covered with gravel, sand, or loam to protect them from wear.

When kept in repair, plank roads make a comparatively smooth roadway possessing some advantages for both heavy and light traffic, but the planks are very likely to be displaced—even when spiked down as was sometimes done,—and are also likely to be floated away. Being alternately wet and dry, the plank rotted rapidly, and at best did not last more than five years, and some times only two.

Most plank roads were toll roads, and often paid a handsome profit to their owners.