A plank road is a dirt path or road covered with a series of wooden planks or puncheon logs. Plank roads were commonly found in the Canadian province of Ontario, and the Northeast and Midwest of the United States in the first half of the 19th century. They were often built by turnpike companies.
In the late 1840s plank roads led to an investment boom and subsequent bust. The first plank road in the US was built in North Syracuse, New York in order to transport salt and other goods; it appears to have copied earlier roads in Canada that copied Russian ones. The plank road boom was like many early technologies, promising to transform the way people lived and worked, and led to permissive changes in legislation seeking to spur development, speculative investment by private individuals, etc. Ultimately the technology failed to live up to its promise and millions of dollars in investments evaporated almost overnight.
Three plank roads, the Hackensack, the Paterson, and the Newark, were major arteries in northern New Jersey. The roads travelled over the New Jersey Meadowlands, connecting the cities for which they were named to the Hudson River waterfront.
Kingston Road (Toronto) (Governor's Road), Danforth Avenue in Toronto were plank roads built by the Don and Danforth Plank Road Company in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Highway 2 (Ontario) from Toronto eastwards was once plank roads in the 19th century and later paved.
Plank roads in Australia
In Perth, Western Australia, plank roads were important in the early growth of the agricultural and outer urban areas, given the distances imposed by swamps and relatively infertile soil. As it cost UK£2,000 per kilometre to construct roads by conventional means, the local councils (known as road boards) were experimenting with cheaper approaches to road building. A method called Jandakot Corduroy had been developed at Jandakot south-east of Perth, where a jarrah tramway lay upon 2.3-metre-long (7.5 ft) sleepers, bounded by two 70-centimetre-wide (28 in) strips of jarrah planks for cart and carriage wheels. The 90-centimetre (35 in) gap was filled with limestone rubble to be used by horses. This reduced the cost of road building by up to 85 percent after their widespread introduction in 1908. However, increased traffic and suburban development rendered these routes unsatisfactory over time and by the 1950s they had been replaced with bitumen surfaced roads.
- Board track racing
- Corduroy road
- Gallery road
- Marston Mat - a 20th-century equivalent for airport runways
- Old Plank Road
- Sweet Track and Post Track
- Toll Road
- University of California Transportation Center. "The Plank Road Boom of Antebellum, New York" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 5, 2005. Retrieved 2006-04-25.
- Klein & Majewski. "Turnpikes and Toll Roads in 19th Century America". Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- Cooper, W.S.; G. McDonald (1999). Diversity's Challenge: A History of the City of Stirling. City of Stirling. p. 169.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Plank roads.|
- The short film Military Roads (1943) is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- The Plank Road Craze - Background Reading
- Puncheon & corduroy roads
- Longfellow, Rickie. "Back in Time: Plank Roads". Highway History, Federal Highway Administration.