Transportation before the railroad depended upon Canals. Even today a great many canals are still in use. But back in the first half of the 19th century, building and transporting via canals was a major accomplishment.
In Houghtalings Handbook on page 55 you'll find this brief section on the canals.
The Great Canals of the World
The Imperial canal of China is over 1,000 miles long. In the year of 1861 was completed the greatest undertaking of the kind on the European continent, the canal of Languedoc, or the Canal du Midi, to connect the Atlantic with the Mediterranean; its length is 148 miles, it has more than 100 locks, and about 50 aqueducts, and its highest part is no less than 600 feet above the sea; it is navigable for vessels of upward of 100 tons. The largest ship canal in Europe is the great North Holland canal, completed in 1825--125 feet wide at the water surface, 31 feet wide at the bottom, and has a depth of 20 feet; it extends from Amsterdam to the Helder, 51 miles. The Caledonia canal, in Scotland, has a total length of 60 miles, including 3 lakes. The Suez canal is 88 miles long, of which 66 miles are actual canal. The Erie canal is 350 1/2 miles long; the Ohio canal, Cleveland to Portsmouth, 332; the Miami and Erie, Cincinnati to Toledo, 291; the Wabash and Erie. Evansvillle to the Ohio line, 374.