• The idea of building a working model of the D&R Canal, a once thriving commercial transportation channel, grew out of an informative presentation by Linda Barth to the Lambertville Historical Society that occurred before the Covid pandemic. The purpose of this project is to provide the public an opportunity to learn about the canal’s history, operation, and contribution to the area’s industrial development.
  • The proposed project gained a foothold in the beginning of last year with the encouragement and support of the D&R Canal Watch and Holcombe Jimison Farmstead Museum.


The plan is to build an outdoor working model of the canal on the property of the Holcombe Jimison Farmstead in Lambertville, located near the original feeder canal. Below is the most recent proposed layout to resemble the Y outline of the canal.

Overall Plan


The Canal and Locks

  • The canal would be dug to a depth of 5″ with 4″ of above grade banks. It would be rubber lined and covered with bentonite clay and riprap. The water at the summit would be supplied by a buried cistern at the head level of the canal and circulated using a battery operated pump.
  • The model would include five working locks on the three routes (Bordentown to Trenton, Trenton to Lambertville, and Trenton to New Brunswick).
  • The locks would be made of wood, stone, and cement. Operation of the locks would also be battery operated, with sensors installed on both the boats and locks so that they open as the boat approaches and close once it passes through.
  • Bridges crossing the canal will also be constructed in period details and materials.

Prototype of lock


The Boat

The current model is a replica of the steam tug “Relief”.  This type of tug boat operated on the canal beginning in the 1840’s. The plan is to build three tugs towing workboats, operating simultaneously on different parts of the canal. They could be driven remotely by a volunteer, “captain”, or a computerized control system linked with the operation of the locks.



  • Once the construction is complete, a fence enclosing the canal model area will be installed to protect it when not in use.
  • The plan is to select a period appropriate fence that would blend in well with the Farmstead and also be low maintenance.
  • We will also create a set of educational materials to coordinate with the canal’s operation, using a variety of already well researched sources.

Addtional pieces


Our ambitious goal is to begin the installation by the end of the year.



  • A rough budget to date indicates that we will need roughly $4,400 which does not yet include costs for the electronic control systems and other materials.
  • We hope to get donations from local Lambertville businesses that specialize in construction materials. And the D&R Canal Watch has generously offered to match whatever funds we raise up to $2,500.
  • It has been difficult to plan a fundraising event during the past year due to Covid. We still need to explore what types of events we can safely hold and/or consider other avenues for raising funds.

Proposed budget and funding


Please complete the form below if you are interested in helping.

We are looking for volunteers in:

  • Construction of boats, locks, and bridges which can be done in a home workshop. Included in this is any experience in robotics or building remote controlled vehicles.
  • Fundraising ideas implementation, and seeking donations.
  • On site construction.


    Please check the tasks you are interested in. We welcome all of your many talents.


    Boat modelsLocksBridgesOn-site building of canalElectronics – boat steerage & control, lock operationWater supply and controlFence



    Download D&R Canal Model Project Review