The canals of Central England were generally restricted to a particular type of boat that was able to pass through the narrow locks common to this network. These boats were up to seventy feet long but less than seven feet wide. Much of the space within the boat, was given over for the cargo. At one end a raised platform was provided for the steerer who navigated the boat along the waterway. Cabins were optional, but when provided were small and restricted. Many boats were used for the carriage of minerals, but others were employed to carry merchandise.Whilst mineral boats commonly lacked even a basic shelter against the weather, all merchandise boats had dry, and well-built cabins, for overnight accommodation. This study follows the story of merchandise boats. Before the developmentof a national railway network, canals were an integral part of merchandise trade. A specialist type of boat came into being that was known as the Flyboat.These craft were the express boats of their day working both and night until their journey was completed. Flyboat operators ran regular services with timetabled precision and called at specific points along an advertised route. Wharves and warehouses became the goods depots of their time for the transfer and storage on the varied commodities taken along the waterway by the flyboat operators. In addition to flyboats, slower stageboats called at all minor places and wharves and acted as feeder services for the flyboats. It is the purpose of this book to be an introduction to the flyboat and stageboat story. Other books cover specific waterways and follow the histories of the canal carriers that used them.