In at least some cases, they were water-powered. The uphill canal extended on a flume (like an aqueduct) which ended at a powerhouse, which housed a turbine (sometimes vertical axis).
> Inclined plane 7 West on Morris Canal, showing flume, powerhouse, cabling, and track. Cradle can be seen at bottom in the canal. Note how return cable is on wooden stands with pulleys.
The Peterborough lift lock tour is pretty awesome, if you're ever in the area. In addition to taking the lift itself, it also goes through the Trent-Severn lock (a smaller, hand-operated lock), and the maria st bridge (a movable bridge that swings sideways to let vessels pass)
NYC and NJ, for example, used to have hundreds of wharves all along the Hudson and East River for loading and offloading train ferries. They're almost all gone. What killed them? 18-wheel trucks with interchangeable trailers. It turns out it's much easier to handle last-mile distribution using trucks that use bridges and tunnels than to float train cars across rivers.
For some related history, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVx59XOZtSA
So migrating from one standard (tracks) to another (container) that encapsulates the previous one?
Even if it did, you still need to move rolling-stock from one rail system to another from time to time.
There's a rail ferry in my city , and a couple of link-spans to support rail ferries .
I'd guess they're good for carrying things like wood and ore.
There’s still a direct Hamburg–Copenhagen connection via that ferry, but it’s now a normal Eurocity.
I pass through Nørreport station fairly often, and I notice the train to Hamburg if it's passing through.
I tied to book a 100% train/ferry route and it wasn’t available for my travel dates.
Haven’t seen much about related works on the german side but apparently they occur.
:some edited mispelling, some kept.
The New York Jersey Rail Car Float Operation from NYC to NJ
Anyone who enjoys finding out about this kind of obscure technology, or interesting facts of any kind should give it a listen.
It’s up there with 99 Percent Invisible (but far less focused and deep exploration) in terms of interesting, otherwise unlikely-to-discover-organically facts.