The boat lift was designed during the Canal du Centre’s modernisation program in order to replace a system of two locks and four 16-metre (52 ft) lifts dating from 1888 to 1919. The canal itself began operations in 1879 and its locks and lifts were able to accommodate vessels of up to 300 tonnes. By the 1960s, this was no longer adequate for the new European standard of 1350 tonnes for bage traffic, and a replacement was sought.
Construction of the lift commenced in 1982 and was not completed until 2002 at an estimated cost of 160 million euros, but once operational, permitted river traffic of up to the new 1350-tonne standard to pass between the waterways of the Meuse and Scheldt rivers. Taking traffic from France, across Belgium to Germany. The lift increased river traffic from 256 kT in 2001 to 2,295 kT in 2006.
We played tourists & visited the exhibition on the 8th floor of the Strepy on Thursday afternoon – really good information and a short film. The 5th floor provides panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
The history of commercial boats included some great photos of yester-year. Boats were originally wooden but then replaced by steel which were much longer lasting. Originally boats were pulled by people (often the wives) using harnesses; then horses or mules & then engines. Transit times became appropriately faster as a result.
The Historique Canal du Centre, with its 4 smaller boat lifts, remains in use as a tourist attraction but for the use of pleasure craft only. These are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. There seems to be quite a lot of weed in the Canal Historique this year so we decided not to go that way but to use the BIG-YUN, as Billy Connolly would say!
Saturday had been wet off and on all day but Sunday promised to be fine so we set off – just in time to have to wait for a tourist boat to come up through the lock into Thieu. They seem to do a circular route – down the Strepy lift and up the Historique Canal lifts. So that wasted quite a bit of time! But we were soon approaching the edifice on the water!