Four Historic Boat Lifts and Strepy Thieu (Wallonia - Belgium)

Pic Courtesy: Francois_Xavier Allard of Visit Hainaut

So, you saw the fabulous pre-historic site of Neolithic Flint Mines of Spiennes. Another UNESCO site in the surrounding of Mons is a collective of 4 sites called The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx (Hainaut). Well, Hainaut is the province where Mons is located.
Pic Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

To begin with, like Spiennes, this too isn't exactly within Mons, but in the outskirts. Well, to understand this place, a look into the maps is necessary. There are 2 rivers - Scheldt (aka Escaut) and Meuse in the eastern and western sides of Brussels. These 2 are in different altitudes. During industrial revolution, coal mines were huge in Belgium and the coal was transported to various places to be used in various industries through those 2 rivers. To enable that, a canal was made between the 2 rivers. 
However, since the 2 rivers were in 2 different altitudes, sometimes the boats had to go upstream. The usual way to transporting boats upstream was using 'locks', which required a lot more water and energy. The new innovation at that time was Boat Lifts developed in England. 4 boat lifts were built throughout this distance to enable the boats move upstream. These were hydraulic powered lifts and required much less water and energy. This canal can accommodate boats upto 300 tonne weight. 

These lifts were built in 1884-1917. In the distance of 7km, 4 lifts were built, each of which lifted the boats to a height of 15-16m. There were also 2 bridges that lift/swing along the canal. Beside these lifts were the operating rooms of those as well as the housing for the operators. Around that time, 8 such boat lifts were made  of which only these 4 continue to operate. How big really are these lifts? Spot Mr.V and Atyudarini in the pic above????? They are in bottom left!!!!!

However with the increasing sizes and weights of boats of late, these 4 have been retired for commercial purposes now and a new modern boat lift has been constructed. However still boat trips are still being organized in the canal to go across the 4 historic boat lifts, new boat lift and 2 swing bridges. Till date, the functionality of the 4 historical boat lifts can be seen. Here I am flanked by Francois_Xavier and Laeticia of Hainaut Tourism.

The operating rooms of the historical boat lifts can be accessed today too. It was an interesting reminder of the physics I studied in school days (I'm an arts student in university!). The older lifts operate using high pressure water, stored in cisterns with counter weights on it to create the hydraulic force. This is the operating room of Historical Lift no:4.

The new boat lift is an uber-modern structure that is Europe's biggest lift (it was world's biggest till recently when China built a bigger one). To accommodate such a huge boatlift, and the larger and heavier boats, a new canal was built parallel to the old canal. Now, this boat lift can accommodate boats that weigh upto 2000 tonnes and can lift boats to a height of 240ft (73m). The whole thing weighs 16,800 tons which succeeds in completing the lifting process in just 6 minutes! Btw, very close to Historical Lift no:1, is a point from where both that & Strepy Thieu are visible.

From atop of the new boat lift, tourists can have a look at the cables up & close as well as a panoramic view from where the Belfry of Mons is visible on a clear day! However this is yet to be open for public and will be open soon in Spring 2019.

To Stay:
Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in Mons Town Centre.
Here’s my review of Hotel Dream where I stayed.

To Get There:
To reach Mons: Refer to my earlier post
To Strepy Theiu from Mons: 23 km on E42
Pic Courtesy: I, Finnrind via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Accessing all 4 historical lifts (1-4 in above pic) and Strepy Theiu (A in the above pic) by public transport is possible but not feasible. While buses are available, they aren't frequent and walking between them is about 7km from Lift 1 to 4. Boating is available through which all 4 historical lifts and Strepy can be seen which lasts 2:30 hrs. 

Entry Ticket & Timings:
Strepy Theiu: €7.50 (opening to public in Spring 2019)
Seeing the 4 Historical Lifts from outside: Free & open 24 hrs.
Boating from Canal du Centre Historique: €15
This is available at 10AM & 2PM (Tue-Sun) during April to October and can be pre-booked by phone: +32(0)78 059 059. 


P.S: I was invited by Visit Mons and Wallonia Tourism to experience the city for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

16 comments:

  1. The one thing that I have always loved about European cities are the way they use the rivers. The lock system and the ingenious canals are just so amazing. I can see that here too. Also, they know how to create attractive banks that make canal cruising such a lovely experience here. Good to read about this one.

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  2. That is an informational trip and post! It makes a good, quick daytrip for those who would like to learn about the complex canals in Europe. This is an interesting find! :)

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  3. This is a fascinating post. Loved reading about the historic boat lifts. The history of the place and the genius of people who conceived and executed this engineering feat is so commendable. The use of waterways in Europe is another area of fascination for me.

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  4. It is so cool to see historic boat lifts! I saw the relatively modern one in Seattle and it look so different! Thank you for such an informative post!

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  5. Clarice Lao | Camping for WomenJune 3, 2018 at 9:36 PM

    This is interesting. I would love to see these historical lifts. Thank you for sharing about them. I already kept the contact as reference for our future visit.

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  6. This is enriching to know about the boat listing in Europe. I loved the idea of going on canal cruising along with serene landscape. Its the most romantic way of spending time with your loved one. This is quite an informative post. Great read indeed.

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  7. I always find the locks so interesting. I love visiting UNESCO sites because they're rich in history. This looks like a beautiful ride down the canal.

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  8. I love anything on the water. So this canal sounds right up my alley. It looks so beautiful too, what a great place to wander.

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  9. I always find UNESCO sites really interesting because of the historic value they have. This looks like an amazing itinerary.

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  10. That's cool! With all those metal trusses, it's hard to believe that the lifts are made in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Would be really nice to cruise down that river.

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  11. Rivers have always been lifelines for humans and in Europe they continue to be so even today. Its lovely how the old and new ways of life continue to mingle and co-exist in parallel. Lovely post.

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  12. Well I knew nothing about these lifts, but seem like a fun trip visiting all 4 lifts. I particularly like the idea of sailing through these, I am a water person and anything to do with sea and rivers always excites me more. Well definitely visit whenever given a chance

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  13. The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and the lock system for the canals to carry boats looks amazing. I have seen such lock system canals. But that was quite small in scale compared to the this one.

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  14. Woo! Bhushavali, that is a cool trip for an engineer. haha. I worked before in hydro-turbines manufacturing and always interested in seeing dams, hydro plants and that kind of things.

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  15. Everyone should learn from Europe about how they use use river lock system and ingenious canal system. This can help a lot in terms of water conservation and an intelligent use. I would love to see these historic lifts if I get to visit Europe some time.

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  16. Loved the pre-historic site of Neolithic Flint Mines of Spiennes. Also the river management system with hydraulic lifts are unique feature of this place. I never knew about this huge boat lift system. Very informative post.

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