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

The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx
Pic Courtesy: Francois_Xavier Allard of Visit Hainaut

THE FOUR LIFTS ON THE CANAL DU CENTRE AND THEIR ENVIRONS, LA LOUVIÈRE AND LE ROEULX - UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN BELGIUM
So, you saw the fabulous pre-historic site of Neolithic Flint Mines of Spiennes, in my last post. 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

The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx

The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx


The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx

HISTORY OF THE FOUR HISTORIC BOAT LIFTS? 
Where and why were these 4 historic boat lifts built?
To begin with, like Spiennes, this too isn't exactly within Mons, but in the outskirts. To understand this location & placement, a look into the maps is necessary (refer to the 2nd pic of this article). There are 2 rivers - the Scheldt (aka Escaut) and the Meuse on the eastern and western sides of Brussels. These 2 are in 2 different altitudes. During the industrial revolution, coal mines were huge in Belgium and were the main source of energy, economy and employment. The mined coal was transported to various places to be used in various industries via those 2 rivers (railways were also used, but waterways were cheaper). To enable that, a canal was made between the 2 rivers. 
Also read: Historic Coal Mines in Belgium listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Grand Hornu, Bois du Luc, Bois du Cazier, Blegny Mine
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 to move upstream. These were hydraulic-powered lifts and required much less water and energy. This canal can accommodate boats up to 300-tonne weight. 
These lifts were built in 1884-1917. Within a 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 quarters 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 2nd pic below????? They can be found in the bottom left!!!!!

The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx

The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx

The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx

The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx

HISTORIC CANAL DU CENTRE & BOAT LIFTS 
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, a new boat lift and 2 swing bridges. To date, the 4 historical boat lifts are functional and their functionality can be seen during these boat trips. 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 art student in university!). The older lifts operate using high-pressure water, stored in cisterns with counterweights on them to create the hydraulic force. Below are the photos of the operating room of Historical Lift no:4.

STREPY THIEU - EUROPE's BIGGEST BOAT LIFT (& the World's 2nd largest)
The new boat lift is an uber-modern structure that is Europe's biggest boat-lift (it was the world's biggest till recently when China built a bigger one). To accommodate such a huge boat lift, 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! 
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! Btw, very close to Historical Lift no:1, is a point from where both that & Strepy Thieu are visible.

Four Historic Boat Lifts Hainaut Belgium UNESCO

Four Historic Boat Lifts Hainaut Belgium UNESCO

The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx

Four Historic Boat Lifts Hainaut Belgium UNESCO

HOW TO REACH THE FOUR LIFTS ON THE CANAL DU CENTRE & STREPY THIEU
Where are the Historic Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre (On Google Maps): Historical Boat lift 1Historical Boat lift 2Historical Boat lift 3Historical Boat lift 4Historique Canal du CentreStrepy Thieu

How to reach La Louvière Centrum from Brussels - Direct Intercity (IC) train is available from Brussels Central. Frequency is once every hour and the journey time is about 1 hour. 
How to reach Historic Four Lifts On The Canal Du Centre from La Louvière Railway Station: 2km to Lift no:1 (25 mins walk)

How to reach La Louvière from Mons - Direct train (route L) is available from Mons to Thieu railway station which is very close to Lift no:4

HOW TO VISIT STREPY THIEU & HISTORIC BOATLIFTS ON CANAL DU CENTRE 
Accessing all 4 historical lifts (1-4 in the below pic) and Strepy Thieu (A in the below 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. If you are fit enough to walk the distance and set aside enough time for it then yes, that's possible.
Boat Cruise is available through which all 4 historical lifts and Strepy can be seen which lasts 2:30 hrs. 
It is also possible to hire an electric boat or a bicycle to explore through the 4 boat lifts & Strepy Thieu.

STREPY THIEU & HISTORIC BOATLIFTS ON CANAL DU CENTRE TICKETS: 
Strepy Thieu entry ticket: €8 (Book online on the official website of Hainaut tourism)
Seeing the 4 Historical Lifts from outside: Free & open 24 hrs.

Cruise from Canal du Centre Historique: €15 per person (40 persons allowed per ferry) - (Book online on the official website of Hainaut tourism). This includes a visit to the operating room of Boat Lift 3. 
Electric boat hire at Canal du Centre Historique: 5-seater boat - €35; 7-seater boat - €45 - (Book online on the official website of Hainaut tourism)
Bike hire at Canal du Centre Historique: €6 (half day); €8 (full day) - (Book online on the official website of Hainaut tourism)

STREPY THIEU OPENING HOURS: 10AM & 6PM (Tue-Sun) during April to October 

Map of The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx
Pic Courtesy: I, Finnrind via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Strepy Thieu Four Historic Boat Lifts Hainaut Belgium UNESCO

Four Historic Boat Lifts Hainaut Belgium UNESCO

WHERE TO STAY IN LA LOUVIÈRE
There are a few hotels in La Louvière centre. Orange Hotel, La Louvière is located very close to the boatlifts. 

WHERE TO STAY IN MONS 
Instead of staying in La Louvière, another option is to stay in the nearest city of Mons. Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in Mons city centre. Here’s my review of Martin's Dream Hotel, Mons where I stayed.

DAY TRIP TO LA LOUVIÈRE (LA LOUVIÈRE 1 DAY ITINERARY)
Bois du Luc Coal mine, Four Historic Boatlifts and Strepy Thieu

MY COMPLETE MONS TRAVELOGUE (THINGS TO DO IN MONS)

MONS 3 DAYS ITINERARY
Day 1 - Grand Hornu, Neolithic Splint mines at Spiennes
Day 2 - Bois du Luc, Ancient boat lifts & Strepy Thieu
Day 3 - City of Mons - Belfry, Mundaneum, Doudou Museum, Beaux-Arts Mons etc

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 advertise the product/service.

Four Historic Boatlifts on canal du centre UNESCO Belgium Four Historic Boatlifts on canal du centre UNESCO Belgium

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

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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