Friday, January 4, 2013

Thieu: Miracle of modern engineering

A while ago we went to Belgium. Yeah, my weekends are full again, as they have been in the past 4 years. So one weekend we went to Belgium. I don't say I went to Brussels because on this trip I saw very little of it and more of the rest. Belgium is a small country, but with lots to see.

The first thing we saw was a huge boat elevator (no, not an ecluse or a water lock but a real elevator for boats). It's a huge MF. I don't know if my pictures capture this well enough but there is a wooping 75m difference in level. And the elevator can take up 1350 tons worth of boats, passengers and merchandise.
The boat lift
Boat in the boat lift

Boat going up
Boat going up

Boat reaching the upper canal

Strepy-Thieu boat lift
And this is just one elevator, because there are in fact a series of elevators and man-built waterways known as the Canal du Centre. There are inclined elevators like the ones pictured below (I did not see them personally) and there is also a huge waterway bridge . Well this particular waterway sits over a motorway that just takes your breath away if you think of the horror of it breaking and flooding a whole valley. And we passed underneath it with the car, oblivious of the huge mass of water on top, because it looks just like another bridge.

The canal leading to the boat lift
This motorway for boats and all the elevators build for this system were intended for the transport of coal. The mines that shaped the scenery so much are now closed, but we still have changes they brought about, in the waters and hills of the region. And in the lives of the people who now have to find other means of living. The elevator is still working, there were about 5 boats transported in the span of an hour or so. I'm no engineer but the machinery got my respect. And gave me a lesson in history and economics.
If you are interested in knowing more about boat elevators, here is our friend Wikipedia, with more info here. The Strépy-Thieu boat lift is the biggest of them all, until the Three Gorges Dam is finished and the Falkirk Wheel must be the most spectacular. I'm only sorry I didn't get a chance to go up with a boat and ride the Canal.
These Belgians are crazy!

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