Monday, November 11, 2013

More watery wonders in Europe

One of my recent and most viewed posts was one about the Seven Watery Wonders of northern Europe. The ones I wrote about are in places I have been and seen, but these wonders are not the only ones in mainland Europe, and after writing the post, I became curious to find some that I haven't seen as yet.

I love a bit of sloshy research!

So, given the extent of Europe's waterways, I realised there must be several I haven't heard of as well as not seen, so I started investigating and sure enough, there is a wealth of watery wonders out there for me to share with you. Thus, my friends, a new list is born.

The photos below are not my own (for obvious reasons), and I've taken them off the Internet. So I have acknowledged the sources that were there (I don't want to be a photo thief after all), but it's not always possible to find the actual authors. My apologies in advance if I am not giving you proper recognition.

All that being said, then, here are some more of the Watery Wonders of the European systems in no particular order:

1. The remarkable inclined plane of St-Louis-Arzviller on the Canal Marne-Rhine at Arzviller in France. Here barges sit in a bath that straddles the plane. It covers a horizontal distance of 108 metres and rises 44,5 metres. In July this year, there was an accident during which the 'bath' holding the boats moved when a boat was entering it and the boat got jammed. Apparently it was estimated at the time that it would be several months before it opened again, so I don't know what the current situation is.



2. The beautiful aqueduct complete with almost ceremonial entrance on the Canal de Briare, also in France. This is a very famous aqueduct because of its elegance and also (I suppose) because it crosses the equally famous Loire river. You can just imagine cruising gently across here can't you - just too beautiful.
Taken from:

3. Then there is the astonishing inclined plane on the Elblag canal in Poland. There are actually four of them (planes, that is) and at each rise, the boats are trundled up hills on rather rickety looking trolleys out of the water. The planes are approximately 240 metres long and rise between 20 and 25 metres. There are several YouTube films of this system available, and quite honestly the trolleys look far too fragile to me, but it's fascinating to watch them.

Source: Piotr VaGla Waglowski

4. The magnficent boat lift of La Fontinette at Arques (again in France) is next. This was designed by the same engineer who was responsible for the Anderton Lift in England and the four lifts at La Louvière in Belgium. Sadly, this photo isn't all that impressive, but I couldn't find a better one without using someone's personal blog photos. If I find one, I'll replace it.
5. And lastly (for the time being), there is the almost bizarre inclined plane at Montech on the Canal du Midi in southern France. This is really something. It involves two locomotives (of a sort, although they have wheels that are more fitting to a tractor). These locos push a boat up the plane in a of wedge of water in front of a watertight gate or scoop. The three photos below are from Wikipedia by Bertrand Bouret, and the diagram is by Koos Fernhout. See here for a fuller expanation:

The scoop that pushes the water and boats up the plane

the two locomotives that do the pushing (see the boat in the basin)

The plane itself

Koos's brilliant diagram of how Montech works! 

Well, I've found this quite fascinating, so I hope you find it interesting too. I'll keep on searching for some more watery wonders, as I'm sure there are still others to be found. Let me know if you know of any more that I might not have discovered...I haven't even looked at Germany yet!


  1. These are all remarkable "Watery Wonders," but my favorite is the Canal de Briare. Not only is it lovely, but the location inspires romance.


  2. Canal de Briare wins my vote too. How wonderful it must be to float along an aqueduct, watching the beautiful views. The others are technically really interesting too, and I had no idea such methods were used.

  3. I too go with the Canal de Briare as the most picturesque. However, I'm not sure how I would fare on top as I am a bit of a worrier. I would probably let Pete take the boat over and I would walk!!!! I love this series, it's like travelling the waterways without leaving home! xxx

  4. One day, Val - you must come and see these: - I'll be waiting at the top with a cup of tea and cake!

  5. Hi Val .. this gives you some journeys to make in the coming months or years?!

    Canal engineers were incredibly inventive .. it's always fascinating to see ..

    Interesting to read about .. one day I might get a canal trip in .. cheers Hilary

  6. Absolutely fascinating these innovative methods of moving boats from one plane to another!

    Proving once again that most Engineers are geniuses :)

  7. Thanks for all the interest everyone! It seems the romance of the aqueduct wins the day.

    Julie and Patricia, the special thing about this aqueduct is that it is not only beautiful in itself, but it also crosses the river at a lovely place. The scenery is gorgeous!

    Fran, this is not as bad as the one in north Wales. I can't remember how to spell it now but it starts with Pontycil…something. That would be terrifying I think, but wonderful too.

    Jo, you're on! I'm definitely up for a go at that flight of locks! Amazing! Especially from the bottom looking up.

    Hilary, I'd love to see them all by boat. Wouldn't that be something. I hope you get a canal trip too :)

    Mel. As always, you have hit the nail on the head. They are indeed the realisation of genius :)

  8. Personally I prefer the lovely countryside views rather than the lifts and machinery although the Canal de Briare looks amazing. Not far from our house is Foxton Locks, a long flight of locks that used to have a boat lift and an inclined plain. The last time I visited they were working on restoring them.

  9. Aah Rosalind, I know what you mean, I really do, but I do find these places fascinating. It is ingenious how they manage to overcome the challenges of steep hills with these devices. I'd love to see Foxton locks as well!


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