Lifts on the old Canal du Centre

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UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx (Hainault)
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Houdeng-Goegnies: lift no. 1.
Type Cultural
Criteria iii, iv
Reference 856
UNESCO region Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1998 (22nd Session)

The lifts on the old Canal du Centre are a series of four hydraulic boat lifts near the town of La Louvière in the Sillon industriel of Wallonia, classified both as Wallonia's Major Heritage and as a World Heritage Site (province of Hainaut). Along a particular 7 km (4.3 mi) stretch of the Canal du Centre, which connects the river basins of the Meuse and the Scheldt, the water level rises by 66.2 metres (217 ft). To overcome this difference, the 15.4-metre lift at Houdeng-Goegnies was opened in 1888, and the other three lifts, each with a 16.93 metres (55.5 ft) rise, opened in 1917.

The elevators are double, consisting of two vertically mobile tanks or caissons, each supported in the centre by an iron column. The two columns are hydraulically linked in such a way that one caisson rises as the other descends, the weight of one counterbalancing the weight of the other.

These lifts were designed by Edwin Clark of the British company Clark, Stansfield & Clark.

The lifts were part of the inspiration behind the Peterborough and Kirkfield Lift Locks in Canada. In the late 19th century Richard Birdsall Rogers visited the locks as to understand and study possible ideas for a lift lock system.

Recent history[edit]

Thieu: lift no. 4, and in the far left background, the modern funicular lift of Strépy-Thieu.

These industrial monuments were designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998[citation needed]. Of the eight hydraulic lift locks built in the late 19th and early 20th century, the four of the Canal du Centre are the only ones still functioning in their original form[citation needed].

Since 2002, operation of the lifts has been limited to recreational use[citation needed]. Commercial traffic now bypasses the old lifts and is handled by the enormous Strépy-Thieu boat lift, whose rise of 73m was the highest in the world[citation needed] upon completion.

Following an accident in January 2002, in which a malfunctioning elevator began rising as a motor barge was exiting, lift no. 1 was taken out of service[citation needed]. During the repair work, which began in 2005, a thorough restoration[citation needed] was undertaken. Restoration works on lifts number 1 and 4 are still going on in 2008[citation needed].

Location of boatlifts numbered 1-4.
'A' is the new Strépy-Thieu boat lift.


Lift Place Name Coordinates Rise Photo
No. 1 Houdeng-Goegnies 50°29′15″N 4°10′33″E / 50.4875°N 4.1758°E / 50.4875; 4.1758 (Lift of Houdeng-Goegnies) 15.40 m (50.5 ft) 01 Houdeng-Goegnies 050323 (3).JPG
No. 2 Houdeng-Aimeries 50°28′57″N 4°08′32″E / 50.4826°N 4.1423°E / 50.4826; 4.1423 (Lift of Houdeng-Aimeries) 16.93 m (55.5 ft) Houdeng-Aimeries - Ascenseur no 2 - 1.jpg
No. 3 Strépy-Bracquegnies 50°28′53″N 4°08′14″E / 50.4813°N 4.1373°E / 50.4813; 4.1373 (Lift of Strépy-Bracquegnies) 16.93 m (55.5 ft) Houding1.jpg
No. 4 Thieu 50°28′17″N 4°05′40″E / 50.4714°N 4.0945°E / 50.4714; 4.0945 (Lift of Thieu) 16.93 m (55.5 ft) 0 Thieu - L’ ascenseur hydrauliques n° 4.JPG

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