Locks and Canals

Belgium is covered with canals and rivers, and lots of cargo moves through the country by barge.

This has been a huge engineering project for hundreds of years, and continues today.  The main street along the river in Esneux was once the trace of the Old Canal of the Ourthe.  Started in the 19th century, this was an amazingly ambitous project, born out of the incorporation of (what is now) Belgium and Luxembourg into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The goal was to be able to move cargo from the Moselle to the Meuse, so Luxembourg could get goods out without going through Germany.  The path chosen included the Ourthe River, which runs in front of our house.  The only problem was that the Ardennes were in the way.  Going over them meant building more than 200 locks to change 2000 feet in elevation, and 10 tunnels to go through the mountains instead of over.   They started work in 1827, and were making great progress when the Belgians revolted and started their own country in 1831.  The Dutch withdrew their support, and things went ahead more slowly for a few more years.  But just as they neared the end, the railroad came through, and rendered the whole project obsolete.  There are still some signs of the canal and its locks, like this one.
This is the classic way of raising a boat up or down to allow canals to change elevation, with gates on each end of the lock, letting the natural flow of water raise or lower the boat.  There are lots of modern examples of this design, which hasn't changed in centuries.  But there are some much more extravagant ways to be found in Belgium!
One way, put in play in the 60's, puts the boat and 300 feet of canal's worth of water into a giant bathtub, and then hauls the whole thing up almost a mile of quadruple railroad track on hundreds of wheels to raise up 223 ft.  It was at the same time majestic in its motion, and comical in seeing the boats in their water rolling up the hill.
Another, that is even more audacious, takes the same bathtub idea, and this time just lifts the whole thing straight up into the air.  This thing is huge, and raises  the boats and the water 240 feet  high.  It is out in the middle of rolling farmland, and is totally incongruous with its setting, looming like some colossus out of its strangely manicured landscape.