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Posted By Robert. Stephenson

Lifts on the old Canal du Centre in Belgium

The lifts on the old canal du Centre are true high quality industrial monuments. The four hydraulic lifts together with the canal and its structures make a remarkable industrial landscape, well preserved from the 19th Century. In the year 1807, Napoleon the first ordered trough an imperial decree the building of a channel between Mons and Conde, channel that was build in 1818. In the same year the Saint-Quentin channel was finished, that meant that the mining area of charcoal extraction, called Borinage, was now directly connected to Paris. There was only one element missing from this network of channels that connected Escaut with Meuse, namely a channel between Mons and Charleroi. The proposal to build Canal du Centre was initially approved by Napoleon the first, in the year 1810. A long series of projects followed, that pertained to the French, Belgian and Dutch, in which the routes were different and each of them had their own techniques of solving probable issues that might appear. The projects were financed by the companies that, at the end, would have used the channel. Because the competition between the German, English and French mining areas grew, in 1871 the Belgian government stepped in and took the commitment to finance the building of the channel. Some studies were made to eliminate two major problems: the small amount of available water and the big level difference (89.46m) between the Mons-Conde canal and Charleroi-Brussels canal. The main problem was in the top part of the channel, in the Thiriau valley. Then they decided that on this portion the difference level is easier to approach by building some lifts. This is how the lifts on Canal du Centre were built. The four lifts were conceived after the model of the English engineer Edwin Clark: one of the lifts has a difference of 15.40m, the other three one of 16,93m. The lifts on Canal du Centre helped adjusting the level difference on this portion, as well for compensating the low flow of water. The Belgian engineers were sent in England to study the only specimen of a lift of this type, the one that engineer Edwin Clark built for the Trent-Mersey Channel between 1872 and 1875. The decision to build was taken at the end of the year 1884, and Edwin Clark himself would be involved in the projection and building of the lifts.

The Belgian lifts


Posted By Robert. Stephenson

Robert Stephenson & Hawthorne 0-6-0 saddle tank Ugly class built 1950, number 7673 ‘Ugly’

´╗┐Robert Stephenson & Hawthorne Ugly Class No.62 ‘UGLY. Built for steel firm Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd, Corby, Northamptonshire. The ‘Uglies’ were built to work heavy iron ore trains to the national network. These powerful engines were built to the pit’s requirements based around the aging, but successful Manning Wardle locomotives in use at Corby at the time. Known as ‘Uglies’ because of their short saddle tanks and larger, raised firebox, they are more powerful than the W.D. ‘Austerity’ saddle tanks. They were so successful that the original class of seven was eventually increased to nine. 

In late 2007, the opportunity arose for a member of the Spa Valley Railway to purchase 'Ugly' which was successful and resulted in the engine heading for the South East in January 2008. Here it underwent a boiler swap, receiving No. 57's (Samson's) overhauled boiler and received remedial work before returning to traffic, in time for 'Ugly' to make its debut at the Branch Line Gala in October 2010. 'Ugly' entered full service over the Santa Specials in the same year and has since gone on to become a significant member of the Spa Valley fleet.




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