Background information | Contact details | Aa Valley Rly

Fontinettes Canal Boat Lift
at Arques

canal lift
L'Ascenseur des Fontinettes

This giant lift was built in 1888 copying a similar one in England. It lifted canal boats up from the River Aa to the higher level Neuffossée canal. This crosses the watersheds between the river Aa, the Lys, and the Escaut - providing a through route by water from Dunkerque or Calais via Saint Omer to the Nord coalfields and the industrial cities of Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing.

The lift replaced a series of 5 locks built in the 18th century. These were a big bottleneck on the busy canal. To save time, and to get the most boats through, they had made a rule that, for a whole day at a time, the series of locks would be used by barges going in one direction only. As a result, there was always a huge crowd of barges waiting for it to be their turn - which often meant next day or even 2 or 3 days later!

To use the lift, barges sailed into one of 2 tanks, each on top of a huge piston. Water was then pumped from one piston to the other, so one tank rose up over 13 metres while the other tank slowly dropped down. Visitors can see inside the machine room. There is a video.

The lift became a "museum piece" 1967. As part of enlarging and modernising the canal, the slow lift was replaced by one big lock. Nowadays the canal is used by a mix of pleasure boats and industrial barges. Trips can be booked for river tours up- and down the river and canal system.

The lift is no longer used for river traffic, but you can still see how it worked - the left tank has been raised to the higher level Neuffossée; the right tank is ready for a boat to sail in from the river Aa.

...Send in a review..
Reviewer - ??
Location: ARQUES
L'Ascenseur à Bateaux des Fontinettes
rue de l'Ascenseur
62510 ARQUES
Information/ reservations:
Tel: 00 33 3 21 12 62 30
Fax: 00 33 3 21 98 07 69

pleasure boats
Arques has a well-equipped marina-port with moorings for visiting pleasure boats.

Other Places to visit:
La Coupole - Museum of World War 2 Rockets
Revived railway - Aa valley line station nearby

Background information
Working canals of the region
Inland waterways today



& Arques

Glass factory © Copyright 1999 Invicta Media. Last updated 20th October 1999