Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Man on the River and the Riqueval Tunnel

The Riqueval Tunnel (5670 meters) is located near the town of Bellicourt, passing under the villages of Bony and Bellicourt.
Built on the Canal Saint-Quentin between 1801 and 1810 by order of Napoleon it is, along with the tunnel at Mauvages on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin, the only place where the system of towing barges with a chain still exists.

The length of the underground Riqueval does not allow enough air exchange to evacuate exhaust from combustion engines on transport barges. They are required to be towed by a towboat that pulls a string of barges and/or other boats with a winch and chain.

Rougaillou, the first towboat in the Riqueval used horses arranged in a carousel on its deck to drive a winch and the succeeding towboat was propelled by steam.
From 1906, the problem of smoke in the vault has been solved with an electric towboat. Its hourly average speed is 2.5 mph, so the trip takes just over two hours. The towboat hauls on a chain 8km long, which lies at the bottom of the channel.

Fortunately for the Man on the River, the towing at Riqueval is still in service. Traffic on the Canal Saint-Quentin has declined from 100 boats per day to ten, due to the opening of the Canal du Nord. The Waterways of France have considered installing mechanical ventilation that would allow boats to use their engines in the tunnel.

We must ask Giacomo and Friends if they would prefer to row the 5670 meters in darkness amid the rumble of cargo barges, or be towed silently by an electric towboat.

What an adventure on a man-made underground river in France!
Be sure to follow the links above for a more comprehensive story.

Tunnels aren’t the only obstacles on the Canal Saint-Quentin. The main mast on Clodia must be struck often to clear overhead bridges. Fortunately for the Man on the River, this is a simple task.

Ciao, Bruno and Giacomo!


Bursledon Blogger said...

Tunnels are a feature of the English canals, here they are much more narrow and low - originally in the days of horse drawn canal boats the crew would lay on the boat roof and "walk" the boat through feet on the tunnel roof - I lived in a village called Husband's Bosworth years ago - the canal tunnel was just short of a mile, even on a motorised boat it was quite an experience - I wouldn't especially want to row through

doryman said...

Whew! I couldn't do it. When I was young I worked for a construction company that installed the big drain pipes that lay under highways and large paved areas (a specialty in the US). Some of those pipes were tall enough to walk in, but many were just a crawl and guess who had to do that!
Pushing a boat through a dripping tunnel on my back? No thank you!

Man on the river said...

Grande Michael!! Grazie