Canal tunnels in Belgium

Canal tunnels in Belgium on Google maps

Canal tunnels in Belgium in a larger map


During the 19th century several canal tunnels were built in Belgium, all located at the watershed between river-basins: IJzer/Yser - Leie/Lys, Leie/Lys - Schelde/Escaut, Schelde/Escaut - Maas/Meuse, and Maas/Meuse - Moezel/Moselle. In those days, constructing a canal tunnel was an undertaking with major risks. Of 6 launched projects, only 3 tunnels were put into service. Two attempts to build a tunnel on the canal Komen/Comines - Ieper/Ypres, to connect the Leie with the IJzer failed; the same happened with the tunnel on the Meuse - Moselle canal. The tunnels put into service for regular barge traffic where those on the canal Brussel/Bruxelles - Charleroi and Bossuit - Kortrijk.


Tunnel de Roubaix, (France-Nord)

  Although this tunnel was to be constructed in France(-Nord), it is included here because of its short distance to the Belgian border. The "Canal de Roubaix" on which it was intended to be constructed connects the Schelde in Belgium via the "Canal de l'Espierre", the "Canal de Roubaix", the Marque, and the DeŻle to the Leie.  

  Links: 1. [fr] details the history of the canal de Roubaix. The maps shows the first traject (green dashed line) of the canal and Parc Barbieux where the tunnel was planned.
2. The history of the canal de l'Espierres connecting the canal de Roubaix with the Scheldt.
3. Old postcard showing parc de Barbieux, end 1870.

Tunnel de Bernistap

  Links: 1. The reference site about the tunnel de Bernistap and the canal de Meuse à Moselle is Relier la Meuse au Rhin par une voie navigable ŗ travers le Luxembourg? The site contains a nice drawing showing the method used to build canal tunnels.
2. The Channel of Hoffelt [EN |FR |GE |DU] .
3. Le tunnel-canal de Bernistap on the site of MET [fr]

Tunnel de la Bête Refaite


The tunnel de la Bête Refaite is located near Godarville at the watershed between Schelde and Meuse and was part of the old disappeared 70 ton canal Brussels-Charleroi. Canal construction started in 1827, a few years before Belgium's independence. On September 22nd 1832, the canal was put into service. The tunnel's length was 1267 m, its width 3 m.


[South entrance] [South entrance] [South entrance] [North entrance] [North entrance]

South entrance North entrance
Tunnel de la Bête Refaite - status August 2003

  Links: 1. A description of the canal Brussels - Charleroi by Paul Hellings on Cycling Belgium's Waterways details the history of the 70, 300, and 1350 ton canal.
2. [fr] gives some details about the very early ideas to build a canal between Brussels and Charleroi
3. Le tunnel-canal de la Bête Refaite on the site of MET [fr]

De Souterrain van Moen


The tunnel was part of the old, now mostly disappeared, 300 ton canal Bossuit-Kortrijk connecting the Leie with the Schelde. During the late 70's, the canal was upgraded to allow traffic of 1350 ton barges, the tunnel was removed and replaced by a deep cut.

"Sprokkelingen uit Zwevegem's verleden -- deel 3 -- verzameld door Alberiek Ovaere Ere-onderwijzer" page 54-62; which is a translation into Dutch from a French newspaper article from "L'Union, journal de Courtrai et son arrondissement" edition: Friday June 26th 1857" specifies the estimated traffic, and how the canal construction was funded. Permission to build the canal was published in "Het staatsblad" of januari 23th 1857. The pumping-station, located in Bossuit had 2 pumps + 1 spare; each with a capacity of 950m3/hour and consuming 45 PK (HP). In the early days steam engines were used to drive the pumps. In 1858, construction was started by making a total of 13.280.000 bricks in 47 "field" ovens (for the tunnel, locks, and lock houses). The canal was officially inaugurated Jan 1st 1861. However, the canal was frozen and no traffic possible. The first barge passed the canal on February 7th 1861. The tunnel was dug using 9 pits. The railway track "Kortrijk-Avelgem-Ronse" which crossed the canal at the tunnel was put into service on June 1st 1869. The only thing referring to the old tunnel is the pub "Taverne De Souterrain" on the east bank.


[North portal Moen canal tunnel (Souterrain)] [Moen canal deep cut] [Moen sign Taverne Souterrain]
North portal current deep cut pub sign Taverne De Souterrain
(removed since pub closed)
Moen canal tunnel (Souterrain) - removed since 1974

  Links: 1. A description of the canal Bossuit - Kortrijk on Cycling Belgium's Waterways.



The project to connect the Leie with the river IJzer via a canal from the Leie to connect with the Ieperlee canal at Ieper dates from the second half of the 19th century. The canal was never put into service. Four attempts were made, but all failed due to the unstable soil near Hollebeke. Landslides and collapses destroyed bridges and tunnels. The original project (1864-1866) included 14 locks and one 700m long tunnel near what is now known as the "Provinciaal Domein Palingbeek". A second attempt, dating from 1867-1868 and 1870-1873, tried to cross the ridge via the excavation of a deep cut. The third one (1889-1893) included a 350m long tunnel. During 1909-1913 the last attempt, including additional locks, was made. In 1913, at the eve of WW1, the St Eloois bridge collapsed and the project was abandoned. Most of the locks (without gates) are still in place.


[canal] [interpretative sign] [interpretative sign]
canal interpretative sign sign close-up
Palingbeek - status autumn 2003

  Links: 1. A description of the canal Comines - Ieper in Cycling Belgium's Waterways.
2. De lijdensgeschiedenis van een vermaarde vaart (part I, II, III) - Article from the weekly magazine Ons Volk Ontwaakt, published March 15th, 1913. [nl]
3. Verwezen kanaal Ieper - Komen, historiek. [nl]
4. Het verhaal van het oude kanaal. [nl]
5. Domain map. [nl]

Tunnel de Godarville


The tunnel de Godarville was aimed to replace the 70 ton tunnel de la Bête Refaite located on the the 70 ton canal Brussels-Charleroi. It was constructed by l'entreprise Dauderni between 1882 and 1885. The tunnel was 1050 m long, 8 m wide, and 9 m high.


Excerpt from
En mars 1882, l'Entreprise Daudergnies est en Belgique pour le percement du tunnel de Godarville, sur le canal Bruxelles-Charleroi. Le Ministère belge des Travaux publics fait appel au savoir-faire de Daudergnies car le souterrain doit traverser des terrains sablonneux entrecoupés de sources. Ce travail mené à bien sera inauguré en 1885. (En quelques chiffres, ce tunnel mesure plus d'un kilomètre de long, d'une hauteur de 9 mètres et d'une largeur de 8 mètres. Sa réalisation a nécessité l'évacuation de 120.000 m3 de sable et l'exécution de plus de 50.000 m3 de maçonnerie.) La Commission des Monuments et des Sites a classé cet ouvrage d'art, en juin 1978. Au cours des travaux de Godarville, Ferdinand de Lesseps, diplomate français, instigateur du canal de Corinthe, du canal de Suez et du canal inter-océanique de Panama rencontre Jean Baptiste. La renommée de son entreprise est grande et de Lesseps estime que Daudergnies pourrait résoudre bien des problèmes rencontrés sur la terre colombienne.


[canal] [interpretative sign] [interpretative sign]
portal blocked by gates inside the tunnel air-shaft
Tunnel de Godarville - status August 2003

  Links: 1. Picture gallery from the tunnel on Urban Xplorer
2. A picture of the Tunnel de Godarville on June 18th 2003 by Impressions fugitives:
3. A description of the canal Brussels - Charleroi by Paul Hellings on Cycling Belgium's Waterways details the history of the 70, 300, and 1350 ton canal.
4. Information on l'entreprise Dauderni, the corporation who built the tunnel: [fr]
5. Le tunnel-canal de Godarville on the site of MET [fr]
6. Some pictures of the old canal tunnel at Seneffe by the documentation centre of the MET.

Overview table
(Table entries are sorted by construction date)

Name Location Built Length Height Width Capacity Watershed
... between ...
Tunnel de Roubaix
Roubaix 1825?-1831         L'Escaut Marque
never put into service
now: Parc Barbieux
Tunnel de la Bête Refaite Godarville 1827-1832 1267 m 3 m   70 ton L'Escaut Sambre Replaced by the
Tunnel de Godarville
Tunnel de Bernistap Bernistap 1829-1831 1130 m 2,6 m 4 m   Meuse Moselle target length: 2528 m
never put into service
De Souterrain
van Moen
Moen 1857-1861 611 m 6 m   300 ton Schelde Leie Removed since 1974
in favor of a deep cut
Palingbeek Hollebeke 1864-1866 700 m       Leie IJzer abandoned
never put into service
Tunnel de Godarville Godarville 1882-1885 1050 m 9 m 8 m 300 ton L'Escaut Sambre Classified since 1-june-1978
Palingbeek Hollebeke 1889-1893 350 m       Leie IJzer abandoned
never put into service

Karel Roose
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