Water History: Barge Building in France

Water History: Barge Building in France

Even though you may be a barge vacation lover in France, how much do you really know about the history of this mode of transportation? Although waterways are now reserved for holiday activities, tourism and barge holidays, the French have relied on simple barges to maintain and grow their economies. Actually, for centuries the canals and rivers are an important component of the French trading network, connecting the English Channel, Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Water History: Barge Building in France
Standardization and Transportation

Despite this crucial relation of the river, transportation is sluggish due to lack of standardization across the country. At the end of the nineteenth century, Minister of Public Works, Freycinet, had a lightbulb moment: he decided to set up a waterway network by building the same sized locks across the country. This key measures 40m x 5.20m and, once installed, the ship must be redesigned to fit within it. The new timber ship, sometimes known as the ‘Freycinet barge’, is built in dimensions of 38.5m with 5.0mm as standard. This modern standard cargo ship can deliver goods across Europe. Water History: Barge Building in France

However, how do these non-motorized ships move around the complex European canal network? The answer is the power of man – even though actual pulling is done by women, horses and even children throughout the 1800s, as well as men. Some – like Klippers and Tjalks who travel to England – use screen and other power, in Belgium and Holland, are pulled by steam-powered tugs. Progress, though faster because of standardization, can not be called fast because most people will travel on foot.

Triggering the Nation

In a drastic change in how channel transportation operated, the 1900s saw the launch of a diesel engine that eliminated the need for a puller altogether. However, because the engine is not very strong, motorized vessels like Spitzen and Luxemotors must have a distinctive pointed bow similar to the pull. This new creation is very luxurious because it comes with a kitchen and toilet – more than a few houses at that time – and independent.

By the 1920’s the wooden hull had been exchanged for steel, making stronger and tougher cargo ships that could withstand potential impacts with locks. Twenty years later the diesel engine has gained more power and many motorized barges are built throughout France, Belgium and the Netherlands. This is the peak of this industry in Europe. Non-motorized ships are drawn by diesel-powered tractors, not horses, so travel time is greatly reduced.

Goodbye to all that

The decline in French water transport began in the 1970s as faster and more efficient railways and road vehicles grew in popularity. The canals, once the source of life of the country, fell into disrepair and unfortunately not restored. Hundreds of Freycinet barges were canceled and it seemed to be the end of this crucial vessel lane.

Fortunately, barge holidays in France make this traditional form of water transport alive. Tourism blossomed in the 1970s, attracting visitors to the canals and rivers of France has not subsided in nearly four decades. Barge holidays in France showcase the country’s most beautiful and interesting areas to visitors who appreciate the gentle pace, and an alternative point of view, that barge hotels give them access.

Paul Newman is a Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK’s most respected provider if you are looking for all the luxury holidays in France or other great destinations. Part of an experienced barge team, Paul first queued to support a slow-paced barging cruise facility for anyone looking for a unique holiday experience. Water History: Barge Building in France