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Boats on the Gota Canal Part 1: From Stockholm to the Canal View Slideshow Part 3: Across the middle of Sweden Part 4: Heading down to Gothenburg

2013: Stockholm to Gothenburg

The Gta Canal - Telford's Swedish Connection

Part 2: Climbing the canal into Sweden

 

At last we had reached the start of the 120-mile Gota Canal itself, at the village of Mem. The gates of the first of its 58 locks opened as we approached, and the Diana was carefully steered in. She was a snug fit; there was about a foot of clearance on the width of the lock and about the same on the length, and one of the crew members jumped ashore to run ahead and indicate to the captain the distance from the bows of the ship to the cill of the lock. We found out that the name given to the crew member who performs this function is called the "jump-ashore Johnny" even when the crew member concerned is a young female.

 

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The sea lock from the Baltic to the Canal
The view from the ship's bridge as we approach the lock
The "jump-ashore Johnny" shows the clearance the lock cill
The interpretation boards at Soderkoping
The text on the interpretation boards

Soderkoping is the first sizeable town on the canal. The ship stopped there to let us spend the sunny afternoon exploring on shore, and it was here that we gained an idea of the importance of our ship on the canal as it moored in the half-filled lock to make it easy for us to get on and off. It stayed in the lock for the rest of the afternoon and all other craft just had to tie up and wait until we chose to depart! Soderkoping is a very pretty little town, with a beautiful church which like most ancient Swedish churches has a most impressive, separate wooden bell tower.

 

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The beautiful church at Soderkoping
Inside Soderkoping church ...
... there are beautiful paintings on the walls
The wooden bell tower is separate from the church

Soderkoping is also famous for its ice-cream, which is why its name sticks in my mind (ice-cream soda shopping); there is a restaurant near the lock which sells the most amazing ice-creams, and as we queued to buy a couple of simple examples to eat beside the canal I took pictures of the incredible creations which were being delivered to people at the tables.

On the road that ran beside the canal there was a sign "Beware, rabbits crossing" and near to it there was a sculpture of rabbits waiting to cross the canal. Is this a key to the Swedish sense of humour?

 

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Ice creams on the table at Soderkoping
Rabbits queuing to cross the canal
There was an accident at Soderkoping in 1931

The other passengers joined the ship at the lock which was then filled; the "Jump-ashore Johnny" climbed back on board and the ship set off without us, as we had decided to walk alongside the ship to the next lock which was only half a mile away. On the way we watched as it passed trough the lift bridge, causing a quarter-mile queue of traffic, and chatted to another crew member who joined us on his bike after he had been shopping in the town for fishing hooks and light-bulbs.

 

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The lock is full so Diana is ready to depart ...
... after the "jump-ashore Johnny" has climbed back on board
As Diana sets off along the canal ...
... we follow by road and watch her pass through a lift bridge

After Soderkoping there is a busy flight of locks. As we ascended, there were boats of all types following us and coming the other way. There was obviously no shortage of water as it was flowing freely over the gates, but this caused no problems as the locks were all power-operated by lock-keepers. The ship's captain told me that no exceptions are made, even for his ship: ship owners are not allowed to operate the locks or bridges themselves, and when the lock keepers go off duty all traffic must stop. Just two or three locks are still manually operated, and these are all stop-locks whose rise or fall is very small, but passage even through these is not permitted if a lock keeper is not present.

 

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We are not just tourists but also the attraction so we were photographed wherever we went.
There is no shortage of water above Soderkoping
Diana enters the next lock ...
... and stops just clear of the waterfall which flows over the top gates.

Soon after ascending the flight near Soderkoping we reached a small rolling bridge. During the journey we passed through several of these bridges, which roll back along their own road on a set of small wheels; most of them were operated remotely by the keeper at the nearest lock. These pictures and the short video illustrate their mode of operation.

 

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The bridge has rolled back to let us pass through, operated remotely by the keeper of the nearest lock
You can clearly see the wheels that allow the bridge to roll back along its own road
The bridge closes as soon as we have passed through, allowing the waiting cars to proceed

This video clip, just over 30 seconds long, shows the bridge closing behind us:

 

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The next lock is now redundant, with its gates normally left open so we can pass straight through
 The gates do not have balance-beams in the way that British locks do. They are opened by a rack and pinion mechanism which can be seen clearly in these pictures.
The mechanism can easily take a second lever so that another person can help if the gate is stiff or heavy
The mechanism is easy to convert to hydraulic operation.

This video clip, just over 30 seconds long, shows the mechanism being operated:

As you can see, the person operating the gates has to walk a long way to open the gates. For large or stiff gates, it can be seen that there was the capability to add a second lever so that a second person could help turn it. The cargo boats on this canal were apparently usually operated by a husband and wife team, but it was such hard work that it was nicknamed the "Divorce Ditch".

 

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This lift bridge carries the mainline railway from Stockholm to Malmo ...
... as you can see from this picture taken as we passed through the bridge
You have to pass through the bridge quickly as there may be a train coming!
Heading out on to the beautiful Lake Roxen

As evening fell, we crossed the beautiful lake Roxen, 100ft above sea level, and it was getting quite dark by the time we moored on the far side of the lake, at the foot of the impressive 7-rise staircase there. The approach to the mooring was marked by a giant statue, made of perforated metal (presumably to reduce its wind-resistance) which gave it a strangely ethereal quality.

 

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Sunset over the islands of lake Roxen
This statue of a walking man marks the exit from the lake
The staircase of 7 locks is quiet overnight ...
... but is busy with boats as soon as the lock-keeper comes on duty

The next morning was again fine and sunny, and we were offered the opportunity to swim in the lake. Did we take the opportunity? You'll have to read the next page to find out

 

Boats on the Gota Canal Part 1: From Stockholm to the Canal View Slideshow Part 3: Across the middle of Sweden Part 4: Heading down to Gothenburg
Go to Allan's Page Our Home Page Holidays Home Page British Canals Page Go to Deb's Page