The dalsland canal, 150 years old
- Per Nyström
The Final Journey In December 1971, when Sweden is at its darkest and coldest, two ships – the Balder and the Lindö – sailed from the quartz mine in Fröskog. Valdemar Olsson, a shipmaster on Lindö, had decided that the two boats would keep each other company en route to the smelter at Vargön. He knew that this was The Final Journey. With sadness in his heart, he said farewell to the lock keepers in Strömmen, Snäcke, Upperud and Köpmannebro.
The Balder and the Lindö were built to fit precisely in the locks. They were proper canal boats. And they were the last freight vessels to traffic the Dalsland Canal. Other forms of transport had taken over many years before, but the quartz transports on the Snäcke Canal had kept going. Until this December day. Now it was over.
Nils Ericson’s crazy idea
The lakes were obviously trafficked long before the canal was built, initially by towing and sailboats. But getting the goods all the way to Lake Vänern required unloading and reloading multiple times, which was why so many people were keen to see the lakes in western Värmland and Dalsland merged to form a single canal. The early plans showed that it was the Håverud rapids that posed the biggest problem. They would necessitate unloading the goods and then transporting them over a few kilometres on a horse-powered railway. That was until the great canal and railway builder, Nils Ericson, took a look at the project and came up with a different idea.
He designed an aqueduct in Håverud that would transport the boats over the rapids in a steel chute. A pretty crazy idea that would probably never have been realised if anyone else had suggested it. But Nils Ericson was an authority. He was allowed to implement his project and in 1868, King Carl XV inaugurated an unbroken stretch of water from Töcksfors in western Värmland to Lake Vänern. And to the whole world!
One month to Gothenburg, there and back
When the canal was completed, the gentlemen farmers of Dalsland and Värmland were ready. They often owned large areas of forested land and their own sawmills. Now they could export their timber products, so they invested in their own boats that could go all the way to Gothenburg. On the return trip, they carried consumables for the people living in this landscape where roads were few and far between. A trip like this, to Gothenburg and back, took about a month.
But then came the railways…
A mere ten or so years later, however, a railway was built in Dalsland, and the canal boats began to disappear, with the exception of the Balder and the Lindö, which held out all the way into the 1970s.
This is worth celebrating!
Nowadays, Dalsland Canal has become a dream destination for recreational boat owners. Here, they find untouched nature and friendly lock keepers along the length of a 250 km waterway. In 2018, the canal will celebrate its 150th birthday. The Håverud aqueduct has been renovated and the anniversary will be celebrated with a wealth of events throughout the year. And you’re invited! Do come – it’s going to be a great party!
Find out more at : dalslandskanal.se