Today was a trip down memory lane. I went on the Technical Visit of the CEDA Dredging Days1 to the extension of the Prinses Beatrix Locks in Nieuwegein2. As a small boy, we sometimes drove to the locks to see the ships being raised or lowered according to the water level in the river. Mostly, the locks handle merchant traffic. However, in the summer, lots of pleasure boats come through and that is when the fun starts. Usually the crew on these small boats is not very experienced and funny mistakes and amusing near accidents happen all the time.
Actually, there is a lot more history about the locks3, than my own little stories. The locks were built in 1932 in a time, where such functional constructions were allowed to be beautiful. One of the most prominent features of the old locks are the monumental lock gate lifting constructions. They are really like big portal buildings signifying the transition from the ‘natural’ Lek River to the civilised environment of the Amsterdam-Rhine-Canal. As this is a ‘historical horizon element’ the new lock is designed to have the lowest possible impact on the scenery.
The new doors will be rolling to stay out of sight. The doors are also double executed. One reason is for redundancy, in case the other is damaged or in maintenance. As the contractor is also responsible for the operation later on, any delays will be penalised. Therefore the most reliable solution was chosen. However, there is another reason. When both outer doors are used, the lock basin is long enough to transit two 135m long inland vessels. The so called XL operation. The construction of the lock recesses are in full swing. The floors are already poured.
One of the first items finished in the project is the new high water dike to protect the polders behind. The material for the construction is mostly reused from the old dikes and other parts of the approach channel. Now, the new approach channel is excavated, making the river side a 120m wider. It also provides extra waiting jetties. Although the third lock should minimise the waiting time to a bare minimum.
Most of the work in the project is related to the construction of the new lock and the dredging of the approaches. But, one part of the project is to renovate the old locks. Once the new lock is in place, the contractor has a ten week time slot to renew everything but the buildings. All the mechanical and electrical installations have to be made up to date. To my opinion this is a loss. When you see all the beautiful shafts, gears and sheaves. And they have been working already for more than 80 years. I guess they should have proven their reliability by now. Well, maybe it is just my sentimental heart.
One thing, that we luckily not have to be sentimental about, are the three bunkers of the Hollandic Water Line4, a military defence system, that is now defunct. The bunkers are being relocated and taken up into a display about the darker side of history. They even made a colouring page to make even children aware of what it was for and how they were transported. They were distributed during the monthly public visits, which you can do yourself also.
- Technical Visit of the CEDA Dredging Days
- Expansion of the Prinses Beatrix Locks
- Prinses Beatrixsluizen (Dutch)
- Hollandic Water Line