The Canal du Centre is a canal in Belgium, which, with other canals, links the waterways of the Meuse and Scheldt rivers. It has a total length of 20.9 km. It connects the artificial lake Grand Large near Nimy, with the Brussels-Charleroi Canal near Seneffe.
The canal begins in the west at Mons, and passes through the towns of Nimy, Obour, Ville-sur-Haine, and Thieu. This section is 15km long, and has a relief of 23.26m. The canal climbs by means of six locks. There are five locks with a relief of 4.2m, and a final lock with a relief of 2.26m at Thieu
The next section of the original canal route between Thieu and Houdeng-Goegnies climbs 66m over a distance of 6790m, which is too steep a climb for canal locks. Therefore, this section contains four hydraulic boat lifts, dating from 1888 to 1917, which are now on the UNESCO World Heritage list (see Lifts On The Old Canal Du Centre). These lifts were designed by Edwin Clark of the British company Clark, Stansfield & Clark. For commercial traffic this stretch of the canal has, since 2002, been replaced by an enlarged parallel canal.
For centuries, Belgian people have wanted an inland waterway to connect the Meuse and the Scheldt. However, the height difference of about 96m between the two rivers would require as many as 32 locks, which was not feasible. In 1879, the Ministry of Public works adopted a proposal by Edwin Clark which used boat lifts instead of locks. The first lift (Houdeng-Goegnies) was built between 1885 and 1888. It was inaugurated on June 4, 1888 by King Leopold II. The three other boat lifts were finally finished in 1917 and put into service in 1919. There were several reasons for this delay. From 1894 to 1911, the economic need for the canal was repeatedly called into question. Then in 1914, when the three lifts were practically finished, World War I began .