Part of the towage system in the Northern Netherlands

A completely new and often expensive infrastructure was required for the towing barge route. For example:

  • Canal and towpath (towing route)


  • Panels, of wood and stone

    with steps in the rampart at stops

  • Bridges

Photo: Staging point and bridge Bieuwketil over the Warffumermaar

  • Veerhuizen, weeping stables, living room cafes

Photo: (Demolished) spring house (left) at the harbor in Warffum, collection Groningen Archives

At the beginning and end of the route, but also at intermediate stops, ferry houses, a ferry house -sob house in Groningen, in fact, is a collective name for inns or cafes that served as pull or turn springs. Recognizable by the function, without a “fixed appearance”. Often there were also barns, weeping sheds, for the horses. Examples of ferry houses along the Boterdiep Trekvaartroute are the (demolished) ferry house on Torenweg in Warffum. In Onderdendam, the 'Vaartzicht' building was once the home of the commissioner of the towage. The current restaurant In de Valk in Middelstum started as a ferry house.

There must have been many living room cafes. Often at bridges, in places where land and waterways intersect. Such as inn “Rest 'n little” at Bieuwketil on the Warffumermaar, where people only stopped for two minutes… Here, in the short break, at least an (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) drink was available for the traveler. And often he could buy bread or simple groceries there.

  • Toll booths, toll gates and barriers

  • Ship locks with swinging bowls

    so that the boat could turn.

Photo: Haven Warffum with part of swing bowl, collection Groningen Archives

  • Bell houses

Drawing Klokhuis Opwierde, 1880-1920, Collection Groningen Archives 

Fifteen minutes before the boat left, a bell rang in the core.

  • Roller poles, change and iron

Photo: Wooden roll post at Wiedeblik (removed), collection Groningen Archives

The draft route was made as straight as possible, curves cut as much as possible. If this was not possible, bollards were placed, so that the sailing ship was not pulled to the bank. There are still rolling poles between, for example, Onderdendam and the Haantil stop along the Warffumermaar. There are different types of rolling posts. A til is a fixed bridge in Gronings.

The line between the barge and the horse was placed around a rolling pole and the skipper, by giving a counter rudder, ensured that the boat did not hit the side in the bend. A pole with the inscription “Exchange point” indicated that the fairway was so wide that the horses could pass each other. If there was “Iron” on the roller pole, the boats had to lower their masts to pass a bridge.

"Experience the towing history in North Groningen from the water, by bike or on foot!"

nl_NL de_DE fr_FR en_GB