The Ludwig-Donau-Main-Kanal (LDM)

LDM Canal sign at Kelheim © Ricky Yates

Not only in recent months has there been a relative absence of blog posts here, even when I have managed to put fingers to keyboard, I’ve only usually written about my house, my long argument with Barclays Bank, or my ongoing ministry at the Dresden Frauenkirche. In times past, I’ve often written about my travels, both within and beyond the Czech Republic. This post is my first attempt to return to doing so.

On the weekend of 13th-14th April, I spent two nights in Regensburg, breaking my long drive from Stará Oleška to Beatenberg, Switzerland, where I attended the ICS Chaplains Conference – Monday 15th – Friday 19th April. On that weekend, my love of canals and inland waterways which I have previously written about here and here, led me to explore what remains of the Ludwig-Donau-Main-Kanal (LDM), deep in the Bavarian countryside.

The LDM was constructed between 1836 – 1846, from Kelheim on the Donau/Danube, about twenty kilometres west of Regensburg, to Bamburg on the River Main, a major tributary of the Rhein/Rhine. It thus crossed the European drainage divide as the Main/Rhein/Rhine flow to the North Sea whilst the Donau/Danube flows to the Black Sea.

Unfortunately, it was never a great economic success for three reasons. Firstly, its locks, of which there were exactly one hundred, had fairly small dimensions meaning that the much larger vessels that traded on the Main and the Donau/Danube, couldn’t pass through it. Goods had to be transhipped onto smaller vessels and it became a bottleneck.

Secondly, there were frequent problems with water supplies to the summit level which delayed through passage.

Thirdly, soon after it was opened, competing railways were built which could move goods more quickly and in greater quantities. The canal consequently lost trade in a similar manner to the narrow canals in the English Midlands.

The LDM Canal suffered considerable damage during the Second World War, especially where it passed through Nürnberg. Post 1945, it was therefore decided not to try and repair the bomb damage and the canal was officially abandoned in 1950.

Canal Harbour at Kelheim © Ricky Yates

The LDM Canal commences in Kelheim where it leaves the Donau/Danube. The first lock up from the river is followed by this large canal harbour. Alongside the harbour are signs explaining the history of the LDM. These were erected 2021 as part of celebrating the 175th anniversary of the canal being opened.

Canal Harbour near Beilngries © Ricky Yates

The next traces of the LDM I found were near the small town of Beilngries, forty kilometres north-west of Kelheim. Here there are the remains of another canal harbour, complete with a crane, but the canal bed is dry.

Mooring ring © Ricky Yates

But a mooring ring is still embedded in the harbour wall.

Aqueduct at Gösselthal © Ricky Yates

At Gösselthal, I discovered this quite substantial aqueduct. But as at Beilngries, the canal bed is dry.

LDM Canal in water, near Berching © Ricky Yates

However, from about a kilometre north of the aqueduct, the canal is in water. Sadly, it is blocked in numerous places where road bridges have been dropped, such as immediately behind where I was standing to take this photograph.

Lock 26 at Berching © Ricky Yates

This is Lock 26, located just north of Berching which, as you can see, is in good condition.

Canal Harbour at Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz © Ricky Yates

Whilst further north, in the larger town of Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, there is another Kanalhafen/Canal harbour.

Stop gates on the LMD Canal near Oberölsbach © Ricky Yates

My last discovery, before returning to Regensburg on the Autobahn, was near the village of Oberölsbach. These are what I believe to be a set of stop gates, allowing a section of canal to be drained.

According to my map, the LDM Canal is in water, all the way from here to the outskirts of Nürnberg. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to explore any further on this occasion 🙁 Within Nürnberg, post-1945 development has eliminated the line of the canal, whilst north of the city, the construction of Autobahn 73 has completely flattened it. But I believe there are some traces near to Bamburg, including Lock 100, which connects the canal to the River Regnitz which then flows into the River Main. One day visiting Bamburg is on my ‘bucket list’ 🙂

From 1960 to 1992, the Rhein-Main-Donau Canal (RMD) was constructed between Kelheim and Bamburg. Between Kelheim and Dietfurt, a few kilometres before Beilngries, the River Altmühl has been canalised by the building of three locks.

Kelheim Lock on the RMD Canal © Ricky Yates

Here is the first lock, just outside Kelheim. As you can see, the RMD Canal has been built with large locks that vessels that ply both the Donau/Danube and the Main can pass through. The LDM also canalised the same section of the Altmühl, but with thirteen locks.

Small pleasure craft leaving the lock at Kelheim © Ricky Yates

However, alongside the new large lock at Kelheim, there is also a much smaller one for pleasure boats to pass. I was lucky to see this little boat pass through.

After Dietfurt, the RMD Canal takes a more westerly route to Nürnberg and on to Bamburg, than the LMD Canal. And in place of the one hundred locks on the LMD, there are only sixteen on the RMD.

6 comments to The Ludwig-Donau-Main-Kanal (LDM)

  • Pauleen Bang

    Dear Ricky
    Fascinating stuff. Do write more about your travels.
    Hope all is well with you.
    Love Pauleen

    • Ricky

      Thank you, Pauleen! That was a very quick response to my post 🙂 I will try to write more about my travels in the coming months.
      I had a respiratory infection recently, which took over two weeks to get rid of. But other than that, I’m keeping fairly well at present.

  • Fr. Stephen Morris

    Good to hear from you again! Christ is risen!

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    Canals are amazing in their construction and operation even when they are poorly designed and fail to deliver on their original purpose. I thought it was only in Ireland that problems of lock dimensions and seasonal failure of water supply to the summit levels left canals literally “high and dry”.
    Please give us more of your observations and photographs from your travels in Europe.
    Thank you,

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean,
      Thank you for visiting & commenting here once again.

      It certainly isn’t just in Ireland that there are problems regarding lock dimensions on adjoining waterways. For example in England, the Huddersfield Narrow Canal was built for 70ft-long narrowboats, while the Huddersfield Broad Canal can take wider 57ft x 14ft craft, as used on the adjoining Calder & Hebble Navigation. Goods therefore had to be transhipped between the two at Huddersfield. This enforced double handling increased costs to unacceptable levels that were made the more so by the arrival of the Huddersfield & Manchester Railway. And maintaining a good water supply to the summit level of a canal has been an issue in many places, especially when there has been a long period of time without any rainfall.

      As I promised Pauleen, my previous commenter, I will try to once again write more about my travels in the coming months.

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