The Story of Sip Channel – Asociaţia Pro-Mehedinţi

Thematic route: The cultural heritage route

Name of the Touristic Attraction: The Story of Sip Channel

Description: In Djerdap gorge, prior to the construction of the hydro power plant, there were a lot of underwater rocks, reefs and sandbanks; a particular danger that made sailing difficult in the part of the Sip gorge. Even back in Roman times, this part of the Danube was a problem, so the Romans dug the first channel where they ‘relocated’ the Danube water from its riverbed and forced it to flow through this channel along which the ships could safely sail. Much later, the water shut these channels and started again to break through the rocks of the Iron Gate. The Sip channel was created in the period from 1890 to 1896 and had over 2 kilometers. Shortly after the opening of the channel it was clear that the Danube at this point was still powerful and a great obstacle for the ships. People feverishly sought for a new solution and they found it in 1899 by introducing the steamship towing. And so it was until 1916, when the ships were replaced by three handled locomotives and in the coastal embankment of the canal,  the Germans built the 1.800 meters long railroad. This small railroad entered in all the railway maps of the world. During its work Sip locomotive towing service used 11 locomotives. The navigation seemed to be simple, but it only seemed so because it was hard work both for people and for locomotives. This went on for decades until 1969 together with the construction of the first Iron Gates power plant, when a large storage lake was created. One morning, the water flooded the premises of Sip locomotive towing service, nearly six months before the constructors of the power plant was planned and announced. Thus, the complete railroad and two German three-cylinder steam locomotives, the famous “Berliners“ remained under the water. By the construction of HPP “Djerdap 1” everything changed: the Danube was tamed, it was no longer an obstacle to the boatmen, or devastating for many ships in Mali Kazan (Small Cauldron) whose sharp rocks easily destroyed their bottoms. And although they were powerful and fast, the experienced boatmen got chilled when they had to go through the deepest and narrowest part of the Iron Gates gorge. That is why in Kladovo, Tekija, Sip and other surrounding towns the most famous and also the best paid job was the so called – loc. The Locs or ship pilots, i.e. the captains of the river navigation, safely led the ships along that part of the Iron Gates.