Today in Transportation History – 1786: Birth of the Builder of Norway’s First Canal

Pioneering canal engineer Engebret Soot was born in the municipality of Aurskog (now part of Aurskog-Høland) in southeastern Norway. At the time of Soot’s birth, the Kingdom of Norway was united with the Kingdom of Denmark as a state known as Denmark-Norway; this integrated state remained in existence until 1814, when Norway established itself as a stand-alone entity before joining forces with Sweden later in the year to form the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway (which stayed in place until 1905).

Between 1825 and 1827, Soot built Norway’s first canal. This waterway facilitated the transport of timber from Østre Otteid to sawmills in Fredrikshald (present-day Halden) in Soot’s native region. Another one of Soot’s notable projects was the construction of a canal in 1849 that likewise allowed local timber to be delivered more easily to Frederikshald. This route, which became known as the Soot Canal, had the distinction of being the first canal in Norway with locks. These locks, numbering 16 altogether, extended from Lake Skjervangen to Lake Mortsjølungen.

Another waterway built by Soot in that area was what is now called the Halden Canal. Construction on this canal began in 1852, and it remains in service today as a route for vessels sailing between Halden’s neighborhood of Tistedalen and the village of Skulerud. A stone monument commemorating Soot, who died in the Norwegian community of Otteid in 1859 at the age of 72, has been placed at one of the canal’s locks.

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