Digital Pictures IndexThe Falkirk Wheel

22 Aug 2002  Bright sun all day.

When commercial canal use was abandoned in the first half of the twentieth century many canals became derelict, were used as dumping grounds and many stretches were filled in.  A few far-sighted individuals campaigned to save the canal system but in the austere post-war era their pleas largely fell on deaf ears.  In the latter half of the century though, increasing prosperity and leisure time led to a much more enlightened attitude towards the potential recreational uses of this unique industrial heritage.  Many canals were restored to navigation, culminating in the 'impossible' restorations of the Huddersfield and Rochdale canals, and now even new stretches of canal have been built with yet more planned.  In Scotland, the Forth & Clyde canal was once connected to the Union canal through a flight of eleven locks but these were long ago filled in and a housing estate built over them.  So the problem was how to re-establish the link when these two canals were restored to navigation.  The solution was the Falkirk Wheel - a solution as bold and far-sighted as would befit our Victorian forefathers who built the Anderton Boat Lift, the Barton Swing Aquaduct and the Manchester Ship Canal.  A rotating boat lift, a kinetic sculpture, a marvel of engineering; call it what you will, this amazing structure will transfer up to eight narrowboats at a time between the canals, a height difference of 35 metres (115 ft), in about seven minutes.  You don't have to have your own boat to experience it, you can take a ride on a trip boat, and there is a visitor centre and coffee shop - that's the wedge shaped building on the right, which has a sloping glass roof so you can gaze in awe as the wheel rotates and you sip your cappucino.  There is an impressive 'working' model of the wheel but when I was there it wasn't (working, that is).

The Falkirk Wheel
Anderton Boat Lift
Barton Swing Aquaduct
Manchester Ship Canal

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