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back to article Meet the world's one-of-a-kind ENORMO barge-bowling bridge of Falkirk

Proving it's not just the Victorians who can make huge structures in steel, the Falkirk Wheel can lift six canal boats 25 metres in one go, moving them from one waterway to another. The Forth & Clyde Canal, running across central Scotland, used to be connected to the Union Canal, linking Glasgow to Edinburgh via a stairway of 11 …

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Pint

An utterly sensible solution that looks utterly bonkers. Goodonyers Scottish canal boffins.

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Your correspondent explains to some children how they ought to be doing it

"No no no. You're doing it all wrong. Give it here and I'll show you how the toy is meant to be used".

Never been tempted to do that.

Particularly never when the sprog has got hold of my old Lego technichs.

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Re: Your correspondent explains to some children how they ought to be doing it

"No no no. You're doing it all wrong. Give it here and I'll show you "

In my experience that message is more likely to be in the Child ->Adult direction, in a suitably exasperated 8-year-old voice.

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Happy

@Phil O'Sophical - Re: Your correspondent explains to some children how they ought to be doing it

"In my experience that message is more likely to be in the Child ->Adult direction, in a suitably exasperated 8-year-old voice."

That reminds me of the picture I saw of a small child on the telephone (with one hand doing a face-palm) and the caption "No, grandma, double-click on the Internet Explorer icon..."

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It takes a little over five minutes for a full rotation,

Only 5 minutes to completely piss off travelers who find themselves back where they started? Excellent! ;-)

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Trollface

"Children may be sold in a single turn "

So, they sell children nowadays ? Well I'll be. and what's the going price, on average ?

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Re: "Children may be sold in a single turn "

"Well I'll be. and what's the going price, on average ?"

GBP222,458.00 though they will probably give you a discount up there in the North...

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Impressive, but nothing on what the continentals do

I've been on this by small ship quite a few times - it's two massive interconnected bathtubs running one and a half kilometres up and down a hill. Basically an episode of "Last of the Summer Wine" on steroids

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronqui%C3%A8res_inclined_plane

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Re: Impressive, but nothing on what the continentals do

And we have this one too in Belgium: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Str%C3%A9py-Thieu_boat_lift

" It is the tallest boat lift in the world". And maybe the ugliest too. And it's not engineered by the Scottish: http://www.canal-du-centre.be/Presse/En/20000700_avarie.html

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Headmaster

Re: Impressive, but nothing on what the continentals do

Thereagain, the European canals and their ships are much larger than those in the UK. The Scottish one certainly wins on style, but given that most of the canal boats over here are over 50M long and as wide as half a dozen British canal boats, that's without taking into account the hulks they push around in front of them, they wouldn't have a cat in hells chance of fitting into the lift - well, they'd never get to the lift, because the wouldn't fit in the canal. :-P

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@ lauwersw Re: Impressive, but nothing on what the continentals do

Yep - I'm very well travelled on the Belgian and Dutch waterways - been on that one too :-)

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Re: Impressive, but nothing on what the continentals do

This Cheshire example is smaller, but also entertaining, as much due to the the various evolutions in hoist equipment over the years as to it's current (orginal) condition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anderton_Boat_Lift

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Re: Impressive, but nothing on what the continentals do

Price tag on the Belgian thing is, um, maybe 7-8 times what the Falkirk thing cost.

BBC radio has been down into the Crossrail tunnel works in London recently and having a whale of a time. But when it's finished it will be just trains really. Not that that isn't fun. I think the feature has been included in several programmes including World Service radio's "Science Hour" last weekend, or maybe previously.

Wikipedia page for Crossrail claims to have a picture of the "portal" to get into it, but it doesn't look like for instance the Star-Gate, which I think is a missed opportunity. Maybe they are going to put that in later, like Platform 9¾ at King's Cross. (Actually that's been done.)

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Nice review

Thanks for that excellent review. Inexplicably I've never been with the offspring despite living around an hour's drive away. Now I know there's a water park we're definitely off! With 4 of them ranging from 3 to 14 it's sometimes difficult to find a day out that suits all :)

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Projects

Projects like this are great things. I think it is sad that the last generation (longer in some places) has been all about lowering costs and increasing efficiencies, two absolutely uninteresting things, and they've managed to make everything more expensive and less efficient. There is never enough money for governments and soooo much money is wasted trying to save a dollar.

There should be more large engineering projects in today's world, if for no other reason than to show the future that we weren't idiots and we also had a handle on technology. As it stands right now our civilization looks like it hasn't accomplished much of anything of storybook/legendary status since WWII (with rare exceptions, like this).

We've let the bean counters take control and that, oddly enough, never pays off for anyone: (Insert price/value and accountant colloquialism here). Down with accountants!

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Re: Projects

"for no other reason than to show the future that we weren't idiots and we also had a handle on technology"

Are you sure about that? Don't you find that mobile phone thing in your pocket, not to mention the technology and infrastructure it connects to, just a little bit impressive?? Admittedly it's not BIG, but it is bloody well clever stuff, and that's just to name one. For me this generation's achievements are in the incredibly SMALL, but also even more in the DISPOSABLE: not only making something incredibly clever, but perfecting the manufacturing to make it so cheaply that it becomes an everyday item that you don't even think about.

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Happy

Re: Projects

I agree there has been some significant accomplishments for sure, but if you look back at previous cultures their most recognized legacies are their large engineering projects. Either through the fact they still exist or through story and legend.

The little things are of interest primarily to anthropologists: Day to day habits and possessions. Even then there's often no consensus on those things, just a lot of well educated guesses. Computing in all its current forms will be interesting to the future the same way that old brass cash registers, telegraphs, mimeographs, and printing presses are interesting. Current computing will be an interesting sidebar to a subset of the population, a step in communication technology, not an icon future cultures will identify with us.

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Re: Projects

Ignore the horribly written sentence starting my previous post. I changed the wording but obviously failed to change it enough.

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this generation’s achievements are even more in the disposable

NogginTheNog, do you mean like privacy?

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Ran there

This April I ran length of the canal from Glasgow to Edinburgh (55miles) for fun (yes for fun), which is a yearly race. Its very pretty and amazing with the wheel being about 20 miles in. Cycling is popular with railway stations scattered along the way. The tunnel shortly after the wheel is also fantastic and worth a visit.

http://www.resoluteevents.co.uk/news.html

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Excellent article

I was just thinking about this boat lift the other day when I saw a leaflet for the Anderton Boat Lift at my dada's house

http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/Anderton-boat-lift

Perhaps a similar article about this marvel of Victorian engineering is in order

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You da hack!

Even though I keep thinking of you as "Billy Ray", I see that even your "what I did on my vacation" articles are worth reading. Well done!

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Pint

Re: You da hack!

I just keep thinking: paid vacation.

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If you like this, you should check out the Anderton Boat Lift too

https://6t4w36nws3cmd.s3.amazonaws.com/albums/albums/together-12/tom-parents/anderton-Boat-Lift/P1010240.JPG - and it has a half decent visitor centre too !

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Re: If you like this, you should check out the Anderton Boat Lift too

It just a pity the Foxton Incline Plane got scrapped - that did it all off a 25HP motor!

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What's with the "hand-tightened bolts"?

Suppressing the urge to ask why they didn't use spanners to tighten the bolts, I ask why a powered torque wrench wouldn't have been a better tool?

Or is this just a piece of useless information, like "pan-fried sea bass"?

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Boffin

Re: What's with the "hand-tightened bolts"?

If you've got the manpower, tools and budget, hand torqued fasteners are always a superior option. Even the best powered drivers leave a lot to be desired in the accuracy department. For instance the $8,000 electric drivers we use for production assemblies show ~8% variance over a $3,000 old school manual torque wrench. Powered drivers also go out of calibration faster.

As far as this project goes though you are correct in that this is likely superfluous. Unless I'm really, really underestimating the speeds of this thing it probably doesn't create the harmonics necessary to allow a few out of spec fasteners to cause failure or accelerated wear.

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MJI
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Impressive

I do like things like this and such a good use of lottery money.

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It *looks* like the Victorians *should* have been capable of doing this

But I suspect it needs a surprising amount of late 20th century engineering know how (CAD/FAE high quality steels and the ability to cast and/or weld very big parts) to actually deliver it.

But it's one hell of an achievement. It's practical, highly energy efficient (from the number quoted to move those kinds of mass) and graceful

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Re: It *looks* like the Victorians *should* have been capable of doing this

The Victorians would just have rivetted together lots of small cast or wrought pieces.

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Re: It *looks* like the Victorians *should* have been capable of doing this

And lots of brass. They loved them some brass.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It *looks* like the Victorians *should* have been capable of doing this

What's all this fuss about "efficiency"? Make the arm span (centre to centre) a smidge shorter than the distance between the two water levels, then mount the thing at an axis level half a smidge above the midpoint between the water levels. Bob's you're uncle: The whole contraption should self power, generate enough surplus to drive the docking mechanism and perhaps a wee bit over to light the visitor centre. Assuming of course that the upper waterway is adequately fed, which, as the wheel was preceded by locks, it is.

Definitely not a Scottish design. No self respecting Scot would ever have missed that.

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Re: It *looks* like the Victorians *should* have been capable of doing this

generate enough surplus to drive the docking mechanism and perhaps a wee bit over to light the visitor centre

You'd have to mount the gondolas a smidge offset from the centre line as well, so that it was self-starting, and I'm not sure the generator would apply enough drag to avoid an accelerating splashdown on each half-rotation. Perfect balance, with a tiny amount of power to start and stop, is probably easier to manage than the braking/damping assembly necessary to keep a smooth self-powered descent. That was one of the problems with the Anderton lift, corrosion of the piston arms gradually eroded the seal around the hydraulics, and it made fine control increasingly difficult.

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Re: It *looks* like the Victorians *should* have been capable of doing this

when I went several years ago, the tour guides explained that one of the major advantages over the locks is that there isn't any water loss involved. These are after all, canals, and not rivers.

Really cool to see in person. I could have sat watching the giant planetary gears spin around for hours.

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Go

Re: It *looks* like the Victorians *should* have been capable of doing this

They probably could, but it would have involved a lot of small children inside the the structure, holding the 'dolly' as someone outside riveted it with a steam hammer. "Loud" would not begin to describe the noise!

See also the films of building a riveted ship, where they throw the red hot rivet from one to another.

Look also at the Foxton Inclined Plane.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It *looks* like the Victorians *should* have been capable of doing this

> I'm not sure the generator would apply enough drag to avoid an accelerating splashdown

Quite sure that even the Victorians had regulators for that sort of thing... I'm imagining lots of well greased gear wheels and enormous brass balls spinning on the ends of arms: Perhaps they could have weighted them with visiting children instead of that costly brass (for a small fee - natch) and entertained the visitors into the bargain.

The more I think about it, the more certain I become that the Scottish would have done a much better job designing the thing!

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Re: It *looks* like the Victorians *should* have been capable of doing this

It was designed in Scotland, concept by Nicoll Russell in Dundee, project architect was RMJM in Edinburgh.

How more scottish do you want.

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Lift my boat

Can I ride it in my kayak?

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Pirate

Re: Lift my boat

Kayak certainly. A small charge for a short term canal license for an unpowered craft, and I believe the wheel is then free. Go up and down as many times as you like.

Seriously, the tourist trip is not superflous. Get a seat right at the front for an amazing view on the descent.

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Kayak

I'd love to traverse it in a kayak! I have been on a river with navigation locks in a kayak and it's pretty cool.

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