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Photographer's Note

This is the "Falkirk Wheel" and its associated aqueduct which is the only rotating boat lift in the World, built to allow boats to pass between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal which differ in height by 24 metres (79 ft). in fact, the Union Canal is still 11 metres (36 ft) higher than the aqueduct which meets the wheel, and boats must pass through a pair of locks to descend from this canal onto the aqueduct at the top of the wheel.

The two canals served by the wheel were originally connected by a series of 11 locks. With a 35 metres (115 ft) difference in height, it required 3,500 tonnes of water per "run" and took a boat most of a day to pass through the stair. By the 1930s these had fallen into disuse, and the locks were dismantled in 1933. The Forth and Clyde Canal closed at the end of 1962.

The British Waterways Board (BWB) came into existence on 1 January 1963, the day the Forth and Clyde was closed, with the objective of finding a broad strategy for the future of canals in the United Kingdom. Eventually, after long considerations and later part funding from the National Lottery, a decision was made to reinstate the two canals as well as the link between them. Several designs for a boat lift were submitted and the final decision was made in favour of the design submitted by Edinburgh architects RMJM (Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall). RMJM's chief architect was Tony Kettle who worked out aspects of the construction using his 8-year-old daughter's "Lego", and build a model which was shown to clients and funders!

On 24 May 2002, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Falkirk Wheel as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The success of the design of the wheel depends on Archimedes' principle that an object floating in a fluid displaces its own weight of that fluid, so when a boat sails into one of the two caissons of the wheel, the wheel remains perfectly balanced. So efficient is the system that it only requires electric motors of 30 horsepower (22.5 KW) to power the rotation of the wheel.

In the picture you can see in the foreground the pool leading from the Forth and Clyde Canal, then the glass-roofed visitor centre on the left, then the wheel itself and, to the upper right, the aqueduct leading to the Union Canal. I shall add a workshop picture taken from a different viewpoint showing the wheel in mid-rotation.

And you can read more about this interesting structure here.

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Additional Photos by John Cannon (tyro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1294 W: 396 N: 4918] (19728)
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