Now this is SERIOUSLY big

Saturday 1451 – 6th Oct 2012.

I have been meaning to show you this for a couple of weeks but other things got in the way. I was so fascinated by it that I didn’t want to miss the chance to show it to you.  I thought I’d give you a rest from my politics too 😉

On my way back home from my recent visit to Scotland, I visited the magnificent Falkirk wheel, a rotating boat lift near Edinburgh which is used for moving working and pleasure boats but is also a tourist attraction that gives rides to people like me..  It connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. You can read lots about it here  and there’s a little video which explains really well how it works, but I’ll print some extracts from the Falkirk Wheel website as I go along to give you an idea of it.

If you look closely at the photo to the left you can see the size of the wheel.  To the left of the Archimedes boat are a couple of people standing so you can see that the wheel is massive.

It’s how it works that intrigued me.

“The Falkirk Wheel lies at the end of a reinforced concrete aqueduct that connects, via the Roughcastle tunnel and a double staircase lock, to the Union Canal. Boats entering the Wheel’s upper gondola are lowered, along with the water that they float in, to the basin below. At the same time, an equal weight rises up, lifted in the other gondola.”

“This works on the Archimedes principle of displacement. That is, the mass of the boat sailing into the gondola will displace an exactly proportional volume of water so that the final combination of ‘boat plus water’ balances the original total mass.”

The model below, which is in the visitor centre, gives you an idea of how the whole thing moves round and again you can see the size by the scale models of people at the lower left but I do urge you to follow the link above and watched the little video..


Even more amazing to me is this  “Given the precise balancing of the gondolas and a simple but clever system of cogs, a very small amount of energy is actually  required to turn the Wheel. In fact, it is a group of ten hydraulic motors located within the central spine that provide the small amount, just 1.5kw, of electricity to turn it.”

You can tell I know nothing about engineering can’t you, but even I know this is a tiny amount of power (apparently enough to boil 8 kettles) and I love that!

The photo below was taken through the roof of the boat I was on after the wheel started to rotate. Behind and above the huge central bar is the other boat in its “cradle” coming down as we go up.  What looks like a tiny speck in the sky, just above the cogs in the right of the picture, is a helicopter !

Here are a few more photos, oh and the one at the top of the page is the start of the locks and where the boat was turned to go back to the wheel.  As you can see I liked the tunnels and arches 😉



What you can see in the photo below is the view from the boat coming out of the tunnel and moving back towards the wheel – at the far end through the arches is where the boat stops to be taken down by the wheel.  -if you look at the bottom photo you will see how those arches are formed.

That’s the end of the engineering lesson.. see you all next week 😀

Oh I nearly forgot these other quick facts

“The Falkirk Wheel is 35 metres tall, the equivalent of 8 double decker buses stacked on top of each other
Cost £17.5 million to build
1,200 tonnes of steel was used to create The Wheel
The structure contains over 14,000 bolts and 45,000 bolt holes
Over 1,000 construction staff helped to build it
The gondolas hold 500,000 litres of water, enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool”  and

Just as I was leaving I saw this Roman Legionary ( as you do! )  he was part of a very new company called Real Roman Tours who were on a trial run. ( that is the canal bit of the wheel behind him) He was there because behind the Falkirk wheel is part of the Roman Antonine wall. Here’s a bit from their website.

“The Antonine Wall was built by Emperor Antoninus Pius and formed the north-west frontier of The Roman Empire from around AD 142 until the 160s. The Wall, which was made of turf, stretched over 37 miles across lowland Scotland from the River Forth in the east to the River Clyde in the west”

 They visit 3 sites on the wall. Find out about them here

They were full of enthusiasm and love of all things Roman. I wish them luck with their new endeavour.

Right I’m definitely gone now!


You can find my photography blog Photomania here I hope you’ll pop over and take a look if you haven’t already.