From 26th July 1875 till May 2002 a total of 127 years the Anderton Boat Lift near Northwich was the biggest and only lift in britain, its reign ended when a Scottish lift was built leaving its claim reduced to the biggest in England. The structure that overtook its claim was :
Scotland has two main canals, the Forth & Clyde Canal which effectively cuts the country in half East to West from the Firth of Forth at Grangemouth to Glasgow a distance of 35 miles using 40 locks and 32 swing bridges, and was built in 1790.The other canal being the Union Canal built in 1822 running from Edinburgh to Falkirk was a lockless 30 miles long due to it being 73 mtrs above sea level, used mainly for barges hauling coal from nearby coalfields.The two canals met at Falkirk where a series of eleven locks allowed for passage from one to the other, lifting or lowering the boats a height of 35 mtrs. As rail and road links were built trains and heavy motor vehicles took over as the main transporter of goods the canals went into rapid decline and were closed in 1965. Parts of the canals were filled in with roads and housing being built over them, then in the late 90's they started to be fashionable again, social use of barges rose sharply and developers saw the advantages of restoring
the waterways back to their former glory. Both canals received lavish grants and were redug and cleared the last problem being how to join them again as the eleven original locks had all but disappeared in redevelopement of the area.So was born the Falkirk Wheel
two 'S' shaped arms, which have two rectangular tanks kept level by wheels running inside a large tracked annular gear connected to the wheel rotating hub via planet gears, each holding 300 tons of water capable of supporting two large boats or four small ones, and because the weight of the boats is not a factor due to water displacement the wheel is in prefect balance even when one carrier is empty. Boats on the Union Canal go through two drop locks and a newly built 168 mtr tunnel to exit onto the 104 mtr concrete aquaduct, then into the carrier and decend the 35 mts to the lagoon at the bottom, in approximately four and a half minutes where a final lock gives entry to the Forth & Clyde Canal. The wheel is turned using 10 geared hydraulic motors supplied by a hydraulic pump driven by a relatively small electric motor and uses very little power because of the equalising effects of the two carriers, and requires only normal routine servicing.
With the raising of the M8 motorway at one point to provide headroom where it had been built over the disused Union Canal and all the bridges and locks needing massive overhauls, the total cost was £84.5m of which the Falkirk Wheel accounted for £17.5m, lottery funds paid £32m money well spent.
And while many visitors will be happy simply admiring a remarkable structure designed both to look good and function well, the real experience only comes from trying it out for yourself. Details of boat trips are set out on the website. You board your hour long trip in front of the Visitor Centre before being lifted in the wheel to the length of canal through Roughcastle Tunnel. Beyond the tunnel your boat turns, before returning through it and descending via the wheel. Advance booking of boat trips is highly recommended on 08700 500 208 up to 5.00pm the previous day (2.00pm on Sundays).