Drive Wire: The Falkirk Wheel

Today in design, we bring you the Falkirk Wheel. Residing in Falkirk, Scotland, the wheel connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. These two waterways had been apart since a series of locks fell into disrepair in the 1930s. Then, in 1999, Butterley Engineering got to work. Within two years, the firm had built the Falkirk wheel in Derbyshire, and began moving it piece-by-piece to Falkirk. When all was said and done, the wheel was 115 feet in diameter. Finally, in May of 2002, the Falkirk Wheel was ready for business. The wheel is capable of lifting a 66 foot boat approximately 80 feet in the air to an intricate system of aqueducts and tunnels. In order to reduce strain on the structure, engineers designed the wheel so that each tub would counterbalance the other using water sensors and automated pumps.  Due to the vast amounts of water being displaced, each tub ways upwards of 500 tons. Essentially this is an erector set for Scotland’s waterways.