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Portfolio > On Location (UK) 2 > Falkirk Wheel, Scotland                                                               Click on an image below to reveal enlarged version

Falkirk Wheel, Scotland, UK

The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift in TamfourhillFalkirk, in central Scotland, connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. It reconnects the two canals for the first time since the 1930s. It opened in 2002 as part of the Millennium Link project. The plan to regenerate central Scotland's canals and reconnect Glasgow with Edinburgh was led by British Waterways with support and funding from seven local authorities, the Scottish Enterprise Network, the European Regional Development Fund, and the Millennium Commission. Planners decided early on to create a dramatic 21st-century landmark structure to reconnect the canals, instead of simply recreating the historic lock flight. The wheel raises boats by 24 metres (79 ft), but the Union Canal is still 11 metres (36 ft) higher than the aqueduct which meets the wheel. Boats must also pass through a pair of locks between the top of the wheel and the Union Canal. The Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world, and one of two working boat lifts in the United Kingdom, the other being the Anderton Boat Lift.

In March 1999 Donald Dewar, the Secretary of State for Scotland, cut the first sod of turf to begin work at lock 31 on the Forth and Clyde Canal. Over 1000 people were employed in the construction of the wheel, which has been designed to last for at least 120 years. The wheel was fully constructed and assembled at the Butterley Engineering plant in RipleyDerbyshire. The structure was then dismantled in the summer of 2001, and transported on 35 lorry loads to Falkirk, before being reassembled into five sections on the ground and lifted into place. Construction of the canal required 250,000 m3 (8,800,000 cu ft) of excavation, a 160 m (520 ft) canal tunnel of 8 m (26 ft) diameteraqueducts of 20 m (66 ft) and 120 m (390 ft), three sets of locks and a number of bridges, as well as 600 m (2,000 ft) of access roads. The 180 m (590 ft) Rough Castle Tunnel was driven in three stages, with the two upper quarters being drilled with a standard excavator before the lower half was dug using a modified road planer in 100 mm (4 in) layers. This technique was 15% cheaper and reduced the build time of the tunnel by two weeks.

On 24 May 2002, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Falkirk Wheel as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations. The opening was delayed a month due to flooding caused by vandals who forced open the wheel's gates. The damage, which cost £350,000 to repair, resulted in the dry well being flooded, damaging electrical and hydraulic equipment.


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