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Falkirk Wheel

By YorkshireSam
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.

Each gondola runs on small wheels that fit into a single curved rail fixed on the inner edge of the opening on each arm. In theory, this should be sufficient to ensure that they always remain horizontal, but any friction or sudden movement could cause the gondola to stick or tilt. To ensure that this could never happen and that the water and boats always remain perfectly level throughout the whole cycle, a series of linked cogs acts as a back up.

Hidden at each end, behind the arm nearest the aqueduct, are two 8m diameter cogs to which one end of each gondola is attached. A third, exactly equivalent sized cog is in the centre, attached to the main fixed upright. Two smaller cogs are fitted in the spaces between, with each cog having teeth that fit into the adjacent cog and push against each other, turning around the one fixed central one. The two gondolas, being attached to the outer cogs, will therefore turn at precisely the same speed, but in the opposite direction to the Wheel.

Given the precise balancing of the gondolas and this simple but clever system of cogs, a very small amount of energy is actually then 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.

Tags: Architecture Falkirk wheel

Voters: Hermanus, handlerstudio, Nigeve1 and 13 more

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Hermanus 9 4 South Africa
27 Apr 2013 4:41AM
Amazing technology !! A great write up to go with this excellent and very interesting photo !!
27 Apr 2013 5:01AM
A great explanation---and as a visual person---I would love to see the means of all this working. You know the saying about a picture being worth a thousand words.

And, this is a lovely photo.

Nigeve1 8 1.4k 101 United Kingdom
27 Apr 2013 6:18AM
Very interesting, good photo and description, I had heard of this structure but never seen an image, thanks. Nigel.
RonnieAG Plus
12 154 119 Scotland
27 Apr 2013 8:18AM
Gosh, you get around: two very good shots of the Wheel, and with an excellent description of the mechanism, Sam. The big scene in V 2 shows the locale off so well.
It's like a giant sea monster with two heads coming out of the water, both good shots ,reminds me when I was there, good place to go and captured very well indeed
27 Apr 2013 12:39PM
Two superb captures!
27 Apr 2013 8:16PM
Great image of this great piece of engineering
YorkshireSam 12 110 3 United Kingdom
28 Apr 2013 4:23PM
As always I am appreciative of the comments and votes left, thank you .

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