Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

It resembles an amusement park ride, but the Falkirk Wheel in Falkirk, Scotland, is the world’s only revolving boatlift. It opened in May 2002, and now performs a task that previously  required 11 locks: moving boats along the 35 meters of vertical height between the Forth and Clyde and the Union canals.

Although it’s called a wheel, the Falkirk is not round. It consists of two large, identical steel arms 28 meters apart, which rotate on an axle speared though their centers. The arms support two 26.5-meter long, water-filled tubs, or gondolas-one at the top and one at the bottom.

A 30-centimeter gap between the gondola and the end of the waterway must be filled with water before a boat can enter.  Bellows-like seals expand to form a watertight connection between the waterway and the gondola. A valve allows water to fill the gap. When the water levels inside and outside the gondola are even, doors open, allowing the boat to enter. The doors close, and pumps drain the water from the gap. The wheel is then free to turn.

The Falkirk Wheel’s stats are Herculean. The twin arms with their gondolas weigh a combined 1,300 metric tons. Each gondola carries about 250,000 liters of water and can accommodate as many as four 10-meter boats. Boaters at the top have a 50-kilometer view of the countryside. In fact, it’s the only place where the best view of Scotland is from the helm of a boat.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me