The Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, is an iconic piece of Scottish engineering. Opened in 2002, the wheel is designed to lift boats from one canal to the next, connecting the busy Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. In 1933, the original links between these two canals were dismantled, meaning that boats had no way or traveling between waterways from the East to the West of the country. The Millennium Link project cost £17.5 million and was officially opened by the Queen on 24 May 2002.
Forth and Clyde Canal, which lay 35m below the level of the Union Canal, is now connected by the wheel which lifts boats from one waterway to the next. The wheel required a collaboration of designers, architects, experienced engineers, and over 1000 construction staff who brought together their expertise to create the only rotation boat life in the world. The structure is an incredible piece of engineering. Created using 1200 tonnes of steel, and carrying 500,000 litres of water in each gondola, it in fact only uses 1.5kWh of energy to turn, the same amount as it would take to boil 8 household kettles.
For the technically minded among you, the wheel works by using the 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.
Today, the wheel is open to the public and continues to be a popular attraction. There are a whole host of activities and events to choose from, such as the water activity zone, cycle hires and canal walks. It promises to be a fantastic day out for everyone.