Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Falkirk Wheel, named after the nearby town of Falkirk in central Scotland, is a rotating boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal which at this point differ by 35 metres in height.
It consists of 2 diametrically opposed caissons which thanks to Archimedes' principle, always weigh the same whether they are empty (ie contain only water) or carrying upto 600 tonnes worth of canal barges. The wheel is therefore always perfectly balanced and despite its enormous mass rotates through 180° in less than 4 minutes using just a few kilowatts. The Wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world, and is regarded as an engineering landmark for Scotland. The United Kingdom has one other boat lift: the Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire.
The Wheel was constructed under Millennium Plans to reconnect the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. Previously, a series of 11 locks connected these canals. However in the 1930s, they were dis-used, and were infilled. Using funds from the National Lottery, the Millennium Commission regenerated the canals of central Scotland to connect Glasgow with Edinburgh once more. Designs were submitted for a lock to link the canals, with the Falkirk Wheel design winning. As with many Millennium Commission projects the site includes a visitor's centre containing a shop, café and exhibition centre.
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