The Falkirk Wheel
The UK has many projects which combine striking design and engineering to make iconic sites which attract visitors and aid economic regeneration. One of the most spectacular is the Falkirk Wheel in central Scotland. This connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. In the past these canals were linked but this was lost in the 1930s. The opening of the lift in 2002 put this right.
Originally the link had been made by a series of locks. However, these locks had been removed and housing built across the site. This meant a plan to re-connect Edinburgh and Glasgow by canal was going to be very difficult. Luckily the planners had the vision to ask for a dramatic piece of engineering which would become a destination as well as a utility.
The result was the Falkirk Wheel which raises boats by 24 metres to the level of the Union Canal. The Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift in the world and the only other boat lift in the UK.
The wheel provided an amazing site and since it was opened by the Queen it has attracted about 4.4 million visitors – around 400,000 people annually. Along with the Kelpies, the boat wheel has become a major tourist attraction in the area. This is aided by a visitor center – designed to enhance the appearance of the site and provide facilities for families with children.
If you visit the wheel you will find it looks more like a piece of sculpture that a piece of engineering. It really proves the point that good design creates value, not expense. During your visit you will also notice how the structure is valued as somewhere to go for a leisure experience and fun. You almost forget its real purpose is to lift boats up the side of a hill.
The first nine pictures below show, in time sequence, the wheel in motion, lifting a boat.