Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel
The Falkirk Wheel, which was opened in May, 2002, is named after the city of Falkirk in central Scotland. The wheel is a huge rotating boat lift connecting two main canals in the area and is one of Scotland’s most familiar modern architectural monuments. . The wheel, which has a combined lifting capacity of 600 tons of floating canal barges, cost 17.5 million British Pounds to complete (out of almost 85 million pounds for the entire project). Capable of lifting boats to a height of up to 24 meter, it is the second largest and most advanced large-scale rotating boat lift in the world.

Before the 1930′s, Glasgow and Edinburgh were connected via a series of locks which had stopped functioning. Under the British Millennium Project several plans were proposed for linking the canals.  The Falkirk Wheel was chosen as the winning suggestion and construction started in the summer of 2000. 

The Falkirk Wheel has an overall diameter of 35 meters with two opposing arms, each extending 15 meters from the central axle. On each side of the axle there is a large caisson carrying approximately 300 tons of water and ships. The caissons are balanced at all times, even when they are not carrying a full load. One of the interesting features of the Falkirk Wheel is its very low power consumption. Despite its size, it takes the giant wheel only slightly over 5 minutes to perform a 180 degrees turn. 

Another astonishing fact regarding the Falkirk Wheel is its power consumption. Because of the way it is built it requires only 22.5 kW of power, making it both aesthetic and friendly to the environment. 

TFOT recently covered another unique architectural structure which has a ‘green’ bonus – the Jubilee Church in Rome, designed by the renowned architect Richard Meier. The Jubilee Church is covered by a special coating of titanium dioxide that was applied in order to maintain its shiny white color, but apparently also performs oxidation of organic contaminants when exposed to UV light from the sun, thus cleaning the air around it. 

The Falkirk Wheel website includes more information for potential visitors. A video showing the Falkirk Wheel in action can be seen here.

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About the author

Iddo Genuth

Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.

View all articles by Iddo Genuth