Scotland: The Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel

Behold the Falkirk Wheel! This incredible contraption helps link a waterway that runs all the way across Scotland. When I first saw pictures of this space-age boat lift, I couldn’t figure out how it worked. But after seeing it turn in person, it all makes sense! Named for the nearby village of Falkirk, the wheel employs gears, hydraulics and Archimedes’ Principle to raise small boats 8 stories in the air in under 10 minutes, eliminating a series of 11 locks that used to take all day to navigate.

The day we visited, no boats were going through the lift, but an operator offered to run the thing for us and even asked which direction we’d like to see it spin. Each rotation only takes about 1.5 kilowatt-hours of power and the whole contraption costs only about $15 a day in electricity to run on a constant schedule. More info on the Wheel, including a video, can be found here.

Up Close Under the Falkirk Wheel

Up Close Under the Falkirk Wheel, in the upright position.

It spins!

It spins!

Sideways. Each caisson can hold a 70-foot 200 ton boat.

Sideways. Each caisson can hold a 70-foot 200 ton boat.

To the Highlands!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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7 Responses to Scotland: The Falkirk Wheel

  1. walktx says:

    Interesting Engineering!

  2. beachman says:

    wow….kinda freaky….

  3. That is so cool. Who thinks up these things? Thanks for sharing.

  4. nhsr13 says:

    Reblogged this on tech139.

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