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   Undertoad  Sunday Aug 13 04:35 PM

8/13/2006: The Falkirk Wheel



Thanks to Happy Monkey for pointing to this Flickr set and picking out three of the best shots of this.

A while back we had Germany's amazing water bridge, but I think, with this item, the Scots have topped it. Presenting the Falkirk Wheel. It's in Falkirk!

In this case, they had two canals coming at each other, one 24 meters higher than the other. Rather than bridge them, they wanted to connect them and allow boats to move from one to the other. But how to get the boats up 24 meters?



The Wheel answers that question by simultaneously lifting 300 tonnes of boat and water while simultaneously lowering 300 tonnes of boat and water on the other side, as it turns. The top boat is spun around to the bottom position and vice versa. Wow.



It's said that good engineering, working with nature instead of against it, comes up with naturally beautiful designs. We've seen that in the awesome Millau Viaduct and now here in this Wheel.

The lemon wedge on the bottom is an observatory... I want to observe it. Good work by those Scottish engineers!



(Doohan (RIP) applauds. Yes, yes he's not an actual Scottish engineer, but he did play one on TV.)



xoxoxoBruce  Sunday Aug 13 06:45 PM

Damn, I saw a couple news articles and several websites describing this gizmo, when it opened, and not one of them had pictures any way near this good. Everyone was getting too close, showing details instead of pictures like these that show clearly how it works.
Good work HM, UT.

The way it is balanced, is so simple, it blew me away. Brilliant!



zippyt  Sunday Aug 13 06:58 PM

WAYYYY COOL !!!



glatt  Sunday Aug 13 08:52 PM

It is very cool. I like it a lot.

I have to wonder though, if a series of standard canal locks would be cheaper to build and easier to maintain.



footfootfoot  Sunday Aug 13 08:53 PM

If it's not Scottish, it's crap!



Happy Monkey  Sunday Aug 13 09:00 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by xoxoxoBruce
Damn, I saw a couple news articles and several websites describing this gizmo, when it opened, and not one of them had pictures any way near this good. Everyone was getting too close, showing details instead of pictures like these that show clearly how it works.
Good work HM, UT.
I just happened to go to flickr at just the right time, and it showed up in "Everyone's Photos". I vaguely remember seeing a bit of the original news coverage, but nothing as interesting as this guy's stuff.


Sundae  Monday Aug 14 07:17 AM

Damn - watched a programme on this months ago and thought at the time that pictures of it would make a good IoTD. Never got round to looking it up though

It was one of the UK Millenium Projects (another one was the infamous "wobbly bridge" across the Thames).

The Falkirk Wheel connects Glasgow and Edinburgh by canal, and although there was some discussion as to whether this was strictly necessary, the wheel has now become a tourist attraction in its own right. You can park your car and take a boat trip for the specific purpose of riding the wheel.



capnhowdy  Monday Aug 14 06:21 PM

This is really great. I enjoy seeing proof that there are some very intelligent people on this planet. All hail the Scots... they did very well on their whisky venture also, IMO.

Best part about this to me is how they worked in harmony with nature instead of destroying it as usual.



barefoot serpent  Monday Aug 14 06:59 PM

This is a much more elegant solution instead of building a huge set of locks like these on the Erie Canal.



MsSparkie  Monday Aug 14 09:21 PM

Looks like a ferris wheel for boats.



Griff  Tuesday Aug 15 08:33 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by capnhowdy
All hail the Scots... they did very well on their whisky venture also, IMO.
Seconded!


dar512  Tuesday Aug 15 09:58 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by barefoot serpent
This is a much more elegant solution instead of building a huge set of locks like these on the Erie Canal.
Well, the locks are older. So you'd expect less advanced technology.


tippy  Tuesday Aug 15 10:33 AM

even more cool, the play park next to it is sponsored by irn rbu, scotland's other national drink

http://www.flickr.com/photos/38213325@N00/215990532/

we're not just great at enginerring, we also make bright orange drinks full of caffeine, sheep intenstines full of fat and deep friend mars bars.



glatt  Tuesday Aug 15 11:18 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by dar512
Well, the locks are older. So you'd expect less advanced technology.
Agreed. Sometimes, less advanced technology is better because it is simpler and more reliable.

This new boat wheel is elegant looking and is fascinating. The rotation of it seemed simple enough with the two tubs acting as counterweights, but I couldn't imagine how the gates worked. Usually a lock has the gates open against the uphill side of the water so water pressure will hold them shut when they close. These gates have space constraints. There is basically zero clearance between each gate of the tub as they are closed against the mating gates of the canals. There is no place for them to open. The only solution I could imagine is that the gates somehow lie flat on the bottom of the tub, and then rotate up into position. Then I couldn't imagine how they could seal, since there would be little water pressure against them.

So I looked it up. Turns out I was right that the gates are very complicated.

Quote:
The original source of many of these innovative ideas was in fact work already carried out an proven by Bennett Associates, in other fields. The lock gate seals, for example, used a proven solution from the design of air lock doors from the tunnelling industry. The seals at each end of the gondolas and on the canal gates of the aqueduct and the basin below it are totally watertight. With traditional lock gates some degree of leakage can be tolerated. The gates themselves form an extremely tight seal and are held shut by the pressure of the water that they are holding back and are pre-loaded by a pre-loading ram powered by an accumulator.

To release the seal and open the doors necessitates a powerful hydraulic ram. A situation complicated by the fact that the gondolas themselves carry no power pack with which to power such a ram. The solution to this particular conundrum was provided by Bennett Associates' experience in sub-sea pipeline systems. The seals are in fact released by a method known as 'hot stab', the necessary hydraulic pressure being provided from an external self-aligning hydraulic link that automatically connects each time a gondola docks with the aqueduct or canal basin.
That sounds pretty complicated to me. Far from elegant.

Another article I found says that the system is computer controlled and requires input from over 600 sensors to run properly. This is sounding less and less elegant all the time.

Quote:
With the boats loaded and the gondola end gates closed, a computer-controlled water-pumping system equalizes the water levels in the two gondolas to establish near perfect weight balance before the Wheel turns. Fairfield Control Systems, Nottinghamshire, developed the software for the computer system that monitors and controls all Wheel functions. Using I/O from more than 600 points, the system meets all safety standards. For instance, it will not allow the Wheel to rotate until the safety locks on all the gates are confirmed operational.
That last sentence reminds me of Washington D.C.'s aging Metrorail system. The subway trains have sensors in the doors. When the doors are open (or the sensor says the doors are open) the train will not move. Problem is that as the sensors age, simply leaning against the doors can cause the sensor to read that the door is open, and the train stops. If all the doors are closed, but a faulty sensors thinks a door is open, they have to offload a train and take it out of service.

I predict that this boat lift will be extremely expensive to maintain, and that it will cease to operate within 20 years or become a huge money pit as engineers try to keep it working. However, it will probably still be measured as a success, because it's true purpose it to be a tourist attraction, and it succeeds at that. It's a unique engineering marvel.


barefoot serpent  Tuesday Aug 15 12:55 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by glatt
I predict that this boat lift will be extremely expensive to maintain, and that it will cease to operate within 20 years or become a huge money pit as engineers try to keep it working.
OK Ned, you should go down and toss your sabots at it to hasten its demise.


glatt  Tuesday Aug 15 01:11 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by barefoot serpent
OK Ned, you should go down and toss your sabots at it to hasten its demise.
You joke, but it's already been done. This is a fairly vulnerable target.

I don't hate it. I actually like it. I just don't think it's very practical.



Edit: After reading my own linked article, I see that the problems have already begun:
Quote:
software glitches have caused several other closures .



barefoot serpent  Tuesday Aug 15 02:17 PM

The Scots know better than to blame 'the computer'.



xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Aug 15 08:35 PM

Considering it's purpose, it doesn't sound all that complicated, to me.
Hell, cars can have 600 sensors these days.



Happy Monkey  Tuesday Aug 15 11:23 PM

My guess is that lots of 'em are redundant, too.



MsSparkie  Tuesday Aug 15 11:40 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by barefoot serpent
The Scots know better than to blame 'the computer'.



Happy Monkey  Saturday Jun 2 09:20 AM




glatt  Saturday Jun 2 09:32 AM

I couldn't get the video to play, but when I went to youtube I found this one:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n61KUGDWz2A

I think it's the same.

Pretty cool!



xoxoxoBruce  Saturday Jun 2 05:33 PM

I'm having trouble visualizing how the chamber between the doors, that they pump the water out of, is formed and sealed.



Clodfobble  Saturday Jun 2 11:22 PM

Is there an engineering reason for the pointy bits sticking off each chamber, other than looking cool?



zippyt  Saturday Jun 2 11:44 PM

Clod I would think they are counter balances ?? Besides they look COOL !!!



lumberjim  Sunday Jun 3 12:23 AM

double clik the vid, glatt



xoxoxoBruce  Sunday Jun 3 12:46 AM

Have to double click it twice, first brings up the message, second goes to youtube.



limey  Sunday Jun 3 01:47 PM

FYI - many Scots pronounce Falkirk by missing out the the third, fourth, fifth and sixth letters ...
Nevertheless, I must get to Falkirk someday ...



SPUCK  Monday Jun 4 04:33 AM

The pointy bits also cause the water to run off close to the river instead of dribbling off all over from height which would look... inelegant?



monster  Monday Jun 4 08:53 AM

Wouldn't the pointy bits reduce the "schlup" effect as the bucket left the water?

(It's a technical term, you know)



grapyn  Saturday Jul 28 01:12 AM

yeah it is cool. cost a lot to build, but, running costs are minimal. like £10 a day . they charge each tourist £8 to £10 for a 10 min ride on it. 20 ppl every 20 mins. cuts out 5 hours work to just 5 mins. the doors open down like( |.| \./ _._ \./ |.| ) if that makes sense. all the water in between gets pumped out. the area underneath it is dry.



grapyn  Saturday Jul 28 01:23 AM

gate picture

should be the picture for the gate



Happy Monkey  Saturday Jul 28 03:27 PM

Wow, thanks- cool pic!



xoxoxoBruce  Saturday Jul 28 05:22 PM

Welcome to the Cellar, grapyn.

Yes, your operation description is perfectly clear.
The picture shows the set up perfectly.
Thanks for answering my question, plus.



Rhianne  Saturday Jul 28 07:31 PM

Undertoad, Scottie was supposed to be from Linlithgow - just a matter of minutes from the wheel.



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