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The Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift in the shape of a contemporary sculpture
The Falkirk Wheel rotating boat lift in Scotland connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal and is named after the nearby town Falkirk, Scotland. Opened in 2002, the wheel reconnected the two canals for the first time since the 1930s as part of the Millennium Link project. The plan was led by British Waterways and planners decided early on to create a dramatic 21st-century landmark structure to reconnect the canals, instead of simply recreating the historic lock flight. The wheel raises boats by 24 metres (79 ft), but the Union Canal is still 11 metres (36 ft) higher than the aqueduct which meets the wheel. Boats must also pass through a pair of locks between the top of the wheel and the Union Canal. The Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world, and one of two working boat lifts in the United Kingdom, the other being the Anderton boat lift.
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Richard Williamson
Sales Manager
+44 1142587757

The Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift in the shape of a contemporary sculpture

The design: a beautiful, organic flowing thing, like the spine of a fish
The final design was a cooperative effort between the British Waterways Board, engineering consultants Arup, Butterley Engineering and RMJM. Inspirations for the design include a double-headed Celtic axe, the propellor of a ship and the ribcage of a whale. The Wheel has been described as "a beautiful, organic flowing thing, like the spine of a fish” and the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland described it as "a form of contemporary sculpture." Models are displayed in a 2012 exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Since 2007, the Falkirk Wheel has been featured on the obverse side of the new series of £50 notes issued by the Bank of Scotland.

Construction numbers
The wheel was fully constructed and assembled at the Butterley Engineering plant in Ripley, Derbyshire. The structure was then dismantled in the summer of 2001, and transported to Falkirk, before being reassembled into five sections on the ground and lifted into place. Construction of the canal required 250,000 cubic metres (8,800,000 cu ft) of excavation, a 160-metre (520 ft) canal tunnel of 8 metres (26 ft) diameter, aqueducts of 20 metres (66 ft) and 120 metres (390 ft), three set of locks and a number of bridges, as well as 600 metres (2,000 ft) of access roads. The 180 metres (590 ft) Rough Castle Tunnel was driven in three stages, with the two upper quarters being drilled with a standard excavator before the lower half was dug using a modified road planer in 100 millimetres (3.9 in) layers. This technique was 15 per cent cheaper and reduced the build time of the tunnel by two weeks. The power to do one half rotation, is the equivalent of boiling about 8 kettles of water. And that’s to move 1800 tons.

The area housing the machinery to drive the wheel is located in the final pillar of the aqueduct, and contains seven chambers connected by ladders. Access is by a door located at ground level, or an entrance halfway up the tower, with a gantry crane to facilitate the installation of equipment. The ground floor houses the transformers for powering the wheel. On the first floor is a standby generator and switchgear should the mains supply to the wheel fail. The second floor houses a pair of hydraulic pumps that drive the hydraulic motors in the chamber above. Power is supplied directly to the axle with 10 hydraulic motors, which also double as brakes. Connected to each motor is a 100:1 gear system to reduce the rotation speed.

Scottish canals, Denley Hydraulics and KTR
Owner Scottish Canals commissioned Denley Hydraulics to join the Falkirk Wheels project. The experience and knowledge has gained Denley recognition in the marketplace for the bespoke design and manufacture of electro hydraulic engineering to exacting specifications. Denley, based in West Yorkshire UK, made contact with KTR UK and was looking for the best solutions and products for this challenging project.
KTR fulfilled the requirement with a supply of ROTEX® flexible jaw couplings, alongside an array of hydraulic components including bellhousings and damping elements.

KTR ROTEX® coupling
ROTEX® couplings are characterised by small dimensions, low weight and low mass moments of inertia yet transmit high torques. Running quality and service life of the coupling are improved by accurate all-over machining. Their application is ideal for transmitting torque while damping torsional vibrations and absorbing shocks produced by the uneven operation of certain prime movers. ROTEX® couplings are equipped with the new temperature resistant T-PUR® spider which is available in three different degrees of Shore hardness.