In Falkirk, Scotland, city officials were faced with the task of connecting two waterways, vertically separated by a distance of 24 meters. These particular waterways were particularly vital to span due to their capacity to connect the Scottish capital of Edinburgh and its second city, Glasgow. Originally connected by a system of 11 locks and several canals, the connection eventually closed when the system fell into disrepair. Over the ensuing decades, they were filled and the land was developed.
To remedy the lack of connection between cities, the steampunk inspired Falkirk Wheel was constructed. Funded by the UK National Lottery, it cost 32 million pounds and was completed in 2002. The wheel operates on Archimedes’ Principle, which states that a floating object will always displace its weight in water. The two containers at either end of the wheel are kept in balance until a vessel is loaded. Once it is loaded and balanced, operators discharge enough water from the lower container to allow the heavier upper container to swing down under the force of gravity.
The Falkirk Wheel, aside from providing a vital and functional link between two cities, has become a veritable tourist attraction. It is open to the public and even features a museum and is portrayed on Scotland’s 50 pound note.
See more images of the Falkirk Wheel after the jump.