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Technical Visit to the Anderton Boat Lift - Oct 2013

The Anderton Boat lift typifies Victorian engineering. It was built by Edwin Clark in 1875 to lift cargo boats the 50 feet from theriver Weaver to theTrent and Mersey canal. It was originally built to work with two hydraulic rams, operated by river water. The rams lifted caissons containing the floating boats between the two levels with lock gates sealing at each end. Unfortunately the condition of the water quickly led to corrosion within about 25 years and the rams becoming unusable.

In 1905 the structure was ‘upgraded’ to operate under the action of massive electrically operated hoists and included the provision of a high level machinery deck. This successfully allowed the lift to operate until 1983 when the framework was considered structurally unsafe and the Lift ceased to operate.

Financial support of £7m was raised through various bodies (including Lottery funding) to restore the structure which was completed in 2002. A condition of restoration was that it be returned to the original ram operation although using hydraulic oil instead of river water. The Boat lift now operates daily carrying recreational boats and includes a visitor interpretive centre and coffee shop.

For the IMechE visit we split into two groups to include a short trip along the river before negotiating the boat lift. The visit also included a climb to the upper machinery deck as part of the ‘Top of the World’ tour.

The canal trip was interesting with an excellent commentary on the history of the canal including the industrial heritage of the area as a foremost exporter of salt. The return of the wildlife to the banks of the canal and the recreational use of the land was noted.

The machinery deck still retains all the original hoists and operating gear although now redundant. The large counterbalance weights used as part of the hoist design have been retained on site as a children’s maze.  The side struts apparent on the structure were added in 1905 to allow the load to be transferred to the machinery deck. Much of this external bracing is now redundant since the load transfer has now reverted to the rams and the foundations.

The hydraulic rams supplied from Germany operate on a 100 bar oil system and includes a dedicated control room to operate the lift. The rams are ceramic coated and include linear position indication embedded within the coating system.

We thanked the boat operators and the escort team for providing us with such a wealth of knowledge, both of a historical and of a technical nature, making this an excellent visit enjoyed by everyone. 

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