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Lifting prospects Future projects for British Waterways will recreate routes, features and excitement on the waterways.

Inland waterways; Future plans

Do you want to help put the cogs back on the top of the Anderton Boat Lift? British Waterways and its partners is about to launch a major appeal for £250,000, the last bit of cash it needs to restore one of civil engineering's finest scheduled ancient monuments.

The whole project will cost £7M. Around 80% of the funds are already secured, including almost £2M from BW, £3.3M from the Heritage lottery fund and grants from other agencies. The Waterways Trust is negotiating to procure the rest of the missing cash. But the organisation is hoping you will want to help too.

The Anderton Boat Lift is unique. It was built in 1875 at a cost of £43,428 (£1.57M in today's money) to link the the Trent & Mersey Canal and the River Weaver 17m below. Before it was built goods had to betranshipped from the canal by inclined tramways and cargo chutes. It was a slow process and a new method was needed, but lack of space meant a flight of locks was impractical. Instead, engineer Edwin Clark designed the Anderton Lift.

At its heart were two counterbalanced tanks each weighing 91t empty and 252t when full of water. Boats to be raised or lowered entered the tank at their level. Each tank was supported on a massive hydraulic ram, and with watertight doors at each end of both tanks closed, a small quantity of water was drawn from the bottom tank, creating a slight difference in weight. With the aid of a small hydraulic accumulator, this was all that was needed to to cause the heavier tank to descend and the other to rise simultaneously. Significantly, a hydraulic drive is also being used for the modern Falkirk Wheel.

Thirty years after Anderton opened though, the mechanism was beginning to disintegrate and a major overhaul resulted in a vastly different lift, which re-opened in 1908.

The hydraulic rams were removed and a massive assembly of shafts, gears, wheels and pulleys erected over the lift, supported by a framework of tubular columns. Thirty-six stacks of counterbalance weights, each weighing 7t were suspended from wire ropes running over 36 varying capacity pulleys. The new design enabled both tanks to operate independently with only a 30hp motor to overcome residual friction.

At its peak Anderton had 138 lift movements each week, with over 190,000t of traffic each year.

The lift was in regular use until 1983 when serious structural corrosion was discovered, and it was closed in 1984. The pulleys, gears and weights - weighing 950t in all, were dismantled and stored until funds could be found to repair the lift.

Now 16 years later, the project is looking as if it could become reality. The intention is to restore the lift to its 1875 hydraulic working condition but conserve the 1908 additions insitu. When the job is complete, projected tourist numbers are 54,000 a year for the 'lift experience', with another 3,325 return boat passages.

But first there is the littlematter of the £250,000 needed from the public. The plan is to ask individuals to become patrons of the boatlift by donating £240 over four years in return for a limited edition plaque in recognition of their support and an invitation to the lift opening ceremony. Companies can also join in. Bronze affiliates will be asked for £500; Silver for £2,500 and Gold, which brings with it five VIP tickets to the opening, for £10,000.

Why read this:

Anderton boat lift restoration

Reopening the Rochdale canal

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