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Anderton Lift - a brief history

The Anderton Boat Lift links the River Weaver with the Trent & Mersey Canal some 50ft above. It was built at the instigation of the Trustees of the Weaver Navigation & opened in 1875. It has 2 wrought-iron water-filled caissons carried within a massive iron structure. Each caisson has water-tight guillotine gates at each end & was capable of carrying 2 narrow boats or one Bridgewater Canal barge. Originally, each caisson was supported on hydraulic rams, these being linked so that as one caisson rose it was counterbalanced by the other falling. There was a steam-powered hydraulic pump which provided additional power; electricity replaced steam in 1903. Unfortunately the river water used was badly polluted because of the discharges from the extensive chemical works nearby with the result that the hydraulic system suffered considerable corrosion. In 1908 there was a significant rebuilding which replaced the linked hydraulic system with one that raised & lowered the caissons independently by electric motors driving through gears. The caissons were counterbalanced by cast-iron weights with cables passing over 4 sets of 18 pulleys; this resulted in a significant change to the lift's appearance. This redesign also resulted in a considerable increase in capacity & made maintenance easier & less disruptive of the traffic.

The lift continued working throughout most of the 20th century, a restoration programme ensured that it was still in regular use in 1975 - the year of its centenary. However, a few years later in 1983 extensive corrosion was found during routine painting & the structure was declared unsafe & closed for traffic. It was to remain closed for almost 20 years. Eventually, after fundraising, a major rebuilding project started in 2000 which allowed the Lift to reopen in March 2002. However, it was not a straight restoration: the Lift was re-engineered & reverted to a hydraulic system, similar in some respects to the 1875 design but using oil rather than river water. The control room, top structure, shafting, & pulleys added in 1908 were now redundant but have been left in place to ensure that the Lift maintains the visual appearance that it has had for most of the 20th century. However the cables & counterbalance weights have been removed.

The 2002 project also included the provision of the inevitable trappings of a tourist attraction that the Lift has become - a visitor centre & coffee shop.
by Martin Tester

Created: Fri, 1 Mar 2019, Updated: Sun, 3 Mar 2019

6 images use this description:

SJ6475 : Anderton Boat Lift from the SW, river level by Martin Tester
SJ6475 : Anderton Boat Lift from the east, river level by Martin Tester
SJ6475 : Leaving the Anderton Lift by Martin Tester
SJ6475 : Trip boat entering the Anderton Lift by Martin Tester
SJ6475 : Anderton Boat Lift from the NE, canal level by Martin Tester
SJ6475 : Anderton Lift from the River Weaver by Martin Tester

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