Thursday, July 1, 2010

Best Sustainable Free Ride in Town

When you leave Peterborough, heading north, you encounter one of the main attractions of the Trent Severn Waterway:  The Peterborough Lift Lock.

Look at the right hand side, up at the top.  See the structure that looks like a shelf, in between the middle and right-most towers?  That's a big ol' pan of water, and your boat takes a ride in it!

<<< Actually there are TWO pans of water, one on the right and one on the left.  We motored in on the left.

The lift lock is a sustainable ride--it's all done with hydraulics, not electricity.    

Once we had tied up inside our jumbo-sized bathtub, the locktender (he's ensconced in that high tower you see on the right, the one flying the Canadian flag) opened a valve to let a little EXTRA water into the bathtub that was high in the air.

That was enough to push the right-hand bathtub down, and raise us up.  All 14 tons of us.

Claim to fame: This is the highest lift lock in the world.  It lifts you up 65 feet--about as high as a six-story building.

Other cool factoids: This structure is more than 100 years old (it was completed in 1904).   The towers are built of cement, which was an innovative building material at the time.  When it was completed, in 1904, it represented the largest-ever "pour" of concrete at the time.  So it was an engineering marvel.

Besides being cool, what's the point?  You would need several conventional locks, back to back (that's called a "flight" of locks)  to lift you this high.  And it would be time consuming to go through each one.  Going up in this lock was fast--comparable to riding an old-fashioned elevator.  (Alas, did not clock mph so cannot tell you if it was faster than our boat.)

Ironically, this invention was intended to be a time-saver for commercial traffic, but that never really happened.  It's always been mostly pleasure boats that use the lift.

Figure skaters reading this blog will be interested to know that in winter, the town lets the river freeze between this lock and the one below to make an enormous skating rink.  Just think how much room you would have for death spirals!

Here's the view from the top.  We concluded it is less scary going up than it would be if you were going down--which an enormous tour boat did, just as we were leaving  

Going down, you float your boat forward until the bow is at the front of the "bathtub."  It's kind of like motoring up to the brink of Niagara  Falls, and then stopping dead in the water. If you dare, look over a waist high-railing . . .  out into space!  


  1. That is really cool -- I didn't realize anything like this existed.

  2. THAT IS AMAZING! SO fun to read about and such a clear description!