click here to goto the Millennium Link Resource Home PageThe Millennium Wheel
made in England!

These pictures and text were originally published by Brian L Dominic on his own web-site. Reproduced here with thanks and appreciation.

On 5 th April 2001, I was privileged to be part of a visit by the Railway and Canal Historical Society to the Works of Butterley Engineering at Ripley, only a mile or so from where I live, to view progress on the Millennium Wheel, which will make a new link between the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Union Canal on the outskirts of Falkirk in Scotland.

The first part of the visit took the form of a presentation by Paul Hudson, Butterley Engineering’s Contracts Manager, which included many of the computer-generated images readers of the waterways press will already be familiar with, plus spectacular animations of the lift in action (including one of it floodlit at night) and one showing where and how it will fit into the Link. Following the signing of indemnity forms, we all trooped off into the Works.

A door
The first recognisable bit we came across was one of the doors that will seal the ends of the aqueduct. These will normally lie horizontally in the bottom of the caission or aqueduct and will be raised into a vertical position to stop the water (and boats!) running out before the wheel starts to rotate.

Chunks of steel
In the first shop, there were large quantities of cut steel neatly stacked up. None of your 10/6/4 here - I didn't see anything much less than an inch thick! These particular pieces will make up the "beaks" which will go on the "leading" side of the wheel as it rotates.

Chunks of steel
The whole thing will of course have to be transported the 290-odd miles from Ripley to Falkirk, so it's a bolt-together job. Some of the "jointing pieces" can be seen here - there are over 15 thousand bolts in the Wheel, and somebody has worked out that the holes (or rather the steel removed to make them ) will weigh over seven-and-a-half TONS!

Half of the Wheel
It was only when I came down the shop and saw THIS that the true scale of the project really hit home. This is one of the ends of the Wheel. It will be vertical once the Wheel is complete....... The large holes are the ones in which the caissons will sit, and the smaller (!) hole in the middle is for the axle on which the whole thing will revolve. The caissons will run on rails secured to the oblong pads underneath the ladder.

One end of the Axle
This is one end of the axle.........

.... and this gives you some idea of how thick each end is.

This is one of the rails on which the caissons will run.........

A Caission
......... and this is one of the two caissons! Imagine YOUR boat here..............

Detail of Caission
This detail shot shows the depression into which the end door will drop - as the chalked note says "aqueduck end" (well, what do you expect in Derbyshire?) and the ladder to get out when you fall in! The bolts along the top edge will, I imagine, be for the wooden fender strip.

The Other Caission
The other caisson was still in two halves, and shows how the whole thing will dismantle for transport.

T'other half
T'other half.

Wheel Trim Wall
There is a lane with speed bumps on it outside the Works. Cars often lose their wheel trims there...... and this is where they end up!

I would like to thank Paul Hudson, Mick Langton the Works Manager and everybody else who helped to make this unique visit (and report) possible.


Created on 7th April 2001, re-formatted for the Millennium Link Resource March 2002.

Brian L Dominic