Falkirk Wheel Vandalism
There has been a lot of media coverage of the flooding at the Falkirk Wheel site in late April, not all of it accurate. This page attempts to give as accurate account as possible, although getting good information has been difficult. Even talking to British Waterways people there is a natural reticence to speak on the subject because of their pride, the hurt the incident caused them, and concern over security.
It has been speculated that the incident was malicious, if it was just vandalism they were either very clever, or just happened to do everything in the right order.
The incident happened to the south of the Antonine Tunnel at the Double Lock down from the Union Canal, shown left.
(11 May 2002)
Having visited this location the perpetrators had to overcome the chains and
padlocks on the Lock paddles. But, by some accounts, first they broke into the
brick control room in this picture. Also shown are the top gates of the locks,
and the overflow and back-pump outflow.
(James Gentles 1 July 2002)
Inside there is the control for the Union Canal Back Pump. This
can either be controlled automatically by radio modem, or manually, and it
empties water back into the Union Canal from the Locks. By switching this on it
looks like it is possible to empty the Lock chambers, and open both lower sets
(11 May 2002)
This shot shows all three gate sets in approximately the same
position (the far / top set would be completely closed by the weight of water in
the Union Canal).
(This image courtesy of Jim Coyle 31 Oct 2001)
If you now open the paddles on the gravity feed from the Union
Canal the water will appear out of the pipes at the bottom rear of the top lock
chamber. Because the quantity of water will be proportional to the fall, then
more water will flood into the lower basin than if the middle or lower gates
This large volume of water raises the level in the top basin, tunnel, and Aqueduct.
The water level rose above the embankment to the right of this
picture, and flowed down the hill to the basin the wheel sits in.
(3 Mar 2002)
Flowing down the bank where this picture was taken, the water over-filled the lower basin.
The volume of water being such that the overflows couldn't take
it, and the level breached the dam round the dry-well the wheel sits in (lower
center of picture) flooding, and damaging, the electrical and hydraulic
equipment in the dry-well.
(This image by James Gentles 24 May 2002)
As well as increased security measures, the picture on the right shows a simple preventative measure added since the incident - a wooded rail round the dry well (bottom right of the picture). This gives a few inches more protection to the well from the level of water in the lower basin (right). Even just a few inches probably allows the overflows elsewhere around the basin to carry away excess water.
After a lot of work by the British Waterways staff, and contractors, the wheel was fully operational for the Royal Opening on the 24th May 2002.
Unless otherwise stated images are by Peter McCulloch, 11th May 2002.