Peterborough Lift Lock, page 1

Friday, June 3

This one gets 3 pages by itself. This is the largest lift lock in the world, and one of only a few. I have heard about it for years but never came to see it, so it was a major reason I decided to extend the trip home by way of the Trent Severn waterway.

The lock is a spectacular bit of late 1800 engineering, completed in 1904. I arrived with another boat and told the lock keeper, Ed Donald, I was going to the visitor center first. He suggested I go through with the other boat and tie up on the top. When I came up to the top and he saw my boat he commented that he liked the Albin, so I tied up and we started to talk.

I told Ed of my interest in mechanical works, so he offered to give me the inside tour. This was one fine tour, I cannot offer enough thanks to Ed for taking the time to do this.

I have not been able to find a good diagram of the lock that I can include here. Ive tried to take photos of a couple but they glare or dont show up well, So I'll have to do a basic word explanation. There are 2 lock chambers, each mounted on a hydraulic coloum. The two rams are cross connected by a pipe with a control valve. In the simplest terms if the valve is opened the higher box comes down, the lower one goes up.

Without any extra water the system would come to rest with both chambers half way, not a desireable state. So the upper chamber has an extra 1 foot of water added to it- its ram stops one foot short of all the way up, and extra water is allowed in from the higher canal. One foot of water in this chamber is 130 metric tons.
This is an overall view taken from the visitor center. Note the East tower has a temporary roof on it, the center tower with the red roof and flag was the original control station. The west tower is obscured behind the tree.
In this view the east chamber is down and we are standing at ground level near the base of the east tower.
This view is from a road tunnel under the mainbody of the lock, looking down into the pit below the chamber. Note it is(relatively) dry. In fact you can walk under the chamber when its in the down position.
A view from the top water level looking down beside the chamber.
This is my tour guide, Ed Donald. He explained all the controls in the main control rooom. From this room he can latch and unlatch the gates at each end of both the moving chamber and the canal. He can also operate the transfer valve to allow water to move from one ram to the other, and he can control adding water from a high pressure pump into either side.
This is the main latch pin that opens the end gate. They are about 3" square pins, driven by a hydraulic motor through the rack gear seen in the photo. The gates hinge down, like opening a truck tailgate. The gates seal against a bubber pad and are surprisingly tight- you do see some leakage from the higher canal when its chamber is down.
Here we have taken an elevator down to about ground level. This is the main power room with all the electrical controls. The tanks behind Ed contain nitrogen under pressure. In the event of a total electrical failure they can keep the hydraulic controls for the gates under pressure long enough for one safe opening.
To the right is the main electrical service pannel, straight ahead are the two electric pumps for balance adjustmens of the main rams.