Full Restoration of Anderton Lift

Anderton boat lift, River Weaver, Trent and Mersey Canal, Anderton, Northwich

Anderton Boat Lift has been restored to its original 1875 hydraulic status with both caissons operational. This nearly 130-year old structure is a magnificent feat of engineering. However, in full operating mode, with regular boat movements through the Lift, British Waterways did discover some difficulties with elements of the historic workings.

The most significant issue is the way that the wedges were originally designed to separate the River Weaver sluice gates from the caisson gates. They are not effective enough to prevent significant water loss over an extended period and the pumps are being overwhelmed. Visitors to the site may have seen the excess water flowing from the top of a manhole adjacent to the Lift as a result of this.

The original 1875 Lift design featured a flooded well into which the caisson tanks fitted into at River Weaver level. Modifications to the Lift in the early 20th Century included the removal of this feature and the caissons subsequently operated in dry wells until Anderton was closed in 1983.

British Waterways and its partners have preserved the original wrought iron caissons which for 75 years, had operated in a dry environment at the base of the Lift. The significant water loss now being experienced as a result of the original wedge design has meant that the well has been flooding. Consequently undue stresses are being placed on the caissons and the structure itself by operating the caissons into a flooded well. Furthermore, the state-of-the-art rams and their associated safety systems are not designed to operate in a permanently submerged environment.

As a Scheduled Ancient Monument, any changes to the wedges to allow them to operate more effectively must first be approved by English Heritage. However some amendments to the river wedges and the gate seals have now been undertaken and the lift has been operating more reliably as a result.

Consequently BW has been able to fulfil all bookings and 'business is booming' at the showpiece Boat Lift with over 70,000 visitors converging from across the world to see one of the “wonders of the canals” in the first three months since re-opening.

However the structure is nearly 130 years old and nobody in England has operated a hydraulic boat lift since 1908. Managing such a complex structure in a working environment will continue to present its challenges to our engineers and operators.

BW expects more of the lift's historical idiosyncrasies, which are of course part of its charm, to come to light during its bedding in period and asks the public to please bear with us.

Bookings are being taken now for the passage of private vessels through the lift. These can be made by calling the Anderton Visitor Centre on 01606 786777. More information about the lift can be found at www.andertonboatlift.co.uk. The site has a webcam.

We've more photos and reports of the opening.

Facts and Figures about the Restoration
The new rams were forged by the same company and in the same town (Dusseldorf, Germany) as the original steel frame at the beginning of the 20th century.
Nearly a mile’s worth of welding was required to cover more than 1,000 repairs to the structure.
The structure needed 5,000 new bolts for repairs.
An area equivalent to six football pitches required painting.
A quarter of a million gallons of water was used to pump cement grout into the unstable soil below the lift.
The BW site team has produced over 500 drawings.
More than 20 sub-contractors have been used for the works, with British Waterways as the main contractor.

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