Marine Railway - It's kind of an oxymoron

Some years ago the Great Lakes were infected with lamprey eels (although they aren't really an eel). They are, like zebra mussels, an invasive species which took over and made big nuisances of themselves.

My what big teeth you have, you voracious predatory fish

Lampreys naturally spend their time boring holes into the fish in the ocean and into the fish of the St Lawrence River. Unfortunately lampreys have been able to infiltrate every corner of the five Great Lakes because we built a lock system that bypassed what would have been a natural barrier to lampreys - Niagara Falls. One does not simply swim up Niagara Falls.

This fish looks so...tired

Would you want this creature in your pristine, crystal clear lake? Well neither did the people on the Trent-Severn waterway. However the Trent Severn system also has elevation issues and a huge recreation industry. What is the point of having an extensive waterway if you can't go anywhere but circles in your own little pond?

There had been plans to build a conventional lock to replace an outdated marine railway until a small population of lampreys was discovered on the down stream side of the lift. The new lock was shelved until they could come up with a way to allow boats to pass and to give lampreys a 'shall not pass'. If you will. 

They took a look at the old railway and discovered it was ideal for preventing the spread of lampreys into the upper lakes. So they updated the design and built another one.

The Big Chute Marine Railway

Boats navigate between the railings of the lift where they are secured. This is actually the first railway, no longer in use, but the picture shows clearly how the boats are secured.

This is the railway in use now. It has a much larger capacity. The railway car is lifted up out of the water, over a road and into the next body of water.

This is the view you would have if you were on one of the boats. The railway is clearly visible. (Not pictured: Lampreys. Marine Railway: 1 Lamprey: 0)

There are viewing platforms so the whole procedure can be observed.

I don't know why but lock systems and unique lock types are interesting to me. I spent a bit of time on a warm afternoon watching the transfer of boats at this lock.

I included this picture because it was cute and shows that the lock is available for any size boat. These canoeists are part of a 2010 charity event to raise money for cancer

The Big Chute Marine Railway wiki article.

Chute is a French word that means "fall" or "waterfall". The "Big Chute" part of the name comes from the Railway's location to a waterfall and a town with this name.

[Update: In comments, Angie suggested she'd like to see this one in action so here's a video. I should have thought of that]

If you liked that, you might like this:

Peterborough Lift Lock

This is a hydraulic boat lift in Peterborough, Ontario. The dual lifts are the highest hydraulic boat lifts in the world, with a lift of 19.8 m (65 ft)

No external power is needed: the lift lock functions by gravity alone using the counterweight principle. That counterweight amounts to one foot of water from the lift which is basically a huge tub. That weight is enough to life the lower lock up. I told ya, I love locks. They're kind of fascinating.


Angie said...

A reverse ferry system for boats. That is genius! I'd love to watch this sometime.

Angie said...

This was so interesting, I would sit and watch this all day. I'm not sure I understand the principle of the lock, though :/

Frimmy said...

OK, there are two tub-like structures exactly alike and each filled with water. One is always up and one is always down. They have gates at each end which open and close to allow boats to enter and exit.

Basically valves are opened to allow water to flow into the upper tub. I said in the post that an inch of water is all that is needed but it's a foot of water. That's a typo I'll go back and fix now.

Water flows into the upper tub and sinks it. When the upper tub sinks, the lower one rises. When the upper tub settles at the bottom, lower canal, the gate is opened and the extra foot of water flows out and equalizes with the water in the lower canal. No power is needed. Just the opening and closing of valves and, of course, gravity.

Angie said...

How does the boat enter smoothly without water coming out?

Frimmy said...

I just saw this now...!

When the gate at the end of the 'tub' opens, the water takes a moment to level off and then it equalizes. Since the tub that lowers down to the canal partially submerges, there's only a little bit of water that has to flow out for the water level to equalize. When that happens, the boats leave on a level water surface.

Frimmy said...

At 1:29 when the left hand side has reached the lowest point, and the tub with the boats has submerged, the gate is opened and the little bit of difference in water level equalizes at that point.


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