Monday, 28 July 2014

Peterborough Lift Lock

The Peterborough Lift Lock is Lock 21 on the Trent Severn Waterway which runs between Trenton on Lake Ontario and Port Severn on Georgian Bay, which is part of Lake Huron. I took a lunchtime cruise on the "Island Princess" along the canal a couple of weeks ago. Weather was a bit iffy, but it only rained for about ten minutes and we were under cover. This a typical cloudy sky for this summer.... lots of cool breezes and rain so far.

The lift lock was opened in 1904, and has been lifting and lowering vessels up and down the waterway ever since. The lock has two identical ship caissons (in other words "bathtubs" holding water only a few feet deep) in which vessels are taken up or down a journey of 19.8 m (65 ft), the highest hydraulic boat lift in the world.

Lock 21 - Peterborough Lift Lock
Each caisson is filled with water and the boats enter, tie up to the rails, and the gates of the caissons are closed. The lift lock functions by gravity alone using the counterweight principle. One caisson always ascends and the other always descends during each locking cycle. There water level is a bit higher in the upper caisson making it heavier, so as the top one carries boats to the lower water level, the lower one ascends.

 Heading towards the lift lock. We're going to go up in the left caisson.

The black pillar is the hydraulic cylinder that supports the caisson, and allows the heavier caisson to push the lighter caisson upwards. Once the boats are secured and the gates are closed, the crossover valve is activated and the action begins.

The "Lady Catherine" was on her way down as we were going up. Lots of waving going on as we crossed over.

 And the view from the top as we were on the return journey. This boat was going up and we were going down. Lock 21 is rumoured to be haunted by a woman who was burned for being a witch in the 1840s and/or a worker who was killed during it's construction.... or a pair of starcrossed lovers.... take your pick.... details here. (There's also some pics of the lock construction at the same link.)

"July Saturday 9, 1904, Opening day of Hydraulic Lift Lock at Peterboro
Went down by Ogemah, got off at old Chemong Station where met by rig & drove across to Lakefield by 9:45 am. Got on Empress there & went down with her & 'Stoney Lake' to No. 5 dam where Parliamentary party after lunch['ing' has been crossed out](in big tent there) boarded the two boats about 1:30 pm & proceeded down (in pouring rain) to Lift Lock which was formally opened by both boats being let down at 2:30 pm..."

Lock 20 at Ashburnham on the way back to the main dock at Peterborough, not quite as impressive as Lock 21.


  1. Fascinating photos Shammie.
    Hubby and I went on a steamboat up the Mississippi River and through a gazillion locks. It was so interesting. And yes, we did a whole lot of waving too.

  2. This is a trip down memory lane. I have seen this loch any number of times but not for a very long time now.

  3. I have never cruised through the locks but one year my husband and I traveled by car to see if we could find them all from Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario. Some of them are surprisingly tricky to locate that way!

  4. The mechanics of a lock are quite fascinating. I've seen a few of them in action but never from boat view. Nicely presented, Shammie.

  5. I have never seen a lift lock before, just the normal old fashioned ones where the water does the work. This is really the posh way to do things isn't it?

  6. Wow! Sounds you had a great time!
    I have never seen a lift lock before. Thanks for those beautiful pictures!

  7. I marvel at engineering feats such as this. Great piccies, by the way!

  8. I've been through a few locks before while living in Europe, but nothing like this. Fascinating! And your pictures are terrific!

  9. I've never ever com across anything like this in Britain.
    Quite a unique way of getting about.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  10. That's really cool. I've never been through locks before. Fascinating!


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