UK millenium engineering projects
November 30, 2002 7:07 AM   Subscribe

I recently rode the Falkirk Wheel, perhaps the least well known of a number of UK projects marking the Millenium, which fuse stunning design with ingenious engineering. [more inside]
posted by gravelshoes (17 comments total)
the wheel lifts 800 tonnes using about the same amount of electricity it takes to boil a kettle. similarly, the Gatehead bridge uses about £3 worth of electricity to raise 850 tons. you can download a video (8.5mb) of the wheel in action here.

aside from the engineering feat and the focus it gives the Falkirk community, the wheel is actually curiously pointless (and expensive) as the canal sees virtually no traffic.
posted by gravelshoes at 7:08 AM on November 30, 2002

"...the canal sees virtually no traffic."

"If you build it they will come" perhaps?
posted by jaronson at 8:05 AM on November 30, 2002

too bad it's not really being used....but it looks cool, and how fun it must be to be on a boat on it!

I still don't get why the British went all out for the millenium...surely bridges and stuff could've been built according to need and usage?
posted by amberglow at 9:06 AM on November 30, 2002

>I still don't get why the British went all out for the millenium...surely bridges and stuff could've been built according to need and usage?

I don't get why they did and the USA didn't. All we did was go into a panic about Y2K and the end of the world. Not me personally, I went out and had a good time, but a lot of other people were cowering in thier basements next to thier generators with a stack of MREs and ammo to hold off the apocolypse.

It's almost 2003. We should have a moonbase by now. We should be mining asteroids for resources, and using solar power beamed down via microwave from space to power everything. We should have done a lot of things by now. At least the brits made an effort. Good for them.
posted by Eyegore at 9:26 AM on November 30, 2002

that would be far too sensible amberglow!

it is being used a lot, but just by tourist boats it seems - you get to go up, ride a couple of hundred meters along the canal, turn round and go back down again. wheee! the surreal atmosphere was helped greatly by finding Uri Geller in the visitors centre cafe bending spoons for the waitresses when we got back down.

I don't really understand our millenium thing either. might be something to do with British folk seeming to need special occasions to let us do things out of the ordinary. just don't mention the dome...
posted by gravelshoes at 9:30 AM on November 30, 2002

Yeah, eyegore, but if this stuff isn't needed or used, why do it?
Surely the money spent could've been used to build schools, or create housing, or jobs, etc...looking towards the future and its inhabitants? Now it seems like they're almost all expensive eyesores, bound to rust in the countryside (or in the case of the millenium dome, to be torn down or something)

It was just a date on a calendar...granted, i was in Times Square, but i've done that before...And when i was in elementary school (early-mid 70s), i was taught that everything you mentioned would have already happened by 2000 (and it seemed unimaginably far away and "the future" at the time), but shit happens (and continues to) so none of it has.
posted by amberglow at 9:37 AM on November 30, 2002

sorry gravelshoes, i was typing ("the dome") while you were posting... : >
posted by amberglow at 9:40 AM on November 30, 2002

Our millennium stuff was, by and large, shit. Our usual half-assed copying of US-style capitalism prevented us from pouring the cash into a desperately needed high-speed rail upgrade (like the French did) and instead we got a London-based shrine to dumbed-down mediocrity ... and a whopping great hi-tech upgrade to an 18th-century transport infastructure (the wheel) that nobody seriously uses. Whoo.

I think most of the UK is still fizzing about this, and polls indicate it's one of the least popular things about the ruling Labour party.

Bloody dome
posted by bonaldi at 9:50 AM on November 30, 2002

Where did the money for all this stuff come from? taxes? royal cash?
posted by amberglow at 10:00 AM on November 30, 2002

some from taxes, quite a lot from the national lottery which funds a lot of public stuff here. the falkirk wheel got a fair bit of european money I think.

the royals giving money to the plebs? HAHAHAHAHAHA!
posted by gravelshoes at 10:31 AM on November 30, 2002

thanks, i didn't know...
posted by amberglow at 10:50 AM on November 30, 2002

gravelshoes, perhaps the reason the wheel is so efficient is because Uri Gellar is mindbending spoons nearby. I mean, have you ever been there and not seen Uri Gellar?
posted by samuelad at 11:15 AM on November 30, 2002

Labour decided that a big Millennium splash would be an appropriate way to celebrate/promote the UK as a tourist destination, especially because of the Greenwich Observatory connection (time/millennium, a bit tenuous, but you see).

The US, while admittedly "behind the millennium curve", did coordinate many local and international cooperative celebrations, but there wasn't anything major built or underwritten at the national level. From the British experience, it's possible this was a Good Thing.

As for the Falkirk Wheel, it's a combination of reminding people of Scotland's proud history of engineering advances, and helping with the Inland Waterways restoration program, taking as many as possible of the industrial and transportation canals into a 21st-century recreation venue. Apparently, for at least some communities, it can be a major tourist attraction (with restored canal boats pulled by mules, etc.) as well as a place for locals to fish and boat for fun.
posted by dhartung at 12:21 PM on November 30, 2002

my recomendation is you come along to edinburgh,
hire a bike and cycle along this heavenly part of the world
to see this thing.
Its the one part tourists dont really know about and the canal is a great place for me to escape the crush of the dont be tellin anyone else in the us about this
my fellow mefiites, ok?
as well as the trip along there i recommend the cycle ride
from fountainbridge in edinburgh to the pentland hills and resevoirs at balerno only 5 miles....very nice...and you can get a great chip supper on the way back...
Im so glad they did the canal up , it really was such a positive thing ...they spruced it up and redirected it through housing estates and encouraged swans and all that pretty
stuff...i would love to see them do projects like this all the time really.As well as the trip to see the wheel , linlithgow is a lovely place too
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:30 PM on November 30, 2002

There was a lot of complaining in the UK about the national millennium celebrations but I for one had a fantastic time that NYE. (I put the majority of the complaints down to the whingeing nature of some of the more virulent media we have here.)

Some of the projects, most notably the Dome, were seen as a waste of money but some have been huge successes. The idea behind many of these public projects was regeneration and I believe that the Dome could still be successful at this - there is now a plan to re-use the space as a business park or recreational complex where it was previously a toxic wasteland.

One of the projects that was especially successful is the Eden Project which is well worth a visit if you're ever in one of the poorest parts of the UK, Cornwall.
posted by Lleyam at 12:53 PM on December 2, 2002

Oh, and the Falkirk Wheel is a fantastic piece of engineering and will contribute hugely to the improvement of the UK's waterways. These are an important historical legacy and it would be a shame to see the areas become any further neglected...
posted by Lleyam at 12:56 PM on December 2, 2002

Our usual half-assed copying of US-style capitalism prevented us from pouring the cash into a desperately needed high-speed rail upgrade (like the French did) and instead we got a London-based shrine to dumbed-down mediocrity

The Dome was a huge cock up, but to be fair there's no way the money saved could have funded a high-speed rail upgrade. It didn't cost that much. And the money spent on bridges and so on would probably fund the NHS for one nano-second.

And as for the Royals contributing, as they're funded by the tax payer what would that achieve? They'd just be some kind of ermine-robed middle man.
posted by Summer at 2:01 PM on December 2, 2002

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