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Foxton Inclined Plane
Grand Junction Canal, Foxton, Leicestershire
associated engineer
Gordon Thomas
date  1900
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Railway  |  reference  SP691896
ICE reference number  HEW 45
The Foxton Inclined Plane is a series of parallel railway tracks with special trolleys that acted as a canal boat lift on the Grand Junction Canal near Leicester. It allowed boats to bypass the set of locks at Foxton, which had become a bottleneck.
The boat lift opened in July 1900 but was in operation for just 10 years before dwindling canal traffic forced its closure. Despites its short working life, the Foxton Inclined Plane was a pioneering achievement in boat lift technology — technology that is still an integral part of Europe's canal network. The Falkirk Wheel in Scotland, built for the Millennium, shows how modern boat lift technology is still being utilised.
The boat lift consisted of two large steel tanks mounted on a series of tracks — four rails per tank — with their long axes perpendicular to the rails. The distance up the 1 in 4 slope is some 91m. Each tank was 25m long and contained 170 metric tonnes of water.
A single balancing wire rope connected the two tanks, so as one tank was raised the other was lowered, keeping the system constantly in balance. A 25 horse power steam engine housed in the adjacent engine house drove the lift via hauling wires. The steam engine also drove the system of hydraulic rams that opened and shut gates, keeping the tanks watertight.
Designed by Gordon Thomas, engineer for Grand Junction Canal, the Foxton Inclined Plane greatly sped up the passage of boats by allowing them to avoid the Foxton Lock Staircase (1814). The lock staircase was restored and brought back into use following the lift's closure.
Little now remains of the lift other than the foundations but a trust has been set up to restore it. The Foxton Inclined Plane is a designated ancient monument.
Contractor: J. & H. Gwynne
Research: RD
reference sources   CEH E&C

Foxton Inclined Plane