The current plan for the restoration to get out of Rother Valley from Nethermoor Lake up to the original line at Primrose Lane is to have the Moorhouse Flight of five staircase locks, with another lock slightly further east.


Several of our members have suggested that it would be better to build an iconic structure, such as the Falkirk Wheel or the Anderton Lift.

We asked for suggestions and some are below.


Canal Boat Lift

Two caissons similar to the Anderton Boat Lift are employed in a similar way. The difference being the method to move them. The caissons are fitted with Pannier tanks to both sides. These tanks can connect to the caisson by opening doors to fill or empty the tanks. The caissons are connected to each other by steel cables passing over pulleys.

Method of operation:
1. One caisson is at the top, while the other is at the bottom.
2. A boat enters the caisson, for example, at the top.
3. The lower caisson has no boat.
4. The top caisson is not much heavier due to the boat displacing water from the caisson (caisson A).
5. Both caissons are unlocked allowing travel.
6. Water is allowed to empty from the lower caisson tanks (caisson B) until it is lighter than the top one.
7. The top one begins to lower without needing power until it reaches the bottom.
8. Both caissons are locked to prevent travel.
9. The boat leaves at the lower level.
10. If caisson B is heavier, then water is allowed out of its tanks into the canal. This makes it the lighter caisson.

By altering the water in the tanks each can be made heavier than the other to cause movement. The water could pass from tank to caisson to fill or empty the tanks. Pumps may be necessary to speed up the process, but large doors would also aid speed. Very little power would be needed. Water could be pumped back to the top if necessary. It is also non-polluting in use.



The Boat Fulcrum Lift

This lift works in a see-saw fashion.

Method of operation:
1. A boat enters at the bottom caisson and is made watertight.
2. Water is pumped into the vessel on the far end of the lever arms.
3. When filled enough, the weight of the vessel, now being heavier will cause the caisson to rise to the top.
4. The boat leaves at the top

1. A pair of levers on each side of the caisson are necessary. That will allow boats to pass between them to enter and leave the caissons.
2. The counterbalance could be cosmetic in shape with maybe a large cuckoo sat on top. A large figure of Brindley on one and a crooked spire on the other. To attract visitors the whole structure needs to be visually attractive. The arms etc. could be an interesting shape. The rise and fall of Brindley needs to cause interest. The vessel could be an interesting shape. A large vessel on a short arm or a small vessel on a long arm.
3. A pair of lifts could be sited side by side by extending the fulcrum shaft horizontally to accommodate two lifts.
4. A caisson could be installed at each end but that would necessitate an enormous site.
5. An expensive giant statue of Brindley standing with a leg either side of the fulcrum point would get the whole structure noticed.



The Swing Boat Lift

This method of Boat Lift consists of a boat in a caisson swinging from the axis of a large wheel. The caisson collects the boat and transfers it to the top using either a winching, funicular system, or a rack railway system, which I feel would be more positive. The giant wheel has the caissons hung from an extended axle of the wheel. For stability the wheel needs to be either wide or a pair of wheels. The wheel runs in a track carrying the caisson. Gravity keeps the caisson level throughout the process. Electric motors driving the wheel could be hidden within the wheel. Considerable power would be required to raise boats, but regeneration could be used when descending. The generation when descending would provide a resistance to travel, which would assist a slow descent and produce electricity.
It would be a huge wheel with caissons hanging from it. This I feel would have a high visual impact. Again, a statue of Brindley could stand on the caisson pivot point.



Conveyer Boat Lift

This is a method to raise and lower boats between different levels using a method akin to a conveyor. Imagine a Falkirk Wheel with more caissons fitted, then being squashed to make it shaped as two long parallel runs with relatively tight radius at each end shaped like an elastic band, see diagram. This is then tilted between the two levels. More caissons can be accommodated than the Falkirk Wheel. Boats enter into caissons as in other lifts as above.
I am not going into detail as I see this method as a non-starter. It is offered as just one more approach to the problem.
1. The design needs complex engineering solutions which would be prohibitively expensive.
2. There are problems if more caissons are fitted as it would extend the time for boats to travel due to other boats on the system being loaded and unloaded.



The Boatalator Boat Lift

This Lift would require a large boatalator connecting the two canal levels. The bottom end of the boatalator would be submerged allowing a boat to enter and moor in an exact position. As the boatalator moves, a caisson would begin to rise out of the deep bottom pound. The caisson would have front and rear sides which would raise at the same time as the caisson came out of the water. The boat would now be moored to the caisson. The boatalator can be imagined to then work in the same way as an escalator, with a caisson on each step. The levels rise to the top pound to allow the boat to leave on the higher level.
This again is a fanciful scheme that would not be built.
1. The complex engineering would be difficult and very expensive to construct.
2. The movement could generate wash within the caisson causing instability.
3. The caisson entering the top pound would cause wash.
This would however be an intriguing installation to both watch and travel in.

Michael Spurr

To download all Michael Spurr’s ideas as a PDF, click here.



The Rother Valley See-Saw

The design is for a pivoting, see-saw type construction to provide a caisson style boat lift combined with a rising view caisson (a people pod), with the advantage of virtually zero water usage due to the caisson principle, whilst providing an advantageous income from tourism.

The current plan to exit Nethermoor Lake at its north-eastern tip is retained. A wide beam waterway to be provided under a flood clearance height bridge at Barbers Lane heading north-east, the channel quickly opening into a long, narrow oval-shaped pool extending to the full area of the planned quintuplet lock flight. The bank on which the locks were planned, to be re-contoured to the steepest practical slope to increase the visual impact.

On an island in the middle of this pool, two substantial columns over 100 feet apart and parallel to the pool side, and of identical height will be topped by large pivot bearing housings on a single axis. The short shaft through each bearing to carry a fabricated beam extending across the pool at right angles to the pool side and to reach just short of the west bank. At the end of each fabricated beam to be the attachment for a caisson to carry a wide beam ort two or more narrow beam boats of maximum permissible waterway length.

The opposite end of each beam to be extended past the column pivot bearings to the maximum allowable design length (to give maximum viewing height), then joined by a ‘people-caisson’ pod, which is maintained in a horizontal mode at all times as is the boat-caisson, largely by gravity (due to the pivot point being above the rotational centre of gravity), but both also maintained level by powered gearing around the caisson/pod pivot points, activated by level sensors. The pod is a fully enclosed glass fronted structure with longitudinal stepped seating from the window wall backwards across part-width of the pod to allow views-for-all as in theatre-seating. A level area at highest seating height to extend back to the rear wall of the pod, to give a table seating area with a cafe-style kitchen area for food and drinks to be served and toilets at the south end. Beneath this upper seating/cafe area will be space for materials storage/services for toilets etc./power units for the operation of the see-saw movement. This people pod will be positioned at rest on the eastern bank and above the flood water level.

The two ends of the beams will be designed to be essentially equal in weight. The boat caisson will be of constant weight due to the advantage of Archimedes principle. The people pod will vary due to materials storage and human loading. Long slender dumbbell-shaped weights along the length of each fabricated beam and mounted below the column pivot shaft, in bearing assemblies and movable along their own axes, powered by a hydraulic system mounted under floor of the cafe-seating area. The movement of each weight to be controlled by load-cells initially at people pod rest position. Angular position and speed-of-rotation sensors (around the column pivot bearings) to move the caisson/pod around an arc. This small movement of the balance weights will result in a very small power-usage requirement, equating to a very few kettles boiled per movement (similar to the claims made for the Falkirk Wheel).

At starting point the boat caisson will be adjacent to a floating dock (to allow for flood conditions). The caisson doors to open to allow entry of the load (one or more boats). On sealing of the caisson, the dumbbell weights will be caused to move away from the boat caisson across the column pivots until balance causes the caisson to rise from the water, up in an arc and past the pivot point height until it reaches the upper limit which is aligned with the end of a short aqueduct emanating from the canal line tangentially, and eliminating the originally planned Moorhouse junction lock. On reaching this upper limit, interlocks will hold the caisson in place with location pins to the aqueduct structure for safety, and similarly the people pod will have settled to its loading position on load-cells to verify its changing weight due to people transfer, automatically adjusting the dumbbell weights individually to remove uneven loading of the beam structures.

Disembarking/embarking of passengers for their pod-flight will be through access doors at the northern end (emergency doors at the southern end), with level disabled access capability, to the table seating area, the disabled wheelchair positions to be at the uppermost viewing seat height. Door-closed interlocks coupled to the boat caisson ready signal, will allow the Operator in the Control Room to double check the weight balance condition for stability, then release the safety location pins at the aqueduct to caisson and activate the dumbbell movements required to transfer weight to the boat-caisson side and cause the arms to move in an arc until the boat-caisson reaches its floating position adjacent to the floating dock. At this position the people pod will be at its maximum height, depending on the water level in the pool, to give views across the Rother Valley Country Park.

If it is deemed preferable to have a fairly constant pool water level, then flood lock gates could be installed close to the new Barbers Lane Bridge, and with a short pound to opposed gates facing the pool. This would enable the pool to be maintained at best working level, should drought conditions cause Nethermoor Lake to drop below its usual level.

Emergency evacuation of the people pod is a fundamental difficulty due to rotation around the column pivot point causing varying attitude to an escape staircase (could be designed down the fabricated arms and down a staircase within the columns, but only at set angular positions, to allow physical transfer). However, the people pod is no different to a boat caisson on any lift design, for ease of emergency exit. As a safety measure a pre-tensioned wire rope wrapped around drums at the people pod ends and similar drums at the pod rest position, and powered by a completely separate power supply, could be made to forcibly lower the pod irrespective of the individual loading or dumbbell-weight position. This capability could mean a considerable size of cable, but surely possible given the knowledge of e.g. mining lift cages.

On the western bank of the pool would be maybe a three-level Visitor Centre opposite and at least as long as the pod, with toilet facilities on the upper two levels and lifts at each end. The lower level would be an (underground) car-park, just above flood-water level, and since the Centre would be used at all times of the day/darkness and all year round, to give improved security. The middle level would be for café/restaurant/merchandising premises with limited viewing from just above the pool level. The upper level to have vertical windows end to end to view down into the boat caisson at floating position and views across to the people pod embarking position. At the upper edge of the vertical windows, further windows angling backwards would allow views to both pods when in their uppermost positions. When the boat caisson commences movement from its floating position, the arc generated by the pivots atop the columns would cause the boat caisson to move closest to the viewing windows at approximate pivot level. This closeness would allow viewers/boat caisson occupants (and at a greater distance people pod occupants) to make eye-contact as the transfer takes place.

The Control Room would ideally be located at centre line of the caisson/pod and standing slightly forward of the middle level windows. This will allow uninterrupted views of the pool including caisson and pod at all positions.

Access to the people pod would be provided from the northern end of the building through airport-style transfer gates along a covered walk-way around the end of the pool, at constant level for disabled access, this will bring the walk-way (with windows) under the last section of the aqueduct and provide a waiting area/queue for the next embarkation to pod flight. Return from the pod will be by a parallel passage way, separated by half-glass wall, so the returnees can see the next group and also see past them the full length of the pool.

The ‘underground’ car-park in the Visitor Centre would be physically limited in capacity (a barrier/ticket machine entry/exit would be preferable, whether payable or not) to provide an extra measure of security for darkness visits, but mainly to control capacity and show suitable signage when full. Overspill parking areas should be provided adjacent to and east of Barbers Lane. The lane will need improving considerably to carry the anticipated vehicle numbers. A green screen should be planted as soon as possible in the project on the Meadowgate Lake side of Barbers Lane to reduce noise/intrusion to the nature reserve. Similarly, major traffic planning should take place at the entrance to Rother Valley Country Park from Rotherham Road, and maybe even re-planning of the access to the A57 (a potential major traffic bottleneck).

Access to the boat caisson for pleasure cruise boats would be provided from the southern end of the building, again through airport-style transfer gates, down/along a ramp (depending on pool depth) to a floating dock adjacent to the poolside wall. When embarkation is complete, the cruise boat will manoeuvre the short distance to the boat caisson to await entry. The returning boat to exit the opposite end of the caisson and travel around the pool close to the eastern bank to return to starting point after passing the end of the incoming lake narrows. The specially designed cruise boats would also have a longitudinal seating arrangement, with stepped levels as in the people pod, because the main views are to the observation viewing levels in the Visitor Centre, and then an ever-increasing view over the Rother Valley wild life lakes, then the main water-sport lakes as the height increased to aqueduct height. After transfer to the aqueduct/canal proper, a stopping point would be naturally created by the sharp turn to the right towards Norwood and consequent loss of view. The special cruise boats should be double-bowed with propulsion and bow-thrusters at each end to save winding and give all seating positions a similar view. In busy summer periods, there may be a need for multiple cruise boats; one embarking, one in caisson, one on the canal, one returning in the pool to disembark etc. The longitudinal seating will give passengers a view of the opposite bank and of the channel to the main lake under the bridge as it returns to the starting point. The boat caisson is intended to be wide-beam:
1. So a private narrowboat in transit to the Norwood Flight can accompany a cruise-boat ‘for free’. Alternatively, two narrow boats could travel together if no cruise boat is ready, or two cruise boats at exceptionally busy times.
2. A wide-beam could transfer from the Rother Link through Nethermoor Lake and claim to have ‘done the Chesterfield’ even though at the top of the flight, and before Norwood, a winding hole would need to be provided for return, and the planned moorings on the Primrose spur could also then be accessed by wide-beams (again ideally another winding-hole for wide-beams on the Primrose spur).

The whole reason for the design is income. Boat cruises up the see-saw would surely become a tourist attraction (a see-saw principle can be understood even by young children, and youth should be the focus). The pod flights at regular intervals would possibly be a greater tourist attraction. Disembarking/embarking from the pod would necessarily be a longer operation than cruise boat exchange and a ‘double-journey’ of flight-land-flight-land would reinforce the experience by having the chance to see what you missed on the first cycle and whet the appetite for a return visit. There is also the potential to ‘hire-the-pod’ at non-busy boat travel times for:
1. Corporate outings/meetings.
2. School outings.
3. Wildlife enthusiasts to oversee the Meadowgate Lake Nature Reserve.

These flights could delay at the upper position indefinitely (café/toilet requirements), to be paid for on a flight basic cost, plus variable delay time cost. The beauty of a pre-dawn flight to watch the sun come to the valley (the sun is then behind the pod) would surely give a memorable experience. A sun-setting scene looking west would be a similar experience.

The initial cost is considerable, but the See-Saw could be in use before the Rother Link, Norwood Flight or Staveley to Nethermoor Lake links are made. Hence a cash-flow would be in place to help finance future canal restoration, and with Gulliver’s Kingdom coming on stream at maybe the same period, tourism would be almost guaranteed.

Bromley Fowler

To download all Bromley Fowler’s ideas as a PDF, click here.