Foxton Locks and Inclined Plane
18 August 2008
Steady rain in the Lake District put paid to ideas of
a morning walk prior to departure back to London, and indeed it rained
most of the way home, but a gap in the rain allowed for a visit to the
Foxton Locks and Inclined Plane near Market Harborough. We've been twice
before, but the site has been improved since
our last visit.
There are two staircases of five locks each. Here the boat is descending
the bottom lock of the upper staircase, while the water flows through
the intervening pound to fill the top lock of the lower staircase where
a boat is coming up.
Looking down the two staircases. The red-topped paddle gear should be
used first, to fill a lock from the side pound, before the white-topped
paddle is used to drain the upper lock into the side pond, the three
eventually forming a level and allowing a boat to move from one lock to
Looking across one of the side ponds
The ten locks were a major bottleneck, because locks are always slow,
because staircases don't allow boats to pass midway and therefore cause
delays, and because the locks are "narrow" (about seven feet wide). An
inclined plane was opened in 1901 to bypass the locks and allow "broad"
(fourteen feet wide) boats to use the canal. This shows where a boat
would move from the upper canal into a steel caisson which would then be
The upper caisson would then be lowered down this slope to the lower
canal, the weight of the descending caisson pulling a second caisson up
Here you can again see the boat emerging into the caisson
A view of the locks and side ponds from on top of the museum. Sadly the
inclined plane proved uneconomic, partly because the similar locks at
Watford not replaced and the remainder of the canal not widened to take
broadbeam boats so the predicted increase in traffic didn't materialise.
The steam engine needed to wind the caissons up and down needed to be
kept in steam all the time, and the plane manned, and the locks
maintained for occasional use, which all added to the costs. The plane
was closed in 1910 and the locks then became the only means of getting
from top to bottom.
The green boat is waiting in the pound between the upper and lower
staircases to enter the lower staircase
By the car park is this wheel around which one of the steel cables
holding the caissons used to travel.