real time web analytics
Report - - Barton Locks (Manchester Ship Canal, Nov, 2023) | Industrial Sites |

Report - Barton Locks (Manchester Ship Canal, Nov, 2023)

Hide this ad by donating or subscribing !


28DL Regular User
Regular User
We did this one weekend as an easy local explore when Junior was back in town.
First reported by @mingerocket a couple of months ago, Report - - Barton locks, Manchester, Sept 2023 | Industrial Sites, it looked more interesting than I was expecting.

It was also a chance to examine some working examples of the Victorian-era hydraulic technology familiar from explores of the Liverpool Docks (mainly Central and South Central Docks).

Background. The Manchester Ship Canal (MSC) was built 1887-1894 to bypass Liverpool and connect Manchester directly to the Irish Sea.
As shown in one of the original plans below it skirts the bottom of the Mersey Estuary before heading across to Salford.
Barton is the fourth of the five locks needed to climb the 60 foot difference in levels between the ends.


All the locks except Eastham have the same design with one big passage, a smaller outer one, and a weir containing sluices stretching across to the other bank to control water levels in different sections of the canal.
Here’s a 1947 photo and a Google satellite view of Barton today.



The white structure at one end of the weir was a pump house but is now a hydro plant.
Pump houses were installed at Latchford, Barton and Mode Wheel to stop too much water was being lost downstream as vessels moved through by pumping it back from downstream - at least that’s what I assume they were for.
The Panama Canal is having similar problems at the moment with too little water in its reservoirs to fill the locks.

However the MSC is so little used these days that the situation is reversed and there’s plenty of (filthy) water so Mode Wheel has also been converted to a hydro plant, another has been built recently at Irlam, and there are plans for one at Eastham.
A local dog walker said that only a handful of ships a month now pass through Barton and the boat tours which used to go from Runcorn to Manchester currently only make it as far as Warrington.

Photos are phone.

Hydro Plant. This a picture from the last time I was here (summer 2020) when there was a ship going through.


The weir diverting water into the hydro plant.


Not surprisingly it was well locked up but there is a grubby window to look through.
The blue thing on the left is presumably part of the turbine, a Kaplan generating ca. 700 kW, which was humming busily away.



Passing some nice handrails, common to all of the inland locks, Junior models the latest in casual derpwear.




Lock Hydraulics. The downstream gates of the larger lock together with an old photo when the canal was being built, showing that the current gates are not the original wooden ones.



This large metal object nearby maybe part of the old gates.


The orange patches on the lock surface in the satellite view above are heavy metal plates covering the equipment used to move gates, sluices and capstans.
This is plan showing the equipment at Irlam - the only one I could find, but it’s the same as Barton.


Each half of a pair of lock gates has a couple of hydraulic rams (jiggers) beside it, one to open it and one to close it, as illustrated below.
The closing jigger is longer than the opening one to take up the slack after the chains are allowed to droop to the bottom of the lock to keep them out of the way of shipping.


Jiggers and the control mechanism attached to the levers.




The green cylinder between the jiggers looks like a paraffin heater to stop the water freezing in cold weather.



Under another plate nearby is the sprung anchor for the cable that stops the gate swinging too far.


Water is let in and out through culverts deep in the walls - the underwater exits can be seen in the old photo above - with flow controlled by sluice gates.
This is a diagram of one from Liverpool.


The lock was full so the sluice chamber was flooded and only the top of the ram was visible.




One of the six capstans, three at each end of the lock, with a radial hydraulic motor.



The MSC equipment was installed towards the end of the major period of dock building at Liverpool, and not surprisingly is quite similar.
The main difference is that in Liverpool there is (or was) a variety of kit, with lock gates often being moved by in-line reciprocating hydraulic motors added to, or replacing, existing manual winches.
Some lock gates were moved by rams but I didn’t notice any left in situ (there might be some).
Both the sluice and capstan mechanisms looks similar to Liverpool examples, although again in Liverpool some capstans were powered by in-line rather than radial hydraulic motors.

Pump Houses. Along to a pump house which is visible in the 1947 photo above and may have been the replacement for a steam engine.
It’s locked but a hole in the window shows some modern stuff - at least one of them is a Mather and Platt centrifugal pump.






28DL Regular User
Regular User
Next door is another pump house - more of a collapsing pump shed in fact.
This has a 1950s diesel engine (Mclaren M3 Mark 2 for the diesel-heads) driving a Frank Pearn pump, probably from the 1920s.












These are slowly being stripped - various bits have gone missing since the original post.

Accumulator. Finally the accumulator tower - the graphic below, taken from the Toxteth Dock tower in Liverpool, explains what these were for.


The Barton one is interesting because it has a sliding indicator outside showing the water level, which I haven’t seen before.
The indicator is attached by a wire to the weighted cylinder that moves up and down inside, with extra pulleys to scale down the movement, and trip switches to turn the pumps on and off.







Most of these towers don’t have much left inside - this is the one at Irlam which has the central pipe and piston but no weighted cylinder.


Up on top of the accumulator the sliding crosshead arrangement is much the same as other more complete examples in Birkenhead, Liverpool and Stockport.





There are plenty of other bits and pieces along the canal, including swing bridges (and a swing aqueduct) which probably have modified versions of the original hydraulic equipment.
The most interesting unexplored artefact is the pump house at Latchford which looks derelict and might contain a big centrifugal pump and diesel engine like Mode Wheel.
It seems likely that it too will be converted to hydro - something to keep an eye on.


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Excellent stuff. I would have liked to get in the more modern pump house. I tried to get a shot through the windows but they were too grubby. I wondered what exactly was under the large steel covers, more equipment than I'd imagined. I think you're right about the paraffin heater down there. There is a stack of paraffin fuel cartridges/cannisters in the potting shed next to the workshop


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Nice informative report! Been eyeing up various bits along the Manchester Ship Canal for a while now but never got round to looking at them as they're miles from me. Cool too see whats there though.

Calamity Jane

i see beauty in the unloved, places & things
Regular User
Oh yes. Great report. Im surprised that those covers lifted. Too think we walk over things like this without a second thought of what lies beneath. That water tower is just fab. Cracking photos.