Visit this relic of the early Canadian industrial age.
The Kirkfield Lift lock is located kust a few kilometeres north of the village of Kirkfield. You can walk about the grounds, climb to the top of the lift, or just relax and watch Trent Canal pleasure craft and giant cruisers making their way from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay.
The hydraulic lift lock at Kirkfield constructed between 1896 and 1907 is a massive structure with a lift of 49 feet. It is the second largest hydraulic lift in the world, second only to the Peterborough lift lock, also part of the Trent Severn syste, with a lift of 65 feet. Both lifts have chambers 140 feet long, 33 feet wide and a normal water depth of eight feet.
The concept of these two lift locks was derived from lift locks built in England, Belgium, and France in the 1870s and 1880s. The Trent Canal Superintending Engineer, Richard B. Rogers felt that due to their geographic locations, both sites would benefit from a lift, as opposed to the conventional lock. Water conservation, cost, and lockage time were all contributing factors. Originally, Rogers envisioned cargo transportation on the waterway being done by using strings of five to twelve barges towed by a single vessel.
The Kirkfield Lift lock operates as originally constructed except for the addition of new hydraulic and electrical control systems in 1965-66.
The mechanism may be likened to a giant scale consisting of two chambers. When an extra foot of water is added to the upper chamber, and the crossover valves are opened, the heaver chamber over-balances the lower chamber forcing it to rise. Each chamber holds 228,093 gallons of water, weighing 1,700 tons. The weight of the vessels in the chambers is irrelevant, as each vessel, by virtue of its entry, has already displaced its weight in water before the gates were closed. The chamber stops one foot short of the upper canal level, allowing one foot (144 tons) of water to flow in when the hinged gate is lowered (opened). The chamber is now ready for its next downward journey. Conversely when a chamber reaches the bottom, the water level in the chamber is one foot above the lower canal level until the gate is opened allowing the water level in the chamber to drop which prepares it for its next lift upward. The Kirkfield Lift lock is the highest elevation on the canal and boaters are reminded by signs along the canal that they are now traveling downstream and the relative position of the buoys will be reversed.
Bright blue guard gates on either side of the canal are designed as a safety feature to protect the lift lock in case of a sudden surge of water. The gates are shut at night and can be closed to seal off the river even as water rushes through them in case of an emergency.