Canal inclined plane

Inclined plane on Marne-Rhine Canal with a caisson
Inclined plane of the Elbląg Canal with a cradle.

An inclined plane is a system used on some canals for raising boats between different water levels. Boats may be conveyed afloat, in caissons, or may be carried in cradles or slings. It can be considered as a specialised type of cable railway.

An inclined plane is quicker, and wastes less water, than a flight of canal locks, but is more costly to install and operate. A development of the idea is the water slope. Another alternative to consecutive locks is a boat lift.


Man who tended the inclined plane 7 East (in background, note rails) on the Morris Canal.

Typically, such a feature consists of a slope, with one or more rail tracks on it. Boats are raised between different levels by sailing into water-filled tanks, or caissons, with wheels on the bottom and watertight doors at each end, and are perpendicular to the slope. These are drawn up or down hill on the rails, usually by means of cables pulled by a stationary engine. In most designs two caissons are used, one going up and one down, acting as counterweights for greater efficiency. When the caisson has reached the top or bottom of the slope, the doors open and the boat leaves.

There are also inclined planes without a tank or caisson, instead carrying vessels up out of the water cradled in slings or resting on their keels. In a few cases the boats were permanently fitted with wheels.


Inclined planes have evolved over the centuries. Some of the first were used by the Egyptians to bypass waterfalls on the Nile.[1] These consisted of wooden slides covered with silt which reduced friction.[1]


Other examples

With caissons

Without caissons

Inclined plane on Dahme Flood Relief Canal, showing the cradle at rest
Inclined plane on the Elbląg Canal, showing a vessel entering the cradle.

See also

Further reading


  1. 1 2 Foxton Locks and Inclined Plane A Detailed History. Department of Planning and Transportation, Leicestershire County Council. p. 3. ISBN 0-85022-191-9.
  2. 1 2 David Tew. Canal Inclines and Lifts.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Hans-Joachim Uhlemann. Canal Lifts and Inclines of the World.
  4. 1 2 Hadfield's British Canals eighth edition Joseph Boughey Page 49 ISBN 0-7509-0017-2
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Permanent International Association of Navigation Congresses. (1989). Ship lifts: report of a Study Commission within the framework of Permanent ... PIANC. ISBN 978-2-87223-006-8. Retrieved 2011-12-14.
  6. David Minor (July 1996). "A CANAL CHRONOLOGY". EZnet. Archived from the original on 2011-12-16. Retrieved 2011-12-16. 1788 -- An inclined plane is used for the first time to raise canal boats, on England's Ketley Canal.
  7. H. W. Dickinson (1913). "Robert Fulton: Engineer and Artist". London Publishing. Archived from the original on 2011-12-16. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  8. 1 2 "Railroad Extra, the Morris Canal and its Inclined Planes". Retrieved 2014-02-06.
  9. Raymond Bowen (2001). The Burry Port and Gwendreath Valley Railway and its Antecedent Canals. Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-577-2.
  10. "Прохождение судами Енисейского пароходства судоподъемника Красноярской ГЭС - Фотогалерея". (Boats of the Yenisei Shipping Company traveling via the ship lift of the Krasnoyarsk Hydroelectric Station: Photo gallery) (Russian)
  11. From River to River - photo gallery, 2007
  12. "Photo Documentary of Morris Canal".

External links

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