This ultra-rare swing aqueduct is a fantastic and still functional bit of Victorian civil engineering. Opened in 1893, it still remains in regular use today, allowing narrow boats traveling the upper Bridgewater canal to pass over the larger Manchester Ship Canal beneath.
When the aqueduct is ready to do its thing, engineers can close gates on either end, which contains the water in the trough and prevents the canal from leaking out. The entire 330-foot iron superstructure then pivots 90 degrees on the center, creating an opening for ships to pass underneath.
The Barton Swing Aqueduct is a replacement of an earlier non-swinging masonry aqueduct from the 1700s. Jump forward to the 1890s and construction was underway on the massive Manchester Ship Canal directly underneath the masonry predecessor. This presented something of a problem, as the lower canal was built for bigger ships that couldn’t squeeze under the older span. Thus, the novel swing aqueduct was imagined as a way to protect modern watercraft from smashed smokestacks.
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