The World’s Largest Working Water Wheel


World's largest water wheel
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Wonders of Engineering – The Laxey wheel 3The most important factor for engineers is to be cost-effective and to come up with solutions which are feasible yet not expensive. This isn’t something new; it always has been this way! What you see in the picture is known as The Laxey Wheel and it is located at the village of Laxey in the Isle of Man. This small island is located in the Irish Sea surrounded by islands of Ireland and Great Britain. The wheel is quite huge; 22.2 meters in diameter with a width of 1.83 meters and enjoys being the only largest survivor of its kind in the world.

Wonders of Engineering – The Laxey wheel 2 Wonders of Engineering – The Laxey wheel 5The wheel was constructed to pump water from mine shafts which kept filling up with water. It was constructed in 1854 by Robert Casement, a Victorian engineer. The wheel was named after the wife of governor of Island, ‘Lady Isabella’. The infrastructure soon became quite popular and has remained so even after 159 years. Laxey was loaded with lead, zinc and other metals back in the day but the logging of water in the mine shafts prevented the mining from taking place. The industrial age was at its peak but unfortunately there was no coal at the island to power up coal-fired engine and the cost of importing coal was not feasible enough.

Wonders of Engineering – The Laxey wheel 4This is where the engineer came in, and you’d be surprised to know that he was self-taught. What Casement did was to makes use of the water which was readily available and came up with a system of channels which helped in diverting hillside streams’ water into a cistern. A carrier pipe was then used to bring this diverted water up into a tower which reached above the gigantic wheel and fell into the buckets that had been installed into the rim. The weight of water turned the wheel and a crankshaft helped transfer the energy to a pumping station which is 600 ft away. Although the wheel only managed 3 revolutions per minute, it was enough to carry out water from depths of 1,500 ft and did so at an amazing rate of 250 gallons per minute.

Wonders of Engineering – The Laxey wheel 7 Wonders of Engineering – The Laxey wheel Wonders of Engineering – The Laxey wheel 6The wheel still turns (no water to lift though) and helps the tourists to have a view of the Glen Mooar Valley from the top.

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