The Inclined Plane.

The main tunnel of the underground canal was 41,980 yards long and ran from Worsley Delph heading Northwards, ending near Buckley Lane in Farnworth. However, between Walkden and Farnworth there was another canal some 30 yards above the main tunnel. This upper canal worked different seams of coal but the seams were worked out or became uneconomic by 1820. The upper canal was however still maintained, and was not completely abandoned, in fact the rails for the the boat cradles were re-laid as late as 1819.

Originally, all coal from the upper level had to be removed from the boats, lowered down to the main navigable leval via shafts and then put into other boats on the lower level. To do away with this wasteful chore, the "inclined plane" was built to link the two levels. Put simply, this was a 1 in 4 slope linking the two levels. At the upper level was a lock into which a loaded boat would sail. The water was drained out and the vessel would settle on to a trolley or carriage fitted with metal wheels. The boat would be manouvered to the top of the slope or inclined plane and would be lowered down to the lower level on the carriage. The rope was arranged in such a way that it went round a pulley at the top level - fitted with a brake! - and as the fully laden boat went down the slope, an empty vessel was pulled up the slope on the other end of the rope. In this way some 8 tons or so of coal could be moved from the upper level to the main level without having to change boats.

The photo shows the top of the inclined plane. The plane consists of two tunnels, one for the upward moving boat and one for the one going down. The photo was taken in the 1950's or 60's. By the time the photo was taken the right hand tunnel was filled with ochre sludge and spoil. The left hand tunnel was still clear when the picture was taken although it's present state is not known.





This photo shows the same view as above, but is taken some yards further back into the upper level. The block in the centre, is where the pully wheel was mounted horizontally on a shaft which went from the block up to the ceiling.





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