24 July 2014

Isle of Man - Laxey Wheel

Known also as the Lady Isabella (after the wife of the island's then governor), the Laxey Wheel is the largest operational waterwheel in the world. It was designed by Robert Casement and built in 1854 to pump water from part of the Great Laxey Mine.

The overshot wheel, six feet broad, and a stunning 72 feet and six inches in diameter, is still, as designed, driven by water syphoned to the top of the structure in concealed pipework. The wheel turns, in 'reverse', at about three rpm, and drives a crank with a throw of four feet. This is connected to a counterweight and a wooden rod, 600 feet long, which runs on iron wheels seated upon short lengths of flat ironwork affixed to the top of a stone 'viaduct'.

The wheeled rod moves back and forth about eight feet, its movement transferred, via T-rockers, to vertical pump rods that descend 1,500 down the mine shaft. Although the wheel no longer pumps water, it originally moved 250 gallons per minute, and was capable of managing significantly greater volumes. Great Laxey Mine closed in 1929.

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