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Hay Inclined Plane, Ironbridge.

The Hay Inclined Plane is the best surviving example of a canal inclined plane, with a height of 207 feet (63 m).
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About Hay Inclined Plane, Ironbridge.

The Hay Inclined Plane was completed in 1793 and is one of the country's major industrial monuments and the best preserved and most spectacular of its kind. It was located on a short stretch of the Shropshire Canal that linked the industrial area of Blists Hill with the River Severn. It was in operation from 1792 to 1894. It enabled canal barges and narrowboats to be transferred from the bottom of the Severn gorge to the top, up a 1 in 4 gradient on wheeled cradles, operated by a team of just four men.

The Shropshire Union Canal used box-shaped tub boats 20 feet long with a load capacity of 5 tons. Twin railway tracks were laid down the incline. The tub boats ascended and descended the inclined plane on wheeled cradles which ran on the rails. At the bottom of the incline the rails went underwater allowing the cradle to become submerged and the tub boat to either float free or be floated into position. At the top of the incline the rails also started under water then climbed a short slope out of the water to the top of the incline. In operation an empty boat would be loaded into the bottom cradle and a full boat would be loaded into the top cradle. A rope would be attached to the loaded top cradle and it would be drawn out of the water to the top of the incline using a small winding drum driven by a steam engine. The main incline rope would then be attached to the cradle and the loaded boat would descend the incline, counterbalanced by an empty boat ascending on the other rail line. The speed would be controlled by a brake on the main winding drum. On reaching the summit a rope from the small winding drum would be attached to the cradle to control its descent into the upper basin.

It was the equivalent of 27 canal locks and could transport six barges per hour in this fashion, an operation that would have taken over three hours using a traditional lock system. It was eventually superseded by rail transport and fell into neglect, silting up and becoming overgrown and was infilled in the 1920's. It wasn't until the late 1970's that it was partially restored, with further restoration in the 1990's. The Hay Inclined Plane is now part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust which operates Blists Hill Victorian Town.

By road: It lies within Blists Hill Victorian Town, part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum but can be seen from the minor road along the north bank of the river Severn in Coalport

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