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12 astounding aqueducts

By: Matt Hickman on July 22, 2015, 11:21 a.m.
Barton Swing Aqueduct in England

Photo: G-Man/Wikimedia Commons

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Barton Swing Aqueduct

While not all that impressive in the length, girth or aesthetics departments, this Victorian-era navigable aqueduct found in the Manchester suburb of Barton-upon-Irwell really, truly is in a league all its own.

Opened for boat traffic in 1894, the Barton Swing Aqueduct is the first — and only — swing aqueduct in the world. And by swing aqueduct, we mean that the Bridgewater Canal-carrying trough swings — pivots, really — open and shut at a 90-degree angle to accommodate large vessels passing below on the Manchester Ship Canal. As it swings open, a staggering 800 tons of water are retained within the aqueduct by gates on each end of the trough. When swung back into its "closed" position, the gates are released and boat traffic resumes on the Bridgewater Canal. The Barton Road Swing Bridge, a similar bridge that carries vehicular traffic instead of narrowboats, is located just upstream from this curious — and still very much operational — turn-of-the-century marvel. If the charming canals of North West England aren't in your future travel plans, this video, complete with rather stirring soundtrack, provides a decent glimpse of this singular aqueduct in action.