Lock gear on the Junction Navigation [SEW]

How were the locks on the Junction Navigation (later renamed the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal) operated? I have seen no engineering drawings, and the photographs in Patrick Flanagan’s and other books seem to have been taken after the navigation was abandoned, but there is a certain amount of evidence.

First, a photograph on page 51 of Patrick Flanagan’s The Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal (David & Charles, Newton Abbot 1972) shows “iron sluice gear at Ballyduff”. And Plate XVIII, opposite page 177 of V T H & D R Delany’s The Canals of the South of Ireland (David & Charles, Newton Abbot 1966), is captioned “one of the overgrown locks near Lough Scur”. The photos show that there were land racks (ground paddles) and the second, which includes part of a gate collar and a stop-plank groove, suggests that they were behind the gate recesses of the upper gates.

What about the lower gates, though? Did they have gate racks (paddles)? None of the photos I have seen seem to show original gates, and indeed Flanagan says that by 1880 the gates at Ballyconnell were the only ones in repair.but Flanagan quotes a directive (PROI: I/11/5/9 29 July 1854) to obtain …

… lifting gear for sluices and locks … at the rate of £2 10s per set for the gearing to fit on loggerheads on the gates, and £4 per set for the gearing with cast iron casing, all to be delivered on board the canal boat at Caledon.

So there were gate racks, although I don’t know how many, and I have little more information about the gates and their gear. Martin Farrell, resident Engineer, reported in 1855 [ Mr Martin Farrell CE, Resident Engineer, in Appendix C to Public Works, Ireland: Twenty-Fourth Report from the Board of Public Works, Ireland Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty; Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, Dublin, 1856 ] that

All the locks, with the exception of that at Caroul [now Corraquill: Lock 1], are now furnished with the lifting gear for the sluices.

And in the following year [ Mr Martin Farrell CE, District Engineer, in Appendix C to Public Works, Ireland: Twenty-Fifth Report from the Board of Public Works, Ireland Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty; Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, Dublin, 1857 ] he said of Caroul:

The gearing for the raising of the lock sluices has been set and adjusted; and the sluices, with gearing for lifting them, have been set in the masonry that had been erected for the regulating weir. The pressure, including the friction on each gate, is 3,241 lbs, and the lifting of the sluice with single gearing, even with a lever three feet in length, is attended with so much difficulty as will, I fear, hereafter, in a great measure prevent the sluices being made really useful for carrying off the floods so as not to interfere materially with the traffic on the canal.

I presume that the last sentence applies to the weir sluices, not the lock sluices, but I would like to know more about the matter.

The physical evidence

As far as I know, only a small amount of original Junction Navigation equipment remains. Here is most of it. The first three photos are of objects that may have nothing to do with locks; I would welcome information on what they are.

Two unidentified objects

The item nearer the camera might have been for raising a rack, but the assemblage is not the same as the two examples shown later. John Ditchfield says that it is a gearbox and channel to accommodate the rack for a lock gate paddle. He says that the item on the left is a stirrup or strap for the hinge of a lock gate, as seen in the photo captioned “Heel post and ram” on my Athlone lock page (about 60% of the way down the page).

Miscellaneous timbers, some of which may have come from the locks

John Ditchfield says that the cuboid objects with hollows in them are probably supports or bearings for the pintles of lock gate hinges and that the third object, on the right, is such a pintle

Now for some items of whose association with the navigation I am more certain.

Metal socket for heel post of lock gate

One of two remaining examples of paddle/rack lifting mechanism

The other remaining mechanism, missing some metal parts but still mounted on its timber

The radius of the large wheel is about nine and five eighths inches, that of the small wheel (missing in the second example above) about three and a half inches. That’s a ratio of 2.75:1. I have no idea how that compares with other Irish locks because there is (to the best of my knowledge) little information, outside of the engineers’ drawings (wherever they are), about nineteenth century lock gear and (again to the best of my knowledge) no comparative information.

Here are some more photos of the second mechanism.

The top of the mechanism

The side of the mechanism

The new lock gear

When the waterway was restored and renamed the Shannon–Erne Waterway, it was fitted with new automated gates and sluices. For details of the reconstruction, see Thomas Bree and Brian O’Mahony Reconstruction of the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal paper to the Institution of Engineers of Ireland, 1 March 1993; extracts appear in Kieran Walsh, compiler, Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal: A Cruising Guide and Anthology Inland Waterways Association of Ireland 1994.

Here are photos of Lock 4 at Aghoo.

The weir

The weir 1

The weir 2 with fish-pass closest to the camera

Looking into the fish-pass

The bridge (and safety barrier) above the weir

The weir in winter

The control panel

The control panel (in front of the red life-ring container)

The control panel. Insert SmartCard underneath to operate the lock

Control details

Lock size

Of the sixteen locks on the waterway, the eight on the Shannon end, leading up to the summit level, are on stillwater canal; they are said to measure 24m (Ruth Delany) or 25m (Bree and O’Mahony) by 5m (Ruth Delany).

Looking towards the upper gates

The eight locks at the Erne end, including Aghoo, are on a river. They were found to be in worse condition during the restoration so their stones were marked, taken down and used to face the new reinforced concrete locks. They are said to be 25m long (Patrick Flanagan The Shannon–Erne Waterway Wolfhound Press 1994) but they were widened to 6m to allow maintenance boats through.


The gates are made of steel, with wooden heel posts, mitre posts and bottom rails.

The lower gates. Note the traffic lights and the sensor on the wall

Lower gates and walkway

Stop plank groove outside the lower gates

Hydraulically operated paddle

Ram, sensor and yellow marking

Upper gate open

Mysterious metal circle


Quay above the lock

Bridge to pontoon below the lock

How the pontoon is held in position

Lock furniture

Traffic lights below …

… and above the lock

Lock identification board

Metal edging below the lock

Stop plank groove above the lock


Many Irish locks do not have ladders in the chambers: as far as I can remember, only one lock on the combined Grand Canal, Barrow Line and Barrow Navigation has a ladder. Again as far as I can recall, the eight locks on the Erne side of the Shannon–Erne Navigation had ladders built in from the start; they also have tubes set into the walls around which ropes can be passed. The (narrower) locks on the Shannon end had ladders added later, behind the lower gates, and have chains rather than tubes. I am open to correction on that lot.

Do not touch

More metalwork


I don’t object to prettification, and it is good that the lock surrounds are well maintained, forming an attractive place for even motorists (and no doubt campervanners) to stop. I don’t like the twee lamps, though.

An attractive place


One lamp or two, Vicar?


Here is a page about the construction of the Junction Navigation at Aghoo; here is one about the dredgers used in construction; here is one about the cads and bounders of the Ulster Canal Company, whose fault it was.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.