A Marine Trips in Fort William
Neptune’s Staircase at Banavie, near Fort William just north of Loch Linnhe is kept by British Waterways. It is the longest staircase lock in Britain lifting boats 64 feet (20 m). It consists of eight locks, each 180 feet (55 m) by 40 feet (12 m) and it takes about 90 minutes to pass through the system.
The current lock gates weigh 22 tons each, and require a team of three lock-keepers (at minimum) to run the staircase. It is usual for them to operate on an 'efficiency basis', that is the keepers try to either fill each cut with boats on the lift or drop, or to allow for passing, i.e. a dropping craft to pass a rising craft on the same fill/empty cycle.
Prior to mechanisation, the locks were operated by capstans, each with four poles, which had to make seven full revolutions to open or close a gate. Each gate leaf had two capstans, one to open it and another to close it. There were 36 capstans on the flight, and 126 revolutions were required for a boat to travel up or down the complete flight. With the advent of hydraulic rams and push-button control, transit times through the flight have been reduced from just over half a day to 90 minutes. The base plinths of the original capstans can still be seen, although the capstans themselves have been removed.
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Fort William and the surrounding Lochaber area is the gateway to the real highlands of Scotland, served by an overnight sleeper service to London. The town itself is dominated by Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland which is a worthwhile expedition to climb on good paths. The town also marks the South-western entrance to the Caledonian canal that leads through Loch Ness to Inverness. There are many sporting estates around the area with fabulous hill-walking and other outdoor pursuits, the steam-train Jacobite 'Harry Potter' railway to Mallaig and the North end of the West Highland Way.