Construction of the Peterborough Lift Lock – History and quick facts

Parks Canada have a unique site located in Peterborough, Ontario. We are the union representing the workers of this incredible site. Below you will find facts the history of Peterborough Lift Lock.

Built between 1896 and 1904 by Richard B. Rogers, the Peterborough Lift Lock was the largest construction project to canalize the Otonabee River on the Trent-Severn Waterway. In addition, it was designated a national historic site of Canada. According to the Parks Canada’s website, it is the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world. The structure was built to allow the Kawartha Lakes to connect with Peteborough’s commercial centre.  Its construction required the use of human strength, horses, and thermal power. It was built using 20,000 cubic metres of compressed Portland cement. The Portland cement was compressed using air driven tampers muchthe same as the gas driven tampers used today. The compression of the Portland cement reduced the need for re-bar. Here are three facts about the construction of the Peterborough Lift Lock based on an article by PTBO Canada:

  1. The original steelwork is still in use today—116 years later—and is modified by zinc refinishing and welding on the boat chambers. (New aluminum gates were added during the mid-60s.)
  2. With a height of 19.8 m (65 ft), the dual lifts are the highest hydraulic boat lifts in the world.
  3. The Lift Lock took eight years to build and was designated a National Historic Site in 1979.

The short video below illustrates how the lift lock works:

In short, the Peterborough Lift Lock was designed to lift boats at a height of 19.8 metres. The Trent-Severn Waterway, which flows over a distance of 386 km, provides direct passage from Georgian Bay (at Port Severn) to Lake Ontario (at Trenton). There have been no accidents since 1904. The lift lock is operated by member of Union of Canadian Transportation Employees. Thank you to our hard working and dedicated members for looking out for this stunning site.

Union of Canadian Transportation Employees

233 Gilmour Street, Suite 702
Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 0P2


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