Saturday, 12 September 2009

Going with a swing

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is notorious for its numerous swing bridges and particularly for the fact that they work in frustratingly different ways - unlock with a Watermate (Yale type) key, or unlock with a special 'handcuff' key – or with both – or with a key and a windlass.
But none of them can beat the intricacies of Bridge 209 at Shipley which needs a Watermate key,a windlass – and the mind of Sherlock Holmes.
Here's the procedure -- and remember this is a bridge on a busy road. On a Saturday afternoon about ten cars went across while I was trying unsuccessfully to fathom out the instructions which.. (in brief) are:
"Unlock the road barriers with the Watermate key and lower [this means you do one barrier, twist the key out and run to the other end of the bridge before a car can beat you] then place windlass on left handle spindle and turn 18 turns clockwise to unlock bridge. Remove wedges to free bridge."
So where were the wedges? I couldn't find them; Starwoman couldn't find them -- because there weren't any! The queue of cars was building.
"Place windlass on right hand spindle and turn 36 times clockwiseto open bridge."
That was the fun bit - you stand on the bridge winding and swinging with it like you're on some old fairground ride.
Now came 36 turns counter-clockwise to close the bridge and then 36 turns anti-clockwise on the left spindle to lock it.
The game still wasn't over. "Raise and lock the barriers." Only after you've raised the first do you realise you had to put the key in before raising it to be able to work the lock!
Finally it's all done. Frustrated car drivers head off late for the kick-off or meeting the wife at Tesco. An exhausted bridge operator slumps back into the boat.

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