The Hay Inclined Plane
is a canal inclined plane in the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, with a height of 207 feet (63 m). It was located on a short stretch of the Shropshire Union Canal that linked the industrial area of Blists Hill with the River Severn. The inclined plane was in operation from 1792 to 1894. It can be visited as part of the Blists Hill Victorian Town.
An inclined plane is a system used on some canals for raising boats between different water levels.
Typically, such a feature consists of a slope, up which there are two sets of rail tracks, and boats are raised between different levels by sailing into giant water-filled tanks, or caissons, which have wheels on the bottom and watertight doors at each end, and which are perpendicular to the slope. These are then drawn up or down hill on the rails, usually by means of cables being pulled by a stationary engine. In almost all designs two caissons are used, one going up and one down, to act as counterweights to make the system more efficient. When the caisson has reached the top or bottom of the slope, the doors are opened and the boat leaves. On some canals an inclined plane was used just to the transfer the loads up or down to the boats on a rail system.
The slots in the thumbnail were the perfect size for custom made barges carrying coal and iron ore. They would pull into the slot, be pulled out on rails and winched down the inclined track to the SW to the Severn River.