That canal door weighs more than a Sherman tank

In almost slow motion, the crane flies the dangling door into position.
story and photos by Derek Doeffinger

With the canal scheduled to open in two weeks, workers have been hustling to get things ready. That’s especially noticeable at the locks, where each winter a few get a major refurbishing.

One of the biggest tasks is refurbishing a lock door. Last week canal workers at lock 30 in Macedon were rushing to complete their doors so they could be installed. A typical door weighs more than a Sherman tank. What’s a Sherman tank weigh?

About 70,000 pounds. With work on the door completed, the fun part was about to begin: installing the doors. The only way to move a door is with a crane. A big one. Dangling 73,000 pounds turns the crane’s telescoping boom into a giant lever. The leverage effect can easily double the pull of that 73,000 pound door.


The crew is adding 350,000 lb of counterweights to the crane.


To move the canal door, a 550-ton (1.1 million pound) crane was brought in just for this task. To anchor the crane, 350,000 pounds of steel counterweights were loaded onto it. Each counterweight was about the size of a small kitchen table (but 15 inches thick) and weighed 11,000 pounds. Large flatbed trucks carried four counterweights at a time. The trucks looked nearly empty but they were hauling 44,000 pounds.

Iron workers, Joe Wheaton and Don McGloon, took about an hour to move the counterweights from the trucks to the crane, creating two counterweight stacks about fourteen feet high on the crane’s rotating platform.

Now the crane was almost ready. The last step was to add a big steel beam  to the crane load lines as a stabilizer. They attached the two crane lines to either side of the beam and then two lines to the bottom of the beam that would attach to the door. These last lines dropped straight down to the door to help stabilize its vertical position.

This door joint connects with its mate on the bottom of the canal so the door can reliably pivot open.

With everything set, the crane swung around to the first door. It was flat on the ground. Joe and Don hooked the straps from the steel beam to the door and the crane operator slowly pulled it upright. With all going well, he lifted it high enough into the air to clear obstacles and slowly rotated the crane about 100 degrees clockwise until it was pointing toward the canal door opening. He then began “flying” the door, as the crane guys described it, until it was almost in position.

With near perfect precision, the crane operator put the door right next to its concrete door frame, where the workers could nudge the semi-round side of the door into the concave vertical slot of the doorway. This formed the hinge. The outside bottom corner of the door had a wide knob receptable that fit into a joint at the bottom of the canal to give the hinge a secure pivot point.

After the second door was installed, connections, adjustments, gearing, motorized operations, and overall functionality would be checked. Lock 30 was just about ready for a busy summer.

Derek Doeffinger spent a few decades at Kodak explaining how people can take better pictures and then encouraging them to use Kodak products — especially digital cameras. That last part didn’t quite work out. Fortunately during his Kodak days he became an obsessed outdoor photographer, especially of Finger Lakes waterfalls. He’s written several photos books about the Finger Lakes and digital photography, and now has written quite a few articles for Life in the Finger Lakes.

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