The Laxey Wheel is a large waterwheel located in the village of Laxey on the Isle of Man, a tiny island in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland. At 72-foot-6-inch (22.1 m) in diameter and 6 feet (1.83 m) in width, it is the largest surviving working wheel of its kind in the world.
The wheel was designed by the Victorian engineer, Robert Casement, and built in 1854 to pump water from the waterlogged mineshafts. It was named "Lady Isabella" after the wife of Lieutenant Governor Charles Hope who was the island's governor at that time. The impressive structure found immediate popularity and has remained one of the Island’s most dramatic tourist attractions for over 150 years.
In the early 19th century, Laxey was rich with lead, zinc, and other metals, but mining was hampered by large veins of deep underground water that accumulated in the mine shafts. A means of removing the water to get at these deeper deposits was needed. With the industrial age in full swing, the ready answer was the use of a coal-fired steam engine. But on the Isle of Man, coal was not to be found, and the cost of importing it was prohibitive. Water, however, was abundant.
Self-taught engineer Robert Casement was tasked with the solution. Casement built a system of channels that diverted water from hillside streams including the local river into a cistern. From here, a pipe carried this water across a bridge and into a tower that reached above the great wheel. The flowing water then fell onto the top of the wheel into the buckets built into the rim, allowing the weight of the water to turn the wheel. A crankshaft, having a throw of 4 feet, connected to a long rod that transferred energy of the rotating wheel to the pumping station 600 feet away. Spinning at a leisurely 3 revolutions per minute, the wheel drove pumps that could lift water from a depth of 1,500 feet to the surface at an astounding 250 gallons per minute.
The Laxey mines were closed in 1929 and the wheel was left to rust and decay until 1937 when it was privately purchased and partially restored. In 1966 The Isle of Man Tourist Board arranged for its acquisition by the Isle of Man Government, and during the summer holiday season, the Wheel turns once more - a tribute to its builders' solid construction 160 years ago.
Although it no longer pulls water, the wheel still turns to entertain visitors before the climb to the top where they are rewarded with breathtaking views across the Glen Mooar Valley.
The Meccano Model started as a GMM No 48 plan but it was 'thrown out of the window' so to speak and Colin went his own way with it. It is a representation of the water wheel and is 9 feet 6 inches long, about 18 inches wide and 33 inches high. The wheel is 26 inches in diameter. The viaduct is a shortened version with 8 arches; the prototype is about 200 yards long with 34 stone arches. It is transported in three main sections and is powered by a non-Meccano electric motor.