When I heard that Falkirk doesn’t transport fright came I was shocked. That shock almost turned the Falkirk Wheel turned form a post industrial symbol to a tourist trap.
I saw the wheel turn 8 or 9 times during our stay I filmed almost all of them but upon reviewing my footage the one time I didn’t film stuck out. Just after a tour boat went up a small private boat approached the dock from the upper side. It settled in a rode the wheel down to the lower dock. The passengers got out and stretched their legs on the end of the wheel and when they reached the bottom they took the older locks out to the canal.
When I was thinking about the wheels practical use I kept coming back to this small boat and finally I made a connect. My father ran an avionics repair business out of the La Porte Municipal Airport for nearly a decade. I spent a lot of summers and weekends hanging out at the airport as a child.
This boat was a lot like those small aircraft. A luxury item to be sure but not entirely out of reach of the middle class and while there are few pilots they are for the most part very enthusiastic about flying.
This airport was unimpressive to me but According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport master record 70 aircraft are based out of La Porte and more than 20,000 operations. I am unsure if ‘operations’ is FAA for flights but I believe it is. The airport covers 188 acres south of town and has one 5,000 foot runway and a second 2,800 foot runway. This is a lot of land and pavement catering to a few, like Falkirk.
But what make Falkirk and La Porte important sites is not what they do but where they are, they are both nodes in a network. Falkirk is even a more important node than La Porte. Planes can go anywhere with an airport but boats have to stay on the water.
Falkirk replaces nearly a dozen locks and offers a nearly 24 hour shortcut. It may be impossible to avoid Falkirk if you are on a canal trip. During time of economic growth sales of recreational vehicles like boats and planes go up. And as manufacturing costs go down more and more people buy these luxury items. It is possible that in the future it may not be uncommon for a middle class family to own a boat or a plane.
The canal is also a much safer route that to go around the highlands and through the north sea. The canal winds through the country offering a chance to relax as well as travel.
As a node for this mode of travel Falkirk is useful and hopefully will become even more so.