The Annual Spring Ritual
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The New York State Canal Corporation crew is here to open the canal for another season.
The invention of direct current electricity made it practical with guard gates like these to drain the canal for the winter each season, and to refill it again the following spring. Electric motors will power these massive steel gates up here today, but the motors aren't strong enough to do the job alone. Concrete counterweights like those at the top of these towers, are carefully balanced to be just the right weight needed to lift the gates, with a little help from the electric motors. When this system was first used, the gates had to be powered down. They later realized though, that it made more sense to power the gates up. In an emergency where water leaking from the canal might threaten to flood homes in populated areas, it was important that the gates be shut quickly, without the delay of machinery that might not work properly.