Over-engineered? The unique Grand Canal overflow

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Historic Buildings

Canal overflowA unique piece of engineering heritage lies along the banks of the Grand Canal near Sallins, County Kildare. It is a complex circular overflow device constructed from stonework. According to The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (link below) it is the only example of this type in Ireland. It is probably 200 years old.

It is particularly interesting from an engineering prospective, as whenever it is mentioned in publications, it is usually described as unnecessarily complex and over-engineered. One reference I remember, but that I haven’t found a link for yet, even described its purpose as a mystery!

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Proposed Grand Canal Greenway in Sallins, County Kildare

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Infrastructure

Grand Canal Greenwy SallinsKildare County Council propose to construct a greenway along the Grand Canal towpath which bisects my town of Sallins. This will link with the already constructed Greenway along the Canal in County Dublin. Eventually there will be a greenway along the full length of the Grand Canal between Dublin and the River Shannon. When complete it will have a continuous length of 132 kilometers (82 miles). This greenway is close to my heart as besides living beside the Grand Canal, I cycled the full length of the Grand Canal in the summer of 2018, on a mountain bike. At present it is a difficult to cycle along much of the tow path with currently only a small minority being a smooth surface. It is however a beautiful experience and the proposed greenway will make it accessible to many more people. There is a lovely account of walking the full length of the Grand Canal by an American tourist click here.

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Plans for the proposed greenway are available to view click here, along with a link for submissions and observations.  I have made my own observations on the proposal to the Council and I urge you to do the same. The closing date for observations is Wednesday the 16th January 2019. See below for my observations/ comments submitted:

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Examples of poor design

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Various

Poorly designed mugDid you ever come across an object that was so badly designed you would be better off without it? While designers should be encouraged to be unique and try out different concepts, there should be always be some checking system in place to ensure that the product actually is fit for purpose, and to prevent abominations like the ones below from ever making it past the sketch pad and into production.

Burning mug. The picture below must be the worst designed mug ever. From the photograph it may not be obvious why it’s so bad. So let me explain.

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Building advice for school managers

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Existing Building Issues

The school holidays are coming. Schools are unusual in that they can be unoccupied for long periods of time during the summer and winter months. This does not apply to all school buildings as some have summer camps and the like. But where the school is left empty during holidays it has implications for building maintenance and this should be carefully considered. The following are some specific tips for school managers: Read more “Building advice for school managers”

An unsung hero of the recent Dublin floods. Pollaphuca Dam

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion

Dublin floods. Weather radar for the 24th of November, showing rain fall and squall line over eastern Ireland and western Wales

Yesterday Dublin City and its surrounds were subjected to seriously heavy rainfall. A squall line dumped one month’s rain in the space of three and a half hours; 120mm of rain. This resulted in serious flooding which unfortunately caused the deaths of two people. One was an extremely brave off-duty police man who was sweep away when generously trying to warn traffic about flooded river bridge. The other was a young woman who was trapped in a flooded basement. A large suburban shopping centre at Dundrum was flooded as the result of a blocked culvert, and traffic chaos resulted with many roads becoming impassable. A friend said it took four hours to drive a journey that usually takes 30 minutes.

The main flooding was caused by blocked culvers, drains and small rivers overflowing. The main river in the area the Liffey did not flood to a significant degree because it has one large reservoir (and two small ones), which helped to contain most of the deluge.

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All Articles

A complete list of all articles published to date, in category order. Click on article to read.

Energy Conservation

Keep your wood stove burning hot

Preparing for Winter

3 obvious improvements for electric cars

Immersion heater verses boiler to heat water at home

How do heat recovery systems work? Thermal Wheels

Green energy options for Irish Schools

How much does my immersion heater cost to heat water?

The advantages of Stoves

The relative costs of using different fuels to heat your home

How much does an oil boiler cost per hour

Make your fire last longer

How to reduce your home energy bills

Check your roof insulation

External boiler houses discussed

Existing building issues

Cleaning algae from external walls

Winter Tips. A solution for slippy decking

Low Quay Walls in Dublin City Centre

Are your wall vents ducted?

House insurance. Rebuilding cost.

Precious copper roof cladding

Building advice for school managers

Servicing an oil boiler

Using a chipper to turn waste branches into useful mulch

Is your timber decking slippy? 

Measuring cracks with tell-tales

Guest article: Preventing ignition failure in an auger fed wood pellet boiler

Repairing burst copper water pipes

Attic water tanks advice 

Timber rot discussed

Mould in houses advice

Lead paint advice

Attic conversion advice


Historic Buildings

Walking our engineering landmarks: Parteen Weir

The tin church in Sallins

Over-engineered? The unique Grand Canal overflow

Transporter Bridges: The bridge at Rochefort

Somewhere to go after it has rained: Balrothery Weir

Babylonian Law: The first building regulations

Irish dry stone walls

Historic buildings and sustainable design

War Bunkers: Part of the Atlantic Wall

Skew arch bridges in County Kildare

Too big to knock. The U-boat base in Saint Nazaire

What if an earthquake hit Ireland and the UK

Sallins sugar factory: Irelands first RC building



Behaviour of cyclists in Dublin City centre

Cycling to work in Dublin City

Parteen Revisited – Water extraction from Parteen for Dublin

Irish Rail: Exposed hydraulic lines

The Worlds first ever fatal car accident, Birr, County Offaly

Keeping rivers flowing

The bridges of the River Liffey

Get out of my space. Problems with designated car parking spaces

Thoughts on road signs

Funny and confusing Irish road signs

Irish Rail: 2013 timetable changes

An alternative to Metro North?

French motorways: 4 ways to improve.

Drive slowly in Obama Country

Swiss bus crash: Lessons for the Dublin Port Tunnel?

Skid Row: A phrase from construction

The Hidden Railway:Irish Peat Bog Railways

Irish Rail. Double charging on some routes?

Irish Rail. Do you love your train station?

Road verses Rail. Part 1: The case for roads

Road verses rail. Part 2, the case for rail

Confusing motorway road signs

Historic French infrastructure. Different ways to cross water

New extension to Dublin’s LUAS line is open. But is it too long?

Why there are no ladders in Irish canal locks?

More tolls proposed for Irish motorways

Irish motorway lane merge markings

M1 motorway in the UK closed due to fire under road

Motorway artwork

Roads as tourist attractions

A machine that lays instant brick paved road

Irish motorway network complete

New M4 motorway service complex

Dundrum LUAS bridge defaced by phone mast

The importance of railway gauge


New Building Issues

Irish Rain: Keeping Ireland dry

Priory Hall. End self certification 

10 features of future buildings

Cedar cladding

Planning advice for new house


People and Media

From the 1980s – predicting the future

Confused. When does Summer begin?

Eurovision 2014: How to pick a winning song

10 signs that you are mad about AutoCAD

Comparing building sizes with Mapfrappe

Remembering Peter Rice

Saving energy: Irish Rail

Summer photographs

Book Review: On Roads

UK Houses: Why Romney was partly correct.

Eurovision 2012 prediction

In China: 30 storey building built in 15 days

Stress and worry: How engineers’ tools may help.

Solutions to Bridge Architect: Another engineering game

Elite. The most ground breaking computer game ever?

Irish construction and road deaths at new lows

Stop the press

Britain and the EU

Our e-book is on sale

On engineering – Herbert Hoover

Solutions to X Construction the engineering computer game 

Airbus A320 part 2

The Airbus A320 and the miracle on the Hudson

Using Google to predict the future

Engineering and computer games

Appreciation: Len Beadell 

TV. ‘Help my house is falling down’

Google sketch up


Technical and Discussion

Mixing ash with your garden soil?

Fresh or dry? When is firewood easiest to split?


Firewood: Hardwood v softwood

US Carriers: More than the rest of the world combined

Computer Software: The crazy craze for updates

Has an access road changed the source of the River Liffey?

How to increase seating capacity on trains

Make your own steam engine

Ireland should buy and aircraft carrier with its air budget

Hand sketches: The buildings of the Phoenix Park

The right tools: Cutting wood.

French Motorways: 7 ideas we should copy

The Tallest Building in Europe: The Shard

Slate. A fragile wall cladding

How to bleed a Firebird oil boiler

Your Car: Ensure your scuttle drains are clear

Turn off your fog lights when there is no fog!

The A380 Super-jumbo: a personal viewpoint

The EU: 10 reasons why Europe has a bright future

An unsung hero of the recent Dublin floods. Pollaphuca Dam

My 10 best WordPress plug-ins, 2011 

Cool Irish weather attracts Google: new data centre announced

Obtaining dry firewood should be a burning desire

On the road. Playing chicken with sheep

Corrosion protection of steelwork

A country’s need for heating or cooling

For peats sake, leave the raised bogs alone

Temper the gloom for the little ones

Distinctive Engineering detailing

Strasbourg factory visit: Bitumen roofing membrane

The Irish construction industry and political influence

Snap said my car engines timing belt

Why do steel railways not rust and fall apart? 

DART underground completed in Malmo

Salt supplies for de-icing roads

Irish ghost housing estates 

Freezing water pipes

Radon gas

Carbonation of concrete

Building frame left exposed to the weather

Tiling advice



Dublin moments. Glimpses of a unique place

Satellite flares: Flashes in the night sky

Examples of poor design

What does a Structural Engineer do?

One year of The Helpful Engineer

What’s with the iPhone? Samsung Galaxy S2 V’s iPhone 4

Lunch time: My favorite sandwich

Some of the tallest buildings in the world are oil rigs

Funny builder mistakes

The 29th Irish Concrete Society Awards

Concrete boats

Motorway Art: The Hitchhiker gets a lift

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Infrastructure

Picture of the Hitchhiker

The motorway sculpture called ‘The Hitchhiker’ has been stolen from the M7 motorway near Monasterevin in County Kildare. It was a 3.5 meter high piece of bronze (see left) and weighs 1000kg.  See the newspaper article here. It is thought that the theft was motivated by the current high price of metal rather than any desire for the sculpture itself. Interestingly in the newspaper article the original artist estimates the scrap value would be €30,000. But I think this might be an over estimation. Assuming the bronze used contains 60% copper with 40% zinc, then the current market value of it would actually be around €10,000.

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