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Antique boat hoist bypasses need for locks

The Burnt Rollways Boat Hoist operators who move boats between Wisconsin’s Eagle River Chain of Lakes and the Three Lakes Chain — a difference in elevation of about 8 feet — have been performing this service for more than a century.

The 80-year-old retiree Frank Greb admits his job as a hoist operator is really simple. All it takes is a flick of his digit and Greb moves pontoon boats, runabouts, personal watercraft, performance ski boats and wooden Chris Crafts are lifted up and set gently down into cool iced-tea-colored water.

The boat hoist uses an electric gantry system that runs on a 165-foot-long trestleway — the only such device moving boats in Wisconsin waterways and most likely the United States. Normally locks and dams are used to traverse different elevations.

Click here for a report by the Journal Sentinel from its “Vanishing Wisconsin” series.

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