Skip to main content

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.