Wisconsin boat hoist system still thrives in modern age

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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.

Retired construction engineer Frank Greb, 80, admits that his job as a hoist operator is very simple. All it takes is a flick of his right index finger to move pontoon boats, runabouts, personal watercraft, performance ski boats and wooden Chris-Crafts. They’re lifted high in the air and gently set down in cool, iced tea-colored water.

The 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 country. Locks and dams are most often used to traverse different elevations.

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