Waylon Edmister received an unusual birthday gift from his wife Brandi this year: An 18-by-36-inch illustration of the Flight of Five canal locks.
Around an image of the series as seen from Upson Park, in the 1820s, reproduced shop drawings show components of the system that magically moved canal boats up and downhill in Lockport.
The assemblage is cherished by 35-year-old Edmister, who proudly describes himself as “a bit of a history dork.” He’s eager to see it hang in his Roby Street home, once he’s finished crafting a wooden frame that befits it.
As gifts go, this one is almost prescient. Within days of receiving it, Edmister learned that his employer, Tonawanda-based Hohl Industrial Services Inc., clinched the job of restoring Locks 69 and 70 in the dormant Flight series —and that he, Hohl’s fabrication shop project manager, will have a hands-on role in a public works project that’s so important to his hometown.
"It’s exciting enough for me as a city resident to see (restoration) happening. To do it is incredible,” Edmister said. “I’m over the moon. There’s still six weeks until the canal closes, I can’t wait.”
The state Canal Corporation hired Hohl to make the roughly 170-year-old locks operable again, a century after the series’ companion on the south side of the canal was torn out and replaced with larger, modern locks E34 and E35. The picturesque remnants have served as a spillway and garbage collector for the modern locks ever since.
To restore function to the old locks, Hohl and its subcontractors will undertake 40 specific tasks, from cleaning, repairing and/or replacing stone masonry, iron and cable railings and wooden flooring in the lock chambers, to building and installing manually operable wooden lock gates, arched foot bridges over the locks and electric service to juice historic replica light fixtures.