05 April 2011

Funicular Bridgnorth

The Bridgnorth Cliff Railway, opened in 1892, operates between Stoneway Steps in Low Town and Castle Walk in High Town. There are two cars on parallel tracks, 201 feet long, and raising the passengers 111 feet. The incline of 33° makes this the steepest funicular railway in England. The cars are connected by a steel safety rope, looped around a large pulley at the top of the track, and counterbalance each other.

Originally, each car had beneath it, within the triangular steel frame on which the passenger compartment sits, a 2,000 gallon water tank. From a 30,000 gallon reservoir on the roof of the upper station, the top car's tank was filled with water. At the same time the bottom car's tank was emptied. The heavier descending car thus lifted the lighter ascending car.

This hydraulic motive system was replaced in 1943 with an electric motor. Two steel ropes operate so that one winds onto one drum of four feet diameter, as the other winds off another drum of the same size. The cars no longer needed on-board attendants to operate the brakes, as air brakes, operating on the drums, were introduced. In 1955 the original wooden cars were replaced with the current ones, of aluminium.

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