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Claughton Aerial Ropeway

The sole surviving industrial aerial ropeway in Britain.

Red Wheel Site:
Transport Mode(s):

Manor Works, Hornby Road, Claughton, Lancashire

Visitor Centre:

About Claughton Aerial Ropeway

Little changed since its construction in 1924, the ropeway is used to bring shale from a quarry on Claughton Moor, approximately a mile and a quarter distant from, and 750 ft above, Hanson Brick Works.

At the quarry, shale is lifted by a front loading shovel and moved up a ramp to be tipped into an initial crusher, and fed into the loading bunker, from which the ropeway buckets are loaded. Having made the journey to the works, the shale is either tipped into dry stock, or loaded into a dump-truck and moved into the stocking area.

The remaining ropeway is one of two, originally constructed to serve the east and west works. That to the west works was taken out of use when that works ceased operation in 1990. The trestles of the former route to the west works remain, although the rope is now gone. Both routes started together at the quarry and radiated out in basically straight lines, to cross the A683 about a quarter of a mile apart. The remaining route has 26 trestles and from the works, initially climbs gently across an open field before climbing more steeply up the wooded valley side. About half way into its journey, the ropeway emerges from the woods to climb more gently across open moorland, before finally following the line of a narrow tributary valley for the last section. A couple of trestles before the top, there is a slight bend to the right to take the route into the top station.

The ropeway is powered by gravity. The extra weight of the loaded buckets pulls the empties back to the loading point. There is a braking system to maintain the correct speed and allow the rope to be brought to a controlled stand when required.

When "on the rope" the buckets are suspended from a hanger, the head of which has two free running wheels, and two clips. The clips sit on top of the rope, to which they are held fast by a combination of gravity and friction between the rope and the clips. As a bucket approaches the top or bottom station, the wheels engage with a rising Bull rail to lift the clips off the rope. The bucket is then free to run along this rail, which allows it to be manually controlled during the loading and unloading processes.

The loading and unloading operations require two men at each end of the ropeway and are achieved in an average time of 20 to 30 seconds.

At the loading point the first operator catches the bucket as it comes off the up rope onto the guide rail and guides it to a stop underneath the loading chute then returns to take the next bucket. The second operator loads the bucket, pushes it around the guide rail then releases it onto the down rope at the correct moment to maintain the desired speed of the moving rope. Typically this is when the previously loaded bucket can be seen to be two trestles into its journey. This maintains the optimum weight distribution between upward moving empty and downward moving filled buckets.

The ropeway generally operates with between 40 and 46 buckets with a round trip for an individual bucket of about 32 minutes. The daily capacity is 250 tonnes.

Follow the link below to see an amazing YouTube video of this ropeway in operation.

By road: On A683, approximately 5 km (3 miles) north of Caton village, where it crosses the road. There is a lay-by approximately 100 metres from the ropeway.

Schneigert, Zbigniew, Aerial Ropeways and Funicular Railways, Wydawnictwa Komunikacji i La§n³sci, ASIN: B0000EG23S (1966)

Wallis-Tayler, Alexander, Aerial or Wire Rope-Ways: Their Construction and Management, Kessinger Publishing, ISBN-10: 0548413185 (2007)

National Transport Trust, Old Bank House, 26 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey KT10 0SR