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Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway

Water-powered funicular railway joining the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth on the rugged coast of North Devon.

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The Cliff Railway, The Esplanade, Lynmouth, North Devon, EX35 6EQ

EX35 6EQ
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About Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway

The Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway is a water-powered funicular railway joining the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth on the rugged coast of North Devon. The high cliffs separating the two towns were a major obstacle to economic development in the 19th century, with most goods delivered by sea, then hauled by packhorses and carts up the steep hill to Lynton.

An initial proposal for a steam powered, rail-based lift for both passengers and goods was floated in 1881. Six years later, construction work began, funded largely by publisher Sir George Newnes, the backer of the Lynton & Barnstaple Rail. The design was by George Marks (later Baron Marks of Woolwich) who would later design the Clifton Rocks Railway, which was also funded by Newnes. The work was completed in less than three years. An Act of Parliament formed the Lynmouth & Lynton Lift Company in 1888, and a further Act gave the company perpetual rights to the water from the Lyn Valley. Opened on Easter Monday, 1890, the railway has been in continuous use ever since.

The railway comprises two cars, each capable of transporting forty passengers, joined by a continuous cable running around a 1.7m (5ft 6in) pulley at each end of the incline. Water is fed a distance of 1.6 km (1 mile) from the West Lynn River through 12.7 cm (5 inch) pipes into tanks under the floor of the upper car. Each car has a 700 gallon tank mounted between the wheels; water is discharged from the lower car, until the heavier top car begins to descend, with the speed controlled by a brakeman travelling on each car. The parallel tracks (which bow out at the centre point, to allow the cars to pass) rise 150m (500 ft) and are 263m (862 ft) long, giving the line a gradient of 1:1.75.

When loaded, the drivers use pre-arranged signals to release the safety locking device and brakes; each car has two sets of brakes which are water operated. The governor, driven by the main wheels, operate one set; shoes press down on the top surface of the rail and lift the car off the rail by 2 mm, the weight of the car providing maximum friction between the rail and the brake shoes. The other set of brakes, comprising calipers which clamp each side of the crown of the rail, work in reverse to a conventional brake system - the brakes are permanently on, operated by a large water accumulator via the drivers hand wheel, so that the car can not move when unattended.

A halt immediately below Lynton station at North Walk offers road access, permitting the carriage of large freight; the car bodies are demountable, offering a flat load bed for items such as cars. The railway is a Listed Monument.

By road: Off A39, via B3234 Lynmouth Hill

By rail: via Barnstaple Station, approx 40 kms (25 miles) away

Friederichs, Hulda, The Life of Sir George Newnes (1911), Kessinger Publishing, ISBN-10: 1436650364 (2008)

Schneigert, Z., Aerial Ropeways and Funicular Railways, Elsevier, ISBN-10: 0080137148 (1966)

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Travis, John, Lynton and Lynmouth: An Illustrated History, Breedon Books, ISBN-10: 1859830234 (1995)

Voice, David, The Definitive Guide to Trams (Including Funiculars) in the British Isles, Adam Gordon, ISBN-10: 1874422486 (2005)

Woodhams, John, Funicular Railways, Shire Publications, ISBN-10: 0747800405 (1989)

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