The only cliff railway still using water power
|Lynmouth on the West and East Lyn Rivers is 600’ below Lynton, which developed on the flatter land above the cliifs.
Because of the remoteness of the area and rugged geography, roads were poor. Villagers had to rely on the sea for deliveries of coal, lime, foodstuffs and other essentials, which had then to be carried by packhorses or horse drawn carts up the steep hill from Lynmouth to Lynton.
Visitors started to arrive in the early C19th, arriving at Lynmouth by paddle steamer. Ponies, donkeys and carriages were available for hire, but the steep gradients led to the animals having only short working lives.
in the late C19th there was a major proposal to extend the pier to increase excursion traffic, extend the esplanade and build a cliff railway, operated by water, to take visitors and goods up to Lynton.
An Act of Parliament was passed for the railway and another giving it perpetual rights to water from the Lyn Valley. Construction began in 1887 and it took three years to build. The Lynmouth and Lynton Cliff Railway is 862’ long and the top station is 500’ above the quay. The incline is 1:1.75 or 58%
It is the only cliff railway still powered entirely by water. Others have been electrified or use a closed water system which recycles water between the top and bottom cars.
Water is brought from the West Lyn River by gravity and stored in a reservoir. Each car has a 700 gallon tank mounted between the wheel below the car, with a reserve 10 gallon tank for the braking system. The cab can be removed to provide a flat bed to carry large items of freight and was even used to carry cars.
The cars are connected by a continuous cable which goes round a large pulley at both ends. A second cable are tail balance cables that counteract the weight of the hauling cables.
The railway is operated by gravity. When both tanks are full, the cars are in balance. When loaded with passengers, the drivers use a system of bells to communicate to release the brakes, which are permanently locked on by 120lb lead weights when the cars are stationary. The driver of the lower car releases just enough water to make it lighter than the upper car.
The heavier top car now descends by gravity pulling up the lighter bottom car. If the lower driver releases too much water, the cars will accelerate too fast and governors on the wheels will slow the cars down to a pre-set speed. when the car reaches the top, its reservoir tank is topped up again.
The Cliff Top Cafe at the top station used to be the waiting room for passengers.
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