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Southend Cliff Railway
Southend Page 6
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This page shows images of the recently reopened Southend Cliff Railway.
Instead of using a funicular railway, Southend council's initial approach to a cliff lift in 1901 was more radical, installing one of the country's first public 'moving walkways'. Designed by the American engineer Jesse W. Reno, this was a forerunner to the modern escalator and still a very new concept, even in the United States. Bearing in mind that this walkway was also constructed externally at Southend, it made the project unique at that time. The novelty factor soon waned, and the structure was soon found to be noisy, unreliable and uncomfortable as a result of its steep incline. Similar inclines were built elsewhere around the same time, including one in Le Havre, but outdoor escalators have always been unreliable. Indeed Southend installed one relatively recently linking Victoria Station and a shopping centre which was soon rarely in operation.
The replacement was to be a conventional funicular railway. Built on the same site, the new railway was a single-track line as opposed to the more usual twin track arrangement. With only one passenger car, some form of counterweight was required to facilitate the safe operation of ascent and descent. The ingenious method employed was to raise the main 4ft 6inch (1.4m) gauge track above the ground, and incorporate a narrower gauge (1ft 9inch - 575mm) counterweight track directly beneath it. Extending to 130ft (39m), the track rose approximately 57ft (17.1m) from the promenade to Clifftown, at a gradient of 1 in 2.28. Constructed by Waygood & Company, the railway opened for the first time on August Bank Holiday Monday 1912.
Modernisation of Southend Cliff Railway was undertaken in 1930, including the replacement of the original passenger car. By 1959 a major programme of work was planned, which would incorporate the construction of the upper and lower stations, as well as the refurbishment of much of the winding and electrical equipment, the counterweight track, and a second replacement car. As services continued to be well patronised throughout the next thirty years, further modernisation of Southend Cliff Railway was scheduled in 1990. The most notable change at this time was the re-design of the third replacement car. Although aesthetically still in keeping with the overall structure, the traditional entry/exit doors to the front and rear of the carriage were replaced by a single large door to the left. In conjunction with the additional ramps put in at both stations, this now provided much improved access for passengers with pushchairs, and for the disabled. One disadvantage to this arrangement was the reduced carrying capacity of the car, from 30 persons to only 18.
In 2003 the line was closed due to technical problems, and refurbishment was undertaken on the stations. However during the time that it was closed, the regulations governing its operation changed, requiring modifications before it could be reopened. The line finally re-opened on 25 May 2010, after a restoration costing a total of £3 million, £650,000 on the car alone.
Sections on this Page
Other Southend Pages
Southend Page 1 - Southend Pier
Southend Page 2 - Southend Small Excursion Boats
Southend Page 3 - Southend Motor Navigation Co - Fleet List
Southend Page 4 - Southend Motor Navigation Co - Company History
Southend Page 6 - Southend Cliff Railway
www.southendmuseums.co.uk/page/Historic-Cliff-Lift - official website
UK Transporter Bridges
Railways Header Page
UK Excursion Vessels
World Ferry Fleets
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