Monday, May 18, 2009

Bridgnorth, Shropshire


Funiculi funicula

The Shropshire town of Bridgnorth is set on steep sandstone cliffs that have brought all kinds of advantages to the place over the years – a good defensive position, caves that have been lived in until surprisingly recently, excellent views into the countryside. But it’s a challenge scaling the scores of steps that climb the 111-foot rise from the Low Town to the High Town and so in the 1890s a solution was found that most of us associate with the seaside: a cliff railway.

The building-fancier in me was immediately taken by the head building at the top of the track, a charming bit of 1892 fancy with an ‘old English’ timber-framed tower topped with a rather French looking roof. Beneath it run a pair of tracks. The original twin carriages were powered by water and gravity. Each car was mounted on top of a water tank. When the car reached the top of the slope its tank was filled, the weight sending it down the track and pulling up the other car with its empty tank.

Nowadays the lifting is done by electrical winding gear. The cars were renewed in 1955 in a curvaceous style like miniature versions of the charabancs of the time. But if with its 1950s cars and 1890s ticket office the cliff railway looks old fashioned, it’s obviously still providing an important service. The day I was there passengers were plentiful – and engineering, design, and public service were combining triumphantly together.

9 comments:

Ron Combo said...

Well I never...and in Bridgnorth too! Fascinating, thanks Wilko. Near me the densely populated city of Genoa makes good use of this means of transport, squeezed as it is between the sea and the Maritime Alps.

Jon Dudley said...

Nice to see this stuff in use. Thanks for drawing our attention to it. The coachwork of the cars looks remarkably like that of the Duple company and it's pure 50's styling. Wasn't Bridgnorth the place you sent off to for 'approval packs' of postage stamps from those advertisements in The Eagle? Of course you never got around to sending them back and had to pay up. Clever devils, taking advantage of innocent schoolboys like that.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Ron: I always think of Italy when I see this kind of railway, although of course they are everywhere.

Jon: The stamps of approval: I never had The Eagle (deprived childhood, clearly) but those ads ring a bell form somewhere. But was it Bridgnorth? I can't recall.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Bridgnorth for a couple of years, but got fed up with the commute to Wolverhampton every day. I never really felt at home there, but it is a great place to visit. A hill town in England is unusual and the two churches (one by Thomas Telford) punctuating each end of the ridge make a remarkable sight. In addition to the quirky funicular railway, there is another transport of delight - the northern terminus of the Severn Valley Railway.

designslinger.com said...

we always enjoy reading English Building - thanks!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Ed: Your comment has appeared as anonymous. Not sure if it was something I did wrong or whether the system is to blame (makes me sound like an MP) but apologies if it was me. The Telford church is impressive, and I resolve to go back and try the SV Railway.

Ed Isaacs said...

Thanks for your response, Philip. I have set up my own blog now and sent my comment using my blogger identity. It probably didn't work properly; it's all a bit too complicated for me. Regards - Ed

Philip Wilkinson said...

It seems to be working now, Ed. I like the Staffs blog, and have given it a link.

Ed Isaacs said...

Thanks for the comment and the link.