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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Bridgnorth Castle Hill Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:        3' 8 ½"

Length:  201 ft - vertical rise 111ft - incline 33° (steepest in England)

Opened:  7th July 1892


Bridgnorth Castle Hill Railway Company Ltd,
6A Castle Terrace,
WV16 4AH

View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map


Date of visit: 4 September 2012


Key Facts

  • The railway is a true funicular - the cars are raised and lowered by steel ropes - as one car is lowered, the other car is raised.
  • The railway was originally water-powered. A 2000 gallon tank in each car was filled at the top and the weight of water counterbalanced the weight of the other car. When the car reached the bottom of the line the water was emptied from the tank and pumped back up to the top.
  • The hydraulic system was replaced with electric motors in 1943 - the same as those used in mining to raise and lower the cages
  • An emergency braking system comes into play if the speed of any cars increases beyond that expected. If, for example, a cable breaks, the automatic system will grip the rails to prevent the car from descending.
  • The steel cables controlling the ascent and descent of the cars are 26mm in diameter and are checked every 6 months for wear and are replaced every 5-7 years
  • The braking system is operated by compressed air





My Impressions

 The cliff railway was clearly visible when we approached Bridgnorth across the river bridge from the Low Town.

 After finding a parking place in the High Town, we made our way to the upper station of the railway.

We were tempted by the tea room but resisted and, after having paid our return fares, we boarded the next available car, passing as we did so the control station.

The car is quite comfortable with slatted wooden seating and panoramic views across the river to the Low Town below.

A few minutes later a bell sounded, the doors were closed by the operator and we began our descent, passing the other car at the midway point.

The lower station is tucked away between the row of houses and shops. The Railway Company has recently converted the property above the lower station into a guest house, which looks pleasantly appointed.

We strolled over the bridge towards the Low Town, ........

..... passing a plaque celebrating the work of Richard Trevithick. I hadn't realised before this that the great railway pioneer had a connection with Bridgnorth.

Before long, we returned to the High Town via the railway ........ 

 .... where we took the opportunity to study the winding mechanism.

 The staircase to the tea room beneath the upper station also yields a glimpse of the electric motors and winding mechanism.

The railway presents us with a fascinating piece of Victorian technology in a town which has retained its individualism when many towns have become pedestrianised chain store dominated clones. Furthermore, of course, there is the added bonus of the Severn Valley Railway terminus, a short walk from the Castle Hill Railway.


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