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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Southend Cliff Lift

In a nutshell

Gauge:          4' 6"

Length:        130' (40m)

Opened:       1912 (replacing moving walkway opened in 1901)


View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map  

Date of visit:     9 September 2013

Key Facts

  • The cliff railway or 'cliff lift' takes passengers vertically 57' (17m) from the Western Esplanade to the Cliffton Terrace rising at gradient of 43.4% (1:2 or 26 degrees)
  • It is a funicular railway, being operated by a cable attached to a counterbalance weight which lowers as the passenger car rises.
  • The passenger car can hold up to 18 passengers
  • It is fairly unique in design as the tracks run on steel girders mounted in parallel with the cliff face
  • The lift has been renovated four times, in 1930, 1959, 1990 and more recently in 2010 (at a cost of £3m)
  • The lift was built originally by Waygood & Co. which is now part of of the Otis Elevator Company
  • The journey costs £1.00 (50p concessions).
  • The lift operates daily from May to September and at weekends between October and April.



My Impressions

The railway is in a commanding position, a short walk from Southend Pier. As it has been recently refurbished (in 2010) through a Lottery Grant, it is in very good condition.

The passenger car was at the summit when I reached the lower station, but after pressing the button (as one would do to summon a lift) it began its descent.

Access to the lift is well considered for wheelchair users. The lift is operated by an attendant, who informed me that I was his first passenger of the day (it was now 3:00pm), which seems a great pity as the fare is not particularly large and the experience of riding in such an interesting piece of technology is well worth it.

Perhaps the lift would get more custom if it was closer to the pier or at the end of the main street in Southend. However, as it has been on the site for over 110 years it's probably too late to move it now.

The ride was very smooth and, despite the weather, there was a good view along the sea front as we reached the summit. 

The architecture retains its Edwardian elegance and the refurbishment has done a great deal to enhance its appearance.

Possibly not as exhilarating as a ride on a roller coaster, but to lend support for the continuation of a piece of our transport heritage, £1.00 does seem a small price to pay.


[In preparation] 

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