Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway

Lynton Lynmouth Lift

  • Opened 7th April 1890
  • Gauge 3ft 9in. (not 3ft 8in as originally stated)
  • Length 862ft. Vertical height 500ft.
  • Max. Gradient 1:1.76
  • Number of cars – 2
  • The original cars were of very similar construction and appearance to the Clifton Rocks Railway cars which were built at around the same period.
  • Hydraulic Water Balance Operation using water from the West Lyn River.
  • Open from Mid February to Early November daily from 10.00 am.

Web Site:-
(C) J.B.Perkin 2007


Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway

Lynton Lynmouth Cliff Railway Top Station


In June 2000 Members of SWEHS visited Lynton and Lynmouth and Mike Williams wrote the following review of the cliff railway :-Releasing waterIt was not one, but two “L”s of a day, when some 25 members joined us for the visit to Lynton and Lynmouth on Sunday 25th June. Barrie Phillips had arraged for us to commence with a talk by Mr.M.Wilde, the MD of the Lynton and Lynmouth Lift Company. It was held in the splendid surroundings of the Lynton Town Hall, which was built in 1900 by Sir George Newnes, publisher of “Titbits” and “The Strand” magazines and who was also responsible for the funding of the Cliff Railway.

Lynton is situated about 500ft vertically above Lynmouth and until 1890, the only way to travel and transport goods between the two communities was via a very steep and tortuous road. This severely tested the animals used to haul the loads up the hill. It was also realised that they were in danger of losing the growing holiday trade with the lack of adequate transport.

The Company was formed by an Act of Parliament in 1888 and was granted perpetual rights to take water from the River Lyn in order to power the funicular railway. This describes a railway operated by cables with ascending and descending cars and was designed by George Marks, a “disciple” of Isambard Brunel. When each car is docked with one at the top and one at the bottom, their water tanks are full. When passengers have boarded, the drivers exchange signals and the lower driver discharges his water tank, which makes the top car heavier and thus starts to descend pulling the lower car up the cliff. A reservoir exists at the top of the cliff fed from the River Lyn. The Lynton Railway is unique in that it does not require any other form of energy.


Looking Down Lynmouth Station


One of the unique features of this railway is the braking and safety system employed from the very first. Here is a description given by Bob Jones, the grandson of Bob Jones who was the original builder employed, to a visitor xxx xxx who accounted it.

Brake Wheel“There are a pair of blocks that grip the side of the rail. The wheels drive an eccentric which is working a pump. The pump has only a throw of 1 � ins and a bore of 5/8ths of an inch. The brakes have to be released to achieve motion and to do that the driver has to hold his wheel off. When he does that he is holding up about 1 � cwt of lead and the wheel is then a deadman’s handle for, if anything should happen to him, the wheel would knock him out of the way.Immediately, thereafter, a non-return or crack valve in the accumulator or master cylinder would be closed. All the pressure from the accumulator and pump then goes to the rams which activate the clamps which grip the rail. If the driver, say of the car coming down, releases his wheel which, remember, he normally holds in the off position, his car and, of course, the other would stop in a matter of 7 or 8ft. Normally this does not happen except when the Railway Inspector is carrying out a routine examination of the system. Incidentally, the pressure is approaching 1,200 pounds.”

Similar Cliff Railway Car“Additionally, there is a foot brake. The governors are set at whatever speed you want. If the car gathers pace for whatever reason, the governor flies by centrifugal force and the crack-off valve is immediately closed and again rams force blocks to press down on the top of the rail rather like a hydraulic jack. These brakes are actually always in touch with the top of the track rail and come into use when the pedal is depressed or when the car begins to gather speed. Each driver has his own method of coming in to stop and one might use the foot brake to slow the car before he releases the handle that applies the grip brakes.”

For additional safety, at the bottom of each track there is a hydraulic ‘grab’ which, when the car arrives, grips a protrusion down below the tank. That grip has to be released by the driver before he commences his ascent.

An interesting site by Michael Azema, which gives very detailed descriptions of the workings together with illustrative photos, is :-


Also see our other pages on Electric Transport in the South West