A cable railway is a railway that uses a cable, rope or chain to haul trains. It is a specific type of cable transportation.
The most common use for a cable railway is to move vehicles on a steeply graded line that is too steep for conventional locomotives to operate on - this form of cable railway is often called an incline or inclined plane . One common form of incline is the funicular - an isolated passenger railway where the cars are permanently attached to the cable.In other forms, the cars attach and detach to the cable at the ends of the cable railway. Some cable railways are not steeply graded - these are often used in quarries to move large numbers of wagons between the quarry to the processing plant.
The oldest extant cable railway is probably the Reisszug, a private line providing goods access to Hohensalzburg Fortress at Salzburg in Austria. It was first documented in 1515 by Cardinal Matthäus Lang, who became Archbishop of Salzburg. The line originally used wooden rails and a hemp haulage rope and was operated by human or animal power. Today, steel rails, steel cables and an electric motor have taken over, but the line still follows the same route through the castle's fortifications. This line is generally described as the oldest funicular.
In the early days of the industrial revolution, several railways used cable haulage in preference to locomotives, especially over steep inclines. The Bowes Railway on the outskirts of Gateshead opened in 1826. Today it is the world's only preserved operational 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge cable railway system. The Cromford and High Peak Railway opened in 1831 with grades up to 1 in 8. There were nine inclined planes: eight were engine-powered, one was operated by a horse gin. The Middleton Top winding engine house at the summit of Middleton Incline has been preserved and the ancient steam engine inside, once used to haul wagons up, is often demonstrated. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened in 1830 with cable haulage down a 1 in 48 grade to the dockside at Liverpool. It was originally designed for cable haulage up and down 1 in 100 grades at Rainhill in the belief that locomotive haulage was impracticable. The Rainhill Trials showed that locomotives could handle 1 in 100 gradients.
In 1832, the 1 in 17 Bagworth incline opened on Leicester to Burton upon Trent Line; the incline was bypassed in 1848.On July 20, 1837, the Camden Incline, between Euston and Primrose Hill on the London and Birmingham Railway opened.
A Pit fishbelly gravitational railway operated between 1831 and 1846 to service the Australian Agricultural Company coal mine. B Pit opened 1837 and C Pit opened mid-1842. All were private-operations by the same company.
The majority of inclines were used in industrial settings, predominantly in quarries and mines, or to ship bulk goods over a barrier ridgeline as the Allegheny Portage Railroad and the Ashley Planes feeder railway shipped coal from the Pennsylvania Canal/Susquehanna basin via Mountain Top to the Lehigh Canal in the Delaware River Basin. The Welsh slate industry made extensive use of gravity balance and water balance inclines to connect quarry galleries and underground chambers with the mills where slate was processed.Examples of substantial inclines were found in the quarries feeding the Ffestiniog Railway, the Talyllyn Railway and the Corris Railway amongst others.
The Ashley Planes were used to transship heavy cargo over the Lehigh-Susquehanna drainage divide for over a hundred years and became uneconomic only when average locomotive traction engines became heavy and powerful enough that could haul long consists at speed past such obstructions yard to yard faster, even if the more roundabout route added mileage.
Level tracks are arranged above and below the gradient to allow wagons to be moved onto the incline either singly or in short rakes of two or more.
On the incline itself the tracks may be interlaced to reduce the width of land needed. This requires use of gauntlet track: either a single track of two rails, or a three-rail track where trains share a common rail; at the centre of the incline there will be a passing track to allow the ascending and descending trains to pass each other.
Railway workers attach the cable to the upper wagon, and detach it when it arrives at the other end of the incline. Generally, special-purpose safety couplings are used rather than the ordinary wagon couplings. The cables may be guided between the rails on the incline by a series of rollers so that they do not fall across the rail where they would be damaged by the wheels on the wagons.
Occasionally inclines were used to move locomotives between levels, but these were comparatively rare as it was normally cheaper to provide a separate fleet of locomotives on either side of the incline, or else to work the level sections with horses.
On early railways, cable-worked inclines were also used on some passenger lines.
The speed of the wagons was usually controlled by means of a brake that acted on the winding drum at the head of the incline. The incline cable passed round the drum several times to ensure there was sufficient friction for the brake to slow the rotation of the drum – and therefore the wagons – without the cable slipping.
At the head of the incline various devices were employed to ensure that wagons did not start to descend before they were attached to the cable. These ranged from simple lumps of rock wedged behind the wagon's wheels to permanently installed chocks that were mechanically synchronized with the drum braking system. At Maenofferen Quarry a system was installed that raised a short section of the rail at the head of the incline to prevent runaways.
The operation of an incline was typically controlled by the brakesman positioned at the winding house. A variety of systems were used to communicate with workers at the bottom of the incline, whose job it was to attach and detach the wagons from the incline cable. One of the most common communication methods was a simple electrical bell system.
Cable railways were often used within quarries to connect working levels. Sometimes a single cable railway would span multiple levels, allowing wagons to be moved between the furthest levels in a single movement. In order to accommodate intermediate levels, turnouts were used to allow wagons to leave and join the cable railway part way along its length. Various methods were used to achieve this.
One arrangement used at the Dinorwic Quarry was known as the "Ballast" method. This involved a two track incline with one track reserved for fully loaded wagons and the second used by partially loaded wagons. The line used by the partially loaded wagons was known as the "ballast" track and it had a stop placed on it part way down. The distance from the top of the incline to the stop was the same as the distance that the fully loaded wagons needed to travel. Empty wagons were hauled up the incline, counterbalanced by the descending ballast wagons. These empty wagons were replaced by fully loaded wagons ready to descend. The descending loaded wagons then returned the ballast wagons to the top of the incline. One of the major inclines at Dinorwic had four parallel tracks, two worked by the ballast method and two as conventional gravity balance.
Inclines are classified by the power source used to wind the cable.
A stationary engine drives the winding drum that hauls the wagons to the top of the inclined plane and may provide braking for descending loads. Only a single track and cable is required for this type. The stationary engine may be a steam or internal combustion engine, or may be a water wheel.
In a gravity balance system two parallel tracks are employed with ascending trains on one and descending trains on the adjacent track. A single cable is attached to both trains, wound round a winding drum at the top of the incline to provide braking. The weight of the loaded descending cars is used to lift the ascending empties.
This form of cable railway can only be used to move loads downhilland requires a wider space than a stationary engine -driven incline, but has the advantage of not requiring external power, and therefore costs less to operate.
A variation of the gravity balance incline was the trwnc inclinefound at slate quarries in north Wales, notably the Dinorwic Quarry and several in Blaenau Ffestiniog. These were worked by gravity, but instead of the wagons running on their own wheels, permanently attached angled wagons were used that had a horizontal platform on which the slate wagons rode.
This is a variant of the gravity balance incline that can be used to move loads uphill. A water tank is attached to the descending train. The tank is filled with water until the combined weight of the filled tank and train is greater than the weight of the loaded train that will be hauled uphill. The water is either carried in an additional water wagon attached to the descending train, or is carried underneath a trwnc car on which the empty train sits. This type of incline is especially associated with the Aberllefenni Slate Quarry that supplied the Corris Railway.
This form of incline has the advantages of a gravity balance system with the added ability to haul loads uphill. It is only practical where a large supply of water is available at the top of the incline. An example of this type of cable railway is the passenger carrying Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway.
An uncommon form of cable railway uses locomotives, fitted with a winding drum, to power the cable. With the cable or chain attached to the wagons to be drawn, but the drive to the drum disengaged, the locomotive climbs the slope under its own power. When the cable is nearly at its full extent, or when the summit is reached, the locomotive is fastened to the rails and the cable wound in.
In a simpler form the cable is attached to a locomotive, usually at the upper end of the incline. The locomotive is driven away from the head of the incline, hauling wagons up the inclined plane. The locomotive itself does not travel on the steeply graded section. An example is at the Amberley Chalk Pits Museum. This is most commonly used for a temporary incline where setting up the infrastructure of a winding drum and stationary engine is not appropriate. It is similarly employed for recovery operations where derailed rolling stock must be hauled back to the permanent track.[ dead link ]
While the majority of cable railways moved trains over steep inclines, there are examples of cable-haulage on railways that did not have steep grades. The Glasgow Subway was cable-hauled from its opening in 1896 until it was converted to electric power in 1935.
A few examples exist of cables being used on conventional railways to assist locomotives on steep grades. The Cowlairs incline was an example of this, with a continuous rope used on this section from 1842 until 1908. The middle section of the Erkrath-Hochdahl Railway in Germany (1841–1926) had an inclined plane where trains were assisted by rope from a stationary engine and later a bank engine running on a second track. The height difference was 82 metres over a 2.5 kilometre length (1845–1926)
The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum is a purpose-built museum dedicated to narrow-gauge railways situated at the Tywyn Wharf station of the Talyllyn Railway in Tywyn, Gwynedd, Wales.
The Leicester and Swannington Railway (L&S) was one of England's first railways, being opened on 17 July 1832 to bring coal from collieries in west Leicestershire to Leicester.
The Hay Inclined Plane is a canal inclined plane in the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, with a height of 207 feet (63 m). It was located at the end of the Shropshire Canal, part of a network of canals that linked the industrial region of east Shropshire with the River Severn. The inclined plane was in operation from 1793 to 1894. It can be visited as part of the Blists Hill Victorian Town and is also a waypoint on the South Telford Heritage Trail.
Hillclimbing is a problem faced by railway systems when a load must be carried up an incline. While railways have a great ability to haul very heavy loads, this advantage is only significant when the tracks are fairly level. As soon as the gradients increase, the tonnage that can be hauled is greatly diminished.
The Bowes Railway, built by George Stephenson in 1826, is the world's only operational preserved standard gauge cable railway system. It was built to transport coal from pits in Durham to boats on the River Tyne. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The railway is open every week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday as well as on a number of event days throughout the year.
A gravity railroad or gravity railway is a railroad on a slope that allows cars carrying minerals or passengers to coast down the slope by the force of gravity alone. The speed of the cars is controlled by a braking mechanism on one or more cars on the train. The cars are then hauled back up the slope using animal power, a locomotive or a stationary engine and a cable, a chain or one or more wide, flat iron bands. A much later example in California used 4 ft 8+1⁄2 instandard gauge steam engines to pull gravity cars back to the summit of Mt. Tamalpais.
Until it closed in 1967 the Hopton Incline was the steepest stretch of conventional, adhesion-worked standard gauge railway running line in the UK. The incline was situated in sparsely populated, exposed limestone uplands in the Peak District of Derbyshire, England.
The Granite Railway was one of the first railroads in the United States, built to carry granite from Quincy, Massachusetts, to a dock on the Neponset River in Milton. From there boats carried the heavy stone to Charlestown for construction of the Bunker Hill Monument. The Granite Railway is popularly termed the first commercial railroad in the United States, as it was the first chartered railway to evolve into a common carrier without an intervening closure. The last active quarry closed in 1963; in 1985, the Metropolitan District Commission purchased 22 acres (8.9 ha), including Granite Railway Quarry, as the Quincy Quarries Reservation.
The Penrhyn Quarry Railway was a narrow gauge railway in Caernarfonshire, Wales. It served the Penrhyn quarry near Bethesda, taking their slate produce to Port Penrhyn, near Bangor. The railway was around six miles (9.7 km) long and used a gauge of 1 ft 10+3⁄4 in.
The National Slate Museum is located at Gilfach Ddu, the 19th-century workshops of the now disused Dinorwic quarry, within the Padarn Country Park, Llanberis, Gwynedd. The museum is dedicated to the preservation and display of relicts of the Slate industry in Wales.
The Padarn Railway was a narrow gauge railway line in North Wales, built to the unusual gauge of 4 ft. Its purpose was to carry slate the seven miles (11 km) from Dinorwic Quarry ( to Port Dinorwic )( The line replaced the previous Dinorwic Railway from 3 March 1843, initially using horses, converting to steam haulage on 23 November 1848. The railway was formally titled the Dinorwic Quarries Railway or Dinorwic Quarry Railway, but the informal "Padarn Railway" stuck and was widely used. ).
The Dinorwic Railway was an early 2 ft narrow gauge industrial railway connecting the slate quarry at Dinorwic in Caernarvonshire with the coastal port at Y Felinheli. The line is sometimes referred to as the Dinorwic Tramroad or the Dinorwic Tramway.
A predecessor to the Class I Delaware and Hudson Railway, the 1820s-built Delaware and Hudson Canal Company Gravity Railroad('D&H Gravity Railroad') was a historic gravity railroad incorporated and chartered in 1826 with land grant rights in the US state of Pennsylvania as a humble subsidiary of the Delaware and Hudson Canal and it proved to contain the first trackage of the later organized Delaware and Hudson Railroad. It began as the second long U.S. gravity railroad built initially to haul coal to canal boats, was the second railway chartered in the United States after the Mohawk and Hudson Rail Road before even, the Baltimore and Ohio. As a long gravity railway, only the Summit Hill and Mauch Chunk Railroad pre-dated its beginning of operations.
The dandy waggon is a type of railway carriage used to carry horses on gravity trains. They are particularly associated with the narrow gauge Festiniog Railway (FR) in Wales where they were used between 1836 and 1863.
The Ballochney Railway was an early railway built near Airdrie, Lanarkshire, now in Monklands, Scotland. It was intended primarily to carry minerals from coal and ironstone pits, and stone quarries, in the area immediately north and east of Airdrie, to market, predominantly over the adjoining Monkland and Kirkintilloch Railway. Passengers were carried later.
A mine railway, sometimes pit railway, is a railway constructed to carry materials and workers in and out of a mine. Materials transported typically include ore, coal and overburden. It is little remembered, but the mix of heavy and bulky materials which had to be hauled into and out of mines gave rise to the first several generations of railways, at first made of wooden rails, but eventually adding protective iron, steam locomotion by fixed engines and the earliest commercial steam locomotives, all in and around the works around mines.
An inclined elevator or inclined lift is a form of cable railway that hauls rail cars up a steep gradient.
Wrysgan quarry was a slate quarry near the village of Tanygrisiau, Blaenau Festiniog, North Wales. It was worked intermittently from the 1830s, and was worked continuously from c.1850 until 1946. Wrysgan was an underground slate quarry, which was located on a small inaccessible site, some 1,390 feet (420 m) above sea level, to the west of Cwmorthin.
The car gwyllt is a Welsh invention used by quarrymen to ride downhill on the steep inclined planes of a slate quarry.
Beckhole Incline was a steep, rope-worked gradient on the railway line between Whitby and Pickering, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, England. Opened in May 1836 as part of the horse-worked Whitby & Pickering Railway, the line was operated by three railway companies before becoming redundant on the opening of a diversionary line to the east that allowed through working by steam engines on the entire line. Although the incline was closed to regular traffic in 1865, it was used for a very brief period in 1872, to test a special locomotive intended for railways with steep gradients.