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Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Clifton Rocks Railway

Yesterday I visited the Clifton Rocks Railway here in Bristol. First opened in 1891 to to take people between the fashionable suburb of Clifton and down to the Hotwells Spa through a steep tunnel in the limestone cliff 500 ft [152 metres] long. The railway was never very successful having been built at the very end of the era when the Hotwells spring was popular. I seem to remember being told by a geologist friend that the taste of the water was disgusting! The railway was operated until the 1930's then during the Second World War used as a well protected facility for BBC transmissions and as an air raid shelter. Derelict for many years the future of the railway is still uncertain, but over the last two years a group of enthusiasts has been making a valiant effort of restoration. This weekend is the second annual open day and crowds of people were around to look at the ongoing work. It would take many more years and millions of pounds to restore it fully and even then would not be a profit making attraction. Crucially, parking is almost impossible at the base station by the river and difficult at the top in Clifton. Nevertheless it was well worth the visit to see what had been recovered and to see demonstrations of the hydraulic system by which the passenger cars operated. Do please have a look at the fascinating website.

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