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Lynton and Lynmouth cliff railway receives award

Institution News Team

The Institution has honoured the water-powered cliff railway, which climbs 500ft up a sheer cliff face in Devon, with an Engineering Heritage Award.



The Lynton and Lynmouth cliff railway now stands alongside previous award winners like the E-Type Jaguar, Tower Bridge and Concorde 101 as an example of exceptional British engineering.

The award recognises how the railway – which links Lynton and Lynmouth – was the first of its kind and is now the oldest water-powered total-loss funicular railway in the UK.

The award was presented on 18 September 2014 by John Wood, Chairman of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Heritage Committee, to Andrew Ireland, Chairman of the Lynmouth and Lynton Lift Company, at a special ceremony in Lynmouth.

John Wood, Chairman of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Heritage Committee, said: “The Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway is a fine example of UK engineering. Opened in 1890, the railway’s unique hydraulic system helped link the two villages of Lynton and Lynmouth, providing a much needed boost to the local economy and, subsequently, the area’s tourist industry.

“The Victorians were true engineering pioneers and this railway brilliantly illustrates some of the ingenious ways they tackled previously insurmountable problems.”

“This award celebrates the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway’s engineering heritage, but is also in recognition of the excellent work of the Lynmouth and Lynton Lift Company in preserving this railway for generations to come.”

Andrew Ireland, Chairman of the Lynmouth and Lynton Lift Company which owns and operates the cliff railway, said: “I would like to say how honoured and thrilled my directors, staff and I are to have been given this award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Looking at the list of the previous award winners makes the honour even more prestigious.”

“We of course realise we own and operate an iconic and unique piece of Victorian engineering. Everybody connected with the railway works very hard both in season and in the off-season to ensure that it is in perfect working order and looks at its best to create a real experience for our customers.”

The water-powered railway was designed by George Croydon Marks with the majority of funding coming from publisher Sir George Newnes.

Construction work began in 1887 with the Railway opening on 7 April 1890. It has been in continuous use ever since.

The railway comprises of two cars, each capable of transporting 40 passengers. The cars are joined by a continuous cable running around a 5'6" pulley at each end of the incline. Water feeds through 5-inch pipes from the West Lyn River into tanks under the floor of the upper car. Each car has a 700 gallon tank mounted between the wheels.

Water is discharged from the lower car, until the heavier top car begins to descend, with the speed controlled by a brakeman travelling on each car.

This will be the 98th Engineering Heritage Award to be presented by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The awards, established in 1984, aim to promote artefacts, sites or landmarks of significant engineering importance – past and present.

Find out more about the Engineering Heritage Awards.

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