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British Industrial History

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Clifton Rocks Railway

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The Clifton Rocks Railway was an underground funicular railway in Bristol, linking Clifton at the top to Hotwells and Bristol Harbour at the bottom of the Avon Gorge in a tunnel cut through the limestone cliffs. The upper station is close to Brunel's famous Clifton Suspension Bridge and is located adjacent to the former Grand Spa Hotel (now the Avon Gorge Hotel). The lower station was opposite the paddle steamer landing ferries in Hotwells, Hotwells railway station of the Bristol Port and Pier Railway, a terminus of Bristol Tramways and the Rownham ferry enabling connections across the river Avon. Unusually the railway consisted of 2 pairs of twin tracks.

1891 Construction of the railway was funded by the publisher George Newnes, also proprietor of the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway; the starting ceremony was opened with a loud explosion fired by the wife of the Lord Mayor[1]. The engineer, as at Lynton, was George Croydon Marks of Birmingham; also the architect was Mr Philip Munro of Bristol; contractor was C. A. Hayes also of Bristol.

1892 The carriages were mounted via leaf springs onto the chassis built by Messrs Gimsons of Leicester, who also built cars for the Bridgnorth funicular at the same time.

1893 Opened on 11 March, but was never a great success

1894 The Clifton Rocks Railway Co. Ltd was formed to operate the line.

1912 it was sold to Bristol Tramways and Carriage Co but continued to struggle on until it closed on 1 October 1934.

WWII The tunnel provided air-raid shelters and an emergency base for the BBC in the city.




  • The Clifton Rocks Railway Trust has been formed by a group of volunteers to restore the Railway - see [1]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, March 9, 1891