From Academic Kids

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A funicular, also called funicular railway or inclined railway, inclined plane, or in the United Kingdom a cliff railway, consists of a system of transport in which cables attach to a tram-like vehicle on rails to move it up and down a very steep slope.

The word "funicular" derives from the Latin funiculus (thin rope), a diminutive of funis (rope).



Funiculars are also called trams or cable cars in many places. Typically the steepness of the track does not vary very much, which differentiates the funicular from a cable railway. In addition, the cars of a funicular usually are permanently attached at the end(s) of the cable whereas the cars on a cable railway can usually detach and reattach to the cable during normal operation. The vehicle is often specially designed for the particular inclination, so that seats and/or floors remain roughly horizontal.

It is thus a hybrid between cable transport and rail transport. Two cars at the end of a cable go alternately up and down on either two tracks or one track which splits and rejoins in the middle. Funiculars often occur in mountains. Many cities have short funiculars on hills or cliffs, such as the Montmartre funicular in Paris, or those in the English seaside resort of Scarborough.

Some urban funiculars are associated with a city's transit system. For example, the Montmartre funicular in Paris and the Montjuïc funicular in Barcelona are fare-integrated with those cities' metro systems.

The world's steepest passenger railway is the Katoomba Scenic Railway, a funicular down the wall of the Jamison Valley near Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia, with maximum grade of 122% (52° from horizontal, 90° being vertical). [1] (

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Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with full length parallel tracks


The earliest such railways were water-driven, allowing barge traffic of canals to ascend and descend steep hills. They were used primarily in the early 19th century, especially during the height of the canal-building era in the 1830s in the United States.

Such railways operated by allowing water in feeder canals at the top of the plane to drive a turbine, raising or lowering a canal barge along a steep slope. Along level sections, the railroads essentially operated as standard towpath canals, with the barges typically drawn by horse or mule.

Examples of hydropower inclined plane railroads in the United States included the Allegheny Portage Railroad, part of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, built in 1834 with ten planes as the first railroad across the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Similarly, the Morris Canal in New Jersey connected the Delaware River with the Passaic River using 23 planes, as well as a series of locks along the gentler gradients.

Gütschbahn in Lucerne from Führer für Luzern, Vierwaldstättersee und Umgebung, , .
Gütschbahn in Lucerne from Führer für Luzern, Vierwaldstättersee und Umgebung, Lucerne, 1893.
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Dockside funicular at Chongqing - note typical passing section configuration for two-car balanced arrangement. A funicular need have only a relatively short section for passing.
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Two dockside funiculars of another type at the riverfront of Chongqing. Mechanical adjustments are provided to allow for changes in the elevation of the pontoon with varying water levels

One of the most famous funiculars of its time was the Mount Lowe railway in Southern California, combing a funicular raising passengers 3,500 up the side of Mount Lowe with a trolley that plied tracks built around the edges of the mountain, finally depositing tourists at the Alpine Inn, only 1,100 feet from the mountain's summit. The railway was built at the turn of the twentieth century, but it was gone by 1938, lost after a fire destroyed the Alpine Inn.

Funiculars of the world

The steepest funicular in the world is the Incline Railway at the Royal Gorge near Cañon City, Colorado, with a grade of 100% set at a 45 degree angle and 1,550 feet (473 meters) long.

See also: List of funiculars in the United Kingdom, List of funiculars in Switzerland

External links

See also

fr:funiculaire nl:Kabeltrein ru:Фуникулёр zh:纜索鐵路


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