Fell mountain railway system

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Fell system on the Snaefell Mountain Railway.
Hanscotte system

The Fell system was the first third-rail system for steep grade railways that were too steep to be worked by adhesion on the two running rails alone. It uses a raised centre rail between the two running rails to provide extra traction and braking, or braking alone. Trains are propelled by wheels or braked by shoes pressed horizontally onto the centre rail, as well as by means of the normal running wheels. Extra brake shoes are fitted to specially designed or adapted Fell locomotives and brake vans, and for traction the locomotive has an auxiliary engine powering horizontal wheels which clamp onto the third rail. The Fell system was developed in the 1860s and was soon superseded by various types of Rack railway for new lines, but some Fell systems remained in use into the 1960s. The Snaefell Mountain Railway still uses the Fell system for (emergency) braking, but not for traction.

History[edit]

The Fell system was designed, developed and patented by British engineer John Barraclough Fell. The first test application was alongside the Cromford and High Peak Railway's cable-hauled incline at Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire, England, in 1863 and 1864.

These tests attracted the attention of the French Government, which conducted its own tests on the slopes of Mont Cenis in 1865. As a result, the Mont Cenis Pass Railway was built as a temporary connection between France and Italy whilst the tunnel under the Alpine pass was being built.

List of Fell railways[edit]

Preserved Fell locomotive H199 in the Fell Engine Museum, New Zealand, 20 March 2002.

The following railways have used the Fell system. Of these, the only one still in operation is the electrified Snaefell Mountain Railway on the Isle of Man, which occasionally uses the centre rail for braking only - the cars are all now equipped with rheostatic braking, which meets all normal braking needs. The only surviving Fell locomotive, New Zealand Railways H 199, is preserved at the Fell Engine Museum, Featherston, New Zealand, near the site of the Rimutaka Incline.

Brazil[edit]

France[edit]

Isle of Man[edit]

Italy[edit]

  • See France. Some characteristics of the Mont Cenis Pass Railway include:
    • 1,100 mm (3 ft 7 516 in) gauge - the gauge in English speaking world is sometimes quoted as 3' 7.5", etc.
    • Steepest gradient 1 in 12 (8.3%)
    • Steepest possible gradient unknown
    • Gradient where Fell grip system was deemed to be needed 1 in 25 (4.0%)
    • Climb 3,000 feet (914 m)
    • Centre rail 8 in (203 mm) above running rails and about 14 in (356 mm) above sleeper.
    • Sharpest curve 130 feet (40 m) [1]
    • Since there were breaks-of-gauge at either end of the Fell Railway, it is not known if ordinary standard gauge rolling stock were needed.
    • Length of line 48 miles (77 km).
    • Length of Fell section 9 miles (14 km).

New Zealand[edit]

  • The Rewanui Incline on the West Coast of the South Island used a Fell rail for braking from its opening in 1914 to 1966. It closed in 1985.
  • The Rimutaka Incline on the Wairarapa Line near Featherston in the North Island opened in 1878 and closed in 1955. It was replaced by the long Rimutaka tunnel.
  • The Roa Incline on the West Coast of the South Island used a Fell rail for braking from its opening in 1909. It closed in 1960.
  • The Wellington Cable Car used a Fell rail for emergency braking from its opening in 1902 until 1978, when it was upgraded.
  • The Kaikorai Cable Car which ran from Dunedin to the Kaikorai Valley used an off-centre fell rail for braking purposes.
  • Several bush tramways used Fell rails for braking purposes.
The underside of H199, showing details of the Fell railway system, 20 March 2002.

Renewals[edit]

  • Ten kilometres of new Chinese manufactured Fell rail was expected to be delivered to the Snaefell Mountain Railway in December 2006 for track-laying between the 2006 and 2007 seasons (Railway Magazine, February 2007).

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Related patents[edit]

Fell lodged the following patents relating to his system with the British Patent Office:

  • Patent   227 of 1863
  • Patent 3182 of 1863
  • Patent  899 of 1869
  • Patent  762 of 1895

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "THE LATEST METHODS OF RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION IN ENGLAND.". South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 9 July 1869. p. 2. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "NEW ZEALAND.". Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 - 1875) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 12 August 1873. p. 142. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 

External links[edit]