Scarborough funiculars

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Central Tramway top station.

The British town of Scarborough has had a total of five cliff railways, or funiculars, two of which remain open to the public. Two of these funiculars were on Scarborough's North Bay and three on South Bay; both of the North Bay railways have been demolished, and one on South Bay is extant but out of use since 2006. The other two South Cliff lifts are still operational.[1]

Central Tramway[edit]

Central Tramway viewed from bottom

The Central Tramway Company Scarborough Limited opened the Central Tramway (54°16′51″N 0°23′52″W / 54.2809°N 0.3978°W / 54.2809; -0.3978 (Central Tramway, Scarborough)Coordinates: 54°16′51″N 0°23′52″W / 54.2809°N 0.3978°W / 54.2809; -0.3978 (Central Tramway, Scarborough)) in 1880 and started operating on 1 August 1881. The funicular was operated by steam, the steam house was situated away from the top station. Since drivers have no view of the cars, they use marks on the rope to indicate the car positions.

In 1910 the funicular was converted to electric drive. In 1932 the cars were replaced and the motor placed under the top station. Driving was done from a driving station at the top of the station with full view of the cars.

The track is 71 m (233 ft) long on a 1 in 2 gradient. The track is 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge. The funicular is operated by two cars.

South Cliff Lift[edit]

Spa Lift.

The first funicular railway in the United Kingdom, the Scarborough South Cliff Tramway Company Limited was created in 1873.

The system to link the South Cliff Esplanade to the Scarborough Spa, was designed and engineered by Mr Lucas. Constructed by Crossley Brothers of Manchester for a cost of £ 8000, the track is 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) wide and 284 feet (87 m) long, on 1 in 1.75 gradient. Metropolitan Carriage of Birmingham constructed the two cars, each capable of carrying 14 seated passengers, to the bottom of which is attached a water tank. Each car is also attached to a twin-steel cable rope, which is operated by a brakeman at the top station.

Using seawater pumped by two Crossley gas engines through a hydraulic system designed by Tangye Ltd in Smethwick, Birmingham,[2] the upper car's water tank is filled until the counterbalance point is reached. The cars then proceeded along their individual tracks, with speed and safety controlled by the brakeman. When the upper car reached the bottom of the incline, both cars were braked, and the seawater released. The procedure was then repeated.

The railway opened on 6 July 1875.[3] The gas engines were replaced by steam pumps in 1879, and after refurbishment in 1947 the water system was replaced by 90 hp electric engine. The cars were replaced by two built by Hudswell Clarke & Company in 1934-1935.

Scarborough Borough Council bought the funicular from its owners in 1993. In 1997, the lift was modified to be completely automatic.[3]

St Nicholas Cliff Lift[edit]

St Nicholas Cliff Lift after conversion

The St Nicholas Cliff Lift (54°16′47″N 0°23′53″W / 54.2797°N 0.3981°W / 54.2797; -0.3981 (St Nicholas Cliff Lift, Scarborough)) was built by the Medway Safety Lift Company Ltd in 1929 and opened on 5 August. The Saint Nicholas Cliff Lift is located on the other side of the Grand Hotel from the Central Tramway, near the Aquarium. The track is 31 m long on a 1 in 1.33 gradient, the track gauge is 7 ft 6 in (2,286 mm).

There originally was no bottom station, passengers stepped into the tramcars directly from the pavement as the control equipment was incorporated in the upper station and no station was provided at the bottom of the lift. Fares are paid at the top station.

The lift was closed in February 2007 as the town council could not afford the £445,000 it was estimated needed to be spent to meet new health and safety standards. In early 2011 it was announced that the still closed lift may be sold by the town council, as it does not have the £630,000 that the repairs are now estimated to cost.[4][5]

After closure the two cars were moved to the top of the track and fixed in place, becoming part of the conversion of the top station into the St Nicholas Cafe. The cars offer seating and a balcony was constructed around them.[6] The lower station was converted into an ice cream parlor called The Seastrand.[7][8] The rails the cars ran on are still present.

North Bay Cliff Lift[edit]

The North Bay Cliff lift in 1995

The North Bay Cliff Lift was built by the Medway Safety Lift Company Ltd in 1930 and closed in September 1996. The lift was part of a large Corporation development at Peasholm Gap. It has been dismantled and has now been placed in storage. Launceston, Cornwall.

The funicular was run by two cars and electric powered. The track was 51 m long with a track width of 6 ft 6 in (1,981 mm).

Queens Parade Cliff Lift[edit]

The Scarborough Queen's Parade Tramway Company Limited was created on 4 March 1878, linking Queen's Parade, on the top of the North Cliff to the Promenade Pier.

A cabin broke loose on 8 August 1878, the opening day, the lift closed for the rest of the year. With accidents every year, pump engine and water supply failures and a further landslip in 1887 stopped the use of the lift.

The track was 87 m long on a 1 in 2.5 gradient and 4 ft (1,219 mm) wide, two cars ran up and down the lift.



  1. ^ "Cliff Lift - Spa | Tram | Scarborough|North Yorkshire". Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Lynton & Lynmouth Railway". Lynton & Lynmouth. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Spa Cliff Lift". Scarborough Council. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
  4. ^ "Safety cost closes historic lift". BBC News Online. BBC. 15 February 2007. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  5. ^ Johnston, Howard (12 January 2011). "Regional News". Rail Magazine (661). Bauer Media Group. p. 12.
  6. ^ "Cafe plan for old cliff lift". Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  7. ^ "The Seastrand, Scarborough - Tess Willoughby". Tess Willoughby. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  8. ^ "The Seastrand". Retrieved 18 October 2017.

External links[edit]