the love of it versus Clifton Rocks Railway…

the love of it versus Clifton Rocks Railway…

I wonder how many people have driven down the Portway in Bristol, or walked past the Avon Gorge Hotel and never realised that there’s an abandoned Funicular Railway that runs between the two…

I’ve been in Bristol for 5 years, and it was only a few months that I found out about it (I’d heard rumours of something that you could visit on the Open Doors day, but never looked into it further. But one day, on walking past, I noticed a sign giving information about it. I got pretty excited, and so decided to organise a tour to have a look around and drag team love of it along for the ride…

25-Jul-2011 20:03, Canon Canon EOS 500D, 3.5, 21.0mm, 0.2 sec, ISO 1600

25-Jul-2011 20:04, Canon Canon EOS 500D, 3.5, 18.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 1600

25-Jul-2011 20:50, Canon Canon EOS 500D, 4.5, 32.0mm, 0.4 sec, ISO 1600

So on Monday evening, sporting hard hats and high vis jackets, 10 intrepid explorers descended down the many many stairs into the heart of the railway. Opening in 1893, there were four water powered carriages carrying people up and down the hill. Eventually closing in 1934 due to financial deficits, the tunnel was brought back into use at the outbreak of the second world war as an air raid shelter for those without cellars. Hundreds of people slept on platforms built over the train lines, crowded in the cold tunnel. The BBC also took residence in four rooms that they built at the bottom of the tunnel, including a transmitter room, studio and recording studio. They remained here until 1960 when the tunnel once again was left abandoned. And since then, apart from the odd illegal party, that’s how it has remained. The Clifton Rocks Railway Trust are now operating to try to preserve and restore this hidden Bristol landmark, carrying out pieces of work on the site, running several open days throughout the year as well as taking groups down for visits.

25-Jul-2011 20:43, Canon Canon EOS 500D, 3.5, 18.0mm, 0.125 sec, ISO 1600

25-Jul-2011 20:32, Canon Canon EOS 500D, 4.5, 32.0mm, 0.125 sec, ISO 1600

25-Jul-2011 20:25, Canon Canon EOS 500D, 3.5, 18.0mm, 0.3 sec, ISO 1600

Going down the railway tunnel is a wonderful experience. A lot of the original structure has been lost through the wartime modifications, but you can still see the tracks at various points, and the infrastructure put into place to allow the air raid occupants to stay there is fascinating in itself. The tour itself was brilliant – the guides were incredibly knowledgeable about the site and its varied history. The only downside is the hundreds of stairs that you have to climb back up at the end…


See their website for more information about the railway, open days and how to organise your own tour.

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