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In several resorts, such as Folkestone and Southend, the cliff railway has had an historical relationship with the town pier. This is especially true in the case of Saltburn, where the railway’s close proximity to the pier makes it seem almost like an extension. When the pier was constructed in 1869, the high cliff separating the town from the shoreline was always going to cause accessibility problems that, in turn, would impact the commercial success of the pier. The original solution was to build a vertical lift, and this remained operational until 1883 at which time it was demolished in preparation for the construction of the cliff railway.
Saltburn’s cliff railway is designed using the water-balanced principle, and survives as the oldest existing example of its kind in the country. Comprising two parallel 3ft 9ins gauge tracks, and extending to a length of 207ft (63m), it was opened to the public on 28th June 1884. With most of the machinery being provided by Tangye Limited, and the passenger cars supplied by the Metropolitan Railway Carriage & Wagon Company Limited of Birmingham, it was George Marks’ responsibility to oversee the entire project. Water for the system was supplied from a natural spring in the cliff, and was recycled from car to car by the use of a Crossley Brothers 6hp ‘Otto’ gas engine. A plentiful water supply was maintained in a 30,000 gallon reservoir located at the lower station, and a 18,500 gallon reservoir at the upper terminus.
Facilities provided at either end of the railway have always varied considerably, and passengers waiting to descend are less fortunate than those waiting to come up from the shore to the town. At the lower station there is a substantial complex, containing a ticket office, waiting room, and engine room, but the only building at the upper terminus is a small hut for the ‘brakeman’ controlling the operation of the cars. The original cars were of a standard design, capable of seating 10-12 passengers, with an over-body on a triangular sub-frame that housed a 1,000 gallon water tank. A striking feature of the early cars was the inclusion of stained-glass windows, but these were removed in 1955 when the car bodies were replaced. However, when the new aluminium cars were introduced in 1979 (modelled on the original design), this attractive feature was reinstated.
The tracks were changed to 4ft 2.5ins during the winter of 1921-22 and, just over 50 years later, the sleepers were replaced following the end of the 1974 season. Considerable work was carried out in 1997-98 to ensure that the line continued to meet modern safety standards, and this included the replacement of the original 113 year-old winding drum. By 1930 the water system was being operated by mains power, the original Crossley gas engine having been replaced with a DC generator and electric pumps in 1913.
Currently owned and operated by Cleveland and Redcar Borough Council, the Saltburn Cliff Railway continues to be well patronised. Open every weekend from mid March through to October, and daily during the peak season, this funicular is surely one of few today that can look forward to a secure future.
Saltburn-by-the-Sea is a seaside resort in the borough of Redcar and Cleveland and the ceremonial county of North Yorkshire, England. The town is around 12 miles east of Middlesbrough and had a population of 5,912 at the 2001 Census.
Saltburn was founded in 1861 by the entrepreneur Henry Pease — a member of the Pease family of Darlington that also founded the Stockton & Darlington Railway and the town of Middlesbrough nearby — apparently after he had seen a vision of a heavenly city reminiscent of the description of Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. The group of so-called "jewel streets" along the seafront (Coral, Garnet, Ruby, Emerald, Pearl, Diamond and Amber Streets) is said to be a legacy of this vision. Another mark of the founding family is the "Pease brick" in many of the homes in Saltburn, with the name "Pease" set into the brick.
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