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Report (Permission Visit) Clifton Rocks Railway, Bristol - Sept 2014

Discussion in 'Underground Sites' started by Oort, Nov 6, 2014.

  1. Oort

    Oort The Spice Must Flow.
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    Clifton Rocks Railway
    pcbukcrr01.jpg

    Clifton Rocks Railway - Bristol - Sep 2014

    Been done before but not for a few years and as it's quite local we thought it would be a good one to check out.

    The History
    .

    The Clifton Rocks Railway was an underground funicular railway, which opened in March 1893, linking the heights of
    Clifton to the Spa of Hotwells and the steamship landing stages on the river. The engineer was Croydon Marks.
    The tunnel cut, through the limestone cliffs, is 450 feet long and goes a vertical distance of 200 feet at a gradient
    of about 1 in 2.2. The railway consisted of four cars in two connected pairs, forming two parallel funiculars, each
    running on 38-inch narrow-gauge tracks. The system was operated by gravity, with water ballast being let into the
    cars at the top of the station and out at the bottom, the filled cars pulling up the empty one and an oil or gas
    burning pump returned the water to the top of the system.

    The railway was extremely popular – it had 427,492 passengers in its first commercial year. However, it always
    struggled to be a commercial success and finally closed in October 1934.

    A decade later, during the Second World War, blast walls were installed in the tunnel and it was used as an air-raid
    shelter for local residents, as offices by BOAC, and as a relay station and a (never used) emergency studio by the BBC.
    The BBC continued to use parts of the tunnel after the war, but the doors were finally locked in 1960. Over the
    following years the tunnel was used only for storage by the adjacent Avon Gorge Hotel who currently own most of the site.

    In 2005 a dedicated group of volunteers, headed by Peter Davey and Maggie Shapland, was formed to preserve, restore and
    research the railway. Over the years the Trust has cleared out much of the rubbish that had accumulated in the tunnel
    and the stations – finding amongst the debris some of the original turnstiles, railings, light fittings, etc. which
    have been restored and replaced on site.

    There is a considerably more expanded history of the site here:- [http://www.cliftonrocksrailway.org.uk/history_06.htm

    The Visit.


    On a nasty, horrible, rainy Monday night in September we all climbed into the car and chugged on down to Brizzle to have
    a look at the only funicular railway ever built in a tunnel! We met up with our guides Maggie and Mike who were brilliant
    and gave loads of info about the tunnel while we were wondering around the place. Once we got inside everything seemed
    much better and after we put on our obligatory hardhats and vests we ventured into the tunnel.

    A very big thanks to both Maggie and Mike for a really entertaining evening with lots of facts, thank you for having us!

    Top Station

    From the surface, the upper station appears to be a small single storey building, triangular in plan, with a facade of ashlar
    bath stone faced masonry construction facing Princes Lane and the Avon Gorge. The Sion Hill elevation consisted of iron railings
    between masonry piers: the railings are now covered with sheets of boarding. There are two entrances to the upper station, one
    at the junction of Princes Lane and Sion Hill, the other onto Sion Hill itself.

    The Sion Hill entrance had an ornamental iron arch above it. A visitor would descend down the steps from either entrance to
    the top station onto a small platform which was below upper street level. In fact the platform extends under the pavement in
    Sion HIll, and a series of small arched roof vaults between the rock face and a substantial steel beam, itself supported on
    cast iron columns, support the pavement of the street above. The remainder of the 15 feet wide platform which is not recessed
    under the pavement was covered by an awning of small glass panels set in iron frames (pavement lights) forming a floor on which
    sightseers could stand and take in the view, or watch the cars ascending and descending the tunnel. Most of these glass panels
    are still in place, but the grid of supporting steelwork in which they are mounted is in poor condition. At the head of the
    tunnel was a timber screen, pay box and turnstiles, together with the two large pulley wheels.

    What's left of the Top Station
    ZQxDW7V.jpg

    Model of the Tunnel
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    Where you would of boarded a train at the top.
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    One of the original pumps
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    Odd tunnel that runs under the road at the top station which they have no idea what is was used for.
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    Odds and Ends found in the tunnel while clearing it up.
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    BizfZr9.jpg

    The Tunnel

    The tunnel is 500 feet long, semi elliptical in cross section with a roof height of 18 feet and a width of 27 feet 6 inches.
    It climbs a vertical distance of 240 feet on a rising gradient of about a:2.2 that is a vertical rise of 1 foot for every
    2.2 feet of forward travel. The tunnel was blasted and cut through badly faulted limestone and was brick lined in almost
    its entirety with a wall thickness of 2 feet. Although the tunnel was lit by daylight at both top and bottom, this was
    supplemented by gas lamps installed down the tunnel length.

    Heading down into the tunnel on the steps the BBC had installed.
    9yafGI9.jpg

    Original Bannister from the 30's
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    One of the old turnstiles
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    Old fitting for cables
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    Looking down
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    Looking Up
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    Air Raid Shelter No. 1
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    Tunnel wall showing through the brickwork
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    Air Raid Shelter No. 2
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    Graff on the bottom wall
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    Rounded brickwork, made so people did not catch themselves while filing in and out.
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    Toilet area
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    Looking up at the tunnel
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    Air Raid Shelter No. 3
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    Blast Door
    Ylg0bTx.jpg
     
    #1 Oort, Nov 6, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2014

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  2. Oort

    Oort The Spice Must Flow.
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    Re: Clifton Rocks Railway, Bristol - Sep 2014

    The BBC Area

    This is completely trashed so didn't take may photos of the once operational rooms

    What it looked like back in the day
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    Now
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    Old Fuse Box
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    Original Power cable and a new one underneath
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    The Ladies loo (The BBC has separate conveniences installed)
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    NIAGJdu.jpg

    The most structurally important part of the tunnel.
    7hzEnaq.jpg

    What's left of the Generator
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    The bottom section
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    Period Graffiti
    JJf0kjL.jpg

    trCVnGC.jpg

    Original Fountain (a Junkie committed suicide down here and wasn't found for a few weeks)
    Suffice to say we weren't allowed to climb down inside.
    sL9voKd.jpg

    Upstairs to more rooms
    wa2SNOr.jpg

    ENr1PeI.jpg

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    Just behind the facade at the bottom station.
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    Old Air Ducting
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    Lonely Visitor
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    Plan of the old gas engine
    reMmH0h.jpg

    Thanks for looking!
     
    Nick0 likes this.
  3. TallRich

    TallRich 28DL Regular User
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    Re: Clifton Rocks Railway, Bristol - Sep 2014

    Thanks for posting mate, really enjoyed the visit, even though it was after a really busy day at work, and was a rush to get there!!

    it's just a shame the place has been left to rot for so long before the rescue attempt was started :mad
     
  4. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
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    Re: Clifton Rocks Railway, Bristol - Sep 2014

    Looks awesome man, Nice one :)
     
  5. Altair

    Altair Poking holes since '84
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    Re: Clifton Rocks Railway, Bristol - Sep 2014

    Looks very interesting. Decent pics and write up too :thumb
     
  6. FIX1T

    FIX1T 28DL Member
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    Re: Clifton Rocks Railway, Bristol - Sep 2014

    Cracking report m8. puts me right back in there again. Would recommend this visit to any west country folk who like to go below.
     
  7. theterrorwheel

    theterrorwheel 28DL Member
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    Superb, really liked that been wanting to see inside for a long time, great pics and write up & glad its being looked after.
     
  8. tumbles

    tumbles Trip Hopping
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    Maggie is a great tour guide, still not sure what the plan is with this place and guess it might be all up in the air with the hotel up for sale again
     
  9. REEF

    REEF Getthegirlkillthebaddies
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    Haven't see this before, top stuff.
     
  10. ACID- REFLUX

    ACID- REFLUX 28DL Regular User
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  11. WildBoyz

    WildBoyz Is this the future?
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    Nice report there. It's certainly an interesting read. I'd heard about this before, but not seen many photographs.
     
  12. tomba

    tomba 28DL Full Member
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  13. mrwhite

    mrwhite 28DL Regular User
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    wow that view!!!
     
  14. Oort

    Oort The Spice Must Flow.
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    Yup, that's what it looks like.
     
  15. eyelash911

    eyelash911 28DL Full Member
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    first time have heard of the place.....love the history and pics !
     
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