The Principle

At the beginning of the railway transportations, the tracks were quite horizontal, but quickly arrived the necessity for the trains to use inclined areas . To solve this problem, the cog wheel trains were used for the long distances with multiple curves. But this system is limited for inclines with medium gradients. But for small distances with big gradient and small sinuosity another system was used: the funicular traction. With this system, the vehicle is pulled by a cable during the rising, and only guided during the descent. The cable is moved by a fix power unit which can be of different kinds. There are lots of different types of funicular railways but only Cliff Railways are described here.

The principle was to fill a wagon at the top which was then heavier than the unladened wagon at the bottom, these are connected by a wire around a pulley, gravity does the rest. This principle has been modified using additional power sources such as animals, water and latterly electricity.

(the red circle is a power unit, the white circle is a passive pulley)

Counterbalanced / one cabin is heavier than the other one

Classical Funicular: one cabin is pulled, the other one is guided

Only one cabin, sometimes also called lift

Only one cabin but the power unit is at the lower station

Two cabins independent or coupled

Modern Funicular: same as classical Funicular but powered

Same as modern Funicular but with the power station at the bottom

One cabin, one cable for the tension and the engine in the middle

Two half sections and the power unit between the two sections

One cabin, one loop cable, engine at the bottom


One track with a siding


Two tracks with 3 rails / a siding / one track

Two tracks with 3 rails and a siding

Single track


Two parallel tracks


Twin Track with passing Siding



In use


Project / Under construction



Water-ballast counterbalanced


Human /Animal



When a Railway is stated as open to the Public, it means that even though it may not now be running, the site and remains can be visited, i.e. they are not on private land. The railway might not be able to ridden even is specified as open.