the Glenthorne funicular

'Work began on the funicular in early 1929. The car bodies were not initially fitted as the funicular was used to carry all of the building materials for the construction of the lido, below. Although initially water powered, it was soon discovered that the balance would be lost when passengers left or joined the cars at the half way station. As a consequence, electric traction was installed, the powerful winding mechanisms being imported from Switzerland.'

Construction of the model was based on the Langley funicular kit. We did not purchase the control unit as ours also had to stop midway. The Langley model is designed to follow a slope of 45 degrees. It was not possible to incorporate a track of that angle on Cliffhanger and our trackbed is actually 52 degrees. This necessitated a complete rebuild of the kit, the chassis being taken apart and rejigged. I also built the cars with curved ends which I felt was more compatible with our art deco theme. I found the Langley instructions as clear as mud, by the way.

I fitted slatted seating to the cars; also from Langley. The water tanks are filled with lead shot.

The completed cars  - click on image to enlarge

The 00 gauge track was laid onto the funicular trackbed using a spacer to ensure the correct distance between them. The whole arrangement was then set up at my workshop at the correct angle and work was begun on building the platforms and buildings.

click on image to enlarge

As the funicular was built in 1929, I assumed that concrete would have been the main construction material.

click on image to enlarge

Once the six platforms were built in foamboard, they were coated in PVA. A very thin coat of premix Polyfilla was then rendered over them and a metal strip drawn across to leave marks depicting shutter boards. The platforms are left removable at this time for detailing and painting.

Finishing was with acrylic washes and while the paint was still a little damp, Eazi weathering powder was applied. This is by far the best powder I have come across so far.

The top station was built in foam board. The Crittall windows were printed on self adhesive clear vinyl and stuck to transparent acrylic sheet. A large 'CLIFF RAILWAY' sign is to be added to the roof. The supports for the building are made of shuttered concrete while the building itself is rendered concrete. Weathering would have been quite rapid in these maritime conditions.

The funicular trackbed was then offered up again to the baseboard and the top and middle stations attached, ensuring that they were plumb. It then became obvious that despite all our planning, the railway bridge had been built 4" too far to the right. This was not a hard job to put right luckily.

In the photo below, the track and rollers have been painted.

The lower station under construction. click on image to enlarge

The next step was to convert the track to baulkway which is typical of funiculars. In the photo below, the bridge is in its correct place and the weeds between the baulkway can be seen.

The photo below shows the lower station roughly in place. The roof over the tracks is not yet built.

The funicular is incorporated into the scenery

The fully detailed track

The operation of the funicular appeared to be simple indeed. Reed switches set into the track would be operated by magnets fastened under the cars and the whole would be controlled by a simple off-the-shelf shuttle system. That is when the troubles began!

1. Fishing line was recommended as cable. We discovered that all fishing line stretches and the positioning of the cars was constantly changing. A move to beading thread cured this particular problem.

2. We then discovered that reed switches were not totally reliable. On occasion, the magnet was not detected which resulted in a car being driven against the back wall of the upper winding house. The cable would break and the car crash to the bottom with the loss of all hands!

3. We initially used the motor supplied by Langley. This drove both cars from pulleys attached to a common shaft. The motor was geared and was difficult to control.

4. We found that the cable would build up on one side of the pulley and then drop down to the bottom of the V. This resulted in the car violently dropping and then derailing.

It quickly became obvious that no amount of tweaking would improve the situation. Very fortunately, Andy and Fiona Forty of DCC Supplies came to my rescue. Two step motors were fitted. These motors count 200 positions per revolution. One revolution equals 1mm of movement of the car. Electronics accurately count the 'clicks' so that the cars are always perfectly positioned. The electronic hardware developed by Andy was programmed using his laptop and we haven't looked back since.

My contribution was to solve how to evenly lay the cable onto the pulleys. It was too simple for words: build in pulley wobble!

The stepper motors. Positioning of the copper lead tubes is critical.

The one off electronic control board developed by DCC Supplies.

It is essential that the funicular is always started with the cars accurately positioned at the mid way station. If it is started in any other position, disaster will result. For this reason, we have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). In the event of a short break in power supply, the funicular will continue for a while and the UPS bleeps loudly. This gives us the opportunity to stop the cycle with the cars in the correct position.