Cliff railways or funiculars, as well as cliff lifts, have long been a familiar sight across some British seaside resorts, most constructed in the later Victorian era when there seemed to be an almost endless fascination with applying ingenious engineering solutions to the problems that steep gradients presented for visitors in resorts located in areas of challenging topography.
Just over 120 years ago, Ventnor appeared to be on schedule to have just such a railway, cable-operated and worked on a water-balance principle. It envisaged three separate sections. One was to run from the town centre to the railway station, another from the town centre to the Esplanade, and a third from the station to the top of the Downs with total construction cost estimated at £13,000.
Sadly, the scheme seems to have sunk without trace with a report by a civil engineer, Francis Newman, raising questions about the varied surface geology and the difficulties that the underlying gault clay might present for such excavations. He further observed how much of the town was actually built on slipped strata, something that the town’s residents know all too well today.
Read PDF version here: The Ventnor Cliff Railway or Funicular that never was! Part One