Southend's Cliff lift takes off

PUBLISHED: 10:17 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 17:40 20 February 2013

Image by Mark Thomasson

Image by Mark Thomasson

The much loved Southend icon rises again after a £65,000 refurbishment

We have lift off

For a 98 year old, this popular Southend character certainly climbs the cliffs with ease. The famous Cliff Lift was out of action for the past seven years, but has recently been the subject of a 650,000 refurbishment and is now ready to take on the summer season.

Our historic Cliff Lift is a very important part of Southends heritage, says Southend on Sea Borough Councils executive councillor for culture, Cllr Derek Jarvis. Everyones delighted to see it back in action.
There has been mechanical help for people wanting to climb the steep cliffs between the seafront and what is now the Clifftown Conservation Area since the turn of the last century. Victorian Southend was pretty much divided by the cliffs, with all the amenities of the seaside at the bottom and the attractions of the town at the top.

Something had to be done to keep the tourists happy, but rather than installing one of the new funicular railways that had solved similar problems in other seaside resorts, Southend council took a more radical approach. Just eight years before, the American engineer Jesse W Reno had devised the first ever public moving walkway, the forerunner to the modern escalator, and in 1901 Southend became one of the first towns in Britain to have its own example of this new mode of transport.

But while the high-tech solution had a wow factor, the moving inclined ramp soon lost its shine when it proved to be noisy, unreliable and uncomfortable. Back at the drawing board, Southend Council decided on a more unusual single-track funicular railway, with just one passenger car.

Constructed by Waygood & Company, Southends funicular railway opened for the first time on the August Bank Holiday Monday in 1912 and could lift 30 people at a time the 57 feet from the seafront to the town. By 1930 the lift had been very well patronised and the passenger car was replaced. It wasnt until 1959 that the stations at the upper and lower ends of the track were built and the electrical equipment was refurbished.

In 1990 the lift had attention again this time a new car was designed with a single entry door. These changes meant that the capacity of the passenger car was reduced from 30 to 18, but the railway was more suitable for the modern age.

However, in 2003 technical problems caused the lift to close and updated regulations meant that modifications were needed before it could reopen. Now the lift has been restored as closely as possible to its original 1912 format, while meeting 21st century safety standards. New rail lines, new brakes, a new motor and new controls have spruced up the lift, while the carriage was removed and totally refurbished.

Southends two halves are once again reunited and visitors can ride the cliffs between the seaside and the shops and bright lights of the town above.

Travel the Cliff Lift to Southends attractions

Southend Pier
The longest pleasure pier in the world offers amusements, a museum, an RNLI Lifeboat Station and a gift shop at the Pier Head, plus a train ride to get you there. Call 0871 873 3150

Adventure Island
More than 40 great rides and attractions offer fun for all ages. Admission is free and rides can be paid for individually or by buying an All-Day Wristband. Call 01702 468023

A 30-lane ten-pin bowling alley, themed bars and restaurants all feature at this historic Southend site. Admission is free and its open all year round from 10am until late. Call 01702 322322

Sea Life Adventure
See the colourful marine life native to Southends shores as well as species that live in oceans around the world. Open every day in the summer from 10am to 8pm. Call 01702 601834

Kids Kingdom
Youll find this fun soft play centre for kids of all ages and even grown-ups, at Garon Park, Eastern Avenue. Open daily between 10am and 6pm. Call 01702 462747

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