"Restoration of Clifton Rocks Railway"

Talk by Peter Davey
April 11th 2007

This was the second time Peter Davey gave a talk to us at St.Peters Church Hall having previously talked of Bristol Trams. A highly entertaining and professional presentation. Photos of the Grand Spa Hotel Ballroom evoked memories for members present. Even earlier pics of the old Pump Rooms pre the building of Bridge Valley Road. The steel bar gate which closed the adjacent grotto cave served the basis of a "Let Me Out" joke at the expense of a couple of Japanese tourists. In a more serious vein Peter gave us the details of the origins of the cliff railway. The following extract from the publication of the Clifton Rocks preservation group of which Peter is Chairman summarises this.
By 1880, George White's horse drawn tram routes were spreading all over Bristol. However, Clifton's Merchant Venturers did not want the trams "up here" so a plan was submitted for a cliff railway from the Bristol side of the Suspension Bridge down to the Hotwell Station on Hotwell Road. This was turned down, due to concerns about spoiling the grandeur of the cliff face

Sir George Newnes, who had financed and built the Lynton Lynmouth Railway, heard of the situation and with his business colleagues submitted a plan that would place a railway inside the famous rocks, ensuring that the appearance of the Gorge would not be spoilt.

Inside there were two railways that worked completely independently of each other. The cars were built by the Starbuck Company, lit
by oil, were fitted with a sophisticated braking system and carried up to 18 passengers. The ride took 44 seconds and depended upon the weight of passengers in the two cars. As one descended, the weight caused the other to be pulled up to the top station.

If the lower car was heavier than the top car, water was allowed to flow into a tank underneath the top car until it was heavier than the lower car. Water had to be re-cycled from the bottom station constantly, as there was not a continuous supply at the top station.

An Otto gas engine pumped the water from a reservoir at the bottom station, some 230 feet to the top station. The railway was just less than 500 feet in length. The tunnel was 28 feet wide, by 17 feet high.
In 1908, the CRR Company ceased trading and George White bought the lease, re opening it in 1912. The railway finally closed at the end of September 1934 - having made its only profit on the day it opened.

During the War the tunnel was adapted to house BBC studios as a safe place from which to broadcast news, music and comedy despite the tunnel being at a 45 degree angle. The preservation group wish to restore at least part of it as a cliff railway but even it's historic war time use deserves retention. This gives rise to a conundrum as to the exactly how this is to be achieved.

A lively Question session followed the talk and Michael Clinch gave the vote of thanks.

Marcus Palmén

A Falklands Experience

Talk by Brian Oke
May 9th 2007

Falklands Cathedral and Whalebone ArchBrian explained that, after a long career in electronic engineering and management with GEC/Marconi and later British Aerospace, he had retired early and spent his time on DIY projects, including building an aeroplane.War Memorial More recently he and his wife have focused on travel to exotic holiday locations including Iceland and the Falkland Islands.

Until the Argentine invasion in 1982 there was very little interest in the Falkland Islands. They consist of about 200 islands with an area of 4,700 square miles and a population of 2,800 most of whom live in Port Stanley. Originally the main business was the repair of ships, particularly those damaged in the severe weather around Cape Horn. In more recent times sheep have been raised for their wool and there has been a fishing industry. Since the Islands were recaptured from the Argentines tourism has become important.

Brian decided to follow up the experience of a friend and book an accompanied tour of the Islands.

A new runway has been built at Port Stanley but commercial flights are long and expensive and Brian and his wife were able to secure places on a military flight from Brize Norton via Ascension Island and flew out for a stay of two weeks.

Let's meet the young ones!

Where have the others gone?Transport around the Islands by road is by 4 wheel drive vehicles, originally Land Rovers but these have been replaced by Toyotas, new roads have been built and these are raised to allow for flooding.

Brian described the trip around the Falklands, with excellent photographs of the island scenery and wildlife. The principal wildlife species are the penguins of which six varieties are represented. There are also albatross, upland geese and seals and sea lions. Much of the landscape is barren and gorse seems to thrive. Whilst on the islands they were able to visit local monuments to the casualties of the war.
The talk was followed by a lively question session.
Marcus Palmén thanked Brian for a very interesting talk and asked the members to thank him in the usual way.

John Gale