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A funicular, also known as a funicular railway, incline, inclined railway, inclined plane, or cliff railway, is a cable railway in which a cable attached to a pair of tram-like vehicles on rails moves them up and down a steep slope; the ascending and descending vehicles counterbalance each other.

The word is from the Latin funiculus, a diminutive of funis, "rope".



The basic principle of funicular operation is that two cars are permanently attached to each other by a cable, which runs through a pulley at the top of the incline. Counterbalancing of the two cars, with one ascending and one descending the slope minimizes the new energy input needed to lift the ascending car. Winching is normally done by an electric drive which turns the pulley. Sheave wheels guide the cable to and from the drive mechanism and the incline cars.

A few funiculars have been built using water tanks under the floor of each car which are filled or emptied until just sufficient imbalance is achieved to allow movement. The movement is then controlled by a brakeman.

Bottom towrope

The cars are attached to a second cable running through a pulley at the bottom of the incline in case the gravity force acting on the vehicles is too low to operate them on the slope. One of the pulleys must be designed as tensioning wheel to avoid slack in the ropes. In this case the winching can be done also at the lower end of the incline. This practice is used for funiculars with gradients below 6%, funiculars using sledges instead of cars or any other case where it is not ensured that the descending car is always able to pull out the cable from the pulley in the station on the top of the incline.[1]

Track Layout

Early funiculars used two parallel straight tracks, with separate station platforms for each vehicle. The tracks are laid with sufficient space between them for the two cars to pass at the mid-point. The wheels of the cars are usually single-flanged, as on standard railway vehicles. Examples of this type of track layout are the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and most cliff railways in the UK.

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