130yr Old Top Wheel System Replaced

Cliff Railway Top Wheel Fitting


On the 13th January 2020 a new top wheel encasement system slotted into place at the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway. The new 3 tonne installation retains the historic original wheel but upgrades the Victorian base plate that has been at the Cliff Railway since its opening in 1888. 

The original system received routine maintenance and inspection, including ultrasound testing, x-ray assessment and grease analysis. Whilst no safety concern was raised, the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway considered that the safety of the original Victorian design could be improved and facilitate easier maintenance.

The new design enables a self-greasing mechanism, improved wheel encasement and a rope management system to make future maintenance easier. The Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway commissioned Martin Hudson of Wheelsets UK to design and manufacture the system, the company, based in Rotheram, specialise in the design and manufacture of bespoke rail systems and also oversaw the installation.

Anchorage of the top wheel base plate was designed by J Grimes Partnership who have worked closely with the Lift company for several years. After taking core samples of the concrete beneath the base plate. 4 x 50mm 1.5 metre holes were drilled to accept 40mm stainless reinforcing steel bars which were grouted in below the base plate and twelve M24 bolts were grouted 300mm into the existing concrete to which the base plate would be bolted. 

The lifting of the 3 tonne wheel and base plate into place was undertaken by Brian Smith of KAS Crane Hire, who despite the restricted access and increasing winds during the operation, continues to provide an expert lifting service for the Cliff Railway.  

Chief Engineer, Ashley Clarke, said ‘the safety of the team during the installation was of paramount importance, the successful installation followed significant preparation work and risk assessment by our in-house team and excellent support from KAS Crane Hire. During the previous weeks the rock face was inclined to exactly 29 degrees prior to drilling 1.5 meters into the bedrock to install the anchorage bolts. It was challenging work on a tight maintenance schedule which wasn’t helped by the awful weather that Exmoor has experienced over the last few weeks’.

The company continue their maintenance work over the next few weeks ahead of the new season and are due to open on February 8th 2020 when they will be proudly displaying the new wheel.