A funicular is a means of urban or tourist transport, generally used to move on steep slopes. This type of railway runs on rails and the traction of the trains is guaranteed by a cable. It is a means of transport, created during the nineteenth century, which is still used in some ski resorts and in certain cities, in different parts of the world. Among the best known funiculars in the world, we can mention those in Valparaiso, Chile. This Chilean city has twelve funicular lines considered world heritage since 2003. Likewise, in Europe, Prague and Kiev also have their funiculars and the Montmartre funicular in Paris, France, is very popular as well.


Interesting information

  • Type of vehicle: Railway
  • Year: 1862
  • Main uses: Urban and tourist transport

What is a funicular?

A funicular is a type of transport equipped with vehicles that run on rails located on a slope and whose traction is done through a cable. It is usually composed of two vehicles, one ascending and one descending. The weight of the descending vehicle compensates for all or part of the weight of the ascending vehicle. In this way, the energy required for traction is relatively low.

What is the funicular for?

The two main uses of the funicular are as a means of urban transport and as a means of tourist transport.

Urban funiculars can circulate on the surface as trams or in tunnels such as the metro. As far as tourism is concerned, it should be pointed out that many of the employees in winter sports stations have been replaced in most cases by cable cars due to the fact that the latter have a greater capacity.

On the other hand, in addition to being used for transporting people, it is useful for transporting materials of up to 500 tons on slopes of up to 60 degrees.

Characteristics of the funicular


The mechanism of using a rope and later a wire rope to carry heavy loads dates back many centuries. This technology was initially used for mining.

In 1808, the Englishman S. Cooke designed a system for transporting mining wagons. This soon became common practice in Newcastle and was applied elsewhere. Thus, years later, two Frenchmen took up this English concept to build four funicular sections in the Lyon region. Thus, in 1862, the first funicular in the world linking Rue Terme with Croix Rousse in Lyon was inaugurated. In the following years, other funiculars began operating in Budapest (1870), Vienna (1875) and Istanbul (1875).

In 1876, the first hydraulic funicular in the United Kingdom was inaugurated, while in 1880, the first funicular with an electric motor in Switzerland came into operation.


How it works

In general, two vehicles are hung or hooked on the same cable, making the journey at the same time: one climbs while the other descends. The vehicle that descends pulls the one that climbs thanks to gravity. Depending on the type of funicular, there are differences in its operation which are explained below:

Difference between the cable car and the funicular

Sometimes, the funicular is confused with the cable car, but its operation is actually different. The cable car is a cable traction transport system, but in this case, the cabin is suspended by a cable or several fixed cables. This type of cable carrier is also called rail cable because of its function.

Written by Gabriela Briceño V.

How to cite this article?

Briceño V., Gabriela. (2019). Funicular. Recovered on 23 February, 2024, de Euston96:

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