CAT Cliff Railway - Atlas Obscura

CAT Cliff Railway

Pantperthog, Wales

This water-powered cliffside railway is one of the steepest funiculars in the world. 

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At the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Pantperthog, you can ride an incredibly steep water-powered cliff railway. The funicular railway is one of the steepest railways in the world, with a gradient of 35 degrees. At the top of the 53-meter railway is the Centre itself, a haven for sustainable development that is full of plants, wildlife, learning, play, and large-scale outdoor displays and experiments.

The cliff railway features two carriages linked together by a steel cable. When the railway needs to move, a tank on the upper car fills with water, while the tank on the lower car is emptied. As the water changes the weight distribution between the two cars, gravity moves one up the rails and the other down. The two funicular carriages have an average speed of 0.5 meters per second, meaning it takes just under two minutes to ascend the 30m to the top of the cliff.

The funicular was opened in 1992, although the CAT itself was opened in 1975. The funicular was specifically designed to save energy and reclaim unused energy. On an average day, 100,000 liters of water is sent down—10 percent of which is then pumped back up using the energy generated by the falling carriage. Extra energy is only necessary to run the computer that controls the funicular.

It takes 50 seconds to fill the tank completely, a volume of 1,600 liters. On a typical summer day, it makes an average of 10-12 runs per hour—that’s about 100 runs per day. Once the carriages reach the bottom, the water is pumped out of the tanks into the Dulas River. You can also walk up if you prefer—it takes about 10 minutes.

Know Before You Go

Nearby is MOMA Wales Machynlleth and King Arthur’s Labyrinth

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October 17, 2023

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