Friday, 28 April 2017

Funchal Funicular Fill-out (1)

As fbb searched web sites for more information, it was apparent that there is plenty about the exceptional little rack and pinion railway at Funchal on the Island of Madeira.
The line (dated around 1900) can be seen in the inset (top right above) ...
... and just about spotted below the inset as well.

But there is no single authoritative source; so your nosey blogger has attempted to put together as detailed review of the line as possible.
We could, according to some authorities, start our ascent at the old pier by taking a horse tram. fbb can find no photographic evidence for this facility, but horse drawn "sleighs" ...
... were a feature of the sea front in the good old days.

The railway's lower terminal was at Rua do Pombal , an uphill stroll from the old pier, and appears to have been a substantial building ...
... but, not surprisingly, nothing remains today, all obliterated by the modern town.
The route is now a proper road, much wider than the single track railway.

Again there is evidence of some kind of traverser here, presumably to provide access to the underside of the loco or carriage for maintenance.
The rails (and the modern road) run almost dead straight to the first stop at Levada de Santa Luzia, a road which crosses at right angles.
The modern bridge up ahead takes the route under an inner "bypass" road.

Livramento comes next ...
... where the Estrada (street)  de Livramento crosses the line of route on a modern bridge.

Quinta Sant’Ana likewise takes its name from the Rampa (steep hill?) Quinta Santana ...
 ... at the point at which the railway road becomes little more than the width of the original trackbed.

Flamengo is, nowadays, a small foorpath ... 
... presumably a more ancient track that predates the road network and the railway.

Things now become a little more interesting. Soon after Flamengo, the line joined and ran alongside the route of the death defying wicker toboggan run reviewed in an earlier blog (read again).

Here is the stop called Confeitaria named after a nearly hidden side road.
You can just see the mirror which any driver making an exit would need to see round the high retraining wall.
Back in the day, the toboggan ride road surface looks very bumpy; there will be many numb bums after a terrifying slide! Interestingly, comparing the two photos above, and, indeed, looking at most on line pictures of trains and their passengers, there seems to be very little sign of infrastructure at any of the intermediate stops that we have discovered so far! The presence of a low level step on the single carriage reinforces the conclusion that you just clambered up from the side of the track!
No disability provision back then.

The next two stations cause some confusion, so fbb will take a breather and complete the journey to the summit station tomorrow; when there is also a video of the line to enjoy!

Considering he fact that the line was closed nearly 75 years ago, and the tracks rapidly ripped up and sold for scrap (war effort?) it is remarkable that so much can be identified.

 Next Monte blog : Saturday 29th April 


  1. Andrew Kleissner28 April 2017 at 07:46

    I'm not sure about rails being sold for the war effort as Portugal was neutral in WW2. However I believe that the company had been struggling for years, and there can't have been many (British) tourists visiting in 1943!

  2. Andrew Kleissner28 April 2017 at 07:55

    PS According to Portuguese Wikipedia, the line has been in decline since a boiler explosion in 1919 and a derailment in 1932, the lack of tourists during the War finished it off. While some of the material indeed went for scrap some of it was used in the rehabilitation of the Bom Jesus funicular at Braga in 1946. This line, built in 1870 and still running today, looks intriguing: it is, I believe, a true funicular yet has a rack between the rails - very odd!