Clifton Rocks Railway

Clifton Rocks Railway replica car rearend
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Thousands of people pass the bottom entrance to the Clifton Rocks Railway as they drive along Bristol's Portway, with most not knowing what secret is buried in the rock of the Avon Gorge. Constructed with great difficulty inside the cliffs of the Avon Gorge in order to reduce its visual impact on the picturesque surroundings, this water powered 'funicular' railway opened on 11 March, 1893 and operated for 40 years against diminishing trade. Its closure in 1934 did not mark the end of its useful life as it became a secret transmission base for the BBC during WWII, a repair centre for Imperial Airways barrage balloons, and a refuge shelter. This resulted in many blast walls and rooms being built on the rails. It has been empty and disused since the BBC moved out after the war. Volunteers have been working on it since Easter 2005

The Clifton Rocks Railway Trust has been formed by a group of volunteers to restore the Railway. Supported by the Avon Gorge Hotel, Bristol City Council and sponsored by a number of local companies the Trust is working hard to restore elements of the railway.

Venue Type:

Transport heritage site

Opening hours

19/20 May 10-4
8/9 September 10-4
Group trips arranged by appointment

Admission charges


Additional info

Only the top station can be seen on open days, but there is an exhibition of photos and artefacts found. Views of cable wheels, track and tunnel

Includes original turnstiles, regenerative gas light, artefacts left by war-time users

Collection details

Land Transport, Weapons and War

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days: Clifton Rocks Railway

  • 12 — 13 September 2015

Clifton Rocks Railway is a tunnelled funicular railway between Clifton and Hotwells, used between 1893-1934 and converted for wartime use. Access is only available to the top station, but there are great views to be had down the steep tracks.

Built between 1891 and 1893 by Engineer Croydon Marks and funded by George Newnes (who built Lynmouth and Lynton water powered railway). It opened in 1893, went bankrupt, opened again in 1912, went bankrupt again and closed in 1934. It was then converted in 1940/41 into overnight shelters and a BBC transmitting station and for use by the barrage balloon squadron during the war. Left to go derelict after 1960 until the Clifton Rocks Railway Trust started work in February 2005.

Since the last Bristol Doors Open Day we have added a fountain from the Port and Pier Railway and a new set of railings and overthrow sign at the apex of the railway. Free vintage bus on Saturday from the At-Bristol underground car park see - for bus times check closer to the event date.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


Clifton Rocks Railway
Princes Buildings
City of Bristol

logo: Heritage Open Days 2014


restoration diary




All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.