Hastings – Cliff Lifts and Miniature Railways

I just read on Facebook that Hastings Miniature Railway is taking over the Alexandra Park Miniature Railway. Battleaxe loves things like that. It sounds the most horrendously nerdy confession, but part of the attraction of Hastings was that it had two funicular railways and two miniature railways……
      Time for a nerdy post now, I think – the weather is horrible outside…
      Very few seaside resorts have one remaining Victorian funicular, let alone two. Hastings should be proud. I think, as residents, we tend to take these things for granted, and forget the pleasure they give to newcomers.
      When we first came here, on holiday in 2008, we rode up in the West Hill funicular and had a coffee in the cafe at the top. Sitting in the sun on the cafe terrace, admiring the view, is still one of Battleaxe’s favourite occupations. I won’t go on about how they need to improve that cafe – have done it to death in previous posts.  At least they have some new, less rickety tables now…..

      To digress slightly, I was just looking for photos of the views from the top of the lifts, and came across this post – Favourite Views of Hastings – produced in 2012. Early Battleaxe posts never got the same attention as recent ones. It shows the views well, despite some of the photos not being the best quality.
      In 2009, renting a little house in Plynlimmon Road on the West Hill, we actually had an annual season ticket for the West Hill Lift. This felt terribly exotic, but it was hardly cost-effective. The lift doesn’t run for a couple of months in the winter, and we only came down every other weekend.  The season ticket application form from Hastings BC made us laugh, particularly the question about whether your gender now was the same as it was at birth. Is that really relevant for riding on a funicular railway?  Perhaps they are worried about a shortage of trans-gender persons buying West Hill Lift season tickets…..
      The West Hill Lift is the oldest of the two Hastings funiculars, opened in 1891. It is quite hidden from view, running up from George Street in a tunnel inside the cliff, and the top station is tucked away below the cafe. We got quite friendly with the folk who operated the lift, who, like typical council employees, moaned on happily about their jobs. I suppose it must get repetitive – I think we could have done the job ourselves by the end.
      The East Hill Lift makes far more of a visible statement – I’ve heard many tourists mistake the upper station for the Castle. It features in many, many photographs and paintings of Hastings. It’s strange how many painters struggle to depict the perspective of the track on the cliff-side – I won’t put anyone on the spot by showing examples.  

     When we arrived in Hastings, the lift was closed, and it did not reopen until 2010. By chance, we were in the Old Town for the opening ceremony.

Re-opening of East Hill Lift 2010

      Sadly, there is no cafe at the top. A few years ago the Council asked people to apply for the franchise to run one, but it never happened.  A real pity.
      The East Hill Lift, originally opened in 1903, is the steepest funicular in Britain. It broke down the other day, and passengers had to be rescued from the cars by firemen. Must have been quite scary for the passengers, and given the lift staff a bit of job variation….
       The Rock-a-Nore Miniature Railway also makes quite a statement as it rattles busily along past and under the net huts, beneath the balcony of the Jerwood, past the Lifeboat House and the Stade Open Space and round past the boating lake.  Opened in 1948, it is a popular attraction. We’ve ridden on it several times, including with grand daughter Eve, and it features in manyof our photos of the Stade.  I like the one below of the night-time repairs. Only downside of the railway – the lack of real steam engines. They do appear on special occasions, but it would be nice to see (and smell) steam all the time.

       Finally, then, the Alexandra Park Railway, which gave me the idea for this post. This makes no sort of statement at all, and must be the least publicised attraction ever. Hidden in the thick trees at the top end of the park, it was operated by a somewhat eccentric band of volunteers. It only seemed to run once a month when the moon was full and Mars was aligned with Saturn. Now, it has ceased to run at all, which is such a shame.

      It is a lovely little railway, with a long, winding track running across streams and through tunnels. Smaller than the other railway, it is the sort you sit on.  (Battleaxe may be nerdy sometimes,  but not sufficiently nerdy to know about railway sizes and gauges).  We actually managed to go on it once, and were only charged 50p each.  I don’t have any pictures, this is from the internet.  I do hope it can be made to work by its new operators.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments from Google+