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How a funicular works

Motor with driving wheel at the upper station. Funicular at Skansen.
Motor with driving wheel at the upper station. Funicular at Skansen.

Motor power - Electricity
Nowadays almost all funiculars are driven by 3-phase electrical motors. These are usually placed in a machine room at the upper station, where there is also other equipment such as transformers, drum brakes, and other equipment needed for this kind of facility.

Steam and muscles
Before electricity became common at the beginning of the last century, many funiculars were driven by steam engines, but some of them were operated using oxen or horses as the power source. A few funiculars have also used human power. The oldest funicular in the world, Der Reiszug at the fortress at Salzburg, which has been in operation since 1504 (!), convicts were used into the 1800s.

Water
Water has been used as a power source as well. For example, the Turmbergbahn in Karlsruhe, Germany, had cars equipped with large water tanks. The upper car's tank was filled with water, and gravity pulled it down the line. At the same time, the lower car, with its empty tank, was thus pulled up the line. When the water-filled car was at the bottom, it was emptied of its ballast, and the whole procedure was repeated. It's probably the cheapest form of power you could find!
 

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© Text och photo: Bruse LF Persson
 

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