funicular is a means of urban or tourist transport, generally used to move on steep slopes . This type of railway runs on rails and the traction of the trains is guaranteed by a cable. It is a means of transport, created during the 19th century , which is still used in some ski resorts and in certain cities, in different parts of the world. Among the best known funiculars in the world, we can mention those found in Valparaíso, Chile . This Chilean city has twelve funicular lines considered a World Heritage Site since 2003. Also, in Europe, Prague andKiev also have their funiculars and the Montmartre funicular in Paris , France, is very popular too.


Information of interest

  • Vehicle Type: Railway
  • Year:  1862
  • Main uses:  Urban and tourist transport

What is a funicular?

A funicular is a type of transport equipped with vehicles that circulate on rails located on a slope and whose traction is carried out by a cable . Generally, it is made up of two vehicles, one ascending and one descending. The weight of the descending vehicle compensates for all or part of the weight of the ascending vehicle . In this way the energy required for traction is relatively low.

  • What is the funicular for
  • Funicular features
  • Story
  • Parties
  • How does it work
  • Difference between cable car and funicular

What is the funicular for

The two main uses of the funicular are as a means of urban transport and as a means of tourist transport .

Urban funiculars can run on the surface like trams or in tunnels, like the subway. As for the tourist, it should be noted that many of the employees in the winter sports stations have been replaced in most cases by cable cars because the latter have a greater capacity.

On the other hand, in addition to being used for the transport of people, it is useful for the transport of materials of up to 500 tons on slopes of up to 60 degrees .

Funicular features

  • It is generally built to transport on very steep slopes
  • They run on rails and the traction of the trains is ensured by a cable.
  • It is a perpendicular movement device where two vehicles are linked by a cable.
  • The raising of the vehicle that is parked below supposes the simultaneous descent of the vehicle that is parked above. This configuration makes it possible to minimize the energy required to operate the funicular.
  • So generally , the motor driving the cable is in the station above the system.


The mechanism of using a rope and later a wire rope to carry heavy loads dates back many centuries. This technology was initially used for mining work.

In 1808, the Englishman S. Cooke designed a system to transport mining wagons . This soon became a very common practice in Newcastle and was later applied elsewhere. Thus, years later, two Frenchmen took up this English concept to build four funicular sections in the Lyon region. Thus, in 1862, the world’s first funicular was inaugurated, linking Rue Terme with Croix Rousse in Lyon . In the following years, other funiculars came into operation in Budapest (1870), Vienna (1875) and Istanbul (1875).

In 1876 , the first hydraulic funicular in the United Kingdom was inaugurated, while in 1880 , the first electric motor funicular in Switzerland came into operation .


  • The cable:  the cable ensures the traction of the vehicles that, due to the action of gravity, naturally stress it. Its diameter can be long and even reach 70 meters.
  • Vehicles:  so generally , these are equipped with seats . Also, vehicles are currently built with non-flammable materials .
  • The track:  the track of a funicular is similar to the tracks of a railway . They are rails mounted on wooden or concrete tracks. This road can be built on the ground, underground or aerially.

How does it work

In general, two vehicles are hung or hooked on the same cable, making the journey at the same time: one goes up while the other goes down . The descending vehicle pulls the ascending vehicle thanks to gravity. Depending on the type of funicular, there are differences in its operation, which are explained below:

  • Electric funicular:  an electric motor compensates for energy losses due to friction and the difference in weight between the two cabs . Some modern funiculars have separate cabins each powered by a large electric motor. An example of this case is the Montmartre funicular in Paris.
  • Hydraulic funicular:  these work differently. Under each cabin they have water tanks that are filled as needed . It is the weight of the water that drives the whole. Some historic European funiculars maintain this system. For example, the Bom Jesus funicular, in Braga, Portugal or the one in Wiesbaden, in Germany.

Difference between cable car and funicular

Sometimes the funicular is confused with the cable car but in reality its operation is different. The cable car is a traction cable transport system, but in this case, the cabin is suspended by a cable or several fixed cables . This type of carrier cable is also called a rail cable because of its function.

Leave a Comment