Suffolk family buys England’s last inland funicular railway

A family from near Beccles has spoken of their delight at buying England's last inland funicular railway 200 miles away in Shropshire.

The Tipping family from Uggeshall has bought Bridgnorth's historic cliff railway after falling in love with it despite having never been to the town before it was put on the market.

The cliff railway was built in 1892 and is said to be England's oldest and steepest inland funicular railway.

The Tippings, who are property investors, have bought the entire share capital after it was advertised for between �700,000 and �800,000.

Eileen Tipping, 83, and her son Malvern, 51, are the new directors, and Mrs Tipping's other son Jason, 45, has been appointed company secretary.

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Malvern Tipping, a chartered surveyor, said the family has long-standing connections with Hong Kong through business and travel and saw the purchase as a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a miniature version of the famous Peak Tram.

'Hong Kong's highest peak has a famous funicular railway built in 1888 four years before our railway and what a feat of engineering that is,' he said.

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'We are regular visitors and have even named a house after it. When this came up my mother and I agreed it was our only opportunity to own our own miniature version of the Hong Kong Victoria Peak Tram.'

The Bridgnorth Cliff Railway transports between 185,000 and 200,000 passengers a year up and down the town's 111ft sandstone cliffs.

Two cars on parallel tracks, connected by steel ropes, counterbalance each other - as one rises to the top station, the other runs to the bottom station between High Town and Low Town.

The cars are now powered by an electric winding engine, but were originally driven by a system of water balance.

The railway had been owned and operated by Allan and Jean Reynolds for the last 15 years and they are planning to retire.

The Tipping family has pledged to keep the railway as a going concern and they are retaining the dozen part time staff and general manager.

'Not only is the cliff railway an extremely important part of our historic transport heritage, but it is also a vital link between the two parts of the town and a major tourist attraction,' said Mr Tipping.

'There are on-going costs and a large part of the profits will have to be ploughed into keeping it up to speed. We think the carriages are looking a bit shabby now and need repainting. I think that is very important and is one of the priorities.'

He added: 'It is a bit of Victorian history. Not many people can say they own a railway, even if it is only 201ft long.'

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