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New exhibition reveals history of Clifton Rocks Railway
Release date: Tue, 03/07/2012
Local people with a passion for Bristol’s hidden history can find out more about the Clifton Rocks Railway when a new, free exhibition opens at Bristol Record Office on Tuesday, July 10. The exhibition runs until Friday, September 28 and will give visitors an insight into how and why the Clifton Rocks Railway was built and its use by the BBC during the Second World War.
The Victorian funicular railway was built inside the cliffs of the Avon Gorge to carry passengers up to Clifton from Hotwell Road. Although popular after opening in 1893, steadily declining trade led to its closure in 1934.
The Second World War provided new purposes for the tunnel, which was used as a public air raid shelter and storage for barrage balloons - and as a secret base for the BBC, which established recording, transmitting and communications facilities in the lower part of the tunnel.
After lying derelict for many years, the site was rescued by a group of volunteers who formed the Clifton Rocks Railway Trust.
The exhibition not only tells the story of the railway, it also looks at the ongoing work by the Trust to preserve and further research this unique piece of Bristol's past.
The exhibition brings together for the first time material collected by the Clifton Rocks Railway Trust and historic records from the city’s archives. It also features recent photographs of the remains of the railway’s interior, including atmospheric images by Neil McCoubrey and Peter Howell, members of the Bristol Photographic Society.
Maggie Shapland, restoration officer and archivist at the Clifton Rocks Railway Trust, said: “This exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to show some items we have been unable to display before. Items such as the first piece of rock to be cut in construction of the tunnel in 1891, and the special 1893 commemorative medallion presented to Mrs Munro wife of the local engineer living in Nailsea who was the architect of the project will be on display.
“There will also be items such as a training exercise book of a transmitting engineer who worked in the railway during the war, and the day book from 1901 of an engineering company who did maintenance on the gas engines and made parts.“
Tim Corum, deputy head of Bristol’s Museums, Galleries and Archives, added: “There’s a great deal of local interest in the Clifton Rocks Railway. By combining our own archive material with unique objects held by the Clifton Rocks Railway Trust we have been able to create a very special exhibition which brings to life the amazing story of this watered-powered funicular railway.”
There will also be a free talk on the Clifton Rocks Railway by Bristol transport expert Peter Davey - Bristol Record Office, Saturday, July 14 at 2pm.
Both Bristol Record Office and Clifton Rocks Railway will be offering free public tours on Bristol Doors Open Day in September.
Bristol Record Office – 8 September, booking essential
Clifton Rocks Railway – 8 and 9 September, turn up on the day.