LECS (UK) Celebrates 10 Years with Babbacombe Cliff Railway

LECS (UK) was there to celebrate Babbacombe Cliff Railway's 10th year of community ownership. This historic piece of engineering, that opened in 1926, underwent a complete modernisation and refurbishment project under the direction of leading consultant engineer, Dave Cooper of LECS (UK).

Dave Cooper said: “This was a wonderful project to be involved in. The result of the modernisation and refurbishment project, as unveiled in 2009, was exceptional and has ensured the longevity of the historic cliff railway. The environment in which she is located is a harsh saline one and a programme of regular maintenance is essential to keep her in tip top condition.”

In the first year of the project the track was replaced and new cars manufactured by Embankment Engineering. The following year saw the replacement of the control panel. The first task was to strip out the old equipment and one of the 1993 lift cars. The new cars were designed to give a maximum life expectancy given the exposure to rain and salt-water sea spray and had a design life of 12 years. While the cars were being manufactured off site in London the site team replaced the sleepers and track.

When the chassis on the west track broke free whilst it was being lowered and was damaged beyond repair, a new chassis was constructed by Embankment Engineering, The second phase of the project was to replace the control equipment. The DC VV ward Leonard system was stripped out and an AC VF control system manufactured by Kollmorgen in Cologne, Germany, was installed. The project was given an award by the Association of Consulting Engineers for its heritage category.

The replacement system utilises the alternating current supply and varying the frequency to vary the speed of the cars. To achieve this a new motor was grafted onto the existing gearbox that was retained and overhauled.

Lindsay Yelland, Chairman of Babbacombe Cliff Railway, said: “In past ten years the railway runs more than ever before - open seven days a week, stopping only for a few weeks of heavy maintenance at the beginning of each year.”

Dave Cooper has acted as a consultant on a number of inclined lifts both in the UK and overseas including Hastings East Hill, Hastings West Hill, Babbacombe, Scarborough Central, Scarborough South Cliff, Scarborough St Nicholas, Lynton & Lynmouth, RNLI Lizard, RNLI Padstow, Southend, Angels Flight (Los Angeles) and the Urbis Centre in Manchester.

He was appointed as Project Director of the 2005 modernisation of Babbacombe by Torbay Council and following a tendering process, LSL Ltd of Welham Green, Herts, was awarded the contract to refurbish the cliff railway. Dave is now the Technical Director of the Babbacombe Cliff Railway CIC that took over operation of the cliff railway from the local authority and runs it as a community interest company.

In 2018 in excess of 135,000 people visited the railway.