Master Collection activity 19: funicular railways
Children investigate funicular railways using examples in photographs and artwork in the Folkestone Museum collection, and elsewhere.
- What are they?
- When were they invented?
- How do they work?
They are set the design technology challenge to make their own working model, to take passengers up Mount Vesuvius or from the Beach at Folkestone to The Leas.
Increased knowledge and understanding of funicular railways and how they work.
KS1-2 Design technology (design a funicular railway)
KS1-2 Art (investigating paintings)
KS1-2 History (Victorians, Local History Study).
Look closely at the image of the Mount Vesuvius funicular railway at Learn with Objects Master Collection 18: Vesuvius eruptions. Ask the children the following questions.
- Describe what you can see in the picture?
- What time of day is it?
- Are there any people in the picture? What are they doing?
- Why might they be coming to the mountain at night?
- What is the straight line illuminated with lights?
- Where is it going?
- Is there a building at the bottom? At the top?
- Why is there such a big chimney?
- What might this indicate?
- What might happen to these buildings if there is a big volcanic eruption?
Ask the children to find out what this is by exploring the topic and doing some additional online research.
Explore how the pulley system works. Ask pupils to find out where there are other funicular lifts or railways (e.g. Hastings).
For images of the Vesuvius funicular and travel up the mountainside by foot or sedan chair before it was built see
Look at the funicular (water-driven) Leas Lift in Folkestone (see photo at Learn with Objects Seaside holidays 10: photo album).
Also look at this video of it in action and useful websites.
There’s some simple facts and great images of funicular railways around the world here, including a stereoscopic photo of the Mount Vesuvius funicular railway.
Create a mini working funicular railway
Ask children to design a simple working water-driven funicular railway to take passengers up Mount Vesuvius or from the Beach at Folkestone to The Leas. Use mini wheels, track, flexible tubing, pulleys, string and a range of everyday recycled materials.
Learn with Objects links
Use Learn with Objects Master 18: Vesuvius eruptions and Seaside Holidays 10: photo album.