World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Fell mountain railway system

Article Id: WHEBN0000674233
Reproduction Date:

Title: Fell mountain railway system  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Rimutaka Incline, Upper Hutt, Fell system, John Barraclough Fell, Snaefell Mountain Railway
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Fell mountain railway system

Fell system on the Snaefell Mountain Railway.
Hanscotte system

The Fell system was the first third-rail system for railways that were too steep to be worked by adhesion on the two running rails alone. It uses a raised centre rail between the two running rails to provide extra traction and braking, or braking alone. Trains are propelled by wheels or braked by shoes pressed horizontally onto the centre rail, as well as by the normal running wheels. Extra brake shoes are fitted to specially designed or adapted Fell locomotives and brake vans, and for traction the locomotive has an auxiliary engine powering horizontal wheels which clamp onto the third rail. The Fell system was developed in the 1860s and was soon superseded by various types of rack railway for new lines, but some Fell systems remained in use into the 1960s. The Snaefell Mountain Railway still uses the Fell system for (emergency) braking, but not for traction.


  • History 1
  • List of Fell railways 2
    • Brazil 2.1
    • France 2.2
    • Isle of Man 2.3
    • Italy 2.4
    • New Zealand 2.5
  • Renewals 3
  • Related patents 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The Fell system was designed, developed and patented by British engineer John Barraclough Fell. The first test application was alongside the Cromford and High Peak Railway's cable-hauled incline at Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire, England, in 1863 and 1864.

These tests attracted the attention of the French Government, which conducted its own tests on the slopes of Mont Cenis in 1865. As a result, the Mont Cenis Pass Railway was built as a temporary connection between France and Italy whilst the tunnel under the Alpine pass was being built.

List of Fell railways

Preserved Fell locomotive H199 in the Fell Engine Museum, New Zealand, 20 March 2002.

The following railways have used the Fell system. Of these, the only one still in operation is the electrified Snaefell Mountain Railway on the Isle of Man, which occasionally uses the centre rail for braking only - the cars are all now equipped with rheostatic braking, which meets all normal braking needs. The only surviving Fell locomotive, New Zealand Railways H 199, is preserved at the Fell Locomotive Museum, Featherston, New Zealand, near the site of the Rimutaka Incline.



Isle of Man


  • See France. Some characteristics of the Mont Cenis Pass Railway include:
    • 1,100 mm (3 ft 7 516 in) gauge - the gauge in English speaking world is sometimes quoted as 3' 7.5", etc.
    • Steepest gradient 1 in 12 (8.3%)
    • Steepest possible gradient unknown
    • Gradient where Fell grip system was deemed to be needed 1 in 25 (4.0%)
    • Climb 3,000 feet (914 m)
    • Centre rail 8 in (203 mm) above running rails and about 14 in (356 mm) above sleeper.
    • Sharpest curve 130 feet (40 m) [1]
    • Since there were breaks-of-gauge at either end of the Fell railway, it is not known if ordinary standard gauge rolling stock were needed.
    • Length of line 48 miles (77 km).
    • Length of Fell section 9 miles (14 km).

New Zealand

  • 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
  • 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) Funicular railway
    • The Wellington Cable Car used a Fell rail for emergency braking from its opening in 1902 until 1978, when it was upgraded.
  • unknown gauges
    • Several bush tramways used Fell rails for braking.
The underside of H199, showing details of the Fell railway system, 20 March 2002.


  • Ten kilometres of new Chinese manufactured Fell rail was expected to be delivered to the Snaefell Mountain Railway in December 2006 for track-laying between the 2006 and 2007 seasons (Railway Magazine, February 2007).


Related patents

Fell lodged the following patents relating to his system with the British Patent Office:

  • Patent   227 of 1863
  • Patent 3182 of 1863
  • Patent   899 of 1869
  • Patent   762 of 1895

See also


  2. ^ "NEW ZEALAND.".  
  • Cameron, W. N. (1976). A Line of Railway: The Railway Conquest of the Rimutakas (1st ed.). ). Cantagallo Railway and Mont Cenis Pass Railway (this book has sections on the Fell mountain railway system,  
  • Goodwyn, M. (1993). Manx Electric (1st ed.). Platform 5 Publishing.  
  • Hendry, R. (1993). Rails in the Isle of Man: A Colour Celebration. Midland Publishing Limited.  
  • Ransom, P. J. G. (1999). The Mont Cenis Fell Railway.  
  • "Chinese rail for Snaefell railway". Railway Magazine (IPC Media) 153 (1270): 58. February 2007.  

External links

  • Fell Centre Rail (description of the working of the Fell system, with pictures)
  • A remarkable railway (1926 article)
  • The Fell Engine and the Rimutaka Incline (from the Masterton Library)
  • The Cantagallo Railway (page down to Nova Friburgo).
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.