Midweek Mini – Southend’s Cliff Lift

Situated near the Royal Terrace Southend Cliff lift has been in action since 1912 and before that was a moving walkway. It is one of those things that I always looked at as a kid but did not really go on until last year!

Originally a moving public walkway, which opened in 1901 and was the forerunner to the modern day escalator. Built by the American engineer Jessie Reno, and known as ‘Reno’s Electric Stairway’, and was unique in the country.

The stairway was wooden slatted steps attached to a looped chain powered by a diesel engine. There was no cover to the elements, very little safety measures and was found to be too noisy, uncomfortable and unreliable to those that used it. Therefore, it was deicided to change it a build in its stead a cliff lift.

The track is 130 feet and rises to 57 feet with a gradient of 43.4%. It runs on electricity and can carry up to 12 passengers. The lift was constructed by Waygood and Company and has been modernised three times in its lifetime. It opened on August bank holiday in 1912 and is a single-track gauge counterweight track railway.

In 2004, Southend Council was awarded £1.5 million of heritage Lottery funding for the restoration of the Cliff Lift. This included work on the carriage, the track, and the two stations. In 2007, more funding was acquired to get it back into operation which it finally was in May 2010.

Today it is looked after by Southend Council. It is 50p per person per journey and while on the lift you can get a history of it from the enthusiastic volunteers who operate the lift.

For more information and opening times head to:


On 11th May, the Cliff lift will be involved in the Cliff Lift Railway day from 10-6pm. Other places taking part are Deacon, Scarbourgh, Shropshire, and Bristol. There will be entertainment going on throughout the day with free rides for children. If you have not taken a ride on the historic lift then now is your chance.





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