Most people who live outside of towns where these marvels of Victorian or Edwardian ingenuity still survive, probably remain oblivious to their existence. But for inhabitants of towns such as Scarborough and Bridgnorth, they are as much a part of everyday life as getting on a bus. The majority still survive at seaside towns, where steep cliffs often presented a tiring obstacle when trying to get to and from the beach below, but as demonstrated at Bridgnorth, this was not always the case. Towns such as this that are divided by a cliff, have also benefitted from this type of technology. Some 25 pre-war examples still survive, many in good working order, but others are now closed and face an uncertain future. A few, like the millennium lift at Broadstairs, are very recent.
These devices fall into two distinct categories. Those of a lift type, similar to any lift that might be found in a modern office building, or those referred to as funicular railways or tramways. In the first type the carriage would pass down a vertical man-made shaft to the foot of the cliff, and with the second type the carriage would travel down tracks laid on the surface incline of the cliff.