East Cliff Railway (pictured): Opened by Lady Meyrick on 16th April 1908, East Cliff railway is the oldest of the town's three cliff railways. Constructed for the Bournemouth Corporation by Waygood and Company Limited, the line extends to a length of 170ft (51.5m). Comprising two passenger cars, running on two parallel 5ft 6 inch (1.7m) gauge tracks, East Cliff railway's winding equipment was electrically operated from the beginning. The winding gear was situated at the upper station, and controlled by a 'driver' with the assistance of an attendant at the lower station. The passenger cars were controlled by a 25hp winding motor, using mains electricity converted to 500v DC. This was subsequently replaced by a three phase 415v supply.
The original passenger cars on East Cliff Railway had wooden bodies, but aluminium replacements were made in the 1960s. Designed to be interchangeable across all three of Bournemouth's surviving cliff railways, the cars can accommodate twelve passengers, on longitudinal bench seats, and have a door at each end of the carriage for boarding and alighting. In 1987 when the track was re-laid, the original timber sleepers were replaced with concrete but the timber beam running down the centre of each track was retained as part of the braking system. During the 1990s the East Cliff Railway was further upgraded with the installation of an electronic control system. Entrance buildings were erected at both ends of the line, and a stepped concrete terrace either side of the tracks was created to ensure stability on the soft chalk cliff face.
West Cliff Railway: The second of Bournemouth's cliff railways at West Cliff Railway was opened some four months after the East Cliff railway, on 1st August 1908. Although construction of the two lines was undertaken almost concurrently, there are subtle differences in the two systems. The West Cliff Railway comprises two 5ft 6inch (1.7m) gauge parallel tracks, accommodating two electrically wound passenger cars, not dissimilar to the arrangement at East Cliff. These tracks were also replaced during the 1980s.
Slightly shorter in length, the track at West Cliff Railway extends to approximately 145ft (44m), and the original passenger cars could carry sixteen passengers, as opposed to twelve in the East Cliff cars. Both lines were once powered by similar specification winding motors, but the replacement at West Cliff Railway was made in 1962 by a three phase 28hp model. The West Cliff Railway was the first to receive the new aluminium passenger cars during the 1960s. Again, just as was the case with East Cliff, the West Cliff Railway was upgraded with the installation of an electronic control system during the 1990s. Entrance buildings can be found at both ends of the line, as well as the same stepped concrete terracing either side of the tracks.
Fisherman's Walk Railway: Opened in 1935 by the borough engineer, Mr F P Delamore, Fisherman's Walk Cliff Railway is by far the youngest of the town's three lines. Designed to serve the Southbourne and Boscombe promenades, Fisherman's Walk Cliff Railway is very similar to its earlier counterparts. Comprising two parallel 5ft 8inch (1.75m) gauge tracks extending to a length of 128ft (38.7m), the line carried two 12-seater passenger cars and was originally wound by a 21hp 500 DC motor. This was replaced in the 1960s. Just as in the case of the East Cliff and West Cliff railways, the cliff railway at Fisherman's Walk has entrance buildings at both ends of the line. However, the concrete cliff terracing only appears on the eastern side of the track here. Generally, all three of Bournemouth's cliff railways are open between April and October.