12 Aug 2009

Economics AND Engineering

During my vacation in England -- a very classy place* -- I visited Lynton/Lynmouth, two towns joined by a funicular.

The cool thing is that their funicular ("the cliff railway") is hydro-powered, i.e., water is used to move the cars.
  1. Connect two cars with a rope that goes from top to bottom.
  2. Put the rope through a pulley at the top. Hang one car on either side, one up and one down.
  3. Fill top car's water tank [from river at top of railway] until it gets heavy enough to pull up -- by sliding down the rail and pulling the rope through the pulley -- the car on the bottom.
  4. Drain water at bottom, fill water at top, and repeat.
Each car can holds 700 gallons (2650 l), which means that it can change its weight by 5,600 pounds (2,650kg) -- that's a lot power to lift!

These photos show the entire slope, the down car (see the green tank on the bottom, "in front?"), and the view of the track from Lynmouth.

Bottom Line: It's possible to use water wisely -- this example uses engineering to solve an economic problem (how to lift people) while having no negative environmental impacts (the river diversion is minimal, and the water is dropped back on course). Excellent!
* Their tabloids can teach ours a thing or two about lower standards ...


Jeremy said...

Just two points:

Did you learn about the Lynton flood disaster? What lessons (if any) would you draw from that?

The UK does tabloids brilliantly, and many of the stars of US tabloids originated there.

WaterSource/WaterBank said...

No doubt about it, HUGE boobs will get hundreds of times more hits from your readers than anything to do with the wise use of water.

Moving 325,900,000,000 gallons of fresh water without power to an existing storage facility that holds 28.5 times that amount and generates $2 billion dollars worth of renewable energy from a facility that is already bought and paid for has NO HOPE of competing against such assets ...

Seriously, I strongly suggest that you post a new "water bird" in a string bikini each morning to dramatically increase readership.

HUGE boobs definitely beat encouraging an increase in the price of water or the development of a new water Source solution.

Sex sells ... water is expected to be free.

WaterSource/WaterBank waterrdw@yahoo.com
Retired Water Rights Analyst

Anonymous said...

No doubt there will soon be some Coors Light banner adds on your blog/tabloid.

David Zetland said...

@Jeremy -- yes, a bit. Seems a bad idea to live in a floodplain :)

@WSWB -- I can't get as many boobs as the tabs, so I'll stick with water. I *will* act as an economic consultant if Natalie Portman wants to speak out on water :)

@Anon -- still no ads here; just the facts, Jack.

Jeremy said...

A flood plain that requires a funicular, now there's a concept. :)

Four Mound Farm said...

European countries lack the endless tacky parade of corporate blight that is akin to a grotesque rash on the face of America--huge plastic signs, acres of parking lots, acres of ugly box buildings--the uniform that makes all of our cities and towns truly ugly in contrast with places such as Lynton. Why is this? Europe has class and urban planning savvy. America lacks both in spades. Ads in tabloids aren't permanent eyesores like sprawl-blight, and are a good place to "vent" tackiness, rather than making it a permanent fixture of the landscape as we do here. What is wrong with us?

Kai said...

The funicular I'm most familiar with growing up around Pittsburgh, PA is the Duquesne Incline. I belive that this one is steam powered and most likely fired by...you got it; coal.

Here it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duquesne_Incline

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