One up, one down

December 2, 2008 / Local Interest
Naples
I arrive late in the day. I ask directions to my bed and breakfast. My B&B is pointed out… on the top of the hill!

I look at the stairs. I see grass growing up between the steps. These steps are the road less traveled, if at all. There must be another way.

And sure enough, I am directed into a small entry way on the other side of the train station. The sign says Funicolare Centrale. Soon a small train with several cars slowly descends to the platform, and the doors slide open. Kathleen, meet Naples’ funicolare… funicolare, meet Kathleen.

The basic principle of funicolare operation is that two cars are attached to each other by a cable or fune in Italian, hence the name, which runs through a pulley at the top of the incline. The counterbalancing of two trains, with one ascending and one descending the slope minimizes the energy needed to move the ascending/descending cars.

The cable is a continuous loop, and the cars are attached equidistant on the loop. The cable is driven by winching at one end of the run, and held taut by a tensioning wheel at the other. Locomotion is created by alternately reversing the direction of the drive mechanism so that the cars switch positions on the incline… one up and one down.

When traveling to Napoli, a ride on one of the 4 funicolari is a must, regardless of whether your B&B is at the top of the hill. And it provides one of the most picturesque views of both the city and the Sea!

— Contributed by Kathleen Jarvis, an entry from the 1st Anniversary Readers Note Contest. Thank you!

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