The best way to see the Great Orme, an enormous limestone headland almost two and a half miles long, half a mile wide and rising out of the sea to a height of 679 feet above the coastal resort of Llandudno in North Wales, is to take the tram.
The tramway or street funicular, completed and opened in 1903 is one of only three cable operated street tramways operating in the world today; the other two being in San Francisco and Lisbon.
In the Victorian era Llandudno was a popular and rapidly growing holiday destination and seaside resort and the building of a tramway was seen as the way forward to ferry visitors up the steep headland to the hotel at the summit and to enjoy the magnificent views.
Construction began in 1901 with the lower section opening in 1902 and the upper section in 1903. The two sections meet midway at the Halfway Station where passengers change from one tram to the other to complete the journey up or down.
The lower section shares the public highway climbing 400 feet in about half a mile with gradients of 25% whilst the less steep upper section runs along a track cut through the grassy headland. The cars, two on each section, are permanently attached to the cable and use a system of counter balanced weights so that whilst one car is ascending, the other is descending. The original fare to the top was 9 (old) pence.
The view from the top is definitely worth the ride, and if you don’t want to ride the Tramffordd you can now take the cable-car instead.
Words and photographs Copyright © 2014 by Antony J Waller