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Designing a water-balanced railway

Production and use

To raise money to pay for the water-balanced railway, the Centre decided to sell shares. Although they were unlikely to make any money, hundreds of people bought them to show that they supported the idea of a sustainable system.

The railway was built on two parallel steel tracks on top of a concrete ladder, which is anchored at both top and bottom by massive concrete blocks. Two carriages run on the tracks between a station at the top of the slope and another at the bottom. When one carriage is at the top station, the other is at the bottom. The carriages are linked by heavy steel cables that go round a huge drum at the top of the railway.

A tank underneath the top carriage is filled with water until it is heavier than the bottom carriage. The weight of the water provides the force to move the carriages. When brakes are released, the top carriage starts to roll down the slope, pulling the lighter, bottom carriage up. A braking system prevents the carriages speeding up too much and crashing at the end of the rails.

On a typical summer's day the railway makes about 100 runs, carrying up to 40 people up and down the slope.
 

Women builders



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Practical Action - Technology challenging povertyEuropean Commission - Department for International Development

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