The ‘ascensores’ of #Valparaiso, #Chile (funicular railways, but literally translated meaning ‘escalators’) are these days more of a tourist attraction, but when first built their function was largely to move the workers up and down from Valparaiso’s main port & business area faster. Today those that remain provide a test of one’s vertigo, and nerve, and some stunning views of the city, and they are cheap too costing 100 to 300 pesos (12p to 35p) each way.
On our ‘Tours for Tips‘ excellent walking tour, we’re sure they said the first acsensor was built in 1868, and that there were once 33 of them, however other sources give figures such as 25 or less in total and the first built was in 1883 (Ascensores Concepcion – now back in operation). What is clear is that only 8 appear to remain in operation today, and some of them are regularly closed for maintenance. This website (in spanish, and not updated since 2013) gives some info on the individual ascensors – Ascensores de Valparaiso.
We used 3 of the ascensores a number of times – the Artilleria (1893) for it’s stunning views, and Reina Victoria (1902/3) & Peral (1902) to get us back to our hostel faster & easier from the port area, avoiding an unpleasantly steep walk for at least a part of the way. This is why they were first built, because most of present day Valpo exists on the 42 to 45 hills rising up from the port/seafront, and back in the mid-19th century there were no roads or staircases, just steep paths. At the height of their use in the early 20th century they carried some 3 million passenger journeys a year. Many were built by the different immigrant communities that settled in Valpo, having come for work and to seek their fortune (some made a fortune), and the neighbourhoods on the hills reflect these ethnic groups, particularly German, Bristish, French & Italian. Some of the Ascensores still have working parts made back in the UK, and if truth be told they aren’t that much more creaky than the UK’s present rail network, and much less crowded!