The funiculars of Lisbon
The public elevators of Lisbon are one of its most well-known tourist attractions. Nowadays, there are four fully-functional elevators, operated by Carris. Ironically enough, they all have one thing in common: they were projected by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a French heritage engineer, born in Porto and a Gustave Eiffel contemporary. In February 2002, these iconic iron structures were declared national monuments. They were built as a result of a public works program, launched during the late 19th century, aiming to ease up the day-to-day of the people living on the hills by helping them to surpass their natural slopes. Their impressiveness made them a famous spot amongst the tourists that daily visit the Santa Justa elevator, whereas the Glória, Bica and Lavra lifts are used by both locals and tourists. They are open every day of the year and they really are a traditional, yet one of a kind, touristic experience. Besides offering great chances for you to practice on your photographic skills.
For decades though, there were other mechanical elevators working in Lisbon. The rua do Crucifixo elevator (also known as Chiado elevator), was a vertical structure relying on a water counterweight that connected rua do Crucifixo to rua nova do Carmo, through Hotel Universal. It first opened in 1892 and passengers had to go on board through a storefront located in Chiado. It had its own billboard, advertising it as the «rua do Crucifixo elevator in only 20 seconds». But even that proved to be insufficient, as the elevator closed in 1912 due to the lack of popular interest. It was eventually integrated on the department store in Chiado.
The Município elevator (or Biblioteca or São Julião elevator) was inaugurated in 1897 and made the connection from Município square to what we know today as Academia das Belas Artes square. It was the same kind of Santa Justa elevator and it had a platform which went as high as 95 feet. There, it met a 65 feet metallic walkway over the São Francisco walk. It was closed in 1915 and was replaced by the tram line between rua da Conceição and Luís de Camões square. The dismantled order came in 1920, but before meeting its final fate it was the stage for the republican conspiracy of 1908, that eventually led to murder of king D. Carlos, on the western side of praça do Comércio, in the 1st of February that year.
The Estrela elevator has a troubled story to tell. The granting for the elevator connecting Luís de Camões square to Estrela square was given to Mesnier du Ponsard in 1882. But it was soon transferred over to the Elevators Company who, in 1890, started the construction for Estrela elevator. The functioning was assured by a mechanical device working on rails, popularly called maximbombo (a corruption of the English expression machine pump). The journey was everything but comfortable and in 1913, the trail was integrated on the Steel Rails Company of Lisbon and the course started to being made by electric trams.
As for Graça elevator, it connected Graça square to rua da Palma. Its construction began in 1889 and opened to public five years later, in 1893. It worked through a system of endless cable and it design to cover a 730 meters trail, over a 246 feet slope. It was deactivated in the beginning of the 20th century and likewise its predecessors, absorbed by Carris tram lines. Finally, São Sebastião elevator was also a device working on the endless cable system. In 1899, it connected São Domingos square, on the northernmost point of Rossio, to São Sebastião da Pedreira square over the course of 1.8 miles. It ended up integrated in Carris and replaced by trams.
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