Historic Scarborough cliff lift Central Tramway appoints first female general manager in its 140-year history

One of Scarborough's two surviving Victorian funicular railways has appointed its first female general manager since opening 140 years ago.

Central Tramway station in Scarborough
Central Tramway station in Scarborough

Helen Galvin has taken on the senior role at the Central Tramway cliff lift on the South Bay.

Helen, who is originally from Leeds, has extensive experience in the rail industry, having worked for the various holders of the East Coast Main Line franchise during her 23-year career. Her most recent role has been in site management at Burton Agnes Hall, near Driffield.

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She began as a trainee with GNER, before progressing to senior management level with successor East Coast Trains. She is passionate about rail and architectural history.

Helen Galvin

Director of the family-owned Central Tramway Company Neil Purshouse said: “We are delighted to welcome Helen to the team. Her wealth of experience across all aspects of the rail and heritage industries will be a tremendous asset to us. Central Tramway is a unique business on the Yorkshire coast so we were looking for a unique individual to manage the team.”

Helen added: “I am absolutely delighted to join Central Tramway, what an honour to be grafted into the family business. I'm proud that the company has been here for 140 years, we have so much history. So old, yet so modern in thinking and practices; my appointment as general manager is testament to that. I believe my background in heritage and career-defining roles within the rail industry have provided me with a unique focus. I can't wait to engage with our customers, partners and community."

The Central Tramway is the oldest funicular railway company in the country and one of the two remaining cliff lifts built in Scarborough, which in its heyday had five separate routes. It's been operating since 1881 and is still owned by the same company that first registered it.

Originally steam-powered, it was electrified in 1920 but has undergone surprisingly few technological upgrades since before World War Two, and the two carriages have been in service since the 1970s.

Chairman Neil Purshouse's family bought the company in 1967. According to Neil, the machinery has had '10 new shafts' fitted, but otherwise is relatively unchanged since it was first installed.

The cars are no longer manually operated - in 2009 an automated traction system and more powerful motor were introduced to improve safety and smooth acceleration.

Yet the lift has an almost-impeccable safety record over its operational history - the only fatality occurred in 1927. There are 12 staff.

The tramway's popularity has remained 'very stable' over the decades, with between 450,000 - 500,000 passengers using it every year.