Up Is Down

Hello, I’m writing this article in Munich Airport. I’m waiting for my plane to Helsinki, where I have found a software developer job. I’m looking forward to this third living experience in Finland, and I’m already dreaming of snow, owls and nordic lights. However, that’s not my main topic today, because I still have tales of heat and sun to share (by the way, the weather forecast in Helsinki, for the coming week, says cloudy, 3ºC… brrrr!).

Before we start, though, I suggest you put this song, taken from the Pirates of the Caribbean OST, on:

One afternoon, I went with my mom to Lumbin, in the Grésivaudan valley. Some shopping was on the table (gloves and waterproof clothes, you know), but we also decided to go to Saint-Hilaire du Touvet via the funicular. This cable car system was opened in 1924, mainly to serve the sanitariums built on the Plateau des Petites Roches to house tuberculosis patients. I don’t remember when I was there for the last time, but it was ages ago, it seemed.


The ride was extremely impressive. The cabins are built on a compromise: the inclination of the floor (compare to an horizontal level) changes with the slope of the track, so from a downward-looking position, we start looking upwards more and more as the slope gets steeper. In the beginning, we feel like we’re going to fall on the track; in the end, we watch the sky and pray not to fall back. I know you miss my drawings, so I made a figure to explain the situation.


There’s a “driver” on each of the cabins; ours was very knowledgeable about the funicular. He explained that, if the speed exceeded 1.25 m/s, a brake system would immediately stop the cabin. This doesn’t happen very frequently; last time, it was because the cable had slipped out of the cable wheels.

The cable wheels are inclined in the turns
The cable wheels are inclined in the turns



The two cars, each fixed on one extremity of the cable, cross each other in the middle of the track. The switch system was intriguing, but our driver explains that there was one guiding wheel, U-shaped to grip the rail, and one uncarved wheel that had no role in driving the car. Once again, I made a drawing!


With this system, if your car goes to the right at the switch, it’s because the wheels on the right-hand rail are clinging to it (U-shaped wheels) while the wheels on the left simply lean on the other rails and jump from one to the other. I’m not a mechanical engineer, but I hope that’s clear!


The village of Saint-Hilaire du Touvet is famous for its Coupe Icare, a free flight festival organized in September each year. Two departing sites for paragliders are accessible in the village, both offering an impressive view offer the valley and the Belledonne mountain range beyond.

funiculaire-10 funiculaire-11 funiculaire-12

Finally, the descent to Lumbin gives you a precise idea of how steep the funicular railway is. Remember when I said that the cabin faced upwards in the upper part of the way? Guess how it is in the other direction…

funiculaire-13 funiculaire-14

… yes, downwaaaaaards!

Arrival to the station
Arrival to the station

20 thoughts on “Up Is Down

  1. Wow that funicular is impressive!I love the way you explained the workings with drawings…very understandable..you hould be a teacher😄
    The rest of the photo’s from above,are absolutely beautiful!
    Love your blog!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bonsoir Samuel,
    “A fond les manettes”, comme disait mon fils lorsqu’il avait 7 ans environ ! 🙂
    Je ne connaissais pas la course Icare : les vidéos sont géniales (avec un bon choix pour la bande son) et donnent envie d’apprécier la manifestation sur place. L’as-tu vécue dans les airs ou les pieds sur terre ? 😉
    Merci et à bientôt.
    PS : Tu es obligé de passer par Munich pour revenir à Helsinki ou est-ce parce que cela est moins cher ?
    L’une de mes soeurs, qui vit en Allemagne depuis de nombreuses années, me dit souvent que les billets sont relativement chers et que, pour partir voyager dans le monde durant ses vacances, il lui est arrivé de devoir faire des détours assez surprenants. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bonsoir Cat, je vais te décevoir mais je ne suis jamais allé voir la Coupe Icare en vrai… 😉
      Pour les billets d’avion, il n’y a pas de direct depuis Lyon, et Finnair est, autant que je sache, en position de monopole depuis Genève, donc les prix s’envolent… du coup une escale s’impose si on veut économiser quelques deniers, surtout quand on ne s’y prend pas longtemps á l’avance. Après, tout est possible… cet été, j’ai voyagé avec KLM via Amsterdam, et je suis rentré via Francfort. Lufthansa a souvent d’assez bons prix, mais c’est sûr qu’en général, le transport aérien est plutôt cher.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Si nous étions à l’école,je t’accorderai un bon point, pour ta franchise , et te le retirerai aussitôt car, tout de même, il y a là un abus de ton auditoire innocent (quel coquin tout de même… tu as brodé toute l’histoire avec ta maman alors ? :-))
      Plus sérieusement, j’y croyais et je me disais que c’était une coupe impressionnante !
      Chapeau pour ton vol : que de détours, une vraie balle rebondissante… 🙂
      By Samuel, à bientôt.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. J’ai jamais prétendu être allé voir la Coupe Icare 😮 J’ai juste pris le funiculaire… il y a bien trop de monde pendant la compétition, là au moins, en milieu de semaine, on était bien tranquille :p Et j’aurais pris des photos quand même ^^


  3. Although I have a light plane pilots license and never felt any discomfort cavorting slightly with a secure set of wings to depend upon your fascinating photos gave me nightmarish sensations of insecurity. I had the same sensation when viewing the Grand Canyon years ago on a visit to the USA. One never knows when an aging fault in a rock or under a seemingly solid piece of grass will finally finally give way and there I go fascinated by the ground far below approached for a final hammer blow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This attraction of ours for heights, even though we know how dangerous it can be… that’s fascinating isn’t it?
      Personally, I’m not overly fond of flying (I could never be a pilot, or worse, a flight attendant :o), but from the ground, I find planes absolutely captivating.


    1. Didn’t you read me? There a brake that would stop the car immediately if anything happened! 😀
      Joke aside, I understand, it was really impressive 😉
      Thanks for your wishes, I’ll do my best 😀


  4. I did read this with the Pirates of the Caribbean music playing and I never would have thought that funicular rides could be so daring. Thank you for that. I felt like I went on a little adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well my blog is basically about bringing people along on my adventures, so I guess it works 😀
      Thanks for your kind words!


  5. Wow is it you who photograph these scenaries? This is just surreal! Absolute bliss! Amazing to travel and experience the travel through your eyes. I’m a travel fanatic and eager to read more posts from you 😀


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