Cable transport

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Cable car at Zell am See in the Austrian Alps Cablecar.zellamsee.500pix.jpg
Cable car at Zell am See in the Austrian Alps

Cable transport is a broad class of transport modes that have cables. They transport passengers and goods, often in vehicles called cable cars . The cable may be driven or passive, and items may be moved by pulling, sliding, sailing, or by drives within the object being moved on cableways. The use of pulleys and balancing of loads moving up and down are common elements of cable transport. They are often used in mountainous areas where cable haulage can overcome large differences in elevation.


Common modes of cable transport

The Portland Aerial Tram Cable Transport 2.jpg
The Portland Aerial Tram

Aerial transport

Forms of cable transport in which one or more cables are strung between supports of various forms and cars are suspended from thes cables.

Cable railways

Forms of cable transport where cars on rails are hauled by cables. The rails are usually steeply inclined and usually at ground level.


Other forms of cable-hauled transport.


Rope-drawn transport dates back to 250 BC as evidenced by illustrations of aerial ropeway transportation systems in South China. [12] [13]

Early aerial tramways

An aerial tramway used in mining, at the Shenandoah-Dives Mill in Silverton, Colorado MayflowerTramwayBucket.jpg
An aerial tramway used in mining, at the Shenandoah-Dives Mill in Silverton, Colorado

The first recorded mechanical ropeway was by Venetian Fausto Veranzio who designed a bi-cable passenger ropeway in 1616. The industry generally considers Dutchman Adam Wybe to have built the first operational system in 1644. The technology, which was further developed by the people living in the Alpine regions of Europe, progressed and expanded with the advent of wire rope and electric drive. [14]

The first use of wire rope for aerial tramways is disputed. American inventor Peter Cooper is one early claimant, constructing an aerial tramway using wire rope in Baltimore 1832, to move landfill materials. Though there is only partial evidence for the claimed 1832 tramway, Cooper was involved in many of such tramways built in the 1850s, and in 1853 he built a two-mile-long tramway to transport iron ore to his blast furnaces at Ringwood, New Jersey. [15]

World War I motivated extensive use of military tramways for warfare between Italy and Austria. [14]

During the industrial revolution, new forms of cable-hauled transportation systems were created including the use of steel cable to allow for greater load support and larger systems. Aerial tramways were first used for commercial passenger haulage in the 1900s. [12]

The first cable railways

A gravity incline in use in 1955 at Llechwedd quarry in Wales. Empty wagons are arriving at the top of the incline - the winding drum is in the shed in the background Special feature in Y Cymro on the Llechwedd slate quarry at Blaenau Ffestiniog (15367488824).jpg
A gravity incline in use in 1955 at Llechwedd quarry in Wales. Empty wagons are arriving at the top of the incline – the winding drum is in the shed in the background
A test run on the Westside and Yonkers Patent Railway Company line in 1867 Harvey Cable Car.jpg
A test run on the Westside and Yonkers Patent Railway Company line in 1867
Hallidie's Clay Street Hill Railroad, the first successful cable railway running at street level LLOYD(1876) VIEW OF CLAY STREET SHOWING THE WIRE RAILROAD pg191.jpg
Hallidie's Clay Street Hill Railroad, the first successful cable railway running at street level

The earliest form of cable railway was the gravity incline, which in its simplest form consists of two parallel tracks laid on a steep gradient, with a single rope wound around a winding drum and connecting the trains of wagons on the tracks. Loaded wagons at the top of the incline are lowered down, their weight hauling empty wagons from the bottom. The winding drum has a brake to control the rate of travel of the wagons. The first use of a gravity incline isn't recorded, but the Llandegai Tramway at Bangor in North Wales was opened in 1798, and is one of the earliest examples using iron rails. [16]

The first cable-hauled street railway was the London and Blackwall Railway, built in 1840, which used fibre to grip the haulage rope. This caused a series of technical and safety issues, which led to the adoption of steam locomotives by 1848. [17]

The first Funicular railway was opened in Lyon in 1862. [18]

The Westside and Yonkers Patent Railway Company developed a cable-hauled elevated railway . This 3½ mile long line was proposed in 1866 and opened in 1868. It operated as a cable railway until 1871 when it was converted to use steam locomotives. [19]

The next development of the cable car came in California. Andrew Hallidie, a Scottish emigre, gave San Francisco the first effective and commercially successful route, using steel cables, opening the Clay Street Hill Railroad on August 2, 1873. [20] Hallidie was a manufacturer of steel cables. The system featured a human-operated grip, which was able to start and stop the car safely. The rope that was used allowed the multiple, independent cars to run on one line, and soon Hallidie's concept was extended to multiple lines in San Francisco. [21]

The first cable railway outside the United Kingdom and the United States was the Roslyn Tramway, which opened in 1881, in Dunedin, New Zealand. America remained the country that made the greatest use of cable railways; by 1890 more than 500 miles of cable-hauled track had been laid, carrying over 1,000,000 passengers per year. However, in 1890, electric tramways exceeded the cable hauled tramways in mileage, efficiency and speed. [22]

Early ski lifts

The ski lift was developed by James Curran in 1936. The co-owner of the Union Pacific Railroad, William Averell Harriman owned America's first ski resort, Sun Valley, Idaho. He asked his design office to tackle the problem of lifting skiers to the top of the resort. Curran, a Union Pacific bridge designer, adapted a cable hoist he had designed for loading bananas in Honduras to create the first ski lift. [23]

More recent developments

More recent developments are being classified under the type of track that their design is based upon.[ citation needed ] After the success of this operation, several other projects were initiated in New Zealand and Chicago. The social climate around pollution is allowing for a shift from cars back to the utilization of cable transport due to their advantages. [24] However, for many years they were a niche form of transportation used primarily in difficult-to-operate conditions for cars (such as on ski slopes as lifts). Now that cable transport projects (CTP) are on the increase, the social effects are beginning to become more significant. [25] In 2018 the highest 3S cablecar has been inaugurated in Zermatt, Switzerland after more than two years of construction. This cablecar is also called the "Matterhorn Glacier ride" and it allows passengers to reach the top of the Klein Matterhorn mountain. (3383m) [26]

Social effects

The La Paz cable car system in Bolivia is both the longest and highest urban cable car network in the world. Linea Roja de Mi Teleferico en La Paz, Bolivia.jpg
The La Paz cable car system in Bolivia is both the longest and highest urban cable car network in the world.

Comparison with other transport types

When compared to trains and cars, the volume of people to transport over time and the start-upcost of the project must be a consideration. In areas with extensive road networks, personal vehicles offer greater flexibility and range. Remote places like mountainous regions and ski slopes may be difficult to link with roads, making CTP a much easier approach. A CTP system may also need fewer invasive changes to the local environment.

The use of Cable Transport is not limited to such rural locations as skiing resorts; it can be used in urban development areas. Their uses in urban areas include funicular railways, [27] gondola lifts, [28] and aerial tramways. [29]



Related Research Articles

Aerial tramway Aerial lift in which the cars are permanently fixed to the cables

An aerial tramway, sky tram,cable car, ropeway or aerial tram is a type of aerial lift which uses one or two stationary ropes for support while a third moving rope provides propulsion. With this form of lift, the grip of an aerial tramway cabin is fixed onto the propulsion rope and cannot be decoupled from it during operations.

Cable car most commonly refers to the following cable transportation systems:

Gondola lift Aerial transport by cable

A gondola lift is a means of cable transport and type of aerial lift which is supported and propelled by cables from above. It consists of a loop of steel wire rope that is strung between two stations, sometimes over intermediate supporting towers. The cable is driven by a bullwheel in a terminal, which is typically connected to an engine or electric motor. They are often considered continuous systems since they feature a haul rope which continuously moves and circulates around two terminal stations. In contrast, aerial tramways solely operate with fixed grips and simply shuttle back and forth between two end terminals. Depending on the combination of cables used for support and/or haulage and the type of grip, the capacity, cost, and functionality of a gondola lift will differ dramatically. Because of the proliferation of such systems in the Alpine regions of Europe, the Cabinovia (Italian) or the French name of Télécabine are also used in English texts. The system may often be referred to as a cable car.

Chairlift Type of aerial lift

An elevated passenger ropeway, or chairlift, is a type of aerial lift, which consists of a continuously circulating steel wire rope loop strung between two end terminals and usually over intermediate towers, carrying a series of chairs. They are the primary onhill transport at most ski areas, but are also found at amusement parks, various tourist attractions, and increasingly in urban transport.


A funitel is a type of cableway, generally used to transport skiers, although at least one is used to transport finished cars between different areas of a factory. It differs from a standard gondola lift through the use of two arms attached to two parallel overhead cables, providing more stability in high winds. The name funitel is a blend of the French words funiculaire and telepherique.

Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group

Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group is an international manufacturer of ropeways and people movers for ski areas, urban transport, amusement parks, and material handling systems. As of 2019, the group have produced over 15,000 installations in 96 countries. The Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group was formed in 2002 when Doppelmayr of Wolfurt, Austria merged with Garaventa AG of Switzerland to form the world's largest ropeway manufacturer.

Ski lift Transport device that carries skiers up a hill

A ski lift is a mechanism for transporting skiers up a hill. Ski lifts are typically a paid service at ski resorts. The first ski lift was built in 1908 by German Robert Winterhalder in Schollach/Eisenbach, Hochschwarzwald.

Aerial lift Method of cable transport

An aerial lift (U.S.), also known as a cable car, is a means of cable transport in which cabins, cars, gondolas, or open chairs are hauled above the ground by means of one or more cables. Aerial lift systems are frequently employed in a mountainous territory where roads are relatively difficult to build and use, and have seen extensive use in mining. Aerial lift systems are relatively easy to move and have been used to cross rivers and ravines. In more recent times, the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of aerial lifts have seen an increase of gondola lift being integrated into urban public transport systems.


The Kitzsteinhorn is a mountain in the High Tauern range of the Central Eastern Alps in Austria. It is part of the Glockner Group and reaches a height of 3,203 m (10,509 ft) AA. The Kitzsteinhorn glaciers are a popular ski area.

High Technology Industries, known as HTI Group is a group of companies with its headquarters in Italy. All global players, the subsidiaries are active in the following different fields: ropeways for transporting passengers and materials, snowmaking systems, wind turbines, snow groomers and tracked utility vehicles. Around the world, the group is represented by 70 subsidiaries as well as 131 sales and service points.

Aerial lift pylon

An aerial lift pylon is a pylon-like construction bearing the cables of an aerial lift such as an aerial tramway or gondola lift. Large pylons of aerial tramways usually consist of a steel framework construction, smaller pylons of gondola lifts are made of tubular steel. Early aerial tramways often had pylons of reinforced concrete and ropeway conveyors had timber pylons, if they were cheaper than steel pylons.

Norsjö ropeway Aerial tramway in Sweden

Norsjö aerial tramway is a 13.2 kilometre long aerial tramway between Örträsk and Mensträsk in the Norsjö Municipality in Sweden.

Poma, incorporated as Pomagalski S.A., and sometimes referred to as the Poma Group, is a French company which manufactures cable-driven lift systems, including fixed and detachable chairlifts, gondola lifts, funiculars, aerial tramways, people movers, and surface lifts. Poma has installed about 7800 devices for 750 customers worldwide.

Tricable gondola lift Cable car system introduced in 1991

The tricable gondola lift, also known as the 3S gondola lift, is a cable car system that was developed by the Swiss company Von Roll transport systems in Thun to unite the benefits of a gondola lift with those of a reversible cable car system. '3S' is an abbreviation of the German word dreiseil, meaning 'tricable'.

Port Vell Aerial Tramway

The Port Vell Aerial Tramway is an aerial tramway in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It crosses Port Vell, Barcelona's old harbour, connecting the Montjuïc hill with the seaside suburb of Barceloneta.

1990 Tbilisi aerial tramway accident

The 1990 Tbilisi aerial tramway accident was an aerial tramway accident in Tbilisi, the capital of Soviet Georgia on June 1, 1990, which resulted in 20 deaths and at least 15 injuries.

Awana Skyway Aerial lift in Pahang, Malaysia

The Awana Skyway, also referred to as the new Awana Skyway, is a gondola lift system connecting Awana Transport Hub, Chin Swee Temple and SkyAvenue in Genting Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia since December 2016. The Awana Transport Hub terminus consists of the new Awana Bus Terminal, the station building and a new 8-storey car park while the other terminus is located at SkyAvenue.


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Further reading