The cableway was built by the Italian engineering firm Ceretti and Tanfani S.A. in Eritrea. It connected the port of Massawa with the city of Asmara and ran a distance of some 75 kilometres. It also moved food, supplies and war materials for the Imperial Italian Army, which had also conquered Ethiopia in 1936.
The Eritrean Ropeway, completed in 1937, ran 71.8 km from near Massawa to the south end of Asmara. This was the longest cableway ever. It covered a distance which was over twice the current one longest in the world which has less than 35 km in Lapland. It was rendered non-operational by the British removing the engines shortly after their victory at Keren  in World War II. The assemblage stood for over twenty years and was still in very good condition in 1962 Ralph Reinhold
With the capacity to transport 30 tons of material every hour in each direction from the seaport of Massawa to 2326 meters above sea level in Asmara, the cableway was the longest of its kind in the world when inaugurated in 1938. The bearing cables were in almost 30 sections, were powered by diesel engines, and carried freight in 1540 small transport gondolas. In southern Eritrea there was another small ropeway.
During their eleven-year occupation (1941-1952) of the former Italian colony, the British removed the diesel engines, the steel cables, and other equipment as war reparations. Iron towers that remained were scrapped in the 1980s.