Cable car

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For the alcoholic drink, see Cable Car (cocktail).
Cable car in Rote Nase, Swiss Alps
Cable car in Wellington, New Zealand
Cable car at Huangshan, China

A cable car is any of a variety of transportation systems relying on cables to pull vehicles along or lower them at a steady rate. The terminology also refers to the vehicles on these systems. The cable car vehicles are motor-less and engine-less and they are pulled by a cable that is rotated by a motor off-board.


The former Asmara-Massawa Cableway in Eritrea (late-1940s).

Cable car transport systems are a viable transportation system for various situations.[1] Cable-Propelled Transit (CPT or cable for short) can be effective as a mass transit system at a reasonable cost.[2]

They are advantageous for transit of mountains, valleys, steep slopes and bodies of water.[3] Constructing roads in mountainous terrain requires substantial funding and can significantly affect the environment.[4]"The minimally invasive design enables ropeways to blend in almost imperceptibly with their surrounding- without harm to the visual impression of the tourist destination".[5]

Aerial lift[edit]

Main article: Aerial lift
Plateau Rosa cable car, in Italy, reaches 3480m of the Testa Grigia.

In an aerial transit system, cabins (also called carriers, vehicles, cable cars or simply cars) are suspended and propelled from above by cables. The cable that supports the cabin may or may not be the one that propels it too. This depends on the technology used. It is a two way transport.

Mono-cable detachable gondola (MDG)[edit]

A mono-cable detachable (MDG) system has only one cable that does the work of supporting and also propelling.

Bi-cable detachable gondola (BDG)[edit]

A bi-cable detachable gondola (BDG) has two cables, one of which supports the cabin. This cable is stationary while the other cable moves and serves the purpose of propulsion.

Aerial tramway[edit]

Main article: Aerial tramway

An aerial tramway consists of a cabin suspended from a cable, pulled by another cable.

3S/TDG-tri-cable detachable gondola[edit]

A tri-cable detachable gondola (TDG) has three cables, two of which help in supporting and the other in propelling the cabin.


Main article: Funifor


Main article: Funitel

Pulsed gondola[edit]

Ropeway conveyor or material ropeway[edit]

Main article: Ropeway conveyor

This is used in transportation of goods rather than passengers.


Main article: Chairlift

Open chairs are hauled above the ground by means of cable.

Rail system[edit]

In Bottom Supported System, cabins are supported by tracks or rails underneath but are propelled by a cable. Most of these types of cabins are supported by rails while one might find a cable supporting the cabin underneath in the rarest occasion. The San Francisco cable car system in North America is one example of it.

The various bottom supported system are:

Heritage Cable Car[edit]

Main article: Cable car (railway)

A cable car system utilizes rail cars that are hauled by a continuously moving cable running at a constant speed. Individual cars stop and start by releasing and gripping this cable as required.


Main article: Funicular

A funicular consists of a pair of railway cars that alternately ascend and descend an inclined right-of-way, attached to a common cable.

Hybrid Funicular[edit]

Cable Liner[edit]

Main article: Cable Liner

Mini Metro[edit]

Mini Metro or people mover is a system, which is cable probelled:


CPT is different from conventional Transport Vehicles as it does not have engine or motor on board. Cabins are propelled by off-board motor that moves the cable connected to a Bullwheel. Cabins are gripped with the cable. So, as the cable moves so does the cabin. The detachable types (MDG, BDG or 3S) can be detached at the station. There are usually two bull wheels, the bigger one is rotated by the motor, also called drive wheel, and the freely spinning small one at the other end. Deflection wheels can be incorporated that could alter the direction of cable.



The cabin is permanently fixed on the cable. This was the system used earlier. This system has a disadvantage as stopping one cabin involves stopping the whole system. However, fixed grips system can achieve higher speed. This system does not allow mid-span station or even if it does, the station has to be in the middle.


Originally, all cabins were fixed. They could not be detached. In 1872, an Austrian National, Orbach invented the world’s first detachable grip and patented the technology.[6]

The detachable cabin can be separated from the cable without disrupting the whole system. This allows the cabin to be stopped in between the stations without stopping the whole system. When the cabin approaches the stop, mechanism installed in the station ungrips the cabin and it is slowed down by a different mechanism. This allows passengers to alight or get in the cabin. This method is readily used in MDG, BDG, TDG.


CPT has not yet been a widely accepted transportation system. It needs to address some challenges. Although CPT has been around for a century, there has not been much research in this area. It has not been widely commercialized. Integration of multiple CPT systems is not easy. The design of an arrangement in which systems meet at a station is still a challenge for the technology. Transporting above someone's property entails privacy issues. Also, safety in case of emergency is widely a concern.

The longest cableway[edit]

The world's longest operable cableway is the Forsby-Köping limestone cableway in Sweden at 42 km (26 mi).[7] The longest ever in operation was the 96 km (60 mi) Kristineberg-Boliden ropeway conveyor in Sweden. One of its 8 sections has been converted to a gondola lift and is still operating as the 13.2 km Norsjö aerial tramway making it the world's longest passenger cableway.

Also worth mentioning are Tochal Telecabin, with a length of 7.5 km, connecting the city of Tehran to the Tochal ski area (3 sections), Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, a gondola lift in Australia is 7.5 km long (two sections), and the Swiss Gondelbahn Grindelwald-Männlichen is 6.2 km long (two sections). The longest reversible aerial tramway built in one section only is Wings of Tatev in Armenia at 5.7 km (3.5 mi).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ekkehard, Assman. "The Golden Age of Gondolas Might Be Just Around the Corner". CEO, Doppelmyr. Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Dale, Steven. "ABOUT THE GONDOLA PROJECT". Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  3. ^ , Alshalalfah, B. W, Aerial Ropeway Transit: State of the ART. 2010
  4. ^ "What is Cable Propelled Transit?". Retrieved 19 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "Image Brouchere". Doppelmayr. 
  6. ^ "Grips". Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Henrik Ogstedt; Hanna Domfors (2010). Kalklinbanan: sammanställning och kulturhistorisk värdering (The limestone cableway: overview and cultural-historic evaluation) (PDF) (Report) (in Swedish). NIRAS Sweden AB.