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Ropeways & Wire Rope

Describing Ropeways

If you know how to describe a ropeway using industry language, you improve your ability to discover information about ropeways, ropeway engineering, and wire rope. The descriptions of components and operations below can help you with the terminology used in publications and databases.

Components of a Ropeway System

Basic components of a ropeway system:

Carrier -- Distinguishing component of every ropeway. For materials ropeways, the carriers are generally buckets. For passenger ropeways, the carrier is usually described by capacity and type (see About Ropeway Classification):

  • Cabin -- Usually enclosed; seating optional. Example description: "two 80-passenger cabins on a double reversible system."
  • Gondola -- Usually enclosed for year-round use; partially enclosed for amusement park rides; seating optional. Example description: "6-passenger gondola."
  • Chair -- Described by capacity. Example descriptions: "single chair"; "triple"; "6-passenger chair."
  • Surface lift -- Designated by the type of carrier configuration. Examples: disc; T-bar.
  • Funicular -- Usually enclosed, with seating. Carriers are also described as cars.

Terminal -- Almost all ropeways have 2 terminals. One is the drive terminal; the other is a return (idler) terminal. For vertical Terminal end of ropewaychanges, the terminals are referred to as upper and lower terminals. For ski lifts, the terminals are referred to as loading and unloading (or discharge). (Loading/unloading structures between terminals are uncommon now.) 

  • Tension terminal: Either terminal may act as a tension terminal where a tensioning device (for example, counter-weights) is located. 
  • Angle stationOn materials ropeways that where the line of transport is not straight throughout, an intermediate structure called an angle station can be used to change the otherwise straight alignment of the ropeway.

Towers -- Intermediate structures that support carrying and hauling ropes between terminals; sometimes referred to as large pressure frames; rarely referred to as pylons. Towers carry line sheaves (pronounced "shivs") for moving ropes and/or saddles for stationary track ropes.

Ropes -- Formed by the inter-twining of individual wires to form a strand, and the strands to form a rope. Rope variations and Close-up of wire rope on ski liftprocesses are chosen for specific applications. Rope for ropeways is generally described by outside diameter in inches, and whether it is bicable (both a haulage rope and a track rope) or monocable (serves both functions).  For example: a 1 1/8" haul rope and a 1 7/8" track rope for a bicable system; a 1 3/8" rope for a monocable system. For ropeways, wire ropes are made into endless loops by using a "long splice" procedure, or terminated by attaching an end to a carrier, anchor or counterweight using end connections such as sockets. 

Evacuation & Rescue Systems -- Passenger ropeways have provisions to rescue stranded passengers. Most aerial systems support the use of harness and rope to lower individual passengers to the ground below. Aerial ropeways can use an auxiliary drive, usually gas or diesel powered, in the event of an electric power failure to move passengers to a terminal. Large reversible aerial ropeways use a rescue system that sends a small independently powered carrier out to remove passengers from a stopped carrier. 

Operational Characteristics

Ropeways are described and compared by:

Operation --  Is the system...?

  • Continuous circulating: Carriers move around the terminals and maintain their order on the return line; most commonly, a fixed grip chairlift with constant carrier speed on the line and through the terminals.
  • Intermittent circulating: The system slows or stops periodically as the carriers load, but the carriers eventually go around the terminal and return on a parallel line. 
  • Passengers at a tow liftReversible: Carriers stop at each terminal, reverse direction of travel, and return on the same line. 

Capacity -- How many passengers per hour? Capacity is a function of carrier capacity, carrier spacing, and the speed of the line at the loading point. Example: A double chair ski lift (2 passengers) with carriers spaced 60 ft apart and traveling at 550 ft/min = a capacity of 1,100 passengers per hour.

Length & Vertical Rise -- 

  • Length = The length of the slope between terminals.
  • Vertical rise = The change in elevation between terminals.
  • vtfh (vertical transport feet/hour) = ([Lift capacity in passengers per hour] x [vertical rise])/1000. Example: A double-chair lift with a capacity of 1,200 passengers/hour and a vertical rise of 800' will have a vtfh of (1,200 x 800)/1,000 = 960. Vtfh influences the horsepower requirement of the drive and, therefore, the cost of the lift. It also determines the common classification of a lift as "large" or "small." A vtfh of 1,000 or less is considered small; a vtfh of 2,000-3,000 is large.

Ski lift and tower

Line Speed & Loading Speed -- Line speed is measured between terminals, and determines the time in transit. Speed at loading and discharge points affects the ease of loading and unloading, passenger comfort, and safety.