Posts Tagged: mid-station



The Hauser Kaibling Aerial Tram — (Tauern Seilbahn)

This is a guest post by Ross Edgar.

Departing from the lower station of the Tauren Seilbahn

The Hauser Kaibling Aerial Tram is located just south east of Schladming in central Austria. The aerial tram takes passengers from the valley station at 810m to the summit station at 1836m. It was built in 1960.

Although the cable system runs an impressive 3km up the mountain, it is predominantly used in the summer by hikers or to access the restaurant (which is integrated directly into the summit station). Even in the winter the tram is not used by many skiers as it is difficult to access and requires a short walk through town.

8 passengers in one cabin

One obvious feature of this aerial tram is its small cabin size — each vehicle holds only eight people. However, the small, unassuming aerial tram tucked away on the Alpine mountainside is of a rather unique design. Instead of operating just two cars back and forth between two stations, the system has four cabins and a third (middle) station.

At any one time there are two aerial tram cars travelling in each direction — two of which operate between the valley and mid-station (shown in red), and two of which move between the mid and summit stations (show in blue). The two lower and the two upper cabins are on opposing sides of the cable loop. Riders must switch between vehicles at the mid-station — although with no more than sixteen people on board this is a smooth and efficient transition that takes a matter of seconds.

The figure below demonstrates how a person must use two vehicles to get from the valley station to the peak of the mountain.

Traveling to the summit in 5 easy steps.

Essentially the Hauser Kaibling is two trams operating as one, where the red cabins are one system and the blue two cabins are another. Yet, this set up breaks the extensive distance in half without the cost of constructing and operating two entirely separate aerial tram systems. In fact, the mid-station was added after the tram initially opened as a way to double the capacity from the original two-cabin alignment.

The mid-station is discreetly located between the trees.

This setup is unique for an aerial tram and has a number of advantages over a more conventional system. Firstly, by dividing the system into two segments, the Hauser Kaibling Aerial Tram allows for the provision of a middle station which adds a degree of versatility to the system and provides additional options for passengers (there is access to ground level via a flight of stairs). Moreover, the waiting time for the next aerial tram car to depart is cut in half. In addition, the operation of a single system rather than two separate systems has many advantages in terms of construction, operational and maintenance costs.

Conversely, the design of this type of tram requires that the middle station is positioned exactly halfway between the valley station and the summit station. This is a limiting factor in the design as very rarely will the desired position for a middle station be exactly in this position.

By considerably increasing the capacity of the aerial tram cars, a system of this nature could prove invaluable across long distances within an urban environment. In urban areas where traffic is not especially heavy such a setup could prove to be exceptionally cost effective as well as versatile, even if it is slightly restrictive in the positioning of the middle station.

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Meran 2000 Bergbahn

The Merano 2000 Bergbahn. CC image by Flickr user Alexander Klotz.

There is more than one intriguing feature to the Meran 2000 Bergbahn, an aerial ropeway built in 2010 at the Merano 2000 ski resort in South Tyrol, Italy. At first the it may appear to be a simple (yet stunning) two-cabin tram — the stations are small, the system branded a vibrant red, and the cabins large (each cabin can hold 120 people.) But there’s more…


A view from the mid-station. Image from Merano 2000.

First off, the system has three stations, not just two. And even more interestingly the mid-station consists of an underground waiting area, a large lattice pylon (tower), and a bridge. Yes, I said a bridge. Essentially, because of the alignment, the mid-point is located in a rather difficult location (apparently mid-air?)

Instead of constructing a really tall station that would reach to the ground below (which would be more costly and require a larger footprint) or re-aligning the system, engineers decided to span the distance between the cabins and nearest parallel mountainside with a large metal and cantilever (with support) bridge.

Now, when I say cabins, I mean cabin. The other point to this design is that as far as I can tell, only one cabin can utilize the mid-station since the bridge only reaches as far as one side of the tower. This is more obvious in the diagram below.

The bridge is entirely static except for the last bit which folds down for the approaching cabin once it has come to a complete stop. You can see the bridge in action in this video (or here):

Another intriguing aspect to the mid-station is that the cabins only stop when requested. If everyone is going to the top (or bottom) station, the system will continue past the mid-station/bridge. Only when the “request a stop” button is pushed does the cabin stop. (This reminds me of some other form of transit … oh right, buses and streetcars!)

As previously mentioned, the Merano Bergbahn stations are small. And by small I mean really narrow. Since the system is a reversible aerial tram there can never be more than one cabin at each end station at any given time. Therefore to save space the loading/unloading platforms in these stations are moveable, sliding back and forth depending on which side the cabin is on.

The base station with its sliding platform. CC image by Flickr user Alexander Klotz.

Other than being really awesome, a big reason for the small size (at least at the bottom station) was to stay away from the river, which would have led to additional complications and cost. If station sizes can be reduced to avoid naturally occurring obstacles, imagine how they could be designed to fit into urban contexts…

Finally, the last point to note is the architecture, which is really rather striking.

The top and bottom stations are mostly concrete but clad in a ruby red metal mesh. The top station also has a bistro which is almost entirely surrounded by windows — I can only imagine that the view is spectacular.

Mountain Station by day. Image from Merano 2000.

Mountain Station by night. Image from Merano 2000.

As a final observation, one video I watched showed the inside of one of the cabins. And it was equipped with a bike rack, which seemed rather appropriate to point out especially as a feature for urban systems and as a follow up to a recent guest post about bikes on transit. In this case it is definitely a feature that seems like it could be removed for the winter to allow more room for people and skis.

The Merano 2000 biker friendly aerial trams

In conclusion, if you’ve ridden on this system or have anything to add, tell us in the comments! We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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