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Flying over Manhattan on the


                    Roosevelt Island Tramway


                                  The First Aerial Tramway
                         Used for Mass Transit in the U.S.


                                                  by Barbara Spencer

         Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which
         extends 3,100 feet across the East River in New York City. Frequented by commuters
         and sightseers alike, it connects the Upper East Side to the narrow stretch of land
         named Roosevelt Island in Manhattan.




                n a sunny, warm October day, a   get a view out the front window as the   The rope system for the carriers con-
                small group gathers to embark   doors close. But the cabin has windows   sists of the haul rope and track ropes.
         Oon the approaching cabin of       on  all four  sides,  offering  360 degree   The track ropes, which are stationary,
         the Roosevelt Island Tramway. Mean-  views for those more interested in just   are attached at one terminal and ten-
         while,  envious  drivers  travelling over   enjoying a few moments away from the   sioned by counterweights at the other.
         the Queensboro  Bridge between 59th   busy city streets.              The carriers, attached to the haul rope,
         and 60th Street in Manhattan sit in                                   propel along the track ropes.
         bumper to bumper traffic. There, off to   Propelling along track ropes  Terminals at either end of the rope-
         their right, they catch a glimpse of the   The  Roosevelt Island Tram is  a ‘to   way power the ropes. One is the drive
         bright red tram cabin.             and fro’ ropeway, which  means there   terminal and the  other  is  the return
           For a $2.50 debit on your MetroCard   are two carriers  that run  indepen-  terminal. Each terminal houses a huge
         (the  same  as  a  subway  ride)  you  can   dently of  one  another.  It differs  from   bull wheel which moves the haul rope
         enjoy a pleasantly short ride (less than   a typical ski tramway’s ‘reversible,’ or   (the  rope  that  moves  the carrier). The
         five minutes) in what some New York-  ‘jig back,’ design, where the two cabins   drive terminal’s bull wheel is attached
         ers  call  “the bubble.” Actually,  there   move with one drive system.  to the main power unit, which operates
         are two “bubbles,” which run at fifteen-  Each of the two carriers  are com-  the ropeway. During their short jour-
         minute intervals daily and continuous-  prised of a carrier cabin, which houses   neys, both carriers travel over three
         ly during rush hour.               the passengers, a hanger, and the car-  towers, which support the haul ropes
           Although each tram cabin can ac-  riage (the wheel assembly that attach-  and track ropes between terminals. The
         commodate about 110 people, 70 or so   es the cabin to the rope). The carriage   towers have guides to keep the carriers
         board the tram on this early weekend   wheels evenly distribute the weight of   from hitting them or other objects.
         afternoon. Those with cameras jostle to   the carrier across the rope.
                                                                               A New Tram, An Island Reborn
                                                                                 Ropeways have been used in the U.S.
                                                                               since the mid-1800s by mining opera-
                                                                               tions out West to transport materials.
                                                                               But tramways for passenger transport
                                                                               weren’t built until the 1890s. In 1893
                                                                               a 16-passenger carrier reversible rope-
                                                                               way was  constructed  across  the Ten-
                                                                               nessee River in Knoxville. The Niagara
                                                                               Falls tramway, which still operates to-
                                                                               day, was built in 1912.
                                                                                 The first double reversible tramway
                                                                               was built in 1938 on Cannon Mountain
                                                                               in New Hampshire for skiers and tour-
                                                                               ists. The idea of transporting skiers up
                                                                               the mountain by ropeways took hold
                                                                               quickly,  but resort  operators needed
                                                                               cheaper  solutions  for  transporting
                                                                               people up the slopes. Chair lifts were
                                                                               devised, and in 1946 the first fixed-grip
                                                                               double-chair  continuous  ropeway  was
                                                                               introduced.  After that,  the  popularity
         The Roosevelt Island Tramway, the first aerial tramway used for Mass Transit in the U.S.,
         travels parallel to the Queensboro Bridge, crossing the East River in New York City.  of skiing and sales of ski lifts exploded.
         Photo courtesy Leitner-Poma                                           (Dwyer, Charles, OITAF 1988)
                                                                                                continued on page 28
         26     Wire Rope News & Sling Technology   February 2017
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