23
Oct

2012

Why the Pfänderbahn Matters

Post by Steven Dale

The Pfänderbahn in Bregenz, Austria is a pretty straightforward Aerial Tram system – with one pretty big exception.

See, the newest incarnation of the system was built in 1995 to replace an old system that dates from the early part of the last century. The new system was to be faster with bigger cabins, and that’s where the problem arose.

The issue was two-fold:

Firstly, the existing building envelopes were too small to accommodate platforms on either side of the lower terminal. A single platform is okay if an Aerial Tram system only has one vehicle, but in the event of two vehicles, two platforms are almost always required (unless of course, the platform is located between the vehicles as demonstrated Hauser Kaibling Aerial Tram).

The Pfänderbahn was going to have two vehicles.

Secondly, the lower terminal was historically significant, thereby eliminating any possibility of dramatically expanding or changing the terminal.

The historically significant lower terminal of the Pfänderbahn. Image via Pfänderbahn.at.

So system designers got innovative.

The system was designed with a single platform that shifts back and forth mimicking the typical two-platform configuration. This would solve the space crunch while allowing riders to board and alight from both sides of the terminal. It sounds complicated to read it, but to see it is pretty straightforward:

A tram departs with the loading platform on the left hand side of the terminal. Image by Steven Dale.

Once the vehicle has left the station, the platform shifts from left to right. Image by Steven Dale.

By the time the second vehicle approaches, the platform has nestled into position. Image by Steven Dale.

The second vehicle comes to a rest with the loading platform now located on the right side of the terminal. Image by Steven Dale.

Now admittedly, this isn’t some revolutionary technique or feature of cable transit. What it is, however, is a demonstration of how flexible the technology is when dealing with design challenges.

One thing we continually keep discovering is that the cable transit industry is positively littered with all sorts of unique features and capabilities – most of which go completely unreported. And as there’s roughly 20,000 cable systems in the world, there’s almost no way to document all this hidden features.

That should change so that this rapidly growing industry can better show-off just exactly what they can do.

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Comments

  1. Shifting stations are popular during this month! It is the same type as in the Meran2000 system. This is common for old trams maybe? http://gondolaproject.com/2012/10/10/merano-2000-bergbahn/
  2. From the pictures it really looks like the cars extend past the centerline, or come really close to it. How do they avoid hitting each other when they pass?
  3. In an ATW the cars meet one another only at half-line , so the two lines are diverging outside of the stations. Also Faloria cable-car of Cortina has this system in the top station - probably the first of its kind since dates from early '80 Faloria (built 1939) has also the middle station configuration with interruption of cables and transbordation necessary between cars.