28
Oct

2014

Military Cable Cars

Post by Nick Chu

Guest post by Ross Edgar.

Over the years, the Gondola Project has discussed numerous different applications of Cable Propelled Transit (CPT), highlighting the versatility and adaptability of such technology. However, one particular avenue of CPT remains largely unexplored: military cable systems.

Military applications of CPT do not readily spring to mind, yet in Alpine nations CPT has been used extensively for this purpose. An early example of this is the Reisszug in Salzburg which has provided a supply route from the city to the fortress since the early sixteenth century. More extensive use of CPT for military applications can be found throughout the twentieth century, particularly in Switzerland.

Reisszug. Image by Wikipedia User Magnus Manske.

The Swiss National Redoubt, originally conceived in the late nineteenth century, was designed as a defensive system to protect the country in the event of invasion. The National Redoubt was subsequently revised on a number of occasions throughout the twentieth century, most notably under General Henri Guisan during the Second World War. The strategy pragmatically recognised the limited resources and manpower of Switzerland in comparison to the major European powers. Therefore, a strategy was created that did not endeavour to compete with such power, but aimed to ensure that any incursion into Swiss territory would be so bloody and would result in such huge losses that invasion would be rendered entirely unattractive. This strategy repelled both Nazi and Soviet aggression and guaranteed Swiss neutrality throughout the twentieth century.

The twentieth century National Redoubt featured static defences protecting strategic transportation nodes including mountain passes and railway tunnels. These defences included forts, gun emplacements, bunkers and other hardened positions which formed an armoured ring around the Swiss interior, creating a fall-back position for the government and the population and denying access to the aggressor. These defences are characterised by their highly effective concealment with examples including bunkers disguised as chalets and gun turrets disguised as large boulders.

Today, such hardened positions have been largely replaced with more technological defences but the exact details are not in the public domain. However, the majority of structures still exist and a number are open to the public as museums. A select few of the original defences remain in military use and have been widely upgraded to meet modern threats.

It is as part of the National Redoubt that Switzerland employs CPT technology in a military context. Due to the topography of Switzerland and the strategic advantage of altitude, many defences are constructed on mountain passes, in high pastures or even on mountain peaks. While providing a military advantage, this also presents a logistical challenge with the requirement for transport of men and materiel to such inaccessible locations. Therefore CPT is used to connect installations, both with other installations and with the valley below.

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Can you seen the cable system? Image by Ian Edgar.

The example illustrated in this post is on the Weissfluhgipfel above Davos in the east of Switzerland. It is not entirely clear what military facilities are present on the Weissfluhgipfel or what specific purpose the cable system serves in this instance, but the presence of CPT technology serving a military facility is very clear. The terminus pictured is evidently built into the mountainside and presumably has subterranean access to the facility above. This facility has been clearly designed to blend into the surrounding landscape.

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Subterranean station? Image by Ian Edgar.

Information on Alpine military cable systems is not readily available as many of these defensive networks have not been methodically catalogued and, particularly in the Swiss case, are shrouded in secrecy. However, both Italy and France built similar extensive defensive lines in the Alps in the twentieth century, known as the Alpine Wall and the Alpine Line respectively. It would be logical to conclude that the obvious benefits of CPT technology in an Alpine environment would have been utilised here also.

Closer look at entrance. Image by Ian Edgar.

Closer look at entrance. Image by Ian Edgar.



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History / Infrastructure
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