29
Jul

2015

Please Don’t Try This At Home

Post by Steven Bochenek

Recently we ran an opinion piece about private gondolas, asking whether they may be a sign of things to come. But nothing prepared for us this precarious looking “trenino” or little train in Vernazza, Italy. Essentially it’s a mini-monorail and it turns out they’re not uncommon here.

Vernazza is one of the “Cinque Terre”, five towns of exceptional beauty on the eastern edge of the Italian Riviera, reachable only by path, boat or train. Despite the remoteness and difficulty of access, the place is teeming with tourists year-round.

Becoming prosperous without a network of roads demands a certain entrepreneurial and self-starting spirit, which this contraption exemplifies. The trenino’s track stretches several hundred metres from high above the town, down the almost sheer cliff-cum-hill to the edge of town. It terminates just beyond this engine with its single seat, possibly lifted from some ‘80s airport, welded behind the jury-rigged cargo bin.

Locals use trenini primarily for transporting goods and equipment, most especially grapes and hay, up and down their terraced vineyards and gardens. Very occasionally it is used for transporting people — when there is no other means of access to a given spot.

Correction – August 3, 2015
We originally thought this may be an “unsafe” transport device on first glance but thanks to BC and all commenters we realized that this is untrue. Trenini, or Monoracks, are not unique to this area and are neither homemade nor jury-rigged, but number over 650 around the world. They are also safe and the ’seats can be fitted with a protective hood’. So we still say you should leave it to the professionals — and still salute the entrepreneurial spirit of those who recognize business ideas where others only see perilous slopes.

Cinque Terre is beautiful but not easily accessible. Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, and the locals here are, by necessity, inventive. Image by Steve Bochenek.

Cinque Terre is beautiful but not easily accessible. Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, and the locals here are, by necessity, inventive. Image by Steve Bochenek.

The steep hills between towns in the Cinque Terre are almost sheer. Image by Steve Bochenek.

The steep hills between towns in the Cinque Terre are almost sheer. Image by Steve Bochenek.

On the way into Vernazza, the steep hiking trail is temporarily flanked by a lone steel rail with jagged teeth underneath, which the trenino’s engine grips on a climb. Image by Steve Bochenek.

On the way into Vernazza, the steep hiking trail is temporarily flanked by a lone steel rail with jagged teeth underneath, which the trenino’s engine grips on a climb. Image by Steve Bochenek.

The “base station”, complete with jury-rigged cargo holder in front of a lone seat, possibly appropriated from a defunct carnival ride, rests just above Vernazza. Image by Steve Bochenek.

The “base station”, complete with jury-rigged cargo holder in front of a lone seat, possibly appropriated from a defunct carnival ride, rests just above Vernazza. Image by Steve Bochenek.

Being 2-dimensional, photographs rarely convey steepness very well. But trust us: this track was steep. With no seatbelt to secure the rider, we wonder if anyone ever tumbled out backwards on an especially vertical slope. Image by Steve Bochenek.

Being 2-dimensional, photographs rarely convey steepness very well. But trust us: this track was steep. With no seatbelt to secure the rider, we wonder if anyone ever tumbled out backwards on an especially vertical slope. Image by Steve Bochenek.



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Comments

  1. I'm pretty sure this one was designed by the professionals though it may be a few years old. Several of these devices are installed each year all over the world and true, as they are usually for private use, the safety standards may be fewer but certainly given the designers' track records of safety and attention to technical detail these are by no means rickety and jury-rigged. Moreover they are an elegant efficient and economical solution to challenging terrain. Monorack is the product. It may be worthwhile to edit the tone of this blog post given the mission of the Gondola Project. http://www.doppelmayr.com/en/products/monorack/ You will see a new installation went in just last year in the same region.
  2. Infact, these monorail systems are used from seventies onward , invented in Japan in late sixties, have a much more better safety record respect small tractors use in orchards and vineyards.
  3. This is indeed a regular product, called monorack (see also here: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monorackbahn). Originally designed by Von Roll it is still in prdouction as BC wrote above. As the rack is at the bottom of the rail, the pinion cannot slide up. so the system is more stable than e.g. an Abt-rack without holding-down devices
  4. Those systems are widely used in vineyards and very safe. They do not need a lot of civil works due to the design of the supports. Some summer tobogganing system use a tube and have similar support structure. They can be set up in spring and removed on autumn. Those system can carry over thousand people per day. I guess for working in a vineyard a self propelled system is the more cost effective choice than a cable propelled one.