Cable cars were developed to help make transport easier and reduce road congestion. However, their use as a means of transport has diminished with time. In fact, they are now used as historical features for tourists to view and enjoy. Actually, operational cable car systems are minimal.
The best-known existing cable car system is in San Francisco, California. This article gives details regarding cable cars and possible reasons that led to their reduced usage.
What is a Cable Car?
A cable car can be referred to as a type of railway that is normally used for mass transit. In this form of transport, a moving cable running a specific speed hauls away a rail car. Individual cars stop and start by releasing the cable as needed.
A stationary engine that is located in a power or cable house powers a cable car. The speed at which this cable moves depends on the units gripping the cable at a specific time. The cable car starts moving when the clamping device attached to it applies pressure to the cable that is moving. In the same way, the car is stopped by releasing pressure on the cables and applying brakes. Traditional cable cars were manual, meaning the gripping and releasing actions had to be conducted manually. However, contemporary cable cars are automatic.
What are Aerial Cable Cars?
Apart from railway cable cars, there are also aerial cable cars. These ones transport passengers in a cabin that is suspended and pulled by cables. Apart from the passenger cabin, it also consists of fixed cables and one loop of cable that is used for hauling and propulsion. The aerial cable car moves back and forth on a track that is fixed with one or two vehicles.
The aerial cable car is regarded as a safe method of transport and it offers direct connection between two different points despite there being some obstacles and physical barriers. It requires low space for stations and towers and is regarded as an environmentally friendly method of transport.
Aerial cables are used in developed nations that need certain technologies for excellent performance in some conditions like geographically constraint regions to overcome weather and climatic conditions, natural barriers, and hilly terrains. For instance, the Metro-Cable Car System of Medellin offers such kind of mass transit. This is because the city of Medellin is located in a valley and is surrounded by hills. The only best form of transport here is aerial cables. In fact, cable cars here carry thousands of people per day.
Advantages of Cable Cars
The main advantage of cable cars is their energy efficiency, which comes about due to the centrally located power station. The ability to descend cars to transfer power to ascending ones also plays a critical role. Another advantage is that cable cars do not depend on adhesion between rails and wheels. Also, keeping the car gripped to the cable limits downhill speed to that of the cable.
Disadvantages of Cable Cars
For manual cable car systems, the grip resembled that of a large pair of pliers. A lot of strength had to be applied to operate the car. Skill was also quite important because if the grip was not properly applied, it could damage the cable or entangle it, leading to a worse situation because the cable car might not be able to stop. Another disadvantage is that due to the constant and quite low speed, the car’s potential to cause damage can be underestimated. Although some cable cars travel at around 10 miles per hour, their weight, speed, and strength can lead to massive damage upon collision.
Accidents in cable cars can happen due to human errors, lack of maintenance of the structural system, and failure of mechanical and electrical components. Other things like volcanic eruptions or bad weather can lead to accidents. This means that proper precautions should be followed when operating cable cars to reduce any issues.
Technology advancements led to the introduction of cable cars to help ease transport and make it easier for people to move from one place to another. Rail cable cars are good for operating on land and aerial cable cars are excellent for moving in areas with topographical barriers such as mountainous and hilly terrains. Although cable cars are considered quite safe, they require a lot of input to ensure proper operation. This is probably the main reason why they are not a common means of transport.