View of one of the towers, with a new cross arm plus rope lifting frame and maintenance platforms mounted on the existing lattice tower
Photo: Radim Polcer
Summer in the mountains New ropeways Cabins

ISR REPORT

The Katrin Cable Car – Austria’s first monocable circulating gondola ropeway

In the Upper Austrian spa of Bad Ischl, Austria’s very first monocable gondola ropeway opened 1959, thus preparing the ground for the modern circulating gondola ropeway system in this Alpine country.

Created by Radim Polcer/Roman Gric

Bad Ischl’s ropeway history began in 1955 with the foundation of a company by the name of Katrin Cable Car AG. Two years later, in 1957, a materials-handling ropeway was built, which was used to transport more than 1,000 tons of construction materials over a six-month period. Unlike other Austrian resorts, where preference was given to bicable circulating ropeways, the Bad Ischl installation was the first gondola to be built as a monocable circulating system.

Work on the Katrin Cable Car was completed in 1958 and the ropeway went into service in 1959 following an opening ceremony attended by leading public figures from the province of Upper Austria. The original Katrin Cable Car was built by the Kienast company with a detachable carrier system engineered under licence from the Swiss Oehler Aarau company. What made the ropeway so special was that the carrying-hauling rope had fingers at regular intervals, to which the gondolas were attached automatically with the help of a hook. On entry into the stations, the gondolas were released from the finger to permit loading and unloading with the gondolas stationary.

This was doubtless the most remarkable detachable carrier system of all time. It was also one that required regular relocation of the fingers on the rope, and that was a complicated and time-consuming process. In addition to a number of incidents with incorrectly attached gondolas, this is why the hook and finger system was soon abandoned in favor of automatic rope grips. Apart from the Katrin Cable Car, the Oehler system was only used on a few ropeways in Switzerland and also by the French licensee Applevage in France.

The original Katrin Cable Car in Bad Ischl had a total of 49 light-metal two-seater gondolas. At first it operated only as a summer attraction for visitors to what was once the Austrian Emperor’s favorite spa, but in December 1964 winter working began with single chairs instead off the gondolas. With the line of the ropeway located on a north-facing slope, the chairlift was ideal for skiing until well into spring, and year-round operation was assured.

Photo: Archiv Radim Polcer
Historical photo of the first Katrin Cable Car
Photo: Archiv Radim Polcer

Decommissioning and construction of a new installation

After almost twenty years, the ropeway was decommissioned in January 1976. Few people had the optimism to envisage a resumption of operations. Following numerous negotiations, the allocation of regional government funds for a full refurbishment, and the transfer of ownership to the municipal authority, however, the decision was finally taken to build a replacement system on the same line. Construction time was a mere seven months, and trial running began before Christmas 1978, with the official opening held in 1979. The new installation was a modern 4-seater gondola system supplied by the Girak company with automatic screw-rod grips based on the Müller detachable grip system. It has a transport capacity of almost 400 pph, which is almost double the original 200 pph. The old station structures were incorporated into the new ropeway, and all the original lattice towers were retained, with a wider cross arm and rope lifting frame mounted on the existing tower head to handle the increase in line gage to 4.00 m. For enhanced performance in strong side winds, additional towers were located in the two original 580 m spans so that the height of the rope above ground could be reduced to tree-top level. That measure increased the total number of towers from 17 to 25.

This was the first monocable circulating gondola ropeway to be built in Austria with a rope inclination of 100%. In order to meet the width constraints imposed by the existing station structures, 46 newly developed Austro Panorama cabins with automatic sliding doors were ordered from Traunsteinwerkstätten Josef Swoboda. Unlike the earlier models with hinged doors, they could be used without causing problems with available clearance for lateral swing of the cabins on the turnaround. As on the original installation, the drive is located in the top station, and the carrying-hauling rope is tensioned with an 18-ton counterweight in the bottom station. The total cost of construction for the new ropeway amounted to 26 million schillings in the old Austrian currency.

Modernization after 17 years of operation

In the course of a second refurbishment in 1996, the Müller grips, which were no longer in conformity with the regulations, were replaced by Girak cam-operated grips. In spite of the 100% maximum inclination of the line, conformity with all the codes and requirements was achieved with a single-grip solution. The existing station equipment was retained unchanged apart from some improvements made to the grip closing and opening lines with grip force testing. Within less than four decades, the Katrin Cable Car thus had three different automatic carrier attachment systems. In 1997 the obsolete single chairlift, known as the Katrinlift, was replaced with a new double chairlift supplied by Girak-Garaventa. In 2009 the electrical systems were modernized, but winter operations for skiers were discontinued only one year later. The double chairlift, which was still in very good condition, was sold and re-erected at Ski Park Gruň in the Czech Republic in 2013. Since then the Katrin Cable Car has been used as a pedestrian service only, carrying some 100,000 passengers per year. The Katrin is considered one of the finest mountains in the Salzkammergut region for the views it provides, including Bad Ischl itself and the lakes Wolfgangsee and Hallstättersee plus an impressive panorama to the south of the mountains of the Salzkammergut and the Dachstein massif. For passenger transportation, the cable car now has over 40 cabins, which have been painstakingly renovated step by step by local companies. In July 2019 the 60th anniversary of the Katrin Cable Car was celebrated, with one of the old two-seater gondolas on display in the bottom station.

Milestones for monocable circulating gondola ropeways in Austria

  • First circulating gondola ropeway: the Katrin Cable Car
  • First 4-seater gondola ropeways: Pardatschgratbahn in Ischgl, Planaibahn in Schladming and Rossstellebahn in Mellau, all built in 1972
  • First 6-seater gondola ropeway: Valiserabahn in the Montafon (1981)
  • Double grips replaced by single grips: 4-seater gondolas Zettersfeldbahn in Lienz and Schatzbergbahn in Wildschönau (1985)
  • First 12-passenger gondola ropeway: Schönleitenbahn 1 in Saalbach (1987)
  • First 8-passenger gondola ropeways: Achterjet in Flachau and Söll-Hochsöll (1988)
  • First 15-passenger gondola ropeway: Trogkofelbahn at Nassfeld (1995)
  • First 10-passenger gondola ropeway: Kombibahn Penken in Mayrhofen with full-size seats (2010)
  • In the 2019/2020 winter season there were a total of 308 detachable monocable gondola ropeways in service in Austria.

Technical Data

Katrin Cable Car 4-seater gondola ropeway, Bad Ischl

Elevation of bottom station474 m
Elevation of top station1,415 m
Line length2,490 m
Vertical difference941 m
Number of towers25
Rope diameter36 mm
Drivebottom station
Rated output280 kW
Tensioning systembottom station (counterweight)
Number of cabins40
Transit time11.8 min
Maximum line speed3.5 m/s
Rated transport capacity388 pph
Year of commissioning1978
ManufacturerGirak

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