From top to top: Funicular
If you are afraid of heights, you better forget about the new cable car, which connects two mountain peaks at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia. Passenger gondolas fly here at an altitude of 435 m. Between two adjacent support towers they cover a distance of 3 km. This is the world's largest span for devices of this kind. The construction of a cableway worth $ 52 million began in 2007. The first step was to put steel supports. Five giant reels with a cable were brought from one of the Swiss factories. At first they passed through the Panama Canal and by sea up to the state of Washington. Then the train drove them to the city of Whistler, where they were loaded onto 48-wheeled platforms, and then tractors pulled and pushed these platforms along a winding mountain gravel road at an average speed of 1.5 km / h. It took three months to get to the road, and in order to stretch the cables through the valley, the help of helicopters was required. The cable car will open in December and will allow guests of the largest ski resort in North America to quickly move from Mount Whistler to Mount Blackcomb, having the opportunity to ride with each of them, without going down to the bottom of the valley. The new funicular will have hard work: during the 2010 Olympic Games, which will be held in nearby Vancouver, this resort will act as a hospitable host, providing its slopes for skiing events.
1. Drive system
The cableway is set in motion by a 2400 hp drive system located on top of Whistler Mountain. In normal mode, its power is only 900 hp, the rest of the reserve is required in order to withstand the starting overload. The system consists of two alternating current motors that rotate a horizontal pulley with a diameter of 5 m. A traction cable is thrown across the pulley, which drives the nacelle, which rolls along the stationary bearing cables. The second pulley mounted on top of the Blackcomb is equipped with a hydraulic tensioner for the tow cable.
2. Bearing support
The cable is supported by four load-bearing steel towers - two on each slope. They were assembled section by section using a crane, and a team of Swiss climbers led the dock. The largest of the supports is 64 m high. Their total mass is 441 tons, and the total volume of concrete foundations is 3800 m³.
The cable car consists of 28 gondolas that travel at a speed of 27 km / h and cover a five-kilometer path in 11 minutes. Each gondola accommodates 28 passengers, so for an hour the cable car can carry 4100 people. Two gondolas have a transparent floor, so thrill-seekers can admire the valley right under their feet. When the gondola arrives at the station, it detaches from the traction cable and brakes on the pneumatic wheels. Further along the guide rail, she comes to the platform, where passengers can enter and exit. Then the cabin accelerates to the speed of the traction cable, docking occurs, after which the flight over the precipice begins.
4. Rescue equipment
If the main power plant fails, a standby diesel engine with a capacity of 270 hp will work. Its capacity is enough to send four rescue cabins, which will return hovering passenger gondolas to the stations, along the load-bearing ropes. “Even if all the rest of the mechanics fail, we can still save all the passengers from this huge trap, ” says Warren Sparks, CEO of Doppelmayer CTEC Ltd, which produced this miracle. Each rescue cabin has a manipulator arm that can cling to a paralyzed gondola and tow it to one of the supports. There, passengers will be lowered to the ground using climbing ropes and harnesses from a height that may exceed 60 m.
5. Early warning system
In order to avoid catastrophes (at least, like in 1998 in Italy, when the plane damaged the cable car), this funicular has an early warning system known as OCAS - an obstacle collision avoidance system. With the help of radar, this system tracks nearby planes flying by. As soon as a threat is noticed, flashers light up on the towers and a sound warning is transmitted on the radio frequencies used in aviation. “Those warning red balls that are usually hung on ropeways are not very noticeable for high-speed pilots, ” Warren Sparks explains.The article was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 12, December 2008).