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New Tram Cars at Ober Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, TN --
Posted: April 2007

Ober Gatlinburg has a new era of transportation to the top of Mt. Harrison to begin when the original cable cars of the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway are replaced by a pair of modernized giant vehicles later this month.

Ober Gatlinburg officials announced April 18, 2007 that the switch out of cars in the $1 million project will take place during its annual preventive maintenance period scheduled the last week of April and the first week of May.

The cars were purchased through Doppelmayr CTEC, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. Designed, engineered and constructed by CWA Constructions in Olten, Switzerland, the new tram cars and carrier arms are made of a high grade aluminum alloy, the same used in the aerospace industry. CWA is the largest manufacturer of ropeway cabins and gondolas in the world. Construction of the cars and carriers began in November and was completed in mid-March.

The dimensions of the new vehicles are identical to the cars they are replacing, allowing Ober Gatlinburg to use the existing loading docks and towers, though the new trams offer 15 percent more glass viewing area.

The original tram cars have been in service for nearly 34 years. Up until 1972, skiers wound their way slowly and precariously up and down snow-covered Mt. Harrison en route to Gatlinburg's ski resort, which opened in 1962. That winter, the idea to provide a safer, more comfortable means to reach the ski area was explored, and Gatlinburg's Aerial Tramway was born. Construction of the tramway started in September of 1972 and the tramway began operation on August 5, 1973. On August 5, 2007 the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway will celebrate its 34th anniversary.

Installation of the new cars comprises Phase II of Ober Gatlinburg’s continuing effort to keep the tramway system modernized. During Phase I in 2001, Ober completed a major upgrade to the tramway electronics and computer system and installed new control panels in the cars and replaced the brakes and drive motor to conform to new safety standards.

The switching of the first car will begin on Tuesday, April 24, 2007. The existing tram car will be lowered to the ground at the downtown Tramway terminal and then detached from the carrier arm. The carrier will then be detached from the carriage. A crane will be utilized to remove the tram car and carrier from the loading area, and to place the new tram and carrier. The crew will then attach the carrier arm to the carriage and the tram car to the carrier arm. That tram car will then go to the mountain-top terminal and the same procedure will be used to install the second tram car at the base of the mountain. This process is expected to take five or six days.

Before the tram can re-open to the public, a load test will be performed with the assistance of the Project Engineer from Garaventa in Switzerland, a technician from Frey AG in Switzerland, and elevator inspectors from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development's Regulations and Compliance Division. Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway is scheduled to reopen on Friday, May 4, 2007 at 10:00 a.m.

This entire project is overseen by Danny Dixon, Tramway Superintendent, who has over 31 years of service with Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway. The maintenance staff, many of whom have been employed at Ober Gatlinburg and Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway for a decade or more, will be performing the majority of the installation of the new cars.

The tramway has transported over 18 million passengers since opening, with service from downtown Gatlinburg available approximately every 20 minutes and the ride covering a distance of 2.1 miles to the resort. Along the way, riders of all ages enjoy a magnificent panorama of Gatlinburg and the Smokies, taking in the changing seasons and splendor of the mountains.


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