The Swiss president, who has a fear of heights, took the trip surprisingly well, and on reaching her destination, said, “What we do in politics is trivial in comparison to this work,” adding the ride was “pure thrill, just great.”
A funicular railway, also known as an inclined plane or cliff railway, is a type of cable railway in which a cable attached to a pair of tram-like vehicles on rails moves them up and down a steep slope, the ascending and descending vehicles counterbalancing each other.
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Actually, the oldest documented funicular railway dates back to 1515. It was used to haul goods into Hohensalzburg Castle at Salzburg in Austria. Through the ages, funicular lines have been used in regions where steep mountains or inclines in the topography prevented normal travel or navigation.
Around the world, you can still find funicular systems, from the Old Quebec Funicular in Quebec City, Canada, to Spain, with the Bulnes funicular being an unusual two-rail installation that runs in a tunnel. Malaysia, Hong Kong, Norway and Chile all have funicular lines that are still operational.
A string of giant hamster wheels
The Stoos funicular railway line has to be in a class all by itself. The cabins on the 52 million-Swiss franc ($52.6 million) funicular resemble a line of rotating hamster wheels going up the mountain, but the cylindrical cabins have floors that always keep the passengers level.
The railway is also the steepest funicular line in the world today, surpassing the Gelmerbahn, which climbs to the Gelmersee lake in the Bern region of Switzerland. It has a track length of 1,028 meters (3,373 feet) and an inclination of 106 percent.
The Stoosbahn, on the other hand, climbs 743 meters (2,438 feet) over a span of 1,738 meters (5702 feet). At one point, the train needs to move at a nearly 48-degree angle to negotiate a 110-meter (361 feet) climb while traveling only 100 meters (328 feet) horizontally.
The new line replaces one that was in operation for 33 years. The new funicular not only goes up the mountain at a 110-degree incline but goes through three newly constructed tunnels along the route. The project took 14 years to complete. The Stoosbahn went into service on Sunday.
To do that, the funicular features high-tech cylindrical carriages with hydraulically-controlled floors so passengers will remain upright as the line travels up the Alpine slopes outside Lake Lucerne. This unique feature was made possible by ABB Global, a leader in industrial digitalization.
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The company designed the two custom-built motors that allow the new Stoos funicular to climb the 744-meter difference in altitude at an angle of almost 48 degrees in half of the time it would have otherwise taken.