PALM SPRINGS, CA - The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway constructed in rugged Chino Canyon on the north edge of Palm Springs - about two hours by car from Los Angeles and San Diego - did not just happen. It required foresight, planning, financing and, most of all a vision. For years, it was the dream of a young electrical engineer named Francis F. Crocker to "go up there where it's nice and cool".
Crocker's dream began in 1935 while he was on a trip to Banning, California, with newspaper publisher Carl Barkow. Mopping his brow in the heat of the day, Crocker gazed on longingly at the still snow-capped peak of Mt. San Jacinto 10,804 feet high. At that moment, "Crocker's Folly,'' as it was soon dubbed by one newspaper woman, was born - a tramway up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon.
In the late 1930s, Crocker enlisted the aid of desert pioneer and co-manager of the famed Palm Springs Desert Inn, O. Earl Coffman, in his tramway project. Coffman eventually was named chairman of the committee to plan the attraction.
Even though the enthusiasm for the tramway idea was high locally, political roadblocks caused numerous disappointing setbacks. Twice, a tramway enabling bill passed the California State legislature, only to be vetoed by then Governor Culbert Olson. With the outbreak of World War II, the plans were shelved.
However, Crocker's vision of a tramway to scale those cliffs to the coolness of the San Jacinto mountains never died. Years after the original plans were shelved, they were dusted off and the battle enjoined.
In 1945, a new tram bill was passed and Governor Earl Warren signed the measure creating the Mount San Jacinto Winter Park Authority. Coffman, who had labored long and hard to see the vision realized, was named the Authority's first chairman.
By 1950, technicians were moving ahead on designs for the Tramway, spending more than $250,000 solving riddles of road and tower construction. Funds for the construction of the Tramway were raised by the sale of $8.5 million in private revenue bonds. Not one cent of public funds was used for either the construction or operation of the Tramway. The 35-year bonds paid 5½ percent interest and were paid off in 1996. The Korean conflict was to cause yet another delay, but the ambitious project began to take form in July 1961.
Construction of the Tramway was an engineering challenge and was soon labeled the "eighth wonder of the world.'' The superlative was earned because of the ingenious use of helicopters in erecting four of the five supporting towers. Some 20 years later, the Tramway was designated an historical civil engineering landmark.
The first tower is the only one that can be reached by road. The helicopters flew some 23,000 missions without mishap during the 26 months of construction, hauling men and materials needed to erect the four other towers and the 35,000 sq. ft. mountain station.
Francis Crocker's dream was completed in 1963; the inaugural ride occurred on September 14th with scores of local and state dignitaries and celebrities on hand.
In 1966 a 7,800 ft. granite spire in the canyon was dedicated to Coffman who died in August 1967; Francis Crocker died in 1992.
The Tramway announced in 1998 that it was embarking on a modernization program that would see the construction and installation in 2000 of new cars and updating of its facilities. Beginning in September 2000, passengers rode the world's largest rotating tram cars, constructed by the tram's original car manufacturer, Von Roll Tramways (now owned by Dopplmayr Tramways).
More than 12 million people have been safely transported by the Tramway into the majestic mountains overlooking the Coachella Valley since the attraction opened in September 1963.
The carriage contains 24 wheels and supports the cabin on the track ropes on which it rides. There is one carriage per cabin.
Seen here are the hanger pins which attach the cabin hanger to the rolling carriage. These pins are capable of measuring and displaying the cabin payload.
The cabin hanger attaches the carriage to the cabin. It also contains a ladder and inspection platform for the maintenance crew to work on the towers, slack carriers, and carriages. The cabin hanger is 34 feet long.
|Main Drive Gear Box-pre installation
Just prior to installation, the main drive gear box and coupling to the main drive wheel are pictured in this view. The 1100Hp DC drive motor provides the input power to this unit.
|Main Drive Gear Box-installed
Here are the main drive gear box and the service brake rotor installed and working.
|Main haul rope drive wheel
The haul rope, or cable, is pulled by this wheel, in turn moving the cars. This drive wheel is located at the Valley Station.
|Wheel Cable Wraps
The wheel pictured here allows two cable wraps around the main drive wheel for adequate friction to pull the cables. It also provides braking once the cabin is in dock.
A detail shot of the 40mm compacted hauling cable. Both cabins are attached to this cable which spans the distance from the Valley Station to the mountain. It is 13,100 ft long and weighs 4.22 lbs. per foot.
Shown just prior to installation are the bull wheels which guide the haul rope in and out of the buildings and to the main drive wheel. There are two of these wheels at the Mountain station that help suspend the haul rope counterweight.
|Track Rope Counter-weight
Seen at the bottom of the well, is the track rope counter-weight which keeps tension on the track cables as the cars travel between towers. It weighs approx 120 tons.
|Rescue and emergency drive engine
Being set into place is a Cummins 6 Cylinder 190hp hydrostatic drive, used as a back up to the main drive.
|Rescue Drive Counterweight
The rescue drive counterweight provides a method to lower the cars to the Valley Station with the use of gravity only.
The scissor lift, pictured here, is used to attach water tanks or heavy freight and equipment to the underside of the cabins.
This view shows the forms used for a 130yd concrete pour to secure additional steel structure during the remodel.
|Docking Brake Hydraulics
The hydraulic system, which is adjacent to the main drive wheel, controls the docking brake used as the cars come into the stations.
|Elevation of lower terminal (Valley Station):||2,643ft||806m ASL|
|Elevation of upper terminal (Mountain Station):||8,516ft||2597m ASL|
|Difference of elevation:||5,873ft||1,791m|
|Actual length traveled along cables:||12,780ft||3,895m|
|Average gradient:||26 degrees|
|Maximum gradient:||42 degrees|
|Number of intermediate towers:||5|
|The first tower is the tallest at approximately||227ft|
|Car dimensions:||8ft high inside||18ft in diameter|
|Weight (carriage, hanger and cabin) empty:||22,000lb||10,000kg|
|Weight (carriage, hanger and cabin) loaded:||13,600lb||6,200kg|
|Capacity of each car: Approx. 80 passengers plus 1 car operator|
|Maximum existing traveling speed: 1,970 linear feet per minute.||21 mph||10 m/sec|
|Maximum future traveling speed: 2,165 linear feet per minute.||24 mph||11 m/sec|
|Maximum possible traveling speed while passing towers: 1,575 linear feet per minute||18 mph||8 m/sec|
|System of electric drive: 3 Phase Regenerative D.C. SCR|
|Maximum output of DC hoist motor:||1,100 HP||1,350 KW|
|Continuous output:||675 HP||855 KW|
|Number and size of cables:
|The cable span and number of slack rope carriers:|
|Valley Station to Tower 1 (1 slack carrier)||1,148ft||349m|
|Tower 1 to Tower 2 ( 5 slack carriers)||3,280ft||1,000m|
|Tower 2 to Tower 3 (4 slack carriers)||3,225ft||983m|
|Tower 3 to Tower 4 (4 slack carriers)||3,455ft||1,053m|
|Tower 4 to Tower 5 (1 slack carrier)||968ft||295m|
|Tower 5 to Mt. Station (no slack carrier)||695ft||212m|
|Individual Tower Heights:|
|FACT: Each pair of track cables is tensioned by counterweights at the Valley Station, weighing in excess of 120 tons each.|
|FACT: The haul and counter ropes are tensioned by a counterweight at the Mountain Station weighing 67 tons.|
|FACT: Other rotating trams in the world:
Mt. Titlis, Engelberg, Switzerland
Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
Bring the kids, or come play like kids…
To an affordable getaway that offers endless activities paired with casual relaxation. Palm Springs is where you can be yourself and everyone is welcome. Whether you're planning a family vacation, a couple who wants a romantic retreat, or planning a vacation with your friends… Palm Springs is "fun in the sun" year-round.From palms to pines…
You'll discover an outdoor playground surrounded by breathtaking mountains and canyons. Explore miles of hiking trails, ride on the world's largest rotating tramcar, or challenge yourself to a round of golf at Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort in Palm Springs.Family fun adventures…
Begin at Knott's Soak City water park, explore a collection of vintage World War II aircraft at the Palm Springs Air Museum, then experience The Living Desert, a 1,200-acre wildlife and botanical parkPalm Canyon Drive lives up to its name…
Shopping modern boutiques and antique galleries on the palm-lined avenue, dining alfresco in a charming cafe… this is relaxation at its finest. Beautiful artwork, handcrafted items and street entertainment are offered every Thursday at the outdoor Villagefest in downtown Palm Springs.Art, theater, music and gaming…it's all here!
Enjoy the long legged lovelies of the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, then enjoy a player's paradise at the downtown Spa Resort Casino. The Annenberg and Palm Canyon Theatres offer up a season of live drama, comedy and music for theater lovers. Stroll through the world-class collection and sculpture garden of the Palm Springs Art Museum, or discover local artists on an evening art walk.
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