What makes a cable car a really good cable car? An object lesson using the 3-S-Pardatschgratbahn as a model.

1 Everything stays stable
Often the lift supports are enough to make a cable car cabin wobble. 3-S cableways like the Pardatschgratbahn have the advantage of being particularly stable. This is due firstly to the weight of the cabin: it weighs 2.5 tonnes with the steel suspension gear, including the heavy real glass panels as well. Secondly, the three cables from which the cabins hang make for an especially smooth ride. The two carrier cables ensure that the weight is better distributed, whilst the traction cable in the middle pulls the cabins to the top. “Even with wind speeds of over 60km per hour, the cable car can still ride safely and smoothly,” says Albrecht Pfeifer, deputy operations manager of 3-S Pardatschgratbahn. The three cables also lend the cable car system its name.

2 Good timing
When 28 people try to fit into a gondola, it can get pretty hectic. So it’s only sensible for a cable car to go slowly where people are getting in and out – and then much more quickly again when it’s back on the mountain. This only works if the cable car can be coupled: as soon as a cabin enters the station, it uncouples from the traction cable so it can pass slowly through the station.

3 Heated seats
No, everything wasn’t better in the old days. Heated seats are one of the little things that have made life in winter a bit more comfortable. And there’s no call for anyone to feel guilty about it. The Pardatschratbahn has a hub generator built into three of the total of 8 rollers in each of the cabins. This works in the same way as a bicycle dynamo. “The energy they create is also used to heat the cabins,” says Albrecht Pfeifer.

4 Everything works
When you’re sitting in a cable car, you don’t want to have to think about the effort involved in getting up the 1,251m height of the Pardatschgrat in a few minutes. You want to enjoy the ride, breathe out, stretch out your legs a bit. But the mountain station alone is pretty much a miracle: it rests on 29 individual foundations, each of which is independent from the others and can be moved apart from the others hydraulically. The reason? The station stands in the permafrost, so if the mountain station sinks, the individual foundations can be raised separately.

5 Small movements are all that’s needed
When the suppliers send their lorries to the cableway at 7 in the morning, everything is already prepared. The same lifting platform which brings the cabins out of storage and onto the cable also lifts the goods from the delivery car park up into the 3 S Pardatschgrat station. Here, whole palettes can be pushed into the cabins, because the middle banks of seats can be folded upwards. It sounds easy, it is easy – but it’s not as obvious as it sounds.