THE CABLE RAILWAY THRILLER OF SUMMER 1962

A real cable railway thriller in Paznaun. In the summer of 1962, work began on building the Silvretta cable railway. The site was found, the valley and mountain stations were built. Then the cable was delivered. The problem was, it was too heavy. Far too heavy. Then something amazing happened.

The cable railway specialists did the calculations. The bearer cable of the railway, which was supposed to open in the winter season of 1963, was 4 150 metres long with a diameter of 63 millimetres. That made an impressive net weight of 63,000 kilos – 63 tonnes.

The cable was manufactured by “Felten & Guilleaume AG” in Vienna. It was rolled onto an enormous drum for transportation, to be brought to Paznaun on a six-axle heavy load transport. Then logistics specialists Gebrüder Weiss and the Swiss company Welti Furrer AG came together to solve an apparently insoluble problem: the road from Landeck to Paznaun was too narrow, and the transport was too heavy – the cable and the lorry with trailer came to a total of almost 90 tonnes in weight. It wouldn’t work.

So they decided on plan B. Although there were serious reservations, the transport would be sent through the Montafon valley over the Bielerhöhe pass. Yes, the road was winding and led through countless twists and turns from Partenen over Bielerhöhe to Ischgl. Yes, some of the bridges could not cope with a load of 90 tonnes securely. No, none of the insurance companies was willing to provide a policy for the transport against any possible damage to the roads.

But there was no other possible way to bring the cable to Ischgl.

What could be done?

The people of Ischgl decided to roll up their sleeves and get down to work.

First of all, the stretches of road which were too narrow for the massive heavy load were widened. Then the bridges which could not reliably bear the weight of the bearer cable were reinforced and secured with powerful wooden constructions.

When the cable drum was finally delivered on the track from Vienna to Bludenz on 22 and 23 August 1963, a huge convoy got underway. A VW Beetle with flashing blue lights drove at the front to keep the road free. Then came the transport companies’ group of lorries. Two lorries pulled the load, one pushed. The cable was carried on a deep, six-axle trailer and brought at walking pace to the place where it was set to make history as the basis of the 13th aerial cable railway in the Tyrol.

The complex and dangerous transportation went well. When the cable arrived in Ischgl, the celebrations began. Nobody knew yet how much hard work, and how many setbacks, awaited the team from the new Silvretta cable railway.

To begin with, the cable had to be carried by hand up the Idalp by countless helpers – an unparalleled work effort which could well be described as heroic. And when everything was in place and the cable railway was ready for its trial run for the grand opening in winter 1963 – it crashed.

The story of this setback – and how decisively Ischgl reacted to it – will be here in Trisanna soon.