Aluminium encyclopaedia

Cable railways

Cableways became important with the discovery about 1830 of wire rope by the German mining engineer Wilhelm Albert (1787-1846). Different types of cable railways quickly came into being, especially for the transport of goods:

  • With aerial cableways or cable cars, the tubs or gondolas (cabins) hang on rollers on support cables and are drawn by haulage cables. With endless cableways the hangers are fixed to the support cable, which is also the haulage cable.
  • With funicular railways, the cabins are on rails.
  • Lift cages in mines and high-rise buildings hang, in guide rails, on a haulage cable, which is also the support cable.
  • Hanging railways have a rail instead of a support cable.


From the 1950s onwards, many aerial cableways were built especially in the mountains for tourism and winter sports. There are numerous passenger lifts in every large town.

Aluminium has been used as the material for the cabins of all types of cableway since the 1920s because it combines properties like low density, good strength and high corrosion resistance with ease of construction. At first a steel framework encased in aluminium sheet was used but today the framework is made from aluminium profiles. The size of a cabin ranges from space for one or two people up to 150 and more.