Cableway turns 90

The current cable car upgraded in 1997.

It was in 1926 that a Norwegian engineer, Trygve Stromsoe, suggested a cableway for Table Mountain.

Three years later, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company was founded and on October 4, 1929, visitors got an opportunity to go up to the mountain by cable car.

On Friday, October 4, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway celebrated its 90th anniversary of operations.

When the first cable car, made of steel and wood, started operating it could only carry 20 passengers.

Ninety years later, visitors can make use of the two cable cars that carry about 65 passengers and get them up the mountain in five minutes. More than 800 people can enjoy the trip hourly.

In the past nine decades, the cableway has seen three upgrades and the company prides itself on the fact that it has been accident-free since the inception of the cable cars.

In 1958, the cable cars were upgraded and thus increased the capacity, and they were constructed out of metal and had open windows. The upgrades that were done in 1974 increased the capacity to 28. The last upgrade was done in 1997 when the two cable cars with revolving floors were installed.

Former chairman, Louis de Waal, said the upgrades in 1997 increased the capacity, thus boosting tourism and invited visitors from across the world to experience it.

But, managing director, Wahida Parker, said it has not been a walk in the park. She said the cableway has, thus far, transported 28 millions of visitors to the mountain.

She thanked the current staff members and those who led long before she could be part of it. She said they’re constantly looking for ways to improve the visitor experience and welcome 28 million more.

“Somebody envisioned that Cape Town would be the place people who’d want to visit and we’re at the brink of that vision becoming reality,” she said.

“Many of the people would have had 30 years and more service and I’m proud that I get to spend my days with them.”

She said the nominations and the accolades Table Mountain had scooped were testimony of the hard work done by the dedicated staff members.

Sharing these sentiments, City of Cape Town’s mayor, Dan Plato, said they were proud of the iconic mountain and the love it continued to bring to the city.

“The world is proud of that mountain and that is important for Cape Town, the image of the city and that needs to be recognised,” he said.

Mr Plato said the cableway had come a long way and that the mountain was announced as one of the Seven Wonders of Nature in 2011.

“In 2016 the mountain had its 25th million visitor and this year, Table Mountain and the cableway along with the city and our international airport are nominated in the global categories of the World Travel Awards,” he said.

MrPlato said he did not see why they could not win all three awards, looking at the work that was being done to put it on the global map.

“Looking at all the challenges, including unemployment figures, we need the renovations, the work so that we can keep our economy and hire people so people can put bread on their tables,“ he said.

Hartmut Von Bleichert, a great-great nephew of Mr Stromsoe, the engineer behind the cableway, flew down from Italy for the celebration.

It was also his first time in South Africa.

He said he was grateful that his family had been invited to the celebration.

He said his family company had developed many other cable cars in the world.

“I’m very proud of what my ancestors have done, they were engineers and had worked a lot. For this reason they deserve to be celebrated – they are pioneers in engineering,” he said.