In January 2012, it was 63 years from the moment when the seats of the famed cableway to Sněžka took their first passengers. It has been 63 years since it was put into operation and, although it sounds unbelievably, the cableway is almost in its original state, being thus the oldest working cableway in our country. It also rightly ranks among the most famous and frequented cableways in the Czech Republic.
The top of Sněžka, the highest mountain in the Czech Republic, has always been visited by tourists. As early as 1681, the fourteen-metre chapel of St. Vavřinec was built here. Then, in 1850, it was the chalet Slezká and, in 1868, the chalet Česká that was provided with a post office and a telegraph.
In relation to expansion of tourism after the World War II, a decision to build a cableway leading to Sněžka was made in the second half of the 1940s. It was the cableway number five in the Czech Republic, right after the cableway to Černá hora, Ještěd, Pustevny and Pláň. The original variant, which said that the cableway would lead from Obří důl over the Rudník Ravine and further to Sněžka, was rejected and the decision in favour of the variant with an intermediate station on Růžová hora was taken. The offer of the nationalized Chrudim's Transporta n.p. (former Wiesner chrudim) was chosen according to which new cableway technology, i.e. detachable two-seater chairs, was offered based on the licence bought from the Swiss company Von Roll. The chairs are bordered in a stationary state, their moving at stations and entering the route is ensured by an operator. The typical feature of the VON ROLL - VR 101 type chairs is that passengers sit sideways.
The construction of the cableway to Sněžka was commenced on 1 November 1947 by deforesting the first stretch of route, bringing needed material and construction of the auxiliary transport cableway from Lesovna to Růžová hora. In 1948, the construction continued by concreting foundations of stations and supports as well as by assembling technology. According to the costing, the total value of the cableway construction including building operations and drawing documentation was reckoned to be 4,796,900 crowns. The construction part was ensured by Czechoslovak construction plants, the plant TESKO.
Operation of the first section leading to Růžová hora was ceremonially opened on 15 January 1949. It awakened a great interest of the public and, within the first year, the cableway took 112,200 people up and 82,291 people down. In the meantime, finishing works were being done on the second, longer section from Růžová hora to the top of Sněžka. The auxiliary transport cableway was also an important aid here. On 10 November 1949, a trial run was commenced and, since 1 July 1950, the second section was in permanent operation. Originally, continuous run without changing at the intermediate station Růžová hora was taken into account, where chairs between both sections would be manually shifted along a rail, although in the end, it was decided that both sections will be permanently run separately (one of the reasons was, besides other things, a different type of chairs on both sections).
The cableway was always run by the Czechoslovak state-owned railways. As hardly anybody had experience in running cableways then, the launch of operation was not quite easy. The first major adjustment was carried out a few years later, when the electric motors were relocated under the construction of the driving station on the concrete foundations (originally, they were located on this construction). Further, within the first years, lots of technical problems had to be sorted out and many improvements carried out. Other problems were connected with extreme climatic conditions on Sněžka where supports in the second section were often covered with strong ice layer, so the transport cable would often fall out of pulley batteries. For that reason, in 1962-63, the company Transporta Chrudim made reconstruction of the second section in which some supports were lowered, some of them were completely removed or, on the contrary, added. Although this adjustment improved the situation, it did not solve the problems completely. In the winter 1968, the cable even fell off all supports starting from number 3 and higher and it took 5 days to put the cable back. In 1982, reconstruction of brakes, safety system and wiring was made so that the cableway would be in conformity with the standard ČSN 27 3005.
The operation of the cableway, particularly the second section, is affected by strong wind very often. Nearly half of days in a year, the second section was sometimes out of order for that reason. Wind mostly affects the final part of the cableway under the upper station where the cableway leads quite above the edge of Obří důl. On the top of Sněžka, wind often gusts up to 200 km/hour (55 m/s).
As early as 1970s, there were first signs of insufficient transport capacity of the cableway as there were often up to four-hour queues at the bottom station in Pec in summer time when the weather was nice. The highest number of tourists ever came here in 1972 and 1973 when more than 250,000 travellers were transported in each of the years. The total number of people the cableway has transported to Sněžka since 1949 up to now is more than 7 million persons.
The producer estimated the life span of the cableway technology at 17 years. The fact that the cableway to Sněžka was in operation actually in its original state for 63 years is almost unbelievable.
This is the reason why construction of a completely new, more modern cableway was being considered since 1976. The then study reckoned to build a two-cable system with four-seater cable cars of Transporta. At the end of 1980s, several further studies were worked out and an offer of the Austrian company Girak was being considered. The offer reckoned to build modern six-seater or eight-seater cable cars and to make the first section of the cableway longer as far as Lesovna.
In 1997, the cableway, as well as other five cableways of Czech Railways (Sněžka, Černá hora, Komáří Vížka, Javorový vrch and Ještěd), was privatized. Pec pod Sněžkou with its 51 became new owners (the town of Pec pod Sněžkou became the owner of all 100 share of the town of Pec pod Sněžkou.
As early as 1999, the service provider launched preparatory works heading towards the construction of the new cableway. A study was worked out which consisted in a completely new route of the first section as well as in relocation of the bottom station nearer to the town centre. In the first section, there would be a detachable four-seater chairlift of a length of 1,628 metres to Růžohorky with a 1,964-metre long downhill course back to Pec. The tender for delivery of the first section was won by the company Leitner. From Růžohorky to Sněžka, there would be a cableway with four-seater cable cars of a length of 2,971 metres and with an automatic angle station at Růžová hora (in the place of the current station) which would divert the route by 8-10° in the direction of the contemporary second section. Nevertheless, this variant was not accepted by nature protection authorities that conditioned the construction of a new ski centre in Růžohorky by preserving the original second section only "for the time of its ability to exist". The construction of the new cableway was thus postponed again.
Only during the next years, an agreement with the nature protection authorities was reached and the variant of the cableway reconstruction consisting in its original route from Pec to Sněžka as well as in relocation of the bottom station towards the chalet Lesovna was chosen. This time, a compromise relating to many conditions was made and the nature protection authorities finally agreed. After the long 30 years, preparation for reconstruction could be finally commenced. Technology of eight-seater cable cars was chosen for both sections. After consideration of all construction conditions, a decision to build a cableway with four-seater cable cars was made. The main point of the compromise is that the transport capacity of the new cableway will not exceed the capacity of the current cableway, i.e. 250 persons per hour.
The construction of the new cableway to Sněžka could thus be launched. The construction was commenced on 1 September 2011. The operation of the cableway in the section leading to Sněžka was closed on 13 May 2012 and, since then, only the section from Pec to Růžová hora was in operation. Transport of tourists was fully terminated on Sunday, 2 September 2012.
Type: VON ROll, typ VR 101
Producer: Transporta Chrudim (in the licence of Von Roll)
Sort: a two-section circulating passenger one-cable aerial tramway with detachable two-seater chairs and three boarding stations.
Spatial specification - elevation of the stations
Pec p.Sněžkou: 890 m.a.s.l.
Růžová hora (interchange): 1354 m.a.s.l.
Pec p.Sn. - Růžová hora
Růžová hora - Sněžka
In operation since:
|1560 m||1967 m|
|464 m||240 m|
|31,20 %||12,86 %|
|Drive position:||Růžová hora station||Růžová hora station|
|Stretching system:||by means of weight at the station Pec p.Sn.||by means of weight at the station Sněžka|
|Mass of the weight:||5,3 tons||12 tons|
|Main drive power:||75 kW||55 kW|
|Max. transport speed:||2,5 m/s||2,5 m/s|
|Ride time:||10,5 min||13,2 min|
|Transport cable diameter:||23 mm||23 mm|
|Transport cable type:||six-strand Warrington 6 x K13W-SFC 1570 B Zz|
|Stretching cable diameter:||40 mm||40 mm|
|Stretching cable type:||six-strand Seal 330 wires, XP winding, ČSN 02 4346.45|
|Time interval of chairs:||28,8 s||28,8 s|
|Chairs distance:||72 m||72 m|
|Number of seats:||44||55|
|Number of supports:||19||23|
|Transport capacity:||250 persons/hour||250 persons/hour|
|Note: since the operation was launched, it was used:|
|Transport cables:||26 pieces||28 pieces|
|Stretching cables:||10 pieces||9 pieces|
|Of these cables, by the end of 1959, the cable in the lower section was replaced 9 times and the one in the upper section 7 times.|