Lift Profile: Iron Mountain Tramway

Three cabins near the summit of the Iron Mountain Tramway in Glenwood Springs, CO.
Three cabins nearing the summit of the Iron Mountain Tramway in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

The Iron Mountain Tramway provides the only public access to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  Built by Leitner-Poma in 2002, it was one of the first pulse gondolas to open in North America.  The system debuted with four sets of two CWA Omega III cabins and now has six pulses of three for a total of 18 cabins.  Ultimate design capacity is 36 cabins in groups of three which would achieve a capacity of 543 passengers per hour per direction.   With a top speed of 1,000 feet per minute, the trip takes about seven minutes including two slows along the way.  If more pulses are added, the trip time will increase as the system slows to a crawl whenever cabins are loading and unloading.  This is one of the disadvantages of pulse systems.

Notice the entire center loading platform and guides move hydraulically with the motor room above.
The entire center loading platform and guides move hydraulically with the motor room above.

The gondola rises 1,351 feet and has a slope length is 4,432 feet.  The bottom drive terminal is a Poma Alpha model with a 400 HP electric motor.  Because this is also the tension terminal, the entire loading platform moves hydraulically with the motor room and bullwheel.

Bottom terminal adjacent to Interstate 70.
Bottom terminal adjacent to Interstate 70.

A unique feature of this installation is that the 18 towers also support water, natural gas and sewer lines for the summit facilities.  All three lines are suspended from a 3/16″ cable attached just under each tower’s crossarm.  The water line supplies 42 gallons per minute to a tank located at the summit.  The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board approved transport of natural gas along the line because the fiberglass pipe used has a safety factor of 30 relative to the pressure of the gas.

Water, sewer and natural gas lines are suspended from each of the gondola's 18 towers.
Water, sewer and natural gas lines are suspended from each of the gondola’s 18 towers.

This is one of those systems that operates long hours with limited windows for maintenance.  In the peak summer season, the gondola runs 14+ hours per day.  It is also open 300+ days per year including at least one day every single week.  Luckily, Leitner-Poma is just down the road in Grand Junction so parts are close at hand.

Summit terminal of the Iron Mountain Tramway.
Summit terminal of the Iron Mountain Tramway.
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