More pictures and details are filtering out from Hochgurgl, Austria where the Kirchenkarbahn opened Dec. 10th. This 10-passenger gondola wouldn’t be particularly notable but for the fact that it’s Doppelmayr’s first production model of the next-generation detachable lift called D-Line.
First a little history. Doppelmayr introduced the Uni-G terminal in 2000, replacing the “Spacejet” model of the 1990s. After the merger of Doppelmayr and Garaventa in 2002, the company continued to offer Stealth III and Uni-G detachable lifts in the US. In 2003, Doppelmayr CTEC added a North American-design called the Uni-GS and built 88 of them before discontinuing the model in 2009. With the Stealth gone since 2004, the Uni-G became the only Doppelmayr detachable product worldwide until now.
German architect Werner Sobek designed the D-Line terminal and he’s apparently well known-enough to have an English Wikipedia page. His enclosure is almost entirely composed of windows with a modern, boxy look that I’m not sold on. Setting appearance aside, Doppelmayr says D-Line can support line speeds of up to 7 m/s or 1,378 feet a minute. This is a big deal; the fastest circulating ropeway I know of today maxes out at 1,212 FPM. The Kirchenkarbahn uses a gearbox from Eisenbeiss and controls from Frey Austria.
D-Line isn’t just a new terminal. There are re-designed grips, sheaves and even updated cabins from CWA. The Kirchenkarbahn has a wider line gauge of 6.4 meters vs. 5.2-5.6 m on a typical 8-passenger gondola. This is to accommodate more spacious CWA Omega cabins that are 9% wider with 11% longer seats and 12.5% more payload capacity compared with today’s Omega IV. While it sounds nice, the seat change works out to just over a third of an inch more room per passenger. Other than geometry, the cabins look exactly the same as before.
Doppelmayr’s new sheaves can accommodate rope widths up to 64mm and up to 42% higher loads than today’s equivalent. The new D-Line grip is an over-center, double position grip, meaning it stays locked open in the terminal like the DT grips it will likely replace. I imagine the single-position Agamatic grip will remain an option on new Doppelmayr lifts into the future (Sunshine Village and the Hermitage Club were the only North American customers to opt for the DT over the Agamatic this year.)
The D-Line is more of an evolution than revolution for Doppelmayr with the fundamental system staying the same. It will probably be a few years before the new design makes its way to the US or Canada. Both the Uni-G and Uni Spacejet terminals saw adjustments in their appearance after the first year so it’s entirely possible future D-Line skins could look different. And I still haven’t figured out why there are pictures of motorcycles on the cabins of the Kirchenkarbahn.