Three of the highest capacity lifts America has ever seen continue to take shape this spring at Walt Disney World in preparation for a 2019 opening. With steel coming together for the first two megastations announced almost a year ago, the Hollywood Studios gondola seems on track to be completed first.
To keep things consistent, I’ll start this month’s update at Epcot, where the longest of three Disney World lifts will terminate. This zigzagging line will feature two intermediate stations between Epcot’s International Gateway and the south end of the Caribbean Beach Resort. Foundation work is in progress at all four stations and the second to last tower (number 25 I think) was recently set near the park entrance. You can see in the bottom left of the above photo that it might be finished in a green shade to blend into its surroundings.
More towers are either standing or soon will be between Epcot and the first turn station near the parking lot for Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. This section appears to have around seven towers total. The ride will be very cool with one water crossing, a forest section and Eiffel Tower views.
Forms are now in place for the significant amount of concrete that will support the Board Walk angle station. Riders will stay in cabins here as they detach, turn approximately 110 degrees and accelerate again.
The alignment then crosses more water, through another forest and an eight lane thoroughfare before arriving at the new Riviera Resort and another sweeping turn in the other direction.
This angle station is tracking a bit ahead of its sibling with the eight concrete station masts recently being poured. The adjacent tower footers are, in a word, massive.
Skyliner cabins will float over the sprawling Caribbean Beach Resort and pass a few tall towers on the short jaunt southbound from Riviera. The probable drive station for this line and two more will converge at a T and form the Caribbean Beach hub, which grows larger every day. In the center of the below photo, you’ll notice what might be the longest lift terminal ever built in America, at least until the Skyliner angle stations are completed in a few months. I count approximately 180 tires on the DHS station alone.
Look closely and there are two distinct turnarounds on the east end of the station with chain conveyors between them. Something very unique is afoot with some sort of split flow scenario, presumably to achieve very high throughput and better serve guests with strollers and wheelchairs.
There are two more terminals about to go in tangent to the Hollywood Studios one. Crews are simultaneously building two cabin storage areas and buildings that will cover the loading plazas where thousands of guests will transfer each and every day.
D-Line parts can be seen everywhere – from tire banks and bullwheels to tower tubes and sheave trains. I assume much or all of them came by ship from Europe and can’t help but think Doppelmayr’s production teams are working like crazy. While all this is going on in Florida, the big D is also ramping to install at least twenty ski lifts in the US and Canada including the similarly ambitious gondola project at Blackcomb.
Nearly all the towers for the Hollywood Studios line are now in place. The ones in the forest went up most recently and are the tallest we’ve seen yet with the first big combo assemblies.
A second station is being assembled this week near the Hollywood Studios entrance. It looks like it will have the same double turnaround setup as the other end at Caribbean Beach.
Gondola number three departs from the shared hub and arrives at a return terminal in the middle of Hourglass Lake. With most of the concrete finished for this line, assembly work seems focused elsewhere at the moment. There’s till no sign of the four towers set to be placed atop pilings in the lake.
Hundreds of workers are making tremendous progress and the Skyliner seems poised to become one of the world’s most capable lift systems. I will update again in June, approximately one year from when all three gondolas are rumored to open for millions of visitors to enjoy.