Eight is the magic number of gondola terminals now vertical in Florida. Three haul ropes will soon connect these stations at two iconic theme parks and four distinct resorts to create the Disney Skyliner network. With innovative loading capabilities and huge capacity, the Skyliner is poised to become a world showcase of gondola technology in 2019.
The gateway of Walt Disney World’s gondola system is being assembled this month at Epcot. Like most of the Skyliner stations, cabins will likely transit two separate loading zones to accommodate throngs of passengers of all ages. Each Skyliner building features a different theme and the outside of this one is going to be dark gray.
Ten or so towers after departing Epcot, riders will pass through a turn station near the BoardWalk Inn. Because this location won’t see any loading or unloading action, Disney didn’t release any artwork showing what it will ultimately look like. While we wait for the rest of the structure, we can see it will be slightly shorter than other stations as cabins are simply turning and accelerating again.
A series of three bullwheels will deflect the haul rope as all three segments of the Epcot line will move together with just one drive station. Think for a moment about the numbers of switches, stop buttons and tires on this lift and then realize it is just one of three. The entire system will have around 51 towers, 41 of which are already standing.
After another stretch of towers will come an even bigger angle station at the Riviera Resort and northern edge of the Caribbean Beach Resort. Ends of this terminal are already covered in dark green D-Line cladding but the middle may see something different. Again, three bullwheels and numerous sheaves will handle the rope through the station while cabins take different paths. The just-over-90-degree turn appears to make the bullwheel geometry work out nicely.
Build out continues at the Caribbean Beach hub, home to all three drives and some maintenance bays. Beyond the ever-expanding roof, new depression towers recently rose at the front ends of two stations. Doppelmayr still needs to erect two more towers here along with rails in the two parking areas. They are rumored to be outdoors and for emergency use only. Otherwise, Skyliner cabins are going to be on the move carrying tens of thousands of passengers each day and night.
At the other end of the second line, Hollywood Studios station is looking mighty close with a new concrete roof over the loading/unloading zones. This retro-themed station will be the classiest way to reach the world’s ninth busiest amusement park (Epcot is seventh.)
The third gondola to Pop Century and Art of Animation is a focus of current construction with five towers still to be erected and the return taking shape over water. I think this will be the first lift terminal (and towers) built in water outside of Europe or Asia.
The photo below is of particular interest. An educated guess is the gray pallets are cabin hangers, which I’ve seen come in stacks of five before. I count 43 clusters which could mean around 215 cabins total. I also think I spot a haul rope, lots of grips in crates, the five Hourglass Lake towers and maybe a lone cabin under a tarp.
Generation Gap station sports red trumpets and green grip attach/detach rails, which could mean they’ll be visible in perpetuity. On normal D-Line lifts, the latter are blue with Doppelmayr logos and elsewhere at Disney World they’ve been painted gray.
This project has me wishing every lift build attracted paparazzi in helicopters but not every resort hosts 153,000 guests a day. Certainly no ski resort does. The Walt Disney World gondola parks and resorts represent around 65,000 daily visits, the kind of crowd the right gondolas can make a difference moving. No one in America has tried until now.