Twin VonRoll Tramways Burn in France

The Lognan tramway station on fire in Chamonix, France. Photo credit: Rob Atkinson

A rough summer turned even worse today for Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, the firm that operates lifts in the Chamonix Valley.  The middle station of the two section Grands Montets tramway caught fire, severing five cables and sending two of the four 60 passenger cabins to the ground.  VonRoll built both systems in 1962-63 and the first section was renovated in 1974, followed by the second in 1989.  The upper stage got new cabins in 2009 and the lower two were replaced in 2014.  The lifts are a combined 15,700 feet long with a massive 6,700 feet of vertical.


The fire began around 1:50 pm in the roof of the intermediate station building, as captured on a nearby webcam.  Although the system operates in both winter and summer, apparently no trips were in progress at the time as the building was being renovated.

Helicopters fought the fire all afternoon and it is now extinguished.  The public is being warned to stay clear of the area as three ropes are still hanging on but could give way.  There are no reports of injuries, thankfully.

You can view pictures of these two tramways in better times here.  The same operator’s famous Aiguille du Midi summit cable car unexpectedly closed for the second time this year in late August for an unscheduled rope replacement and won’t reopen until December.  The Grands Montets trams will probably take much longer to rebuild.

Drawing of the structure that burned, which houses both drives. Photo credit:

12 thoughts on “Twin VonRoll Tramways Burn in France

  1. D howe September 11, 2018 / 3:54 pm

    Good thing no one was hurt but it’ll be a shame for chamonix and argentiere to be without one of their signature mountains for the foreseable future. Re: the Aguille du midi, here is a fascinating short documentary (in French) on how it was built – originally as part of a post war economic development scheme for the remote chamonix valley.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. snowbasinlocal12894 September 11, 2018 / 5:09 pm

    Not good. At all, I hope the 2 tram docks and the 2 cabins get repaired/replaced. Ive seen 2 gondola stations under one roof but not a tramway. Interesting lift though. Good thing no one was on the lift.


  3. Peter Landsman September 12, 2018 / 6:24 am

    Press release from CMB:

    In the early afternoon of Tuesday 11th September, a fire broke out during work to repair the roofing of the upper station of the 1st cable-car between Argentière & Lognan (Les Grands Montets ski area). This work was entrusted to a specialist sub-contractor.

    The fire spread almost instantaneously throughout all the buildings of the arrival station, creating severe damage to the infrastructures of the two cable-cars.

    Of the eight cables which equip the two sections of the cable-car, five gave way as a result of the heat generated by the fire causing one cabin at the top of the Grands Montets to plunge onto the glacier below, the second cabin being immobilized on its bearer cables.

    As far as the lower section between Argentière & Lognan is concerned, one cabin is retained by its bearer cable & the other by the tractor cable.

    Thankfully, there are no victims.

    The investigations will continue during the coming days before the reconstruction work may begin, work which will take a goodly number of months. To face up to this new ordeal, the teams at the Grands Montets with the backing of all the staff of the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, will make every effort to permit visitors & partners to access the two cables car of the Grands Montets ski area as soon as possible.

    Despite being deprived of its two cable-cars, the Grands Montets ski area will be open for the winter season with access via the Plan Joran gondola, ski on the Lognan plateau with the new chair-lift giving access to the new beginners’ zone as well as all the trails accessible from the Bochard gondola & the Herse & Retour Pendant chair-lifts.

    Naturally, you will be kept up to date as the situation develops.


    • D howe September 12, 2018 / 3:53 pm

      I wonder what the plan will be for accessing the rognons glacier run. That’s the signature run there at argentiere. Maybe a cat


  4. Peter Landsman September 19, 2018 / 7:28 pm

    A reader sent me some more photos of the aftermath including some of the 10-MGD that runs underneath the lower tram. It looks remarkably intact for having been hit by the flying cables.


  5. Peter Landsman October 22, 2018 / 7:05 pm

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