Gondola Cabins Arrive at Walt Disney World

A rainbow shipment of CWA cabins is now stateside, earmarked for the skies above Central Florida.  Construction continues on the three line Disney Skyliner system, which is set to open this fall and sure to become a showcase for high capacity lift technology.

In addition to the row of cabins now staged at the Caribbean Beach hub, cabins have also been spotted in the Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Pop Century and Art of Animation stations.  While the gondolas are covered in protective wraps, you can see they come in a variety of colors with Disney character art on the windows.

There are interesting looking electrical boxes on the cabin roofs.  I’m curious to see what sort of infotainment the Skyliner carriers feature, if any.  It does not appear that power is derived from solar panels, as is the case with some other urban gondolas.

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Big Sky & Doppelmayr Christen Ramcharger 8

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Forty five years to the day since Chet Huntley welcomed the first skiers to Big Sky Resort, Boyne Resorts today debuted North America’s most technologically-advanced chairlift on Andesite Mountain.  The eight pack is a bold but logical move for Michigan-based Boyne, which once pioneered the world’s first triple and quad chairlifts.  Not only is Ramcharger 8 the first of its kind in North America, it’s also the first Doppelmayr D-Line eight place chairlift in the world.

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Boyne Resorts President Stephen Kircher and son Everett prepare to cut the ribbon.

“Doppelmayr and Boyne Resorts have been collaborating for over 40 years, and together have introduced many firsts to the ski industry,” said Stephen Kircher, President of Boyne Resorts at a mid-morning ceremony.  “We are incredibly proud to bring the first eight-seat chairlift to North America, setting a new standard for lift technology in the world.”

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Mark Bee, President of Doppelmayr USA, presented the Big Sky Resort team with a customary bell from Austria to celebrate.  He also thanked the construction team, led by Jamie Kanzler, for a successful project delivered on schedule.  “Without Jamie and his team, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Bee, noting the contract for this ambitious project was signed on March 5th.  “Ramcharger 8 is the culmination of everything we have learned so far, and incorporates many firsts for the North American market; first eight-passenger chairlift, first direct drive motor, first locking restraint bar, first height-adjustable loading carpet, first high resolution video display, and the first of our newest generation detachable lifts,” he continued.

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Disney Skyliner to Open in Fall 2019

The most expensive gondola system ever built in the United States will debut sometime between September and December next year.  Bob Chapek, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products made the announcement this morning in a keynote address at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo, which Doppelmayr and CWA are attending.  Competitor Leitner-Poma is also there.  “Next fall, Disney Skyliner will not only efficiently move you to your location, it’ll also offer a whole new way to experience Walt Disney World with amazing views only available from the sky,” the resort said in a blog post.  Construction began on the three gondola lines in July of 2017.

Crews are working across the resort to complete the network, which will link two of the most visited theme parks in the world with four major hotels and replace a significant number of Disney Transport bus routes.  A mural was recently added to the gateway station at Epcot and the second angle station now has its Doppelmayr D-Line enclosure.

A second angle station will service the sprawling Riviera Resort, seen below.  Can you spot the lift?  Guests will find themselves just a few minutes from both Hollywood Studios and Epcot by gondola.

In the below photo, you can see the last of more than 50 towers being completed.  Parking rails for hundreds of cabins are also being pieced together at the massive Caribbean Beach hub.

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Meet Big Sky’s Innovative New Lifts

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Ramcharger 8 at Big Sky Resort is both the first eight passenger chairlift and first Doppelmayr D-Line lift in North America.  I headed to Montana yesterday for an update on this exciting project and a related one, the new Shedhorn 4.  Touring Ramcharger, it became clear the decision to purchase this lift was not just about the eight passenger chairs, heated seats or loading carpet.  D-Line has numerous small innovations made with mechanics and operators in mind that combine to create a new generation of Doppelmayr detachable.  A few features I noticed: Every grate and cover is designed to easily open and close for quick access to moving parts.  Belts that connect station tires each have individual tensioners.  Stairs lead into the terminals rather than ladders.  Many spots where metal meets metal are lined with rubber for noise and vibration dampening.  Doppelmayr says D-Line has more than 200 improvements overall.

The massive Doppelmayr Direct Drive motor is in place at the top terminal and will be water cooled.  It will quietly and efficiently spin at just 13 revolutions per minute.  Because a gearbox and related shafts have been removed from the equation, all braking will be directly on the bullwheel.  There is a single diesel evacuation drive rather than separate evacuation and standby engines.  The west side of the top terminal features a 7,500 square foot parking facility for the chairs in two rows.  Part of the floor opens up to an equally-sized basement where bike carriers can be hoisted onto chair hangers come summer.  The outside of the barn is being wrapped in plastic for this winter and will be completed next spring.

The first four chairs and hangers arrived during my visit at the end of a long journey from Austria by ship, train and truck (the entire lift came over in containers, not just the chairs.)  The 64 carriers are emblazoned with Ramcharger 8 logos, feature heated seats and sport blue bubbles.  They are so large that only four fit in each shipping container!

Steel will be set at the bottom tension station over the next 7-10 days, which we will be able to watch live.  This terminal’s legs, loading conveyor and gates are already in place.  Operators will be able to raise and lower the deck on demand for children to board and capacity will be 3,200 people per hour to start.  The 54 mm haul rope is also on site after its trip from Fatzer in Switzerland.  The comm line for this lift is completely underground as is apparently common in Europe.

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Skyliner Update: Hiring Begins, Ropes Soon?

Walt Disney World Resort’s Skyliner is beginning to look a lot like a gondola – actually a system of gondolas unlike anything ever built in North America.  Before I get to construction pictures, two significant developments occurred within the past week.  First, Disney Parks announced that water taxi service between certain destinations will be suspended for 21 days beginning November 28th, likely so haul ropes and communications lines can be pulled between the eight gondola stations and 50 or so towers.  Second, the first Skyliner-specific job posting appeared last Thursday.  More on that in a minute.

The station at Epcot International Gateway is getting close and scaffolding shown below may be for applying the graphics shown in this artist’s rendering.  The rear end of the terminal is getting a steel structure over the turnaround area where guests will load and unload.

The non-boarding station to the southwest of Epcot now looks similarly complete.  Some of the D-Line windows are transparent while some are opaque, breaking up visually this very long station.  Unfortunately the three awesome red bullwheels are being covered with terminal skin as well.  Notice the stub rails on both sides which will ensure no cabin is ever more than two stations away from somewhere it can be removed.  The primary parking and maintenance bays will be at Caribbean Beach South, two stops away from this angle change.  The Epcot line has a total of four stations.

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CWA and Doppelmayr Introduce Omega V

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On the heels of building its 50,000th Omega gondola cabin, CWA Constructions introduced the fifth generation of an icon yesterday.  Omega V features updated design language and is highly customizable for monocable gondola installations going forward.  Omega first debuted back in 1983 and the the rest is history.  The Omega IV joined the dynasty in 2007 and in just a dozen years became the chosen carrier for 29 gondolas in the United States and Canada.  “The new cabin features the unmistakable Omega shape which merges seamlessly with any of its surroundings. The cabin has been completely redeveloped while retaining the core values of a true Omega,” Doppelmayr says.

 

Designed with 10 passenger D-Line systems in mind, The V will become the global standard for snow, tourism and urban installations by the Doppelmayr Garaventa Group, of which CWA is a member.  The changes I noticed first were the suspension going below the roof line and the bench seats being swapped for individual places (each seat is 18.1 inches or 460 mm wide, more than you’ll find in a typical economy airline seat.)  The V has new ergonomic ski rack choices, two bumper options and wider doors that open to 35 inches (900 mm.)  A single door can hold up to six pairs of powder skis or five with a snowboard lot.  An interior bike rack is also available.

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Pioneering Ramcharger 8 Takes Flight

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The most state-of-the-art chairlift in the world went vertical today under wispy Montana skies.  Teams from Doppelmayr, Big Sky Resort and Timberline Helicopters flawlessly executed 71 trips to hundreds of thousands of pounds of steel to Andesite Mountain in under six and a half hours.  Thanks to good weather and an even better crew, that’s an average of one pick every 5.5 minutes, including refueling.  As fly days go, it was amazing to watch Ramcharger 8 take shape.

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Disney Skyliner Build Marches Toward Fall

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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.

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News Roundup: For Sale

  • In a decision the Durango Herald calls a “bombshell,” the Forest Service proposes granting road access to the controversial Village at Wolf Creek, which would include two new lifts near Wolf Creek Ski Area’s new Meadow quad.
  • Magic Mountain’s new Green lift is set to debut this winter but the Black Line Quad may not spin until 2019.
  • Tawatinaw Valley, a county-owned ski hill in Alberta with three T-Bars, will go out of business on October 1st due to continued losses.
  • The price of steel is up up 33 percent in the United States so far this year and companies like Caterpillar and Polaris are increasing prices as a result.
  • The first Doppelmayr/Garaventa lift with D-Line cubic glass enclosures comes together in Switzerland.
  • A Yan triple from Squaw Valley hits the market in Idaho (looks like East Broadway, retired in 2012.)

  • Loveland’s new high-speed quad gets a name: Chet’s Dream.
  • Opening of the Transbay Transit Center tramway in San Francisco slips to September.
  • A refurbished Riblet quad from the closed ski resort in Drumheller Valley, Alberta goes up for sale.
  • Alterra officially takes the reigns at Solitude.
  • Leitner-Poma of America President Rick Spear goes on the MarketScale Transportation Podcast to discuss the ski lift business and growth of urban cable transport.
  • With two Mueller lifts in need of work, Mt. Timothy, BC will likely close if it can’t find a buyer.
  • Big White’s retired Powder triple is headed to Red Mountain.
  • Copper Mountain commits to building its fourth new lift in three years, a Leitner-Poma triple on Tucker Mountain in 2019.
  • The Miriam Fire is burning uncomfortably close to White Pass Ski Area.

More Skyliner Steel Rises Across Walt Disney World

June is an important time for the Disney Skyliner gondola project as we’re a year from when the system would need to open to transport guests during the park’s busiest months of 2019.  A late spring opening seems like an attainable timeline as construction of many of the system’s towers is complete with terminal steel now spotted at four of eight station locations.

The Epcot park entrance known as International Gateway was one of the last stations to break ground but concrete is now in place for the four masts that will support the terminal.

Most of the approximately seven towers between International Gateway and the first angle station are now standing near Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and its various parking lots.

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