Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Llandudno Cable Car

The age old it a Cabin Lift or is it a Cable Car? And just what is the difference anyway? The answer's now officially a Cable Car! It started out life as the Llandudno Cabin Lift Co. Ltd in 1969 but changed its name to the Llandudno Cable Car Ltd in 1988. Nowadays, it's owned by Kinetics Industrial Ltd.

Start of the journey...the Happy Valley Station

Inside the Happy Valley Station

Looking down at the Happy Valley Station (Photo Credit)

Regardless of the answer, Llandudno's Cable Car is a fine attraction. Apparently, it's the Longest Aerial Cable Car in the United Kingdom, with the distance between the two stations at Happy Valley and the Great Orme Summit being 1 mile and 40 feet exactly (5,320 feet).

While we are dealing with the stats.....
  • The Happy Valley Station is 135 feet above Sea level.
  • The Summit Station is 651 feet above Sea level.
  • There are 42 Cabins that travel at 600 feet per minute.
  • There are 9 intermediate tapering steel trestles support the cable between the stations.
  • The tallest trestle is 80 feet high with a base 5 feet 6 inches square - it weighs 15.3 tons.
  • 675 tons of concrete were used for the foundations and the steelwork weighs over 100 tons.
  • The longest span between the trestles is 1,023 feet.
  • The Cabins reach a maximum height of 160 feet above ground.
  • Each Cabin seats a maximum of 4 people
  • Each Cabin takes 9 minutes to reach the Summit (or vice versa)
  • Each Cabin is supported on an endless steel cable 2 miles long, weighing over 17 tons.
  • The hourly capacity of the Cable Car is stated to be 500 persons.
  • On an average day, each Cabin covers about 60 miles.
  • The cable has a nominal breaking strain of 50 tons, the factor of safety is 5.2.
  • The cabin lift is driven by a 100 h.p. slip ring electric induction motor at 1450 r.p.m.
  • A 50 h.p. internal combustion stand-by engine is kept in readiness for bringing cabins into the stations in case of power failure.

Cable Car with the Pier in the background (Photo Credit)

Two of the cabins pass high over Llandudno

Built at a cost of £125,000 (the contractor was British Chairlifts Limited/British Ropeway Engineering Co. Ltd who had previously built the EXPO 67 Cabin Lift: Details here), it was the idea of a Uttoxeter businessman called Anthony Bagshaw who had previously been involved with the Alton Towers theme park (where a similar Cabin Lift had been installed in 1963). It was opened for business by Lord Mostyn on the 20th June 1969 (after a certain amount of local opposition in the Council Chamber to the 'new fangled' idea which was rejected outright the first time it was proposed). It was also fully renovated in 2006 following the sale of the business by Uttoxeter Investment Co. Ltd. The purchaser was a local man, Andrew Jones, of Pyllau Farm on the Great Orme, who says he used to tell people that one day he would own it. He was also one of the first passengers when it originally opened in 1969.

A Cabin passes over one of the Trestles Photo Credit

View over the route of the Cabin Lift

The current operating season runs from 19th March to the 31st October, and it opens from 10am to 5pm daily during that time (may close earlier at beginning and end of the season). It's worth remembering that it cannot operate in high winds for safety reasons. Current ticket prices (2010) are £6-50 single and £7-00 Return, with a discount for families.

Top of the Great Orme! The Summit Station

The 100hp electric motor that drives the Cable Car
with the backup 50hp diesel engine to the left

Comment: I think the Cable Car is a fantastic asset to Llandudno thing I've always wondered about it is...why don't they operate variable pricing? To explain, the Cable Car is like an airplane flight in that its costs are fixed, regardless of how many people are on the plane. So, as with the airline, it's in the Cable Car's interest to make sure that every seat is taken, even if you're occasionally selling it for a reduced price.

A lot of the time, the Cable Car seems to operate almost half empty - why not try offering discount fares for the beginning/end of the season and, also, for the beginning/end of each day, bringing the fare down to, say, £2? As someone with an interest in economics, it would be fascinating to see how demand increased or decreased based upon alterations to pricing.


Chris said...

Excellent summary of all we need to know (and some!) about the cable cars. Thanks.

Stan said...

I agree with Chris. I thought I knew a fair amount about this facility but having read and viewed your presentation I have added quite a bit more.

DD said...

Thanks to both of you. Very kind of you to say so!

peterbees said...

Very interesting information, first time I've seen a history of thecable car. I'm sure variable pricing would be popular.

Iolo Morganwg said...

I have a postcard from the 1970's with some additional stats printed on it:

5,320ft long (have not worked out if it equates to 1 mile 40ft)

Bottom terminal 135ft above sea level.

Top terminal 651ft above sea level.

Number of passengers per hour 1000 - which is double today's capacity. Not sure if that's an inflated figure, or if it mirrors the declining usage of the attraction over the years. However, 'Health & Safety' could have regulated a lower capacity maybe?

The cable weighs around 17 tons - not the original I know, but it must be a monumental task to replace it. The entire system was overhauled in 2006, however I remember the cable being replaced prior to that date. Not sure how many cables it's had since 1969 though.

This year is the Cable Car's 40th anniversary - were there any celebrations or publicity to mark the occasion?

DD said...

Cheers, Reggie. I will add in those stats to the list.

I think the difference in capacity is due to the fact that only about half the cabins are now in use - when I went on it, there were a number of spare cabins stored at both the upper and lower stations - you can see them in the background of both interior pics above.

I've not heard anything of any celebration or publicity to mark the anniversary. To be honest, its whole operation seems a bit low-key these days - could do with a bit of a marketing revamp or boost maybe?

Colwyn Blogger said...

Excellent blog about the cable cars! I'm a tram person myself, never quite trust the cable cars in the wind :D

Tower Monkey said...

Hi i currently work on the cable cars, i'd like to say thanks for this blog and thanks for spending the time to do it. It's nice to see the local interest.

Tower Monkey said...

o an we didn't really do much for the aniversary, but we had a big cake to share with all the customers,

Flaccus13 said...

More a query than a comment.

As a disabled person I would like to experience both the cable car and ride down on the tramway. Is it possible to purchase single tickets in both directions? If so how are the terminus of both linked are there ticket offices at both ends?


phil the dog said...

my dad designed and commissioned it

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