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Building the Cableway was an engineering feat

  • By Lynnette Johns
  • July 10 2013

The Cableway was built in four years and was opened on October 4, 1929. Building the facility included the upper and lower stations, and a tearoom. It was an engineering feat, which included carrying equipment and material to the top of Table Mountain.

Norwegian engineer Trygve Stromsoe proposed the idea of the Cableway to the council in 1926.

A piece of machinery used in the construction of the Cableway. Photo courtesy of <a href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/23559658@N04/4233786301/in/photolist-7s8gax-7s8jrF-7sccMw-7scd1S-7scdFm-7scdWE-7schhf-7uEMoi-7uEMzK-7uJD2b-7v5LgW-7w9vJd-a2dn4z-9gtoa9-9gtneN-auBQPz-auEpAj-auBSQD-auBQyP-auEwRq-auBRiD-auEw5u-auBMeX-auErrQ-auBR9v-auBLAR-auEvXW-auBLpk-auErhE-auEpZ9-auErSY-auEs2y-8W1V71-auEwcd-8sv5W3-ekSKKS-auEv6s-auBS5D-auEwku-auEsBY-auEtkU-auBT7T-auBPuB-auBLd2-auBSxp-auEvom-auBQsg-auBTeV-auEqi1-auEu9E-auBQ5e'>Celanth</a> A piece of machinery used in the construction of the Cableway. Photo courtesy of Celanth

The scheme caught the interest of a group of influential businessmen after Stromsoe approached Sir Alfred Hennessy, and showed him a functioning scale model of his idea. Hennessy and fellow investors Sir David Graaff and Sir Ernest Oppenheimer formed the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) to finance construction, with Stromsoe taking the fourth seat on the board of directors.

A week after viewing the model, the company chose a site for the lower cable station and swiftly appointed a firm of local architects, Walgate & Elsworth, to design the upper and lower stations and a tearoom at the summit. The building of the Cableway was contracted to Germany’s Adolf Bleichert.

Another industrial reminder, an old boiler. Photo courtesy of <a href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/23559658@N04/4233783087/in/photolist-7s8fd8-7s8fqX-7s8gax-7s8jrF-7sccMw-7scd1S-7scdFm-7scdWE-7schhf-7uEMoi-7uEMzK-7uJD2b-7v5LgW-7w9vJd-a2dn4z-9gtoa9-9gtneN-auBQPz-auEpAj-auBSQD-auBQyP-auEwRq-auBRiD-auEw5u-auBMeX-auErrQ-auBR9v-auBLAR-auEvXW-auBLpk-auErhE-auEpZ9-auErSY-auEs2y-8W1V71-auEwcd-8sv5W3-ekSKKS-auEv6s-auBS5D-auEwku-auEsBY-auEtkU-auBT7T-auBPuB-auBLd2-auBSxp-auEvom-auBQsg-auBTeV-auEqi1'>Celanth</a> Another industrial reminder, an old boiler. Photo courtesy of Celanth

Construction got under way speedily and builders relied on a temporary ropeway and an open box (known as “the soapbox”) to cart building materials and workers to the top of the mountain. Although this was a perilous method, no serious accidents occurred during construction. To this day, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway has a proud history of being totally accident-free.

Some of the machinery used in the construction can still be found on the mountain.

The Cableway, one of Cape Town’s first tourist attractions, was completed in two years at a cost of £60 000. On October 4, 1929, the Mayor of Cape Town, Reverend AJS Lewis, presided over the official opening ceremony, which was attended by more than 200 guests.

A hoist used in the construction. Photo courtesy of <a href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/23559658@N04/4233783831/in/photolist-7s8fqX-7s8gax-7s8jrF-7sccMw-7scd1S-7scdFm-7scdWE-7schhf-7uEMoi-7uEMzK-7uJD2b-7v5LgW-7w9vJd-a2dn4z-9gtoa9-9gtneN-auBQPz-auEpAj-auBSQD-auBQyP-auEwRq-auBRiD-auEw5u-auBMeX-auErrQ-auBR9v-auBLAR-auEvXW-auBLpk-auErhE-auEpZ9-auErSY-auEs2y-8W1V71-auEwcd-8sv5W3-ekSKKS-auEv6s-auBS5D-auEwku-auEsBY-auEtkU-auBT7T-auBPuB-auBLd2-auBSxp-auEvom-auBQsg-auBTeV-auEqi1-auEu9E'>Celanth</a> A hoist used in the construction. Photo courtesy of Celanth
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