The platform vibrates. Every second, a cabin of the Penken cable car in Mayrhofen swooshes past. People get out and others get in. However, what appears to be a simple conveyor belt, is actually an intelligent system which operates according to the most modern technical safety standards. After all, this machine is transporting human lives. The smooth operation of the cable car is down to Richard Schneider and his team.
The 34-year old has been working at the Mayrhofen cable car company for the past seven years. He is a technician who is also responsible for personnel and building projects. “I’m the general dogsbody”, he jokes. He loves his job. “You get out and about, and aren’t just stuck behind a desk. I love the variety of working in the office and on the mountain. My team and I all love to be on the mountains and out in the nature. We identify strongly with nature and our surroundings. In order to do this job you have to be a die-hard fan of the mountains.”
The safety of the guests is of the upmost priority, so the technical team regularly inspect the machinery and carry out maintenance work. “This work takes place throughout the year. The lifts which aren’t running in summer have maintenance carried out on them over the summer season. Lifts such as the Penken cable car, which are in operation almost all year round, are worked on off-season - between the end of the winter season and start of the summer season, and the end of the summer and start of the winter.” This means Richard uses the month off between the seasons to inspect, test and service the machinery. The Penken cable car is very special because, “everything exists in double. That’s how we ensure maximum safety. For every possible malfunction there is a back-up in place.” For example, if there were to be a sudden power cut, people in the cabins would be safe. “A second, independent emergency drive mechanism, an emergency generator, additional support on all return pulleys and emergency operating features on the cable runners” ensure the safe transport of all passengers.
A Real Heavyweight
“We have 32 gondolas and each cabin weighs 1,650kg.” That’s an enormous weight to be hanging from the Penken 3S cable car. The 3S part of the name refers to the fact that the cable car runs on 3 cables: one hauling cable and two supporting cables. And these are the real heavyweights: the total weight of the three cables is 74 tonnes! The two support cables alone weigh 54 tonnes. The advantage of this system is that the cable car is more stable in windy conditions, so passengers benefit from a more comfortable journey. The journey up the mountain takes approximately 15 minutes during which time the passengers can enjoy the views as they journey to a height of almost 2,000m.