Barrel carriages put the fun in funicular

funicular at top
© Standseilbahnen via Designboom

The world's steepest funicular has rotating cabins so that passengers stay upright.

A funicular is a cross between an elevator and a railway, used for climbing slopes. Most of them have two cars connected by a cable so that when one car goes down, the other goes up. Most also travel on a consistent tilt, so that they can have floors that are set at an appropriate angle. My favorite funicular is the one in Fribourg, Switzerland, that is powered by poop; they fill it up with sewage at the top and the additional weight of the car going down pulls the other one up.

But now that we have electric motors, they do not need a source of water or sewage at the top. And in Stoos, Switzerland, they have just opened a really interesting one where they don't need a consistent slope; the carriages actually rotate so that passengers are always upright, whether on a slope or on the flat. It is also the world's steepest funicular; Designboom says it has a gradient of 106 percent at its steepest point. Interestingly, they built this instead of a gondola because it would have passed through an active shooting range.

According to a Swiss funicular website,

Each of the two cars holds 136 passengers and weighs a whopping 27 tons. It has 4 cylinders on each car for every 34 passengers in each cylinder. In both stations, the car is horizontal. While driving, the cylinders rotate and adjust to the slope. The passengers are always level thanks to the automatic leveling system, even at the maximum gradient of 110%.

The whole thing cost 44.6 million euros or close to US$ 53 million, which seems to be a lot of money for a 1738 meter ride (a little over a mile). But it does put the fun into funicular, with those rotating barrels. Who says (besides Elon Musk) that public transportation can't be exciting? More images on Designboom.

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