By Vickie Sam Paget
I’m not sure if you’re able to handle the excitement, but today is Cable Car Day.
Yes, January 17 has been designated to celebrate all matters ‘cable car’, as the date marks that momentous day back in 1871 when Andrew Smith Hallidie received the first patent in relation to the cable car.
Hallidie must have been a nice fellow, because he created his design for a cable-propelled transit system after he witnessed horses falling – and even dying – while attempting to pull cars up San Francisco’s steep Jackson Street.
He transformed his sympathy into action and two years later he set up the world’s first cable car rail road on the city’s Clay Street. Unfortunately, the original line doesn’t survive, but grip car 8 is preserved in San Francisco’s Cable Car Museum.
Now that you know the story, can you really blame up for celebrating Hallidie by sharing our five favourite cable car rides with you? Here they are in no particular order, because to tell the truth, we just couldn’t decide!
1. Powell-Hyde Line, San Francisco
Obviously, the original has to be the best... The iconic Powell-Hyde line trundles upward through Russian Hill, before making the steep descent down the city’s infamous hills and coming to an end at Fisherman’s Wharf. The Golden Gate Bridge shimmers like a diamond necklace in the distance. You can’t really beat it.
2. Sugarloaf Cable Car, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Sugarloaf Cable Car in Rio de Janeiro has received over 37 million visitors since its opening in 1912. The journey is split into two breathtaking three-minute stages. The first takes you first to Urca Hill above Guanabara Bay, and then the second takes you up to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain itself. The Christ the Redeemer statue will be watching you from Corcovado Mountain, while the city and its beaches fan out at his feet.
3. The Peak Tram, Hong Kong
Rising briskly up Victoria Peak at a massive gradient of four to 27 degrees, Hong Kong’s Peak Tram provides one of the world’s most unusual cable car experiences, as all the buildings that you pass on your way up look as if they are bizarrely leaning over. Dating back to 1888, this is an iconic trip, and at the top you can check out Sky Terrace 428 – the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong.
4. Table Mountain Cableway, Cape Town
creativecommons.org/G M Groutas
Pack a picnic and take the spectacular five-minute trip to the top of Table Mountain (1085 metres), from where you can see 360 degree views of Cape Town, the ocean and the neighbouring peaks. Oprah Winfrey, Arnold Schwarzenneger, Prince Andrew, Tina Turner and Jackie Chan have all done it, so I hope that they are celebrating Cable Car Day today!
5. Grindelwald-Männlichen Cableway, Switzerland
As far as cable car rides are concerned, this is a long one, linking the village of Grindelwald-Grund at 943 meters to Männlichen at 2,230 metres. The route takes 30 minutes, so settle in and enjoy uninterrupted views of Jungfrau and Eiger mountains and the valleys below. It’s breathtaking stuff.