Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Palm Springs Tramway

Earlier this month two of the State of Washington's newest newlyweds, Chris and Sheila Knappson, honeymooned in Palm Springs, California.

During the course of their honeymoon the Knappsons decided to take a twelve and a half minute ride on the Palm Springs Tramway, from the floor of the Coachella Valley, at 2,643 ft. above sea level, to the Tramway's Mountain Station on San Jacinto Peak, at an elevation of 8,516 ft. above sea level.

Above you are looking at one of Chris and Sheila's pictures of a tram heading down while they were heading up.

An electrical engineer named Francis F. Crocker came up with the Palm Springs Tramway idea way back in 1935. The idea of building an aerial tram up the steep face of Chino Canyon was soon dubbed "Crocker's Folly."

It was to be another 25 years til Crocker's Folly went from folly to fruition with construction beginning in 1960.

The unprecedented use of helicopters in the construction of four of the tramway's five towers is part of why the building of the Palm Springs Tramway is considered one of the world's greatest engineering feats.

The Palm Springs Tramway began hauling people and goods to the Mountain Station in September of 1963.

By the time the Palm Springs Tramway hauled Chris and Sheila to the Mountain Station in November of 2014 the original tram cars had been replaced with tram cars whose floor rotate.

The rotating tram floor, in addition to the steep climb and dropoffs, are what had Sheila letting out the scream and scared look you see in the lower right of the screencap from Facebook.

The new rotating trams started spinning in 2000. The floor of the tram is 18 feet in diameter, rotating steadily throughout the ascent and descent, making two complete spins, allowing everyone aboard the 80 person capacity tram car to see the various views, without walking around in the moving tram.

Once at the Mountain Station visitors quickly discover that the temperature is much cooler, by as much as 40 degrees, than the temperature below in the valley. There are hiking trails which lead from the Mountain Station area. After working up an appetite, from hiking, visitors will find two restaurants in the Mountain Station, along with a gift shop.

The Palm Springs Tramway website is a good source for any information you might need to help plan your visit, including ticket prices, hours, restaurant details, along with special events, like what is planned for Thanksgiving at the Mountain Station.

Regarding Sheila being a bit scared while riding the rotating Palm Springs Tramway, there have been a few unfortunate incidents over the Palm Springs Tramway's 51 year history.

In 1963 a tram was stuck for 13 and a half hours due to an electrical mishap in the tram's control room.

In June of 1984 a tram was heading down from the Mountain Station when a shock absorber bolt snapped, sending a 30 pound chunk of metal crashing through the tram's glass roof, striking a passenger from Ontario, California named Elaine Tseko, resulting in a fatal injury.

A few months later, in September of 1984, while  undergoing routine maintenance a cable snapped and wrapped around the main cable. Luckily this snapped cable wedged itself in a way which saved the tram from being knocked off the cable and plunging down the mountain.

In October of 2003 a steel cable broke leaving more than fifty passengers hanging mid-air for 4 and 1/2 hours, along with more than 100 visitors stranded at the Mountain Station.

Sheila has said one time on the Palm Springs Tramway was enough for her. I don't know if Sheila is aware of the history of Palm Springs Tramway mishaps. If not, she is now.

If I were she, I still would not let that stop me from enjoying that Palm Springs Tramway ride to the Mountain Station again, if the opportunity presented itself...

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