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Transportation Technology

Ski Lifts Can Could Help Get Cargo Traffic Off the Road 225

An anonymous reader writes with this except from a beautifully illustrated, thought-provoking article: "These days, we use them almost exclusively to transport skiers and snowboarders up snow slopes, but before the 1940s, aerial ropeways were a common means of cargo transport, not only in mountainous regions but also on flat terrain. An electrically powered aerial ropeway is one of the cheapest and most efficient means of transportation available. Some generate excess energy that can be used to power nearby factories or data centers. An innovative system called RopeCon (not to be confused with a role-playing convention held annually in Finland) can move up to 10,000 tonnes of freight per hour."
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Ski Lifts Can Could Help Get Cargo Traffic Off the Road

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  • by IorDMUX ( 870522 ) <> on Monday January 31, 2011 @03:24AM (#35054128) Homepage

    what advantage does this technology hold over trains?

    Simple, with a ski lift, you don't have to haul the engine everywhere you go. While a railroad involves massive engines which travel back and forth with each route, the motive force in a ropeway is provided by fixed elements and used to pull the cable around a cycle.

  • And the problem (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @04:49AM (#35054434)

    Is that if you have a stable, point-to-point thing then, well, you want a train. Trains work great for moving cargo. They are extremely efficient, using 1% or less of the energy a truck would need to move it. America still moves many, many tons of cargo daily by train. If you've ever visited a city with a major railway going through it you see trains multiple times an hour, 24 hours a day. They also move pretty quick. While heavy cargo trains can't zip like light rail passenger trains, they can still do 70ish MPH without a problem.

    The only reason they aren't used in place of trucks for cargo completely is their inflexibility. They are largely point-to-point transit. You can't have crisscrossing rails and lots of intersections for them to turn on and choose where they want to go.

    So I fail to see what a rope cargo system would do that trains don't do better. It certainly wouldn't be as fast, I have trouble believing it'd be as efficient, and as you say it'd be ugly.

    Seems like a solution looking for a problem. We don't have a problem moving goods in bulk, place to place for cheap. Heavy cargo rail does a superb job, and promises only to get better with hybrid trains (locomotives are ideal for hybrid technology, they are electric direct drive already and the need a lot of added weight to function correctly). What we do not have is as good a system for delivering goods to a final destination. Trucks are the best we've come up with for something that can move a reasonable amount of material for a reasonable price, yet can go to arbitrary locations as needed.

  • by brokeninside ( 34168 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:38AM (#35055236)

    (a) less expensive to build than roads or rail
    (b) can be built where roads or rail are problematic (steep vertical ascents/descents)
    (c) can be partially (or entirely) powered by gravity
    (d) can be operated during heavy snows and floods

    Trains probably have an advantage over a long distance, especially over flat terrain. I would think that trains would also have a speed advantage and be somewhat more flexible.

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