Cash Ropeway in South Africa

cash ropeway in south africa

Low-tech Magazine editor Shameez Joubert spotted this cash ropeway in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Cash ropeways were used in shops from the 1880s to the 1960s. They worked in a similar manner to large-scale cargo ropeways. Bicable cash transportation systems were powered by a catapult device or by separation of the wires, monocable systems were operated by a small electric motor.

The Cash Railway Website is dedicated to cash ropeways and similar systems, but it does not mention any ropeway still in use. The system in the South African shop was installed in the 1960s and it still works. Thank you, Shameez!

Water Powered Rope Making Machine

Water powered rope making machine

Drawing of a water powered wire mill, taken from “The Pirotechnia” by Vannoccio Biringuccio (1540). Illustration credit. For the hand powered method, see: Lost knowledge: ropes and knots.

Update January 2015: Kurt B. writes us to say that “what you are looking at is a wire drawing machine, not a rope making machine. That is, taking a large wire and drawing it through a series of ever decreasing dies (holes in the die plate) to make the wire smaller. It is powered by water. The fellow with the rope in his hands is taking up the slack on the tongs which grip the wire. Every stroke of the wheel crank pulls the wire through the die just that amount and he takes up the slack each stroke, or tries to. Here is a guy drawing wire on a much smaller scaleĀ  Home made electric jeweller wire pullerĀ“.

Aerial Ropeways in Nepal

Aerial ropeways in nepal “The gravity ropeway is an inexpensive and simple means of transportation. It operates by gravitational force without the use of external power. The gravity ropeway consists of two trolleys which roll on support tracks. These are attached to a control cable in the middle which moves in a traditional flywheel system. When the loaded trolley at the up-station is pulled downward by the force of gravity, the other trolley at the bottom-station is pulled up automatically by means of the control cable.

In principal the goods coming downward from the up-station must to be thrice as heavy as the up-going load. The sliding down of the trolley and its speed depends upon the angle of elevation made by the cables installed with the horizontal ground.

A flywheel with bearing and bracket is used as a brake to control the landing speed of the trolley at the bottom-station. Communication between top and bottom stations is done by tapping the wire rope. The operator at the top-station strikes the wire rope with a stick to send a wave signal through the wire rope to the operator at the down-station. The operator at the down-station then applies the hand brake to control the flywheel.”

Read more (building plans included). In-depth article: “Aerial ropeways: automatic cargo transport for a bargain“. Related: Water powered cable trains & (for those lacking mountains) Electric road trains 1901-1950.