Gearhead News

April 22, 2021
How the Swiss Transport Huge Mining Trucks Thousands of Feet Up to Alpine Work Zones

If you’re gonna build something big, you’re gonna need big machinery. It’s as simple as that. If it’s a project in a normal location, you could just trailer the equipment to the worksite. If it’s on an island, maybe use a LARC-LX.

If your project takes place high in the Alps, well, that’s a whole different can of worms. Luckily for us, the Swiss government has already opened it. After deciding to expand the nation’s system of hydroelectric power back in 2015, a solution was necessary to transport heavy machinery to mountaintop worksites. They managed to come up with a solution, and watching it work is nothing short of bizarre.

YouTube | Axpo

via YouTube

The system is, in a nutshell, a heavy-duty cable car. Instead of passenger trolleys, the cables can lift construction machinery way high in the air. The clip below indicates that the system can hold as much as 30 metric tons or around 66,000 pounds.

The machinery also isn’t just transported up and down a mountain. It’s sent through valleys, up and around landforms—the cables themselves look more like powerlines as opposed to the more typical ski-lift type arrangement you may be familiar with. We’re also only seeing part of the journey in the video. The particular part of the trip we watch is only the last section of the cable, between the reservoirs of Limmernsee, located at 6,093 feet of elevation, and the higher Muttsee, at 8,025 feet. The total distance covered is only a mile, but the elevation change is 1,932 feet.

The project this machinery took on was an expansion of Switzerland’s hydroelectric power system in the eastern region of Glarus. The Linth–Limmern Power Stations in the area have been around since the 1960s, but recently the system of hydroelectric generators and pumped storage facilities were upgraded to allow for greater electricity generation and more energy storage.

The vehicle being towed up the mountain in the clip is a CAT 725 three-axle articulated truck. Empty, it weighs 50,975 pounds, so well within the capabilities of the cable system. It’s powered by a CAT C9.3 inline-six diesel engine, which measures 9.3 liters and produces around 334 horsepower. Who am I kidding holding back the torque number, though? It makes 1,263 pound-feet at 1,200 rpm. 

Google Earth

The project was completed back in 2017, so needless to say, far fewer vehicles are being hoisted on cables to worksites high in the Alps. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive achievement and the cables are still used today to bring tourists high into the mountains to get a glimpse of the beautiful alpine reservoirs that provide 428 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to Switzerland every year.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: peter@thedrive.com