Thursday, October 13, 2016

The amazing open-air “CabriO” cable cars of Stans, Switzerland

Riding atop the CabriO cable car from Stans, Switzerland  (Taylor)
STANS, SWITZERLAND James Bond spent some time in Switzerland, but it was in Rio de Janeiro where he battled with a character named “Jaws” on top of a cable car. Thanks to modern technology and innovation, if you visit Stans, Switzerland, you, too, can ride into the clouds atop a cable car. Best of all you won’t even have to indulge in fisticuffs to do it.

Believe it or not, you probably know of the tiny village of Stans without even knowing you know it.

In fact, 007 and Stans have a lot more in common than you might think.
The funicular is one of
Switzerland's oldest  (Taylor)
Tucked away about 20 minutes by train from the popular resort village of Lucerne, Stans, with its population of just over 8,000, is the capital and largest town in the canton (state) of Nidwalden.

Locals have long made their way to nearby Stanserhorn mountain for hiking. Stanserhorn rises 1.2 miles above sea level as it peers down at the Lake of Lucerne.

Public transportation to the peak opened in 1893 when Franz Josef Bucher-Durrer and Josef Durrer-Gasser opened a three sectioned funicular railway. As such, the Stanserhorn Railway is one of the oldest mountain trains in Switzerland.
Pristine pastures and rural lifestyles near Stans  (Taylor)
For nearly eighty years the rack and pinion trains operated their 45-minute journeys from Stans to Kalti to Bluematt before reaching the summit station and its hotel. The third section also featured a 520 foot tunnel en route to the top.

Lightning struck the third section of the funicular cable in 1970 destroying the driving engine and burning the summit hotel to the ground. Within four years the second section ceased operations in 1974, leaving only the original wooden coaches running to an altitude of 2,343 feet in 9 minutes.
High above the Lake of
Lucerne (Taylor)

Within a year, a cable car was built to replace the upper funiculars while the first railway section underwent renovations to restore the wooden cars back to their classic
style. In typical Swiss fashion, visitors receive a thick cardboard ticket as a souvenir of the funicular’s historic past.
The observation tower offers stunning views  (Taylor)
By 2001, a revolving restaurant was added at the summit station, complete with a revolving restaurant that slowy completes one revolution  in 45-minutes, giving diners a 360-degree panoramic experience.

Two years later, a state-of-the-art contemporary observation deck opened to offer breathtaking views of the Alsace and Black Forest in Germany as well as ten lakes in the region.
Snow capped Alpine peaks beckon from the summit  (Taylor)
So how does this little known burg of Stans, Switzerland find its way into the annals of pop culture through the enduring brand of James Bond who has captivated movie-goers for more than a half-century?

In the third Bond film, “Goldfinger”, arguably the most popular title of the 007 saga, Bond tails his archenemy Auric Goldfinger into Switzerland in an effort to discover what the mega-villain is planning.
A bold experience on the CabriO  (Taylor)
In the process, Bond tracks Goldfinger to his headquarters where he is eventually captured by the master criminal. In reality, the plant where the British agent is taken prisoner is the home of Pilatus Aircraft which is located in, of all places, Stans, Switzerland.
The funicular features renovated original coaches (Taylor)
Established in 1939 to perform maintenance for the Swiss Air Force, it was decided that Pilatus Aircraft should be located far from the Swiss borders. Initial plans even went so far as to consider building it inside a mountain. Even in 1939, it is difficult to deny that that idea has a James Bond ring to it.

But there is more, and this is where the story gets fun.

In June, 2012, a new double deck open top cable car debuted with a stunning innovation that allows passengers to actually ride on top of the car, thereby providing magnificent scenic views of alpine pastures and mountain peaks during the six minute journey to the top.
A spiral staircase leads to the top of the CabriO  (Taylor)
The "CabriO" cablecar features a spiral staircase leading to the upper deck. Capacity is 60 passengers in the lower cabin with room for 30 more on top.

Unlike earlier cable car incarnations, the "CabriO" is not suspended by a single cable from the top. Instead it glides along two cables at the side of the cabs making the ride considerably smoother and far less jarring when it crosses transfer points.
The restaurant rotates for a 360-degree panorama  (Taylor)
Surprisingly, there is little sensation of height other than the breathtaking scenes that surround the passenger’s unimpeded views.

Though James Bond never fought on top of a Swiss cable car, he did meet up with a character named “Jaws” in Rio de Janeiro in “Moonraker.” Who knows, perhaps that was the inspiration for the “CabriO.”
As winter comes, the marmuts get ready to hibernate  (Taylor)
For the Swiss, the tiny village of Stans and its Stanserhorn Railway is one of the best kept secrets in the country. But they will happily share their treasure, as will the playful marmuts that entertain visitors with their daily performances up on the summit.

Stans is an easy and delightful outing for hikers and non-hikers alike. And one thing is certain, if you ride to the top on the “CabriO” your senses may be “stirred, but they won't be shaken.”