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World’s Steepest Funicular Opens in Switzerland

THE WORLD’S steepest funicular has opened to passengers in the Swiss canton of Schwyz.

Connecting the canton’s eponymous capital with the ski-resort village of Stoos, the funicular cost USD $52.6 million and took four years to construct.

Above: The world's steepest funicular connects the car-free village of Stoos with Schwyz, Switzerland (image courtesy of Patrick Kenel/Wikimedia).

Overcoming a height difference of 743 metres (2,438 feet), the 1,547 metre long (5,057 feet) funicular features sections that are at a 48 degree incline.

Three new tunnels had to be dug to accommodate the route with difficult terrain delaying the works by two years.

Above: Three new tunnels had to be dug in order to accommodate the new funicular (image courtesy of Patrick Kenel/Wikimedia).

As the incline of the route varies considerably, it was important for the passenger cabins to remain horizontal during the three minute journey. To achieve this, engineers at Dopplmeyr / Garavanta designed a train composed of four, automatically adjusting, hydraulically-controlled cylinders, that rotate independently of one another as they ascended the mountain.

Above: The trains consist of four independently rotating pods that are hydraulically operated to keep the cabins level during the various stages of the journey (image courtesy of Patrick Kenel/Wikimedia).

Previously, the village of Stoos - which cannot be reached by car and has only 100 permanent inhabitants - was served by a funicular built in 1933.

Upgrading the existing infrastructure was not possible as the village would have been completely cut off from the world during the works.

Above: Stoos village is a small, car-free skiing resort (image courtesy of Roland Zumbühl/Wikimedia).

The new funicular will be able to transport 1500 people every hour and can reach top speeds of 10 metres per second, powered by a 1.2 megawatt engine supplied by ABB. Such speeds make the newly-opened funicular twice as fast as its predecessor.

Above: The new funicular improves accessibility for locals and visitors alike (image courtesy of DDX Swiss).

While there are some steeper rail-guided systems in the world - most notably the Katoomba Scenic Railway in Australia's Blue Mountains - they are not fully fledged funiculars, which need to feature a pair counterbalanced trains, rather that a single train being pulled along rails by a cable.

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