History of the Schauinsland Cable Car

In 1893, when inspecting the forest and public road on the Schauinsland, Freiburg’s “Stadtrath” (town council) stated: “This mountain has to be made accessible to the public.” A bold idea that at first did not seem feasible. But about 30 years later, this idea was put into practice. Let’s discover everything here on the implementation of this extraordinary cable car, already extremely innovative for its time.


Construction 1929 – 1930

After many suggestions and ideas with regard to the track, the Schauinslandbahn Studiengesellschaft was founded in 1925.On 7.08.1928, after successful project planning, the Planning Committee approved the construction of a cable car on the Schauinsland. As a consequence, the Schauinslandbahn Aktiengesellschaft was founded on 19 December 1928 which, in addition to fundraising, was responsible for the planning and project development. The first stone of the mega-project involving 2.15 million Reichsmark was laid on 8 May 1929. On 12 March 1930, the first hoisting drum with a carrying cable arrived at the loading dock for furniture lorries at Freiburg’s goods station. The immense weight of 28 tons per reel could only be pulled by a powerful steamroller made by the company Nickel & Seitz. On the whole track, seven steel posts with hauling cable rolls and carrying cable layers serve as cable carriers. The largest span width between them is 734m, and the largest post is 37.5m high. On 27 April 1930 – not quite three months before the inauguration – final work on the posts was completed.


The inauguration in 1930

Main terminal of the lower station. At the inauguration, on the 17.7.1930 were invited all the leaders, as well as many dignitaries and guests of honor. The Stadtgarten orchestra further enhanced the solemn atmosphere by playing the Divertimento by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart until the arrival at the lower station of cabin No. 1 descending slowly from the upper station and carrying young girls from Horben and Hofsgrund in traditional clothes. At 11:44, the cabin, carrying Mr Bender, the Mayor, and many guests of honor left the lower station to the sound of the Deutschlandlied for its first ascent. The Schauinsland cable car is the world’s first large cabin, capable of transporting huge numbers of people. In 1930, the cable car was equipped with 10 “cars” accompanied by a controller. Each cabin could carry 23 to 25 people and, for the standards of the time, was particularly luxurious. Each cabin consisted of six seats.


Cable Car operation between 1930 and 1987

In the 1940s, the Schauinsland cable car, a centre of attraction, was the fastest means of travel on the mountain. The travel time of 16 minutes was unbeaten and linked Freiburg’s citizens with the beautiful nature around them as well as with all the hiking and winter sports opportunities. Already in 1931, the Verkehrsverein (Traffic Association) of Freiburg mentioned in a letter to the town council: “With this cable car and a minimum amount of money and time, it could be possible to expose a landscape panorama that not many regions of Germany can boast of.”

During the war, the number of passengers then reached 240,000 although the cable car could only be operated at night in the years 1944 and 1945 due to the permanent threat of air raids. Especially in those days, the Schauinsland cable car had been assigned an important task. Among other things, it had to carry supplies to the temporary military hospitals that had been installed up on the mountain. On 3 December 1944, the university clinic, accommodated in the Kyburg Hotel, was attacked by airplanes. Despite a heavy storm, the Schauinsland cable car brought more than 100 children to an emergency shelter up on the mountain.

In 1957, the corporation was transferred to a public limited company. By 1969, the City of Freiburg had acquired all foreign shares and was therefore the sole shareholder. Upon the city’s request, the Freiburger Verkehrs AG (VAG) then took over the shares of the Schauinsland cable car in 1982 and integrated the enterprise into its company.

In 1971, the 7 millionth passenger could be welcomed on the Schauinsland cable car.

But in 1986, after 56 years of operation and more than 12 million passengers, a new and more economic concept had to be developed due to large deficits and the old cabins that urgently needed renovation.


The reconstruction in 1987

Finally, 7 years after its 50th anniversary, the unavoidable break happened on 11 October 1987: the supervisory authority did not issue a new permit for operation.

The ravages of time – control and safety installations were not up-to-date – and corrosion had taken a lot out of the cabins. The VAG as the operator opted for the reconstruction of the cable car to a more powerful and economic cable car (without conductors) and against the renovation called for by many on conservation grounds. The reconstruction costs amounted to DM 9 million. The new cable car was inaugurated by Mayor Dr. Rolf Böhme on 6 December 1988.


The significant modernization in 2012

About 25 years after the last renovation, one of the biggest construction projects in the history of more than 80 years of the cable car has been completed from the end of 2012 to May 2013. As part of the modernization, electric, drive and brakes have been put at the forefront of technology. In addition, two of the four traction cables between the lower and the upper station were replaced by integrated fiber optic cables. This ensures efficient data transmission between the lower and the upper station. Even the comfort of the passengers has been durably reinforced: for example, extended entry and exit times are offered to passengers with reduced mobility, while the speed of travel does not need to be reduced. The fact that the cabins are free of oscillations allows a smooth exit. The entire scope of these modernization measures cost about 3 million Euros.