Adolf Bleichert (1845–1910)

Aerial ropeways (sometimes called aerial tramways, cableways or cablecars) were used to move materials in industry from the mid-nineteenth century. Gondolas were suspended from ropes between pylons and pulled from one end of the line to the other. Adolf Bleichert and Company of Leipzig in Germany became the leading manufacturer of ropeway systems, exporting them worldwide. Similar systems were made by other companies, such as Henderson of Aberdeen, Scotland. They became common in mines, quarries and construction projects for minerals and waste. Ropeways could span wide distances and steep gradients and take materials across obstacles such as valleys, hillsides or transport lines. They were also cheaper and more flexible than railways. The principles were developed for passenger transport – the first cablecar for tourists was built by the Bleichert company in Austria in 1913. Industrial use of ropeways has virtually ended but passenger cablecars are still common, especially in mountain landscapes and ski resorts.

Bleichert grew up in the Gohlis district of Leipzig, where his father was the tenant of a corn mill. He studied mechanical engineering in Berlin; after that he worked for companies in Bitterfeld and Scheuditz near Leipzig. It was in Scheuditz in 1874 that he established his first design office for aerial ropeways, with his fellow student Theodor Otto. When Otto left two years later, Bleichert set up his own company (called Adolf Bleichert & Co.) with his brother-in-law.

The idea of the ropeway was old, but the introduction of wire rope and new devices made it possible to develop it. Bleichert & Co. was responsible for several innovations, including the use of separate lines for suspension and haulage, better distribution of loads and the eccentric friction clutch, which allowed cars to be coupled and uncoupled easily. By 1890 it had made over 600 ropeways. By 1899 it has built 1,000 and employed several dagreement with Trenton Ironworks in the USA and sales offices across Europe. When Bleichert died of tuberculosis at the age of 56 the company installations.