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ABB motors power the steepest funicular in the world

Mid December 2017, after five years of construction, the steepest funicular in the world was put into operation in Stoos, in the Swiss canton of Schwyz. Two motors made by ABB power the funicular with a total output of 2.3 megawatts, enabling the transport of up to 1500 persons per hour in each direction.

The new, futuristic-looking vehicle is driverless and runs at a speed of 10 meters per second on a gradient ranging from 0% to 110%.

In contrast to an aerial tramway, in which the passengers are suspended above the ground, the cabins of a funicular are pulled over a rail system. The rail system of the new Stoos funicular is 1.7 kilometers long, running through three tunnels and across two bridges. In addition to its importance for the local tourism industry, the funicular guarantees the basic supply system for the entire infrastructure of the Stoos region and the 150 residents of the car-free village.

The extreme longitudinal profile with a gradient of 0% at the stations and of up to 110% (47.7°) between them poses an enormous challenge to the dynamics of the funicular, which were implemented using traction motors, mechanical traction components and cable. The main traction system consists of two 1.2 megawatt low-voltage motors from ABB as well as two energy-saving frequency converters ensuring continuous speed regulation. By comparison, the total of 2.3 megawatts is enough energy to operate 250 escalators simultaneously.

The design of the two vehicles is extraordinary, with four cylindrical passenger cabins that always remain horizontal thanks to hydraulic slope compensation.

125 years of leading Swiss mountain railway technology

Today, ABB technologies are used in a wide range of applications to make Swiss mountain peaks accessible to everyone, including numerous ski lifts, chairlifts, gondola lifts, funiculars, aerial tramways and trains.

The company has a long history of impressive expertise and success in the Swiss mountain railway sector. At the end of the 19th century, the electrical components made by ABB (prior to 1988 by its predecessor BBC) were already in use by the first electric mountain railway in Switzerland, the Rhaetian Railway. Due to the topographic and climatic conditions in the rough terrain of the Graubünden region, the railway infrastructure and the trains had to meet exceedingly high standards. ABB supplied practically all electrical components for the traction units and a large part of the railway power supply. Moreover, the high-performance traction systems made by ABB transformed the trains into Alpine icebreakers to meet the demands imposed by the high Bernina Pass, which is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Jungfrau Railway

The Jungfrau Railway began operation in 1912 after 16 years of construction. From the very beginning, ABB was responsible for the electrification of the railway and made this route possible in the first place. Today, ABB technologies still ensure that the Jungfrau Railway trains safely bring over one million passengers per year to the highest European train station on the world-famous Jungfraujoch (3,454 meters above sea level). Thanks to ABB’s custom-made drive train, the Jungfrau Railway trains can operate safely and without interruption throughout the year, even during heavy snowfall.

Arosa-Lenzerheide

The Urdenbahn is the linchpin of the vast Arosa-Lenzerheide ski resort; it is one of the longest aerial cableways in Switzerland and has a load capacity of 150 persons per cabin, and can thus transport 1,700 persons per hour in each direction. The two cables over the Bündner Urdental span a distance of 1.7 kilometers/1.06 mile without a single mast. The aerial cableway is powered by ABB motors and converters. Because the two cableways run in parallel, but function independently, they can be flexibly adapted to passenger traffic, which reduces costs and increases energy efficiency. The cable car is also equipped with a digital innovation: there is a microgrid at the mountaintop. Thanks to ABB technology, the energy flows can be optimally controlled and adapted to the power grid.

Titlis, Engelberg

The state-of-the-art AC drives used for the gondola lift between Engelberg and the “Stand” station on Titlis, a mountain in the Uri Alps near Lucerne, are yet another impressive example of the continuous technological progress at ABB. ABB AC drives enable the Titlis Express as well as Rotair - the world’s first gondola that rotates 360° during the trip - to transport more than one million passengers per year with outstanding energy efficiency.

Stoos funicular

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