Wyler Aerial Tramway fulfills the dream of philanthropist Karl O. Wyler, who strongly believed that the lofty views from atop Ranger Peak should be available to the public. He included this wish in his final will. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department accepted donation of the tramway in 1997 and opened it to the public in 2001 following extensive renovation.
The story begins, however, in 1959 when NBC-affiliate KTSM Radio built the tramway to aid the construction of a transmitter antenna and service platform. A real workhorse in its early days, the tiny tram hauled concrete, water, heavy equipment, workers—even sections of the antenna itself—to the mountain summit. Wyler directed this ambitious construction project and, in the process, fell in love with Ranger Peak and its top-of-the-world view.
Privately owned and operated first as El Paso Aerial Tramway, the facility allowed public access from 1960 to 1986. Although it continued to provide access for maintenance of telecommunications equipment, high liability insurance costs caused the tramway to close to the public for some 15 years prior to its establishment as a Texas state park.
The tramway operates on a 2,400-foot-long single-span cable system, meaning that there are no support towers along its nearly half-mile length--an engineering feat! From bottom to top, visitors are lifted some 940 vertical feet as they glide high above the rugged terrain below. Swiss-made gondolas carry tramway passengers. A haul rope pulls each gondola on a track rope along its lofty route. These “ropes” are actually the same type of super strong cables used in the construction of suspension bridges. To maintain tension, the track cable is anchored at the top of the mountain and tied to a massive 29-ton counterweight at the base station.
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