The history of Zugliget Chairlift

The Chairlift was built in 1970. The cable-railway connects Zugliget and János Hill in the 12th  district of Budapest.
The line of the Chairlift is 1040 m long; the level difference is 262 m between the 2 stations. The journey time is 15 minutes in both directions. At two cable-holder pillars the cable runs below the wheels and at all other pillars it runs over the wheels.
After 60 years of opening the first Bleichert-ropeway an entrepreneur came along with the plan for the first wire-rope suspension railway construction in Hungary.

In 1933 jr. István Hantos engineer came up with the idea of constructing a suspension railway from Zugliget to János Hill. His plan received the preliminary work permission, however, only the preparation works were carried out.
In the early 1940s the Metropolitan Tramways Company gripped the idea and had the plans prepared again. However, the break-out of Second World War baffled the construction.
In spring 1945 the idea of constructing a rope-railway transport service arose again. The plan included a whole network. The first plans projected building a rope-way from Óbuda to Hármashatárhegy. But this plan was not realized.
In 1967 there came a turn in the decades long planning process.  The City Council of Budapest 12th District decided to launch the construction works of the rope-railway in 1968. The Ministry supported the project and the professional work of Road and Railway Planner Company (UVATERV) assured evidence for the country’s first special rope-way construction.

The construction

The construction started on 24 March 1969. The Council of 12th District undertook a great job to construct the first Hungarian cableway. Mr László Pataki managed the work and he became the first service manager of the cable-way plant.
The National Mining Machinery Manufacturer Company was the main contractor of the construction.

Delivery of materials

The steep ground made transporting and placing the balusters and their concrete bases difficult. A temporary cableway transported the concrete material on the hill side. The steel columns were manufactured in Tatabánya in their final size. The transportation of the columns required serious effort. The assembled pillars were transported on the spot then were fixed on a sledge, pulled up to their places on the hillside and set up onto the pre-built concrete bases. On the trace of the cable-way two buildings had to be demolished.

The wire rope

The opponents of the cable-way mostly objected the rope from the beginning. In the case of one-rope version the most important security issue was the reliability of the rope. The unpredictable and impact loads effect on the rope can represent twice the normal load, therefore the rope was engineered for 8-10-fold safety. The wire rope and hanging chairs were imported from Austria. During the reconstruction in 1991 a Hungarian type rope was installed, however, because of the dangerous operation it was changed for Austrian production in 1992. The first Austrian rope stretched 20 meters over 9 years and 4 times had to be shortened, which is considered normal in the practice of cable railways. The new wire rope installed in 1979 had similar safety and expansion length and it was shortened also 4 times in the next 12 years.
The two stations were built in the architectural “style” of the age (the 70s) by the Pestmegyei Közúti Építők Vállalat. The buildings are worn-out, perhaps in the course of the renovation they will be “dressed up” in order to fit in the landscape. The Development Plan of the Area also would like to achieve this aim. No other building can be constructed either at the mountain or at the valley station (except for the old Jánoshegyi Vendéglő/János Hill Restaurant), only a buffet serves refreshments for the passengers at the terminus buildings.
The designers’ and the constructors’ work proved to be successful. Elated by the success new cableway plans were made in the 1970 not only to reach the peaks of the Buda hills, but also outside of Budapest.

The early operation

The Council of 12th District launched the operation of the Chairlift. The first 10 years was the decade of the success. The investment was 14 million HUF and the chairlift made 2 million HUF profit in the first three quarters of the year and in the first 10 years the operation closed with profit (they did not deal with the return on investment). By this time 4.5 million passengers travelled on the Chairlift. Throughout the year it worked 6 days in the week, closed on every Monday and on the first day after the bank holidays.
Accidents avoided the Chairlift. Littering to the residential gardens under the cable way, catching the feet of passengers, climbing into the Chairlift were stopped later on, the ropeway became the part of the area.

The idea of a restaurant and a ski course

The initial high turnover of the Chairlift raised the idea of building a restaurant beside the upper terminal. There was a wooden restaurant on this place of János Hill earlier, which was a popular place to hikers for decades. After the construction of the Chairlift a new restaurant plan was being done, which was called as “Hunter”, but its construction was cancelled finally. The action plan of the district for the year of 1985 also imagined an alpine style high-roof, two-story catering building with restaurants and canteens. The operator of the Chairlift also welcomed this idea of the new building and he offered to transport the visitors of the restaurant by the Chairlift to Zugliget in every hour until 10:00 p.m.  Unfortunately it was not built, either. There is only a buffet working at the upper terminus on the weekends.  The action plan of 1997-1998 made the proposal to restore the former János Hill restaurant.
Once the Chairlift was handed over in 1970, the Council of the 12th District had made a detailed plan for ski paths for the North-Eastern slopes between Normafa and János Hill with the title of “Winter Park”. Short after the upper section of the ski course was done in the very first year a fatal accident occurred, therefore, the further construction of the path had to be stopped. On the official site plan the ski area is marked. According to the specifications of the plan “the opportunity of developing the ski course and the middle station is to be kept”.

Name contest

In the beginning the first Hungarian cableway was called as “János Hill Cableway” or “Zugliget Cableway” among the experts. The council announced a competition where anyone could propose names. Tens of thousands of suggestions were received. The full list can be found in the Local History Museum and Gallery of the 12th District (Hegyvidéki Helytörténeti Gyűjtemény és Galéria). Finally the Jury gave the name of “Libegő” to the cableway, which name was not included in the suggestions. The idea probably came from the proposal of “Lebegő” which means “floating”. The official name became the “Jánoshegyi Légpálya” (János Hill Air Lane).
The experience is completely different when travelling up than downwards when newer and newer pictures appear from the panorama of the capital.

The Chairlift starts upwards from Zugliget Valley. This valley was washed by water from the dolomite hill during thousands of years. A Tündér-szikla (Fairy Rock) and Szószék-szikla (Pulpit Rock) are reminiscent of  dolomite eruptions from close under the surface.
The Chairlift takes the first meters at the edge of the forest and then it passes over private gardens.
Downwards there is a spectacular view for the Hármashatárhegy (Triple Mountains), for the peaks of Pilis Hill, for Buda and Pest model-like sights. Approaching the lower terminus we can see the Zugliget Valley with its houses in the green and the outstanding church.
Underneath the cableway a steep footpath is snaking upwards. Each spring there is a “Take over the Chairlift” running race.


Source: Wikipedia