The history of the cable car to Szyndzielnia begins on December 21, 1953. – that’s when the railroad carried its first passengers. On that day more than 2 thousand people rode the railroad to the top.
This was the first new investment in this area in post-war Poland. The railroad was built by the Polish Cable Railways and presented innovative construction solutions in the field of rope transport of the “Brüder Girak” system. It was this Austrian company that developed the documentation, supplied the support structures with accessories, complete mechanical and electrical equipment, rolling stock, ropes and took charge of the installation.
Photo gallery from the construction of the cable car part 1 (photo provided by Wl. Steinhof – railroad manager in 1962-1982)
Photo gallery of cable car construction part 2 and three generations of gondolas (photo from railroad archives)
It was a single-unit double-railroad with cars uncoupled in circular motion. The lower station of the railroad was the tension station for the suspension and drive cables, while the upper station was the anchor station for these cables. The drive mechanism was located at the upper station, hence the constant presence of a railroad employee was necessary there.
The Szyndzielnia ropeway had 35 four-person carriages and carried up to 300 people per hour at a speed of 2.6 m/s. The railroad ride on the 1920m long route took about 12 minutes. There were only 6 lattice supports on the route, the height of which ranged from 8 to 14 m.
First tourists riding the cable car to Szyndzielnia in Bielsko-Biała – WFDiF archival film from 1953
First-generation wagons supplied by the “Brüder Girak” company ran on the railroad from 1953 to 1965.
December 19, 1965. – The first major overhaul of the railroad is completed. At that time, 17 gondolas, manufactured by the Rolling Stock Repair Plant from Ostrow Wielkopolski and the PKP Mechanical and Road Equipment Plant from Raciborz, were replaced with new ones. The driving and carrying rope was also replaced.
In 1978, the Polish Cable Railways replaced the carriages for the third time. The new 4-passenger gondolas were manufactured by the Research and Development Center of Wytwórnia Sprzętu Komunikacyjnego in Mielec.
Lower station of KL Szyndzielnia with a former wagon | Upper station of KL Szyndzielnia – now a catering facility.
With more than 40 years of railroad operation, its basic equipment and components were already in very serious disrepair. Due to the railroad’s system, which has no other equivalent in Poland, very expensive foreign exchange purchases were necessary for its continued – safe – operation.
At that time, the PKL came up with a concept of converting the existing cable railroad into a ropeway system, the technology of which would be based entirely on domestic production. The track of the railroad was to run partly on the surface or in a trench, and partly over terrain, with several bridges. The maximum support was to be 18 meters high.Designs and cost estimates were made, but the concept did not live to see implementation.
In February 1993, the Bielski governor handed over the railroad to the Bielsko-Biala municipality free of charge and the city faced the problem of what to do next with the railroad. In January 1994, a tender was issued for the modernization of the railroad, including the replacement of corroded metal supports. The “Brüder Girak” company was again selected as the equipment supplier. Work began on July 1, 1994 and lasted until June 30, 1995.The entire reconstruction projects were carried out by “Mostostal Zabrze”, which also carried out the entire modernization work as the General Contractor of Investments with the participation of other companies. Steel structures and installation of technological equipment were carried out by “Mostostal Czechowice-Dziedzice,” construction work was carried out by “Megabud” of Bielsko-Biała, while electrical and power installations were carried out by “Energomontaż.”
The new railroad was equipped with technological equipment from the “Brüder Girak” company, with full automation and electronic security from the “STG” company, the “Svoboda” carriages run on lines from the “Austria-Draht” company. The lower station was modernized to meet the requirements of the new railroad. At the top, a new railroad station was built with a glass structure. Upgrading the old station building to meet the needs of the new railroad was too expensive. The old station building housed the main drive of the railroad, which was moved to the lower station. The beautiful sandstone-clad old station building was closed, partly used as a catering facility. The rooms located in the attic, today, are no longer inhabited. Previously, due to the location of the main drive, the start-up of the railroad took place at the upper station, hence the need for the staff to stay permanently – even after the end of the railroad’s operation.
The ceremonial opening of the cable car with the participation of the mayor of the city – Zbigniew Leraczyk, Henryk Juszczyk – chairman of the City Council, a representative of the Austrian company Girak – Michael Bitterl and Mostostal Zabrze took place on June 30, 1995. The traditional ribbon was replaced by a log of wood, which the aforementioned representatives cut with a hand saw. Refreshments awaited all guests at the top, and the railroad for tourists started on July 1, 1995.
Modernization of the Szyndzielnia Cable Car 1994-1995.
The 35 new, bright yellow, six-passenger carriages carried about 850 people per hour. The speed of the railroad was 5 m/s, so that the distance separating the two railroad stations could be covered in about 8 minutes. The number of steel supports increased to 14, and their heights varied from 8 to 23 meters (the highest 23-meter support No. 10 was assembled as a truss for stability reasons).
In 2000, the Municipality of Bielsko-Biala handed over the railroad to a municipal company – ZIAD Bielsko-Biala SA.
After more than 20 years – the old upper station of the cable car was reopened on July 5, 2016. The stylish, beautifully renovated one will serve as a waiting room for tourists. It houses a small gastronomy and a small exhibition in which previous generations of gondolas are gathered.
The premises of the “Old Station 1,000 meters above sea level”. can be rented with rail transportation for various types of events such as intimate concerts, courses, conferences, family celebrations, balls, tourist rallies and other events.
Interior of the Old Szyndzielnia Cable Car Station.
From 1953 to 2016. The Szyndzielnia Cable Car operated four types of gondolas. The first type of carriages were four-person gondolas made by the Austrian company Traunsteinwerkstätten Josef Swoboda of Oberweiss (now Carvatech). In Austria, the Zwölferhorn Seilbahn railroad operated with twin cars until the end of 2016. PKL used these gondolas until the end of the 1960s, then they were replaced by railcars manufactured by the Rolling Stock Repair Plant from Ostrow Wielkopolski and the PKP Mechanical and Road Equipment Plant from Raciborz. The second generation of gondolas ran until 1977. The next, III type of carriages – also four-seaters produced by PZL Mielec, ran until 1994. In 1994-1995, after a thorough modernization of the railroad, which was also associated with the replacement of old supports (trusses), new six-seat gondolas were purchased from the Swoboda Traunstein company (IV generation of gondolas). These gondolas carried tourists until October 1, 2016.
The age, the technological solutions used and the already considerable depletion of the cableway caused the Management Board of ZIAD Bielsko-Biała SA to decide on its comprehensive modernization. The tender was announced on September 29, 2015, and was won by the Austrian company Doppelmayr.
On October 3, 2016, modernization of the cable railroad began. The general contractor, Doppelmayr, replaced the railroad’s drive, transport wheels, gears, control system, rope and gondolas, among other things. The new carriages are not only more glazed than the previous ones, but also more comfortable and suitable for entry by baby carriages and carriages with disabled people. All gondolas are equipped with ski baskets and bicycle holders. The railroad’s steel supports have not been replaced, as they are in good condition. The external appearance of the historic upper and lower station buildings has also not changed, but work has been carried out on their interiors, giving the lower station building an elegant, stylish look. As part of the modernization work, the platforms were adjusted to accommodate the new railcars, the main hall was modernized, a second ticket office was added, so-called turnstiles were installed to enter the platform, the elevator for wheelchair users was replaced, and passenger toilets were renovated. Archival photos of the railroad were displayed in the passageways.
The railroad was opened to tourists on March 11, 2017.
In 2020. Szyndzielnia Cable Car was the winner of the 11th Marka-Silesia competition in the tourism and recreation category.
They wrote about Szyndzielnia (archival materials until 1997):
Archival video about Wisla and the Szyndzielnia Cable Car under construction –“In the Silesian Beskids”