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The History of the Wonderful Table Mountain Cableway

Cape Town’s most popular attraction is without a doubt Table Mountain; this naturally flat mountain seems to be protecting the Mother City so caringly and is a reminder each day of just how beautiful the city of Cape Town truly is. Table Mountain sees an estimated 800, 000 annual visitors; and in total 20 million people have taken a ride to the top over the years. The mountain and its cableway has a unsurprisingly rich history starting way before the first cableway ride commenced on 4 October 1929.

Of course, before the cableway existed the only way up the mountain was by foot and this was only done by the most adventurous types. In 1790 one of these adventurous climbers, Lady Anne Barnard, was to become the first woman to climb the mountain. With her on her journey she had three gentlemen, some slaves and her own maid; together they began their adventure up the mountain via Platteklip Gorge. After this, many of the city’s people started taking the hike up the mountain and it became quite a popular activity.

It’s believed that by the late 1870’s some of the more prominent figures of Cape Town started urging for a sort of railway to the top of the mountain, but the implementation of this idea was halted by the First Anglo-Boer War in 1880.

In 1912 the Cape Town City Council commissioned H.M. Peter, an engineer, to propose ideas for a type of public transport system for the mountain. Peter’s idea of a funicular, which would run from Oranjezicht to the Platteklip Gorge, was actually accepted by the city despite the enormous building cost of £100, 000. But these plans were then stopped by another war, the First World War, which lasted from 1914 to 1918.

In 1926 Trygve Stromsoe, another engineer, proposed a design for a cableway to the city council; this idea proved to be very interesting to a group of wealthy businessmen and after he presented his model to the right people, money was given to begin building on the first cableway. Everything fell into place fairly easily and construction, though difficult and dangerous, was accident free. Till this day the Table Mountain has a proud reputation of being accident free.

Construction was completed within two years and on 4 October 1929 Reverend A.J.S. Lewis, then Mayor of Cape Town, oversaw the official opening of the first cableway car; this ceremony was attended by 200 of Cape Town’s citizens.

Over the years the cableway went through several upgrades and visitors to the mountain increased drastically; making it by far one of the most visited places in South Africa. The Table Mountain will for always be a popular attraction, whether it be for a trip in the cableway or by taking a scenic helicopter flight over this beautiful mountain.

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