Every year, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) shuts down the cableway that runs up South Africa’s most iconic mountain for two to five weeks for its annual maintenance.
As required by international safety standards, every four to six years two very important cables − the ‘haul’ and ‘heel’ cables, which pull the two passenger cabins up and down the mountain − need to be replaced. But much more is done during this important shutdown period. Then, every six years, the cable cars are stripped, serviced, checked, refurbished, and refitted. And every 12 years, the track ropes along which the cable cars glide need to be re-tensioned.
Technicians are flown in from Switzerland and, together with South African staff, they go about their serious work, no matter the weather conditions. Trucks, massive rolls of cables and containers loaded with equipment fill the site. With Table Mountain forming a monolithic backdrop, engineers tightrope-walk along the cables suspended high above, technical staff work side by side on the slopes of the mountain, and artisans ensure that the cabins are refurbished. Everything from the largest piece of machinery to the tiniest of bolts needed for the safe running of the cabins has to be checked, rechecked and checked once again. The midwinter Cape weather constantly changing its mind adds further pressure to meeting the immovable deadline.
Changing the Lines is a reportage showcasing man working with machine in a feat of engineering set against a uniquely challenging and dramatic landscape.
Radio interview with Pippa Hudson from Cape talk 567 outlining how Changing the Lines came about.