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Reviving China's First Passenger Cable Car: Wanglongmen's Historic Journey

By YAN DENG|Aug 28,2023

Chongqing - Hidden among overgrown foliage and seldom-used trails in Chongqing's Yuzhong District lies a historical marvel: China's first passenger cable car—the Wanglongmen Cable Car. Originally built in April 1945 and decommissioned in 1993, this engineering marvel was designated a municipal heritage site in 2009.

The photo of Wanglongmen Cable Car. (Photo/Yuzhong District Cultural Management Office)

On August 22nd, an expert panel greenlit the Wanglongmen Cable Car's restoration and redesign. After lying dormant for nearly three decades, the cable car is set for a remarkable resurgence by the end of this year.

According to Xu Xiaoyu, Director of the Yuzhong District Cultural Management Office, the restoration aims to preserve the cable car's original architectural integrity while incorporating contemporary elements. Open spaces will be introduced to enrich the landscape and maintain the historic route's collective memory.

Crafting an immersive visitor experience

What can visitors expect from the refurbished Wanglongmen Cable Car? Xu Xiaoyu explains that the redesign aims to both highlight its historical significance and breathe new life into the site by weaving in cultural narratives and practical elements.

Once a cornerstone of Chongqing's urban transportation, the restoration seeks to celebrate the site's rich history while integrating contemporary features that enhance the broader urban landscape.

The rendering of the Wanglongmen Cable Car restoration project. (Photo/Yuzhong District Cultural Management Office)

The Wanglongmen Cable Car was once an essential piece of Chongqing's urban transportation infrastructure. The current preservation project will honor both the site's unique characteristics and its deep-rooted history. Iconic vistas beyond the designated heritage area will be rejuvenated, either highlighting the rich cable car culture or adapting to the evolving needs of the surrounding urban landscape.

Drawing from the preserved cable car architecture and the site's conditions, innovative techniques will repurpose symbolic features of the area. This modern reimagining of historical elements will cultivate a scenic locale teeming with cable car culture, reigniting nostalgia.

Once restored, the cable car will harness cutting-edge digital technologies like virtual reality and AI. These will craft an interactive and immersive experience, allowing visitors to journey through history using sight, sound, and touch, thus revitalizing the heritage of the cable car.

China's first passenger cable car

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the Wanglongmen Cable Car? What were the efforts and investments behind its construction?

Xu Xiaoyu sheds light on this: During wartime, Chongqing grappled with burgeoning traffic challenges, amplified by its rugged landscape and a booming urban populace.

In January 1941, Chongqing's then-mayor, He Yaozu, envisioned the cable car as a remedy for these transportation woes. This vision stemmed from a proposal by the municipal government, rooted in a plan from the China Bridge Company.

To bring the Wanglongmen Cable Car to life, the Cable Car Company began by amassing 45 million yuan in capital, which eventually escalated to 60 million.

The venture of constructing a cable car was groundbreaking, not just for Chongqing but for the entire nation. After thorough site evaluations across various locations, the decision was made to establish the cable car at the bustling Wanglongmen Wharf.

The finished Wanglongmen Cable Car boasted a riverside station catering to embarking and disembarking passengers. Simultaneously, its tracks were laid over the original pier's stone steps, reinforced by robust concrete viaducts.

Track of Wanglongmen Cable Car after suspension. (Photo/Yuzhong District Cultural Management Office)

A record 90,000 passengers in just eight months

The launch of the cable car was nothing short of a spectacle, turning many heads in Chongqing. The city's residents eagerly gathered, drawn by the allure of this innovative transportation method.

The area adjacent to the cable car teemed with life during that period. The riverside was dotted with teahouses and stalls offering noodles, pea soup, and cigarettes, each eagerly serving the wave of visitors from the river's far bank.

At its debut, the Wanglongmen Cable Car sported two cabins, each designed to hold up to 50 passengers. Archival data reveals a striking success: In just eight months, the cable car amassed a revenue of 17.5 million yuan from ticketing, having ferried close to 90,000 passengers along its route.

The cable car's cabins in the photographs resembled large minibuses with a mountain emblem on the front. (Photo/Yuzhong District Cultural Management Office)

"We still possess photographs from when the Wanglongmen Cable Car's inauguration," shared Xu Xiaoyu. The cable car cabins appear like large minibusses in these photographs, each adorned with a mountain emblem on the front. They lacked closing doors, allowing passengers to lean slightly out and admire the surrounding scenery."


New Era, New Journey, New Chongqing

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