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Swiss-American lift businesses

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#1 sheave

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Posted 20 March 2021 - 09:42 AM

--- Work in progress ---


Companies () = building ski lifts during that time
  • Bachmann & Co. / BACO (195?-198?): Swiss manufacturer. Started working with Ed Immergluck as the US sales rep in 1959. Immerluck likely sold the BACO tram at Bridal Veil Falls to Rue Clegg. BACO had hired Otto Luck in the 1960s, but wasn't very impressed with his work. Likely only two BACO lifts were sold in the US. BACO later was bought by Poma.
  • Witt Construction Co. (1961): Kenneth Witt's company, constructed the Bridal Veil Falls tram.
  • Cosmos, Inc. (1962-1963): Started by two Swiss, likely Fred Schmutz and Paul Hunziker or Ed Immergluck, in cooperation with Cowelco, Inc. of Long Beach. Fred Schmutz became president. Two lifts were made, then money became an issue and the project was stopped by Cowelco. This is likely the first use of BACO's design.
  • Swiss-American Cableways, Inc. (196?-196?): Started by Paul Hunziker with the help of local investor DeLynn Heaps. Exact number of lifts built unknown. First contract was to build a cafe and dining club at Bridal Veil Falls' upper terminal. The company was dissolved in 1973.
  • American Cableways, Inc. (196?-1965): Started by Paul Hunziker together with Kenneth Witt. Exact number of lifts built unknown, but someone affiliated with the company was able to confirm two installations. Supplied parts for Lift 5 at Mammoth.
  • Allied Cableways & Machinery, Inc. (1965-19??): Started by Fred Schmutz together with Neva Rae Gersdorf after Cosmos went out of business. It is unknown if they have ever made any lifts or just supplied parts.
  • Hjorth Bros., Inc. (1965): Hjorth was manufacturing the chairs for Hunziker's lifts. After Witt's dead in 1965, Hunziker started working with Hjorth to build the lift for Frontier Land in Jackson, Wyoming. Timp Haven and an unknown contract in California followed (the parts were later used to build two lifts at Squaw), but Hunziker had already left for his next adventure.
  • Hunziker Lift, Inc. (1965-1967): Hunziker went on to build two double chairs and a T-bar at Mt. Rose, California under his own brand. This is the first confirmed used of the Luck grips. The T-bar's installation was delayed due to a design error with the crossarms and sheave assemblies. After only three lifts, Hunziker closed his shop in Provo, Utah.
  • Western Lift and Crane, Inc. (1967-1968): A new shop in Springville was bought and a new business started. It received various orders from Mammoth's Dave McCoy incl. the construction of Chair 7. Around the same time, Hunziker became involved with Solitude. Chair 7 was eventually delivered in spring 1968.
  • North American Lift Co. (?-?): The company was mentioned in the archives with regard to Hunziker, but it is unclear if the business ever resulted in any lifts.
  • Pullman-Berry (1971-1972): In the last years of Pullman, the company sold one of its divisions to Berry Metal of Pittsburgh, PA. The owner knew Hunziker and got him on board together with Otto Weber. They started designing lifts that likely were a mixture of BACO's, Hunziker's and Staedeli's design. The lifts were made in Harmony, PA. After Hunziker's accident, a former co-worker of Hunziker stepped in to finish the remaining contracts and Pullman-Berry decided to stop selling lifts. Even though the decision was already made, likely two more lifts were sold in 1972 that had a different design, e.g. for the bullwheel.
  • Thiokol (?-1978): Ed Immergluck started working for Thiokol in 1971. The first lifts were likely based on Hunziker's design, but more than Immergluck's employment is currently unknown.

  • Ed Immergluck: Polish engineer, sales rep for BACO and PHB (under Gamut Eng.), employee of Hall and Thiokol
  • Rue Clegg: Utah senator, owner of the Bridal Veil Falls Tram
  • Fred Schmutz: Swiss engineer, founded Cosmos and Allied Cableways, friend of Hunziker
  • Otto H. Luck: Swiss engineer, inventor of the Luck grip, friend of Hunziker, employee of BACO, designed the Pullman-Berry chairlift for Sunday River
  • Paul Hunziker: the central figure in the whole story
  • Neva Rae Gersdorf: co-owner of Allied Cableways
  • DeLynn Heaps: Utah investor, financier of Hunziker's business "Swiss-American Cableways"
  • Hugh McKellar: working for Hunziker, exact history unknown, was converting the European designs
  • Kenneth Witt: hired Hunziker for the BVF Tram, owner of Witt Construction, co-owner of American Cableways
  • Dave McCoy: gave Hunziker his first job in the US, bought at least one chair from Hunziker
  • Otto Weber: Swiss, US sales rep for Staedeli, involved with Pullman-Berry
  • Barney Mulligan: ski school director at Mt. Rose, the name shows up on Hunziker's brochure

Lifts (incomplete)
Years      State  Area        	    Name     	     Make                   	Model      Confirmed   Installation
1959-1968  NV     Sky Tavern   	    T-bar            BACO                   	Platter    Yes         New
1961-1996  UT     Bridal Veil Falls Tram     	     BACO                   	Tramway 6  Yes         New
1962-2007  CT     Mohawk Mountain   Nutmeg   	     Cosmos                 	Double     Yes         New
1962-19??  CO     Steamboat         Christie 	     Cosmos                 	Double     Yes         New
1964-????  UT     Snowbasin         Wildcat          American Cableways     	Double     Yes         New
1964-????  MI     Boyne Mountain    North Boyne      American Cableways     	Double     Yes         New
1964-????  CA     Mammoth Mountain  Chair 5          American Cableways/Riblet 	Double     Partially   New
1965-1974  WY     Frontier Land     Chairlift        Hjorth Bros.           	Double     Yes         New
1965-199?  UT     Timp Haven        Mandan   	     Hjorth Bros.           	Double     Yes         New
1965-????  CA     Squaw Valley      Headwall 	     Hjorth Bros.           	Double     Partially   New, exact story tbc
1965-????  CA     Squaw Valley      Exhibition       Hjorth Bros.           	Double     Partially   New, exact story tbc
1965-????  NV     Mt. Rose          Northwest        Hunziker Lift              Double     Yes         New
1965-????  NV     Mt. Rose          Ponderosa        Hunziker Lift              Double     Yes         New
1966-????  NV     Mt. Rose          Alphorn          Hunziker Lift              T-bar      Yes         New
1965-????  CA     Mammoth Mountain  Chair 6          (Hunziker Lift/Riblet) 	Double     Partially   New 
1968-1984  CA     Mammoth Mountain  Chair 7          Western Lift & Crane   	Double     Yes         New
1971-????  NY     Ski Minnewaska    Chairlift        Pullman-Berry              Double     Yes         New
1971-today NE     Devils Nest  	    ?                Pullman-Berry              Double     No          New
1971-1987  ME     Sunday River      Barker Mtn.      Pullman-Berry              Double     Yes         New
1971-197?  MA     Bedford Ctry. Cl. ?                Pullman-Berry              Double     No          New
1971-1992  NM     Taos              4                Pullman-Berry              Double     Yes         New
1971-1974  VA     Big Devil    	    ?                Pullman-Berry              Double     Yes 	       New
1972-1999  NH     Cannon Mountain   Hong Kong        Pullman-Berry              Double     Partially   New
1972-1975  PA     Wildwood Highland ?                Pullman-Berry              Double     No 	       New
1974-1980  WY     Pine Creek        -                Hjorth Bros.           	Double     Yes         Relocation (Frontier Land, never installed, stored at Aspen fairgrounds for some years)
1980-today UT     Aspen Hills       Chairlift        Hjorth Bros.           	Double     Yes         Relocation (Aspen, WY)
1985-1987  MA     Blanchard Hill    ?                Pullman-Berry              Double     Partially   Relocation (Bedford Country Club, MA)
1988-today ME     Sunday River      Little White Cap Pullman-Berry              Double     No          Relocation (Sunday River, ME), only parts reused
1988-????  MA     Mt. Watatic 	    Summit           Pullman-Berry              Double     Partially   Relocation (Blanchard Hill, MA)
198?-today ID     Pebble Creek	    Aspen            Hunziker Lift              Double     Yes 	       Relocation (Chair 7, Mammoth Mtn., CA)
199?-today ID     Kelly Canyon      Skiers   	     Hjorth Bros.           	Double     Partially   Relocation (Timp Haven/Sundance)
199?-today MN     Coffee Mill       Barnstormer      Cosmos                 	Double     Partially   Relocation (Steamboat, CO)
19??-????  PA     Camelback    	    Coolmoor II      Pullman-Berry              Double     No 	       Relocation (Big Devil, VA)
19??-19??  MA     Nashoba Valley    -                Pullman-Berry              Double     Partially   Relocation (Blanchard Hill, MA, never installed)
19??-19??  NH     Temple Mountain   -                Pullman-Berry              Double     Partially   Relocation (Nashoba Valley, MA, never installed, likely some parts used and returned to Nashoba)
19??-today ND     Frost Fire        Double           ?                          Double     No          Relocation (?)
19??-today MN     Andes Tower Hills Milky Way        ?                          Triple     No          Relocation (?)
19??-today MN     Andes Tower Hills Hollywood        ?                          Triple     No          Relocation (?)


A Swiss welder, Paul Hunziker, started his career in the 1950s with Northrop, but soon after became employed with Habegger. He was working on the Linthal tramway project, but also traveling to the US to promote Habegger's tramway for the Palm Springs project. During this time, he likely met the people that became important for his later projects.

In 1957, a Swiss engineer, Fred Schmutz, and his family emigrated from Geneva, Switzerland, to the US. They moved to Long Beach, Calif. Around the same time, a Polish-born Berkeley graduate in chemical engineering founded Gamut Engineering in San Francisco. His name was J. Edward "Ed" Immergluck. His wife, Jeanne Marie Bachman, was born in Washington D.C. and had Swiss ancestors.

In fall 1958, Utah businessman and former state senator Rue L. Clegg was close to fulfill his lifelong dream: a tram next to Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon. Heron Engineering was chosen to build the tram. But the project was stopped for an unknown reason.

In 1959, Hunziker moved to the US and Immergluck became a sales rep for the Swiss company Bachmann & Co. (BACO). BACO was founded by Marcel Bachmann (there might be a connection between Immergluck's wife and Bachmann - we are currently analyzing the family trees). He started his business by selling Vogler surface lifts in Switzerland. During the 1950s, they developed their own T-bar lifts. Their first T-bar in the US was installed at Sky Tavern, NV in 1959. It was first installed with T-bars, but only weeks later switched to platters or discs after they had arrived from Switzerland. Immergluck was quickly sending out marketing material to other ski areas to promote his first success and BACO's lifts. In 1960, he became involved in different projects in Utah.

In the meantime, Hunziker had his first job at Mammoth supervising the construction of the Yodler restaurant. After that, he and his family were moving around. Redondo Beach was their last stop before finally moving to Utah. He was often making trips to the beach with Schmutz and his family.

Immergluck likely sold a tram to Rue Clegg while he was on business trips in Utah to promote his lifts. The tram was not build by Heron, it was designed by Bachmann & Co. / BACO. This likely was their first and only tramway. According to Bachmann's son, the company might have only been involved in delivering the design and the cabins. The tram started operating in late 1961. A year later, Rue Clegg died of a heart attack during a vacation in Mexico. The same year, BACO filed a suit against Clegg for not paying the amount due after the tram started operating.

Kenneth Witt, a Chicago Technical Institute graduate, was hired to build the tram under his company, Witt Construction. He hired Hunziker, who was on a road trip through Utah looking for new projects. It wasn't an easy project as the top terminal wasn't designed correctly and the lift was plagued with technical issues. After the project was finished, Hunziker started Swiss-American Cableways, Inc. in Orem, Utah with the help of local investor DeLynn Heaps. Heaps started advertising the business "with experienced European engineering and supervisory". The chief engineer likely was Otto Luck. Luck was also working for BACO and had designed his own grip. Also involved at some point was engineer Hugh McKellar. The first contract was to build a restaurant at the tram's top terminal.

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In the meantime, Fred Schmutz had started a new business in Long Beach: Cosmos, Inc. He likely was one of the two Swiss or German-speaking businessmen who visited Cowelco, a Long Beach based Steel contractor, in 1962. His first shop was just around the corner of Cowelco. He only built two chairlifts and stopped Cosmos soon after. In 1965, he opened a new business: Allied Cableways & Machinery Co. (a ski lift manufacturing business). Mrs. Neva Rae Gersdorf of Chicago was listed as a co-owner. The company disappeared again a few years later. According to Fred's grandson, he continued to work as an engineer for ski lifts. His grandson is currently trying to find out more. He will hopefully and finally reveal the mystery behind Cosmos.

Back in Utah, Ed was again successful and able to secure another big deal. He became sales rep for the tramway division of German manufacturer Pohlig-Heckel-Bleichert (PHB) and sold their 1963 gondola to Treasure Mountain, Utah. Kenneth Witt didn't rest either.He became Hunziker's new partner under American Cableways and sold a "swiss-engineered" double chair, Wildcat, to Snowbasin.

Hunziker was hired by James Leuscher in 1965 to build the new lifts at Mt. Rose: two double chairs and a T-bar. The same year, Immergluck started working for Hall and likely established the contact with PHB. Another Provo-made chairlift was built by Hjorth Bros. at Timp Haven. Kenneth Witt died in April 1965, but his businesses remained until the early 1970s. Hunziker started his own business around that time, Hunziker Lift, Inc. of Provo, Utah. He also had two other businesses: Western Lift and Crane Co., North American Lift Co. Hunziker owned Solitude between 1967 and 1968.

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Hunziker T-bar at Mt. Rose

In 1971, Hunziker and Otto Weber, Staedeli's sales rep for the East Coast, started working for Pullman-Berry. The same year, Hunziker died in an airplane crash. Around that time, Immergluck went to Thiokol and became a member of Utah's Tramway Safety Comitee until 1988. He died in 2013.

The main question I'm currently trying to answer is if Bachmann & Co. / BACO was the source for the lift design. According to the Bachmann family, there is a similarity in design. Hunziker also knew Luck and used his grips. He wasn't able to design his own lifts, but he likely got help from Luck who himself had access to BACO's designs.

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There are currently four pieces of evidence to support my assumption with regard to BACO:
- Immergluck was BACO's sales rep when he met Witt and Hunziker started building lifts after he met Witt
- Hunziker and Luck knew each other and Hunziker hired Luck, e.g. for the grips
- Hunziker used BACO's pictures for his marketing material
- Luck was working for BACO and was also involved at Pullman-Berry
- All the lifts listed above have a similar, sometimes even identical design. Here are a few examples:

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(Swiss-)American Cableways?

Hunziker Lift
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Hjorth Bros.
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Just for comparison, a Hunziker RST-3 RT (on the Hjorth made lift at Frontier Land):

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With regard to Mammoth, here is a history of the first lifts. Any pictures for chairs 4-7 would be great.

1955: Chair 1 (United Tramway)
1957: Chair 2 (Heron or Riblet)
1959: Chair 3 (Riblet)
      T-bar 1 (Doppelmayr)
1962: Chair 4 (???)
1964: Chair 5 (American Cableways - maybe also Riblet was involved): 
              4,200 ft long, went up to 10,500 ft - all towers were height adjustable.
1965: Chair 6 (Hunziker Lift/Riblet):
              1,800 ft long, beginners chairlift
      T-bar 2 (Riblet)
              Both lifts were a cooperation between Hunziker, Riblet and Mammoth.
              Riblet designed the height adjustable terminals and the T-bar,
              Hunziker was involved with the towers, line and chairs (it is not confirmed which brand he used).
1966: Gondola 1 (Bell), first section
1967: Gondola 2 (Bell), second section
1968: Chair 7 (Western Lift and Crane): 
              started at the new parking lot, was sold to Pebble Creek in the 1980s.
              Yan helped installing it and was involved in the relocation when he installed the new Chair 7 in 1984.
1969: Chair 8 (Lift Engineering)
      Chair 9 (Lift Engineering)
1970: Chair 10 (Lift Engineering)

Picture of T-bar 2:

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This post has been edited by sheave: Yesterday, 12:00 PM

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