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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 ---

Log (starting 06/15/21)
06/23/21: added a picture of the Bridal Veil Falls tram cabin
06/15/21: added a new theory, revised the history


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 (first lift was sold to Sky Tavern, NV). 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, Nevada 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 (1971-1978): Ed Immergluck started working for Thiokol in 1971 together with Roberth Withrow. Thiokol made four lifts in 1971, likely with Otto Luck's help (not yet confirmed, but the design resembles the lifts of Hunziker and Pullman-Berry where Luck's involvement is already confirmed). In 1972, Withrow left Thiokol and an engineer named Jim ... took over. He had experience with special manufacturing techniques which were used to design the A-frame terminals. Thiokol also made all the installations and was quickly loosing money. In 1976, they decided to get out of the tramway business.

  • 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
  • Robert Withrow: engineer, worked for Thiokol in 1971 and arranged the deal for selling a Telecar/M-D chair to Bear Gulch, ID

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
1964-1978  MI 	Barn Mountain 	        ?                 American Cableways 		 Double      Yes 	 New
1964-????  CA 	Mammoth Mountain        Chair 5           American Cableways/Riblet 	 Double      Partially   New
1964-1974  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      Yes 	 New
1965-????  CA 	Squaw Valley            Exhibition   	  Hjorth Bros.   		 Double      Yes 	 New
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      Partially   New
1971-1987  ME 	Sunday River            Barker Mtn.       Pullman-Berry                  Double      Yes 	 New
1971-197?  MA 	Bedford Ctry. Cl.       ?                 Pullman-Berry                  Double      Partially   New
1971-1992  NM 	Taos                    4                 Pullman-Berry                  Double      Yes 	 New
1971-1974  VA 	Big Devil        	?                 Pullman-Berry                  Double      Yes         New
1971-????  UT 	Powder Mountain         Sundown           Thiokol                        Double      Partially   New
1971-????  UT 	Powder Mountain         Timberline   	  Thiokol                        Triple      Partially   New
1971-????  UT 	Nordic Valley 	        Troll             Thiokol                        Double      Partially   New
1971-????  NY 	West Mountain    	Triple   	  Thiokol                        Triple      Partially   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 Afton fairgrounds for some years)
1979-1985  MN 	Coffee Mill   	        Run of the Mill   American Cableways 		 Double      Yes 	 Relocation (Barn Mountain, MI)
1980-today UT 	Aspen Hills   	        Chairlift         Hjorth Bros.   		 Double      Yes 	 Relocation (Afton, WY)
1985-1987  MA 	Blanchard Hill          ?                 Pullman-Berry                  Double      Partially   Relocation (Bedford Country Club, MA)
1985-today ND 	Frost Fire              Double   	  American Cableways 		 Double      Yes 	 Relocation (Coffee Mill, MN)
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)
198?-today MN 	Andes Tower Hills       Milky Way         Hunziker, Miner-Denver 	 Triple      Partially   Relocation, made from various parts (Hunziker tension terminal from an unknown lift or even homemade, towers from Hunziker boneyard, Miner-Denver drive, Homemade chairs)
198?-today MN 	Andes Tower Hills       Hollywood         Hunziker, MD, Riblet   	 Triple      Partially   Relocation, made from various parts (Hunziker tension terminal from an unknown lift or even homemade, Miner-Denver drive and towers, Homemade chairs, Riblet sheave assembly)
199?-today ID 	Kelly Canyon            Skiers            Hjorth Bros.   		 Double      Partially   Relocation (source not confirmed: according to a former manager of Timp Haven, their Hjorth lift was scrapped)
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)


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 U.S. to promote Habegger's tramway for the Palm Springs project. During this time, he likely met the people that became important for his later project. Like Otto Luck, who designed the Habegger gondola that crossed the Zuerichsee in Switzerland.

In 1957, a Swiss engineer, Fred Schmutz, and his family emigrated from Geneva, Switzerland, to the U.S. 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 U.S. 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). 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 U.S. 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, but it is unknown if those activities resulted in more BACO ski lifts.

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.

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The new cabin at the factory of BACO in Steffisburg, Switzerland (© BACO AG)

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 again disappeared 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

After spending some time in Colorado in 1969 and 1970, Hunziker and Otto Weber, Staedeli's sales rep for the East Coast, started working for Pullman-Berry in 1971. One if the first lifts was designed by none other than Otto Luck. The same year, Hunziker died in an airplane crash. Around that time, Immergluck went to the newly formed tramway division at 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.

The end of this story is a series of lifts that were designed by Thiokol in its first year as a ski lift manufacturer. Robert Withrow, an engineer from Idaho who arranged the sale of a Miner-Denver/Telecar chairlift to the owners of Bear Gulch, ID, together with Ed Immergluck, might have also hired Otto Luck. After the first year, Withrow left and Jim ... was hired. His background was the source of the classic Thiokol A-frame design.

Even though Otto Luck was well known in the Swiss community, his traces are lost after 1971.

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Contrary to my previous theory with BACO being the source of design for all the lifts, I currently think that Otto Luck was the engineer and "mastermind".

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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)

This post has been edited by sheave: 23 June 2021 - 07:51 AM

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