This aero car, designed by Leonardo Torres Quevedo, was a new kind of aerial cable transport system. More than 100 years on, this tourist attraction is still in operation.
Leonardo Torres Quevedo was born on December 28, 1852 in Santa Cruz de Iguña (Cantabria, Spain). In 1870 he began his studies at the School of Civil Engineering in Madrid. When he finished in 1876, he decided he would work in the field of science, technology, and invention because of his passion for mathematics.
The Niagara Spanish Aero Car Company constructed a cable car over the Niagara River between 1915 and 1916, which was opened on August 8, 1916. The company's aim was to construct an aerial tram that would be popular with tourists.
The "Niagara Spanish Aero Car," as it was known at the time, was a new kind of passenger cable transport based on Torres Quevedo's patent called "Automatic hook and brake for aerial cars," dated January 22, 1915.
This drawing published in the press at the time shows the Niagara Whirlpool with the aero car traveling above it. It is suspended between 2 Canadian banks, crossing over into American territory.
The aero car spans a distance of 550 meters and is 76 meters above the Niagara River in Canada. There have been no accidents in its more than 100-year history.
By the end of 1887 Leonardo Torres Quevedo had filed his first aerial tram patent, entitled "An aerial cable car system with multiple wires."
Thanks to its new system where each cable had a counterweight at the end, the tension remained constant, regardless of the weight of the load, making it completely safe.
Creating a funicular cableway that covered a large distance was an innovative idea, showing that Torres Quevedo's inventions were consistently original.
This design, featuring a route on an incline, was considered for the Monte Ulía aerial tram. However, it was never constructed.
The blueprint has 3 sections: plan, elevation, and profile. It was hand drawn in ink and watercolor.
Here we see part of the aerial tram plan and the mechanism for coping with 50% inclines. The scale is 1:10 and the plan is dated 1908.
The image shows the wires, shafts, and discs of the gondola.
This is the design that was eventually used for the Monte Ulía aerial tram. It is a 1:10 scale drawing of cable car Number 5 with 3 sections: plan, elevation, and left profile. It is dated 1908.
Torres Quevedo carefully considered technical aspects and details in the plans. The drawing of the gondola is meticulous, with each element precisely set out.
The aerial tram was a highly complex technical project with characteristics that were almost inconceivable at the time. This image shows the mechanisms used to start the cableway moving.
Close-up of the wires, shafts, and discs of the gondola.
The Torres Quevedo Museum in the School of Civil Engineering at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) has a model from around the same time that is a faithful reproduction of the aero car.
The car was powered by a 50 horsepower (37 kW) electric motor and traveled at about 7 km/h. The cable load was 9 tons.
In the event of a power outage, a diesel generator propelled the car safely back to its dock.
Even today, the final page of every Spanish passport depicts Torres Quevedo's aero car: evidence that the invention is still remembered and valued today.
In 1991 the Niagara Parks Commission placed a commemorative plaque at the foot of the aero car, describing Torres Quevedo as "an ingenious Spanish engineer."
The gondola is suspended by 6 cables. This means passengers can enjoy views over the whirlpool and its rapids, where the gorge turns sharply and descends into a narrow ravine.
En el año 1983, Correos emitió una serie de sellos conmemorativos de la construcción del Transbordador sobre el Niágara.
In 2016 its centenary was celebrated with a commemorative event attended by the inventor's descendants and senior Spanish and Canadian figures.
The Chair of the Niagara Parks Commission said the fact that the aero car is still operating is "a living testament to the brilliance and foresight of the original designer and engineer, Spaniard Leonardo Torres Quevedo."
Torres Quevedo Museum (Madrid)
Museum Director: Manuel Romana García
Editing: Miriam Guerrero Pérez
Texts: Miriam Guerrero Pérez and Consuelo Durán Cermeño
Advisors: Francisco González Redondo, Antonio López Vega, and María Pascual Nicolás
Documentation: Manuel Romana García, Consuelo Durán Cermeño, Miriam Guerrero Pérez
Image Sources: Museum collection, Francisco González Redondo Collection, Manuel Romana Collection, National Newspaper Library
Video Source: YouTube