Monday, February 15, 2010

Twelve nervous people ...

Speaking of Montana's state parks, this might be a good time to pause and remember what was undoubtedly the most beloved attraction in the entire state park system -- the tramway at Lewis & Clark Caverns.

From the late 1940s till the early 70s, people traveled from the park's visitor center to the cave by riding a little railway train that snaked along the mountainside. The train ride was followed by an ascent up the mountain in a primitive aerial tram -- the thrill of a lifetime for any park visitor. This photo of the tram is from a 1950s postcard, and the description on the back of the card reads:
A small load of tourists headed heavenward en route to the cavern entrance. The cabled chariot lifts 16 calm people or 12 nervous people 435 feet up a 71 degree grade. It deposits the thankful cargo just below the cave entryway.

I was lucky enough to ride the tram as a kid, and I still remember the experience. Tragically, though, it was shut down by a heartless state government in 1973, and the railway disappeared three years later. Visits to the cave just haven't been the same since.

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