dollars from a bond election, workers built a monorail system at
Fair Park in 1956.
The attraction was replaced eight years later by the Swiss Sky Ride.
Like many rides of its kind, the cables were moved by a large wheel
called a bullwheel. The employees had to physically slow down the
gondolas, help the guests vacate the cars, load them with new riders,
lock the door, and move the vehicles into position so they could
go up the cable again. The ride was so successful that fair officials
decided to purchase the sky ride in 1971 instead of dealing with
All went well until tragedy struck on October 21, 1979. It was a
windy day, causing the gondolas to sway as they rode along the cables.
Suddenly, one of the cars got jammed as it tried to pass one of
the towering posts. Three gondolas proceeded toward the blockage
and slammed against it, causing two of the cars to plummet eighty-five
feet. To make matters worse, the gondolas crashed into a couple
of game booths. The engine was stopped and the fire department sent
people to rescue the eighty passengers trapped in the remaining
vehicles along the cable's length. In the end, one man was killed
and seventeen guests were injured. The lawsuit which followed provided
a settlement of ten million dollars. Not surprisingly, the Swiss
Skyride was closed and ultimately demolished.
When the Texas Skyway opened in 2007, memories of the previous gondola
lift were revisited by the press. Fair
Park officials, however, assured everyone that the new ride
had several safety features the other one did not possess. Because
of the upgraded technology, no workers were needed to handle the
cars. They only had to concentrate on making sure that passengers
boarded and disembarked without incident. With an art deco design,
the gondolas took guests sixty-five feet into the air and traveled
at a speed of six hundred feet per minute. The entire length of
the cable track covered one-third of a mile.
December 12, 2016
© Clint Skinner
All the pictures that are not mine are either public domain or creative
commons. I provided the photographer's name.