History

A short extract of the history of the MONTSERRAT CABLE CAR service, the Aeri.

Background

One of the initial plans for
the Aeri cabin
One of the initial plans for
the Aeri cabin
Montserrat was and remains today a pilgrimage site visited by many people who come from far and wide. Before the Aeri started operating, to get to Montserrat Abbey the usual means of transport were carts pulled by animals, on foot, on the rack railway line or other vehicles of the time.
As a consequence of the Catalan Railway company’s reaching Monistrol de Montserrat with the line they were laying up to Manresa, sections were opened up to this station in October 1922. This is when a group of Catalan businessmen, led by Mr Josep Marsans Claramunt, proposed the construction of a faster and safer system to access the Montserrat Monastery, to run parallel to the rack railway which had already been providing a service for some years.

The project and the incorporation of the Company

The idea was transformed into a project. The choice of the cable car as a means of transport to carry out the project was not only due to the economy of the project in itself, but also because the cable car would be a novelty in passenger transport for the country at that time.
In 1926, the initial cable car project was commissioned to the engineer, Mr Ricardo López in partnership with the German company, “Adolf Bleichert & Co” and the engineer, Mr Hans Grundel. At the time, this company specialised in the construction of round-trip cable cars, with a very advanced and safe technology. The initial project included two more stops: one at the tower that is located right next to the Santa Cueva path and the other at a station that was on the same road that currently links Olesa de Montserrat and Monistrol. However, in the end, neither of the two stops were built.
In June 1928, Mr Josep Marsans Claramunt was granted by Royal Charter the concession of the cable car as a secondary railway. And it was a few months later, on 29 December 1928, that the company, which still manages the cable car today, was formed: Funicular Aeri de Montserrat, S.A.
One of the pages of the
concession granted to the Aeri
One of the pages of the
concession granted to the Aeri
The minutes of the first
Board of Directors meeting
The minutes of the first
Board of Directors meeting
The lapel badge worn by Aeri
workers on their uniform.
The lapel badge worn by Aeri
workers on their uniform.

Construction

The original bridge over the river,
the bottom station and tower 2
The original bridge over the river,
the bottom station and tower 2
In October 1928, just after having obtained the concession, the construction works began. The main contractor was the company owned by Mr Estanislao Llobet.
Throughout 1929, several arrangements were made with the Catalan Railway Company for the construction of a stop on the new Barcelona-Manresa line right next to the bottom station of the Montserrat cable car.
Despite the inherent difficulties in the construction of an installation such as the cable car, the infrastructure was put to the test on 23 December 1929.

Opening the service to the public and
the construction of the bridge over the Llobregat River

On 17 May 1930, after obtaining the corresponding permits, authorisations and completing the inspections and checks, the Montserrat cable car service was opened to the public. Throughout the year the service worked fully and was very well received by all the people who came to the Aeri to enjoy the experience.
It was not until August 1931 that the bridge over the Llobregat River was opened to the public. Therefore, the Aeri operated for just over a year with limited access to roads near the river and the railway platform.
An Aeri worker
from that period
An Aeri worker
from that period

The Civil War

The state of the Aeri
after the Civil War.
The state of the Aeri
after the Civil War.
At the beginning of the Civil War the installations were confiscated by the trade unions. Throughout this period, the Aeri service was limited to transporting people to the hospital that had been set up in Montserrat Monastery.
When the Civil War ended in 1939, huge TNT explosions devastated the lower station, destroying both machinery and the installations (in particular none of the cable tracks and the cabin it was holding), as well as the bridge over the Llobregat River, which collapsed almost completely.

The Reconstruction

It was not an easy period, but the Funicular Aeri de Montserrat, S.A. company was known for constantly overcoming the difficulties that arose, demonstrating great resilience. The task was complex, above all, due to the lack of special materials, such as those for lifting and tensioning the cables, which, because of the war, could not even be obtained from Germany, where the original construction company was located.
Some of these devices were built specifically with the help of the “Comisión de la Armada para el salvamento de buques” (Naval Salvage Commission) and the company “Funicular San Sebastián-Miramar”, which loaned one of the cabins of the Barcelona cable car (made by the same constructor and with similar characteristics) until around 1962, when the Barcelona site was reopened.
After a multitude of complications, the reconstruction work on the Aeri was completed and service to the public could resume on 1 July 1940.
However, the rebuilding of the bridge was still pending, valued at almost a million pesetas according to the project drawn up by the engineer in charge, Mr Juan Aracil, and the work was commissioned to the company, Torras Herreria y Construcciones. In 1946, work began on the reconstruction of the bridge, and it was not until April 1949 that access to the public was reopened through it. It was blessed by the Abbot, Father Aureli Escarré.

Continuous Improvement

In 1950 a large investment was made in technology and machinery to increase the cable car’s speed. After obtaining the corresponding authorisation, the cable car was upgraded, going from a speed of 2.5 m/s to 5 m/s, with the aim of increasing the cable car’s transport capacity, given that there were long waits and crowds on weekends and public holidays.
From the 1960s onwards, the stations’ buildings and accesses were improved year after year, and greater effort was made in marketing the service to both the locals and visitors from abroad.
Some posters from the 50’s and 60’s
for the promotion of the Aeri
Some posters from the 50’s and 60’s
for the promotion of the Aeri

Today

Today, the Aeri de Montserrat is much more than a form of transport, it is an experience to be enjoyed. It is also a living heritage of the region, since the machinery is in large part original. It runs at full capacity thanks to the technical improvements introduced in the final construction stages, making it environmentally friendly and safe.
Currently, around fifteen people work in the Aeri, making a great team whose main objective is to welcome people, provide a good service and constantly improve.
Innovation, security and care for the visitors and in their experience are today some of the core elements of our DNA.
Present day maintenance tasks
Present day maintenance tasks
Today’s Aeri de Montserrat staff
Today’s Aeri de Montserrat staff

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