Rio, 1920

Rio, 1920
Photo Credit: Corbis

Sugarloaf cable car in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)--the cable car that came into international limelight after the famous fight sequence from James Bond flick --Moonraker--

Bibek Bhattacharya
September 01 , 2015
01 Min Read

Remember the old James Bond flick Moonraker, from 1979, where Roger Moore fought manfully with ‘Jaws’, the henchman of the villain Hugo Drax on top of a cable car on Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain? Well, those tramcars had only been around for 7 years, having replaced the original wooden ones in 1972. The Rio cable car was one of the first such made back in 1912. And it was quite a technological advance for the time, because the only two comparable achievements till that date were the relatively modest chairlift at Monte Ulia in Spain (1907) and the lift at Wetterhorn in Switzerland (1908). The Sugarloaf cable car is all of 1,450 metres in length, divided into two stages, the first bit from Praia Vermelha (the Red Beach) to Morro da Urca (Urca Hill), and then to the top of the spectacular Sugarloaf. This photo is of the cable car from 1920, and you can see the wooden, cabin-like shape of the car, and the single cable hanging precariously, about a thousand feet above the sea.

The cable car, built by the engineer Augusto Ramos, was a hit from the start, and its popularity has only grown. While celebrating its centenary in 2012, it was calculated that approximately 37 million visitors had used the cars since 1912. That’s quite a lot of traffic, and the only accident recorded was back in 1951, but that too ended well. One of the cables had snapped, which left the 22 passengers in the car stranded in the car, hanging from a single cable. In a daring move that would put Bond to shame, a mechanic, Augusto Gonçalves, who was aboard the car, slithered down to Urca station, built an emergency car, and took it back up to rescue the passengers.

In 1972, when the new cars finally arrived, and along with increased carrying capacity, came more tourists. Moonraker’s fight sequence gave it the international push it needed. Oh, by the way, for the scene where Jaws bites through the cable to prevent Bond and Dr Goodhead from escaping, the studio created a length of wire made from licorice!

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