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USSR’s First Aerial Tramway Still In Use After Nearly 60 Years

The mining town of Chiatura, Georgia, surrounded by steep cliffs, is criss-crossed by a network of aging Soviet-era aerial tramways that are still in use today.

In the 1950s, planners began work on what locals call the "Kanatnaya Doroga," or "rope road," that still connects almost every corner of the town. Today, while some of the cars have rusted away, 17 of the aging tramways remain in service and localsride them daily.

Below: This manganese processing plant, sited next to a mine shaft, operates 24/7. Workers access the mine by taking two tramways up and over steep bluffs. The cable cars are part of a network of aerial tramways built in Chiatura during the Soviet era, used to this day as public transportation through the challenging terrain.

Below: Overview of Chiatura. The Soviets invested heavily in constructing a "worker's paradise" in the gorge which, in its heyday, claimed 60 percent of the world's manganese production.

Below: An operator of Tramway 25 pits cherries in the downtime between passengers. Operators usually wait until there are 3-4 passengers waiting at both stations before ringing the bell and commencing a trip.

Below: A cabin from Tramway 25 slides over the heavily polluted Kvirila River. The river runs almost black when the manganese factories are in full use.

Below Left: The cabins run without a braking system; if the haulage cable snaps, the cabins will roll straight back down the track cable. Right: A discarded piece of track cable. The cables weigh around 26lb (12kg) per meter.

Below: A photo of Tramway 25 dating from the 1950s (left), alongside a current picture.

Below: Tramway commuters wait for a cabin in the central tramway station. 

Then and now pictures of one of the tramways built in the 1960s.

A tramway operator eases down the brake as a cabin docks. 

Side view of a tramway above Chiatura, with a Soviet-era factory in background.

A local lost in thought as a cabin of Tramway 25 docks. Tramway 25 was the first passenger tramway in the USSR and has run almost continuously since its first run in 1954.

Photographer:  Amos Chapple | H/T TheAtlantic

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