Hammetschwand Lift

Burgenstock, Switzerland | C.1905

Photo Credit: Charles Whittaker Curry

Overlooking Lake Lucerne in Switzerland appears to be a rocket ready for lift off.  In actuality this structure is the Hammetschwand Lift, known as the highest exterior elevator in Europe. It connects a rock path with the Hammetschwand lookout point on the Burgenstock plateau so people can get panoramic views at the highest vantage point of Lucerne.

Built by hotel and railway businessman Franz Josef Bucher, it was the first of its type in Switzerland when first opened in 1905. The original lift operated at a lethargic speed of one meter per second and took nearly three minutes to reach the summit of the Hammetschwand, carrying up to 8 people in its wooden-zinc plated cab.

In 1935, the lift’s speed was increased to 2.7 meters per second and the cab was replaced with a lighter metal construction. At the time, it was not only the highest public external elevator in Europe, but also the fastest elevator in the world.

The filigree on the metal lattice tower has a surface area of 22 meters, stands at 118 meters high and located on a 44-meter-high rock pit. The elevator entrance, the engine room and the first 14 meters of this pit are hidden within the mountain, while the next 30 meters of the shaft extend into the open air, offering an impressive view of Lake Lucerne. The top station sits at 1,132 meters above sea level providing a panoramic view of the lake and the Alps.

Today, the lift carries passengers 153 meters up to the summit of the Hammetschwand in under a minute. It still holds the medal for the highest exterior lift in Europe, and its views are arguably unparalleled by other vantage points in the region.

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