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A Funicular Saves the Day

The Swiss village of Bristen’s road collapsed, and some old technology is suddenly coming in handy.

Tucked high up on a mountain in central Switzerland, the village of Bristen is very small. It’s at the end of all the bus lines. Only 450 people live there, and everyone gets in and out via a single two-lane road that winds down the mountainside.

Or, at least, they used to until last Sunday, when a small landslide hit, and a big chunk of the only road to Bristen collapsed. Right now, the only way to get in or out of the village is to walk 25 minutes down a slippery path, or to hitch a ride on an emergency helicopter, The Local reports.

You know what this means: it’s time to bring back the local funicular!

The funicular in question, pictured above, is wood-paneled and jauntily angled. It runs up and down a steep track that links Bristen to the nearby town of Amsteg, a transit hub. 

According to Funimag, the cable car was built in 1918 to help move workers at a hydroelectric power plant. In 1998, it was replaced by underground tunnels, and shut down.

Technicians have now begun restarting the funicular and running safety tests. If all goes well, it will be shuttling people to and from the village starting next Wednesday. 

This funicular has saved the day once before—in 2003, when authorities closed the road to Bristen in order to dynamite some rocks located precipitously above the town. It chugged along for about two months before it was taken out of service again. 

Since then, it has surely been resting up for this very day. 

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.