Home-Built Funicular on Make: Projects

Make: Projects community member Jeff Johnson is putting the fun back in funicular with his awesome people/firewood/beer-moving tram built to get from their family lake house down to the dock 147 feet below. Looking for a big summer project? Jeff shared his entire build notes and photos with us in Make: Projects (thanks Jeff!), so you can get cracking on your very own. With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, we can’t miss the opportunity to mention that Jeff’s father, Charlie Johnson, helped out on the controls and motors. Jeff writes:

When Holly and I first decided to have a tram built, we found a local fabricator, gave him a deposit, and waited for his design. A few weeks later he sent us back our check and said he accepted a gig in Idaho and wouldn’t be able to make our lift. Dad asked where we were in the project, and I had to tell him that it was canceled. Three days later, he emails me with a design, and says “We’ll do it ourselves!” He runs an industrial panel shop in Chattanooga so the control part was right down his alley.

At first I was skeptical, but as he and I discussed how to do it, it became more and more believable. My wife doubted it to the very end until it was done, and we were extremely pleased with ourselves. It’s fun to watch boats stop and watch our cart climb the hill. Did I mention we did it for half what the other guy was going to charge? The total cost was around $5,000. Comparable systems cost about $30K plus installation.

I was blessed with two great parents, and a father that was willing to share his interests with me and to take an interest in mine. He’s the first person I go to with an idea, and I always know I’ll get honest feedback, and in many cases an improvement in my idea. He taught me that if you don’t know how something works, find out, and tell somebody else about it. It’s a curiosity that still brings out the little kid in me.

Dad has always been there to show me that making things is easy if you just put your mind to it and get started. Paper is good, but doing the work is where the real satisfaction comes.

You’re blessed indeed, Jeff! Check out this video of the the funicular in action, scope the project in Make: Projects, take a 360 virtual tour, and look for a write-up of Jeff’s build in an upcoming issue of MAKE.