It’s “winter business” as usual for the Wallowa Lake Tram, which means maintenance — $80,000 worth for 2018.
“This tram is very important to the tourism of Wallowa County, so we want to invest in keeping it in the best shape possible,” said co-owner Michael Lockhart. “Trams like ski lift equipment need constant maintenance, and right now we’re working on a new drive that will improve the lift and extend the life of the tram significantly.”
Extending life is important because it would cost an estimated $10 million to replace it, Lockhart said. It’s also a way to keep tram ride costs as low as possible.
The work will replace technology of the late-60s era with new SkyTrac electrical controls, said tram facilities manager Perry Batten.
The cosmetic appearance is also being addressed. Several gondolas have been repainted and reupholstered and are awaiting new windows. Those upgrades will cost management approximately $1,000 per gondola.
Batten is in the midst of a three-year plan to rebuild all of the 50 cast steel gondola assemblies (the part that connects the gondola to the lift cable). His crew has rebuilt 11 assemblies in the last 10 months and by the end of 2018, Batten believes they will be 40 percent completed with that part of the project.
They are also planning to rebuild each of the 25 tower assemblies, beginning with the towers bearing the heaviest loads.
Safety engineers from both the tram’s insurance company and Oregon Department of Forestry inspect the tram annually.
“We have a stellar safety record,” said Lockhart. “Our engine is also checked every seven years and is going in for a complete service this year.”