Here's where you could kick back and soar above the crowds below.. I always liked this attraction because you could
see much more of the park than you ever could on foot. It along with the railroads were the 2 forms of transportation
inside the park. These were always well maintained and clean, which I can't say about some I've ridden in other parks.
But it was a relaxing ride, especially at night to fly about the park and see all the bustling activity below. I'm not sure what
ever became of the Skyride, given when Opryland closed, most parks were taking these out for different reasons. My
only guess could be they were never reinstalled anywhere which to me is bad given I think the sky ride in any park adds
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Here's a video sent
in by Lisa (my
showing what it
was like to ride
the skyride in
Click play on the
video to watch it!
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Here is a very detailed narration from Michael Parham. Michael was a park employee that I'm happy to
include to Thrillhunter. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did reading it. Thank you Michael.
The skyride was a cable car ride at Opryland and featured two stations, New Orleans Skyride and 50’s
Skyride, which were 1139 feet apart. Both stations were at ground level. The skyride was useful for
guests to quickly go from one area of the park to another. For the first few years the park was open,
the 50’s area was known as the Mod Area, and the skyride station was called Mod Skyride.
Technically, the 50’s area was actually Do Wah Diddy City, but to the employees it was known as the
There were four towers on the skyride: two 85 foot center towers, and two 65 foot towers, one near
each station. Around 1980, the towers were reinforced with diagonal bracing at the top to strengthen
the tower arms. The shorter tower near the 50’s station had a wind gauge on top, with the readout dial
at the station panel.
The main panel, electric motor, and gear box were located in the 50’s station. Maintenance
mechanics told us that the gear box became much louder after it was submerged in the flood of 1975,
which pitted the gears. The original panel controls were replaced by more modern electronics in the
late 70’s. An automatic gear shifting sequence brought the ride up to operating speed. The gearbox
drove the axle of the large cable wheel, which was about ten feet in diameter. The cable rode in the
outer groove of the cable wheel. Unlike most of the other rides in the park, the control panel was
largely unattended during operation. Once the ride was started, there was little reason to attend the
panel unless the ride needed to be shut down. Emergency stop buttons were located on the wall on
each side of the two stations in case the ride needed to be stopped quickly.
The cable wheel at the New Orleans station was not powered and was connected to a giant
counterweight that rode vertically inside a below ground level pit. This counterweight was connected
to the cable wheel assembly via cables on vertical rollers. This counterweight kept the tension on the
main cable constant by slightly adjusting the cable wheel horizontally. Under a heavy load (35 cars)
the counterweight would rise to near the top of the pit and the main cable wheel would shift forward.
There were a total of 40 numbered cars . Red cars had even numbers, blue cars had odd, except #40,
which was orange.
Each station had two phones. One was a regular park phone which could call any other extension in
the park via a 4 digit extension. The other phone, the hotline, rang the other side instantly upon lifting
the receiver to allow the stations to communicate with each other. The phones had very long cords to
allow the crew member nearest the panel to continue working while on the phone.
One of the more difficult things to do was to sweep the queue line when it was full. It was usually
necessary to get a broom and pan and get in line with the guests to sweep things up. The floor was
usually littered with those plastic fruit juice sipper cups that looked like giant fruit (“sipper carts” were
all over the park).
Each station had its own crew, and the two stations were actually operated as separate rides. When I
worked there, the stations even had different supervisors.
There were a maximum of five operating positions on the skyride: catcher, holder, grouper, loader,
and tripper. Each position was held for 30 minutes, after which the lead would announce “rotate” and
the operators would move down the line one station, and the tripper would move to the start of the
rotation to catcher. However, those finishing the catcher and the loader positions would go on break
(if we were running breaks), and those returning from break would go to either tripper or holder.
The catcher would stop incoming cars, unlock and open the door and hand the car off to the holder,
who would hold the car steady against the rub rail with the door open, and assist guests exiting the
car. After the car was empty, he would pass the car off to the grouper, who grouped guests into the
cars, maximizing the loads. He would also keep feeding cars to the loader. The loader would hold the
car up against the lower rub rail, steadying it for the guests to load. Once the guests were seated, he
pulled car forward and closed and locked the door. The car was then passed to the tripper, who
placed it into the “trip” mechanism in preparation for sending it out. The trip was a timer connected to
a retractable stop bar that held the car for a predetermined length of time, and then released it to roll
down the incline to re-clamp onto the cable. This timing was done to keep the cars properly
separated. The trip interval was determined by how many cars were being run. At 35 cars, the trip
interval was less than ten seconds, which made for hectic loading and unloading. There was also a
manual trip button on the control panel so the tripper could bypass the timer and send a car out
immediately if needed. The tripper also kept watch over the entire ride. Each tripper could see over
halfway down the cable, and watched out for guests rocking the cars or throwing things out of the
cars. Another duty of the tripper was to take the hourly turnstile reading. The turnstile had a counter
on it, and we had to make sure we noted the reading every hour on the hour to keep track of how
many guests rode the ride. For some reason, the New Orleans ridership was usually slightly higher
than that of the 50’s station. Finally, one very important duty for the tripper was to notify the other
station if a supervisor was on the ride headed their way.
When running 30 or less cars, the grouper position was usually eliminated. At 25 cars, the catcher
was also the holder, since there was usually ample time to catch, hold, and unload a car before the
next incoming car arrived. I say “usually” because at times the catcher/holder would not have the car
unloaded in time and if it looked like the next car might come in before he could get there to catch it,
he would yell for help the tripper would run over and catch the incoming car for him.
There were two car “pushers” located above the station tracks. These were motorized wheels with
small tires that helped move cars through the stations as they came in contact with them. These
pushers were always on.
The number of cars operating on the ride was based on park attendance and was determined by the
area supervisor: 25, 30, or 35 cars. There may have been some instances when only 20 cars were
run. There was a strict limit of four guests per car. Unlike a traditional ski lift cable car, these cars
would release from the cable and roll freely on four wheel trucks on overhead rails inside the stations.
This would enable the car to be stopped for loading and unloading since the cable was always moving
at full speed. A clamping mechanism was used to attach the cars to the cable. Upon entering the
station, an angled rail would engage a roller on the vertical clamp arm of the car, pushing it to the side
and releasing the car from the cable. The car would then roll on a short upward incline to slow the car
down so the ‘catcher’ could safely stop the car for unloading. This incline system worked well at the
New Orleans station. At the 50’s end however, the incline wasn’t nearly long enough, and the cars
rolled into the station at nearly the same speed as the cable! Catching heavy skyride cars at the 50’s
end was like stepping in front of a moving bus. This was where an operator was most likely to get
injured, either by getting caught in between two cars, or dislocating a shoulder trying to stop a car from
Excess cars were stored on sidetracks at the back of the stations. Since the cars rolled on overhead
tracks, movable tracks connected to a cable and pulley system could be put in place to divert cars off
line or add new ones. The diversion switch at 50’s skyride was oriented for removing cars most
efficiently, as the switch was aligned to take off cars in the same direction they were coming in. At the
New Orleans station, the switch was aligned so that adding cars was done in the same direction as the
ride operated. Adding or removing cars could be done at either station, however. On a typical day,
the skyride might start out running 25 cars, and then as the park got busier, we would receive a call
from the supervisor instructing us to go to 30 cars. Using the hotline, the stations would organize how
this would be accomplished. As stated earlier, it was easier to add cars in New Orleans, so the “add
three” command would usually be given there, and the “add two” would be done at 50’s. Of course,
sometimes there would be an imbalance of available cars at the stations and the ratio would have to
be altered. Also, if there was a large gap in cars on the cable, it was easy to add several cars at once
into the gap when it hit the station. When cars were added or removed, the trip timer would be
adjusted. Later on, if the park got really busy we might get the order to go to 35 cars. On days that it
was certain to be a big crowd, we started up in the morning with 30 or 35 cars. Late in the day, as the
crowd dwindled, we would get the call to take five cars off and 50’s would usually “pull three” and New
Orleans would “pull two”.
The skyride equipment was manufactured by a Swiss company, Von Roll, and the large gear case in
the 50’s station had “VON ROLL BERN” cast into the housing. Periodically, engineers from Von Roll
would inspect the ride. Tower alignment and rollers on the tower arms were the most critical inspection
points. One of the more interesting inspection procedures was to loosely wrap a pair of pantyhose
around the cable as it was moving to detect any loose wire strands.
Skyride car doors had latches that would hold the door shut if closed. Additionally, a special key was
used to move the latch to the fully locked position. These keys had to be used to open the doors and
the locks were designed so that guests couldn’t unlock the cars on their own while suspended in the
air. The maintenance department made the keys out of tapered 1/2’ square bar stock attached to a
round handle, making a T-shaped key. At times there was a requirement for the tripper to have a key
to check that the doors were fully locked.
There were many safety features built into the skyride. Each tower had several limit switches on the
roller assemblies, so that if a car was rocking or otherwise not perfectly aligned with the rollers, the
ride would automatically shut off. Maintenance mechanics would have to inspect the car, the rollers,
and reset the limit switch before the ride could be restarted. This meant a mechanic had to climb to
the top of the tower. Another major safety limit switch was located in the overhead clamping area as
the car was rolling out of the station. If the clamping arm on the skyride car was not perfectly aligned, it
would also trip a switch and the ride would stop. Also, if the arm engaged too quickly, the clamp would
snap shut before it reached the cable. This would result in the now closed clamp getting wedged
between the cable and the outgoing cable rollers. This was called a “pre-clamp” and another limit
switch would engage, shutting everything down. In the event of such a shutdown, the trip operator had
to quickly remove the next car from the trip, or it would release and roll down the outgoing incline and
bang into the stopped car (which happened a lot more than it should have). This type of shutdown
required the maintenance mechanics to slowly run the cable in the reverse direction for a few feet to
free the car so it could be pulled back into the station. Guests stuck in midair on a stopped skyride
never liked to feel the ride moving backwards! If the ride was stopped for any reason, we would call
the Rock n Roller Coaster panel operator and instruct her to make the usual stopped skyride
announcement over their PA system. This announcement instructed the guests to remain calm and
that the ride would restart soon. Since the RNRC was right next to two of the skyride towers, the
announcement could be heard by all guests stuck on the skyride.
There was a backup hydraulic system to slowly operate the skyride in case of a power failure. This
was only used if the power would be out for an extended period, and was only to be operated by the
Another problem was the occasional derailment. As noted earlier, the cars rode on four wheel flanged-
wheel trucks on an overhead rail system in the stations. If the car was bumped or jostled excessively
in the station, a set of wheels could come off the track and necessitate shutting the ride down, since it
was impossible to move the derailed car and no other cars could get around it. I never saw a car
come completely off the rail system and hit the floor, they would just get a bit sideways with the rails.
We would yell “DERAIL!” and then notify the other station on the hotline that we were shutting down.
This would not usually require the use of the emergency stop button, but could be done at the panel in
a normal shutdown mode. We would call the Operations office “Condition B” shutdown (non-life
threatening situation, but ride is down) and maintenance. Several mechanics would show up, climb up
on top of the rails, re-rail the car (we would usually help lift the car from the bottom), and then move it
off line for inspection using the track switches and put another car on. The derailed car couldn’t be
used again until it was inspected and released by the maintenance department. Supervisor would
then give us the ok to restart the ride and we were back in business.
Occasionally, the trip would malfunction and the result would be two cars travelling down the cable only
a few feet apart. This was not necessarily bad, but would cause problems at the other station with
them having to catch two cars almost at the same time. When this happened, we would notify the
other station to be on the lookout for close cars.
Sometimes a situation would arise where the station would just jam up with cars, usually the result of
difficulties loading or unloading afew cars. Often the tripper would go over and help out, with the
loader making sure he pushed the cars all the way to the trip until the tripper returned. If the jam up
got worse, we’d just stop loading a few cars, sending them back out empty quickly (using manual trip),
so that things could return to normal. If the situation got really bad, we’d have to stop the ride, and
usually there was no time to call the other station, we’d just hit the emergency stop.
The front of the skyride stations was open, of course, to allow cars to arrive and depart. A fence (and
a rather large hedge at the 50’s station) kept guests from entering the ride there and getting hit by
cars. The problem was that guests leaving the skyride saw all that open space and assumed that was
the exit! Even though the exit was right in front of them as they got out of the cars, they just seemed
to be drawn to the open space. Kids were the worst offenders, taking off running toward the incoming
cars. Bam! Emergency stop! Elderly people did that a lot too, but they were slower and easier to herd.
The skyride was generally a one-way ride. However, we would allow passengers to remain on the ride
and ride back around to the other station if the queue line was very short.
Weather was always a major concern for the skyride. The towers were prone to being hit by lightning,
and windy conditions could make the cars rock sideways, increasing the likelihood of tripping a tower
limit switch. When a storm was approaching, a supervisor would usually ride the skyride and make a
determination on whether it could continue running safely. Also, the wind anemometer gauge on the
tower was set so that if it registered gusts over 25 mph, an alarm sounded in the station, which would
result in a call to the supervisor via the Operations office (ext. 4471) for instructions. While ride
operators weren’t authorized to order a weather shutdown, we could stop loading passengers at any
time and just send out empty cars if we thought there might be a weather problem and no supervisor
could be found. When the weather shutdown order was given, we immediately stopped loading
passengers, pulled the track switch to the sidetracks, and began pulling cars offline after they were
unloaded. The tripper notified the other station of the number of the last car dispatched so that no
cars would be left out there on the line (it would be easy to lose a car out there on the line in the
dark!). Once each station had received its last car, the ride would be shutdown normally via the
control panel. This same “last car” notification would also be given when shutting the ride down at
The skyride usually ran in ordinary rain. Only wind and lightning would shut us down. However, if we
did shut down for lightning, it would require a long period with no lightning in the area to start back up
once a storm passed. Quite often, I’d show up at 4:00 shift change, shut down almost immediately for
an afternoon storm, and not start back up for a couple of hours. A late afternoon storm would also
clear out most of the guests from the park (except those teenagers with season passes), and we’d be
very slow the rest of the night.
Both stations had show theater locations nearby, and when the shows would end, many guests would
head to the skyride filling the queue lines to capacity. New Orleans had the Bandstand right next to it,
and the American Music Theater (“I Hear America Singing” or “IHAS” to us) was nearby. 50’s had the
Jukebox and Flipside Theaters, later replaced by the Geo Theater. We usually had a show schedule
to know when to expect a crush.
Near closing time, an announcement would be given over the park PA system: “May I have your
attention please. Opryland will close in fifteen minutes.” We had a hard time hearing it at 50’s because
the motor and gearbox were so loud. We would then go to the minimum 25 cars if we weren’t already
there, and do final station cleaning. When the park closing announcement was finally given, we’d
block the turnstile with the trash can, take the last turnstile reading, tell the other station the last car
number that we sent out, turn off the trip, and start pulling cars.