Picture of Cable car
My grandma has trouble walking these days and I was going to build her a ramp. After examining code requirements, etc, I realized that a full sized ramp would take up a lot of space and be very expensive. I had to figure something out that would help grandma and my wallet at the same time.
So, after mulling about a few configurations and set-ups for a feasible ramp, I had a brain storm. Why not build an elevator? Further exploration of that idea exposed a few safety issues that I simply could not resolve to any degree of comfort or assurance of grandma's safety.
But, the seed was planted. I could not get the idea of a powered lift for grandma out of my mind.
This is where those musings led.
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Step 1: Making the plans

Picture of Making the plans
The first thing I had to do was determine where to put it and the needs of grandma to design it's function. First, it had to eliminate any steps between the house and the garage where the car is parked. Second it had to fit her small 35" motorized chair. And finally, it had to support her weight combined with the weight of her chair, or a cummulative rough 300 pounds.
Previously, there had been a short ramp in place for her to walk down. But, now the slope was too steep for her to walk down and her cart could not manage that degree of slope safely. But it's location was relative to the spot where a different ramp would work well.
Off her back porch I had built a 10' x 13' deck some 3 years ago.I decided to build the cable car adjacent and parallel to that deck so that she could simply roll out off the porch, across a few feet of deck and onto the car platform. I decided to build the platform to rise level with the deck at the top of it's rise and settle flush with ground level at the bottom.
So, I began by digging out the area next to the deck. Then I marked the locations for a few footers to build posts up to hold the rails.
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muddog155 months ago
Great for moving furniture. Time to make a big version of this.
Tinworm6 months ago

Rather than a cable car, I think this is a funicular railway, in essence, isn't it?

I really like it. It is a very nice project, very nicely built.

From the positioning of the black railing, I presume Gran's wheelchair goes straight in (so that she will be facing uphill). But doesn't this make rolling off on to the deck at the top tricky (having to turn her wheelchair left before exiting)? I think I'd have had her rolling on to it from the right, so that she faced the deck, then roll off straight ahead at the top (and reverse when coming down).

sfarmer118 months ago
What if you put your line like a loop so as it goes down all the loops extend but as its going up the loops gather collecting it nicely. Kinda like the cords and hoses on those big car trailers
You said, "I don't want to build a ramp", but on the front of your cable car is a ramp; don't know why you made both???
Mockfish (author) 6 years ago
Thanks for the feedback everybody! I'm glad everyone likes it. Second to grandma, it makes it worth all the effort. I'll try to respond to a few of your thoughts here. I was actually considering the self-retracting extension cord adaptation for the controls. Good to know someone else sees the same thing I do. I think I'll go that way. Harbor Freight does have some inexpensive models. All the parts are gauged by working strength. So the weight limit is the weight limit. I made sure of all that before-hand. And I went with wood for cost. I've discovered in some of my other projects that wood has an amazing amount strength, so I'm not worried about breakage. Warpage I do think about, but I figure if necessary, it wouldn't be hard to simply replace a wooden rail versus the cost and effort with working with steel. And lastly, I did actually look at scissor lifts like for a motorcycle, but in the end it would have been more costly. It did have certain advantages such as a smaller footprint and a built-in inherent safety, but this design offers easier repair and upkeep. I mean if the jack broke, I'd need a whole new jack. On this, I could replace any part in a few hours at most. Thanks again everybody! Have a good day!
Mockfish (author)  Mockfish6 years ago
I still haven't got a video to post here since Yahoo video is not a supported source? But here's a link to a short one minute video of the test run. I shot this before the job was complete so the platform is still skeletal. Enjoy.
Great idea. I have to use a handicapped cart myself and I am looking to add a way to get from my porch to the gorund. This seems like it would really fit the bill. FYI, why not try putting the vidoe on Youtube instead of Google Video? Youtube is supported here. If you need help doing that, I will be happy to assist you.
or post a link in the Instructable.
Regarding the retractable cable reel, I would worry about one thing. The clutches on these usually suck, especially if you get a cheap one. Also, they are usually designed to lock as you pull out the cable.

You might want to attempt make your own unless you can find a good one and figure out how to modify it to remove the ratchet mechanism.

Another option is to make it wireless and operated by a remote on a keychain. This also solves the problem of people using it when they shouldn't (wouldn't that suck if someone lowered it and then left it down?)

This looks perfect for your needs:

One question, though: How do you plan to stop the wench once it reaches its final position? Keep in mind that if the wench isn't stopped right away when it reaches the top, the stress will eventually pull your contraption apart, or at least damage the motor.
Squid Tamer4 years ago
I think that mounting the motor on the car itself is the best option. I don't think that the cart would ever run over the cord as long as it dropped onto the side. And I can't imagine a little sliding every once in a while messing up the cables.
heathbar644 years ago
Beautiful job on this. ramps are always a pain because they have to be so long and are ugly no matter what you do. I may use this idea next time. I like the suggestion of a garage door opener. I think you would have to use the door springs as well to pull the weight. You didn't seem to use any rollers sideways to keep the platform centered on the track. Does it work smoothly without rubbing?
Stinklove6 years ago
you could install metal strips to the sides of the rail and have metal brushes slide along them to transfer the signal to move.. obviously reverse the signal for moving in the opposite direction
make sure it's a low voltage control circuit though or else there'll be fried cat lying around. have three strips, the center positive and the other two connected to the positive input of solenoids. when two are connected, that solenoid will circuit winding up and vice versa.
rybitski5 years ago
Why not something like they use on large cnc's? :

Just mount it in the center of the track shere there would be no interference. I am sure you could make something similar for less.
Spectacular job by the way, very inventive! The safety brake is ingenious.
Greenehouse6 years ago
Wow, fantastic idea. Well thought out and executed. The pictures and descriptions were right on the mark. Thanks for a great job. It has inspired me to work on something I have been thinking about for awhile (a Star Trek kind of elevator that is just a pole with a round platform you stand on.) I'm considering this for a quick way to get to the attic.
Weren't turbolifts like conventional elevators?Or are you talking about the elevator near the reactor?
labrmnus5 years ago
Nice. My folks live on steep hill above a lake, they wish they had a cablecar. I wonder about a conveyor-belt, maybe made from those hand-cranked-fabric-truckbed-liner they sell to let you unload a load of gravel from truck. Or maybe have an swing-arm based device, somehow rigged to the platform stays horizontal as the arm itself goes through 90 degrees. Or maybe have cheapo pneumatic riser somehow, maybe made out of office chair chamber that deflates on command, or how about those screw-type car jacks with 2 jacks on each end tied to a central rotating motor moving both. Elevating devices can be neat but sudden drops can hurt, so I am cautious. Any comments on these things?
thb435 years ago
Here is an idea for your control wires. Look inside of an ink jet printer. There is usually a flat plastic ribbon cable connected to the print head. The flat cable rolls out/up when the printer head moves back and fourth. Do something similar for your cable car. Another idea is to put the motor on the car itself and make a sort of cog railway instead of using cables. Good job.
Mockfish (author) 6 years ago
Wow, thanks for all the great input. And I thought I had thought of everything! But, let me answer some more of your questions. I've looked at a few self-retracting cords and some of them have a locking mechanism and some don't. I could probably recreate something similar, but if I can find a ready to use unit, that is the way I'll probably go. I tried a couple of spring setup already, but a spring that doesn't stretch itself out after a few runs tends to take a bit of the load off the cable and introduces a bit of slack into the cable causing a jerky and possibly dangerous ride. As far as keeping the cart on the track, the sides of the platform, what I called Cart-i-levers, extend down past the outside edges of the rails fully encompassing them. Then the cart-i-levers are tied together at six places inbetween them holding them securly together. I physically tried to break them apart and derail the thing and couldn't do it. I am confident that it is safe from that perspective. Didn't I post a front view of the installed cart in my instructable? It would show how the cart fits onto the rails. I'll check and if not, I'll add one in there. I did consider a key-fob style remote system, but along with Grandma's knees, her memory is slipping a bit as well. I think a fixed control would be less likely to be lost. She agreed. I set up the cable length to run out at the bottom so that the platform stops at it's maximum length automatically. At the top I left in about 8" of over run. So, if she passes the deck by an inch or two, she can simply stop and bump it back down to level. If this becomes a problem, I'll install some automatic disconnect switches at the top of the run. That won't be difficult and I may do it anyway. I've tried to use simplicty as a hallmark and don't want to add any more bells or whistles then absolutley required. Eye Poker has already spied out my next step. The railing on top of the deck will be replaced this weekend. The space below the deck will be blocked up with some of that wooden lattice when I build the roof on the deck later this summer. All in good time. I still have to dig the french drain across the yard first because I keep getting water in my basement when it rains. That must come first. Did I mention that Grandma and Grandpa live with my wife and I? They live on the first floor of the house and we use the second and third. And the basement is full of my fishtanks. But your concern for little fingers is quite justified since we've got three kids, so their safely has been a prime factor in all my works. Thanks for looking out for them though. Thanks again everybody. I'm glad you liked my project!
u should make an onboard switch systm wit a swich fo up and u swich fo doun
On the self retracting cords, there is a 'plastic serpentine chain' of sorts that are used on CNC rigs for running cables in for the same reason you want to here, to keep the wires out of the 'mechagnism's. You can make them or purchase them. Think of something like light weight tank treads, at least that is what they remind me of. has pictures of what I am thinking of, but it can't be that hard to make at home!
bwcbwc Mockfish6 years ago
A couple more suggestions: The first one may be what you were already mentioning about the replacement deck railing. In the current picture, you have no railing around the deck for the entire travel length of the car track. The gap is only needed at the point where the car is level with the deck. Extending the railing can prevent accidents for people on the deck as well as providing a hand-hold for grandma as she exits the cart. A cheaper alternative to enclosing the entire empty space under the deck would be a solid gate on the cart on the deck side, and possibly on the two perpendicular sides so that people can't reach around.
cjbikenut5 years ago
I would try mounting the winch at the midway point under the deck,which reduces the length of the wiring run, and connecting the controls to the top of the platform railing . It would require rerouting the winch cable and probably lengthening the wire for the controls but then grandma could operate it independently. great project and nicely documented.
sovereign6 years ago
dude went all out! lucky grandma!
Derin6 years ago
Brushes+Line on track=onboard control
truk6 years ago
There are retractable cord available. If you could wire one of those into the control, you could run the cord into the cart and mount the control. It would keep the control cord tight to prevent accidents. Note that it should be attached to the cart near the bottom and between the wheel paths to be safest.
LinuxH4x0r6 years ago
Great job!
vomajeff6 years ago
Excellent instructable. I'd like to try something like this at my church. Elevators are way too costly. Can't wait to see what's next from you!!
ootm6 years ago
How much was the hoist motor?
static6 years ago
Perhaps it's not readily apparent in the photos, but did you employ a means to insure that the wheels track straight on the rails? With one wheel braking is there any chance in the event it's ever employed that the platform might suddenly wretch akilter possibly tossing grandma and wheel chair off the platforms?
You have a major potential safety problem; pinch points. You need a way to ensure that Grandma won't get a limb severed or crushed between the platform and the deck as it comes up. Also, you must have a key operated control to keep children from playing with this and getting injured or killed. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Other than that, it is a very creative design.
beff506 years ago
to get the vid up here all you have to do is post the video to youtube. then you just have to copy and past the html code (not the url) into the instructable. then you have the video in the instructable.
pieman16 years ago
make 2 seperate circuits powering the winch. locate one at each stopping position of the platform. (top & bottom) include a "kill" switch that breaks the current flow of the circuit when the platform reaches its stopping point. the top platform circuit contols the forward (or let out cable) and the bottom circuit controls the reverse (take up cable) draw up a circuit diagram and work out any bugs its totally possible to do this with simple switches.
TossManual6 years ago
This could be totally stupid (it's late, here), but would it work to mount the motor *on* the car? Then the controller wire wouldn't be a problem - just the power to the motor. And maybe the extra weight.
hydrnium.h26 years ago
I'm thinking: Backyard Roller Coaster.
Bear69776 years ago
Half way down the ramp install a J box for the control wiring. Then install so cord, use the curly type {like on a telephone receiver]. then you only need 4" of cable to reach from end to end.
One other method would be to get one of the spring load extension cord reels like on vacuum cleaners. I believe I saw one at Harbor Freight and remove the cord locking devise so that it is always constant tension so that as the platform goes down the cord is pulled out and as the platform goes up the cord is retracted. This is a great idea thank you! Alan
I think that I would plant something soft around the bottom, as one day granny is going down as this contraption ages. Great idea, but not built for day to day use outside. The elements are going to eat it up.
phyzome6 years ago
I would add a lip to the leading edge of the platform so that the wheel chair is less likely to roll off.
Rishnai6 years ago
First of all, I'm assuming you did actually test the cable "breaking" with, sya a quick0release, and made sure that the one brake would actually stop things? I'm confident it would, but you can never be too careful. On that note, if something goes awry and the brake has to kick in, do you have a way for grandma to call for help if, say, she is stuck halfway up the ramp when it happens?
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