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St. Louis Gateway Arch Tram Hoist Control System Replacement

Digital controls keep iconic ride running smoothly for a new generation of visitors.
  • Long view of the St. Louis Gateway Arch with city skyline in the background - Gannett Fleming.

    The tram ride inside the Gateway Arch carries up to 6,000 people to the top in a 14-hour day.

  • Closeup of human machine interfaces that automate tram functions - Gannett Fleming.

    Control system design features human machine interfaces that automate and monitor tram functions.

  • Screenshot of a monitor showing tram operations - Gannett Fleming.

    Real-time information on tram system performance is readily available to maintenance personnel.

  • Engineers review upgrades at the tram’s maintenance facility - Gannett Fleming.

    Experts from Gannett Fleming and the Bi-State Development Agency review maintenance upgrades.

Client
Bi-State Development Agency

Partner(s)
The Harlan Company, Aschinger Electric

Location
St. Louis, Missouri

Our Role
Instrumentation and Control

Data
Size
63-story tram system
Construction Cost
$5.5 Million
Completed
2017
Type
Renovation
Duration
14 months
Outcomes
  • Updated infrastructure provides more reliable tram operation
  • New motors and programming enable improved speed control
  • Programmable logic controller offers real-time view of system performance
  • Digital controls are expected to create more consistent ride times year round.

Soaring 630 feet above the Mississippi River, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, is the country’s tallest man-made national monument. Every day, inside the arch, a tram system transports up to 6,000 visitors to the top for a birds-eye view of the city. The system consists of two independent trams, each with eight circular pods that travel up 63 stories along a curving route, while rotating 155 degrees to keep passengers upright. The North Tram was completed in 1967, the South Tram in 1968. Like any aging system, the Arch tram was becoming harder to maintain; operators wanted a system that was more reliable and easier to operate. 

To renew the ride for the 21st century, the Bi-State Development Agency, which operates the tram, launched an effort to modernize the iconic monument’s transportation system, while preserving the original ride experience. To accomplish this goal, they turned to a team of experts that included systems engineers from the Gannett Fleming Power Group, who worked closely with National Park Service Arch tram mechanics on the project.

What We Did

While what riders see hasn’t changed, the project team completely overhauled the tram’s infrastructure. Mechanical relays that were manually activated have been supplanted by human machine interfaces that automate and closely monitor tram functions. New variable frequency drive/AC motors enable better control over speed, including the ability to move the tram to a specific spot at a safe pace. An upgraded programmable logic controller (PLC) changed the system from analog to digital, making many aspects of operational control more readily available to operators. It’s expected that the digital system will not be affected by temperature and therefore provide more consistent ride times year round; the old system was temperature sensitive, leading to longer ride times during hot weather. 

When it comes to managing a complex transportation system, having up-to-date information about equipment performance is vital. Sensors now continually monitor the temperature of tram motors, the pressure of the oil pumps, and other key aspects of system function. All of the data is integrated by the PLC, giving maintenance personnel a real-time view of system performance so they can take preventative measures before problems occur. With the new infrastructure in place, the iconic ride is set to run smoothly and efficiently for decades to come.

LDP Group, Inc., prior to becoming a Gannett Fleming company, completed this project.

Key Features

  • Upgraded programmable logic controller moves system from analog to digital, giving operators more system control  
  • Variable frequency drive/AC motors manage speed for a consistent, smooth ride
  • System sensors provide operational data for maintenance personnel
  • All safety systems have a backup to assure a safe and enjoyable experience for up to 6,000 people a day.

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