The City Bus Tramway to Timberline Lodge
It is 1947 and World War Two was over. Skiing was just getting started before the war, and now that there was peace, people wanted to ski. Mount Hood’s skiing glory days were just getting started again.
This was the year that a group of people got together with a vision that was before its time. The Mount Hood Aerial Transportation Company was formed with a plan to create an aerial tramway to Timberline Lodge on the south slope of Mount Hood from Government Camp, the gathering spot for every activity on The Mountain. It was to be called The Skiway, pronounced “Skyway.”
Transportation to Timberline consisted of riding, driving your own car up the old road to the lodge, the Timberline bus which cost .50 or one could hitchhike. If you drove up, typically a group would carpool. The group would ski the trail to Government Camp, and the driver would drive the car back down at the end of the day. The tramway made sense. A person could take the tram from Government camp to Timberline Lodge, ski the day at the lodge and then ski the Glade or Alpine Trails back down to Government Camp; or ride the tram back down.
Skiers were excited about the prospect and the construction of the towers that would support the cable system was started in 1948. The plan was to build the system using a city bus as a tram car, suspend it from cables and drive it with a method used by loggers in their sky hook log yarding mechanism. The bus would be self-propelled and would pull itself along with a set of pulleys positioned where the wheels would be, drawing the drive cable through and moving the bus up or down the hill.
The company planned a lodge at the lower terminus of the cable line. This served as the terminal for loading and unloading passengers, which was done on a deck or platform located on the upper level just under the roof. There was also a restaurant, restrooms, a waiting lounge, and a gift shop in the lodge. The upper terminus was located at the west end of Timberline Lodge.
The lodge was completed, and the towers were erected in 1949. This was the same year that the new road to Timberline was opened, creating a shorter trip with a slighter grade and less curves than the old road, making access much easier for personal automobiles, which would be a strike against the success of the Skiway.
The winters of 1950 and 1951 were very heavy snow winters. This delayed construction and crews had to scramble to get the operation completed. It was scheduled to be opened in early 1950 but was delayed until the Fall. The day finally came, January 3rd, 1951. The skiers were very enthusiastic, but the novelty wore off quickly. Also consider that with the new road in place and with the Timberline Lodge bus fare being .50 cents and the tramway costing .75 cents, all these factors attributed to its ultimate demise. The Skiway struggled to make a profit for its stockholders and was finally closed in 1956./mount-hood/the-mt-hood-skiway