The Slide of Alpnach

In many parts of Europe, the timber of pine forests is useless for the purposes of commerce, because it is inaccessible and cannot easily be transported. The rugged flanks and deep gorges of Mt. Pilatus in Switzerland, for example, had been covered with impenetrable forests for many centuries, until an enterprising individual thought of conveying the pines from the mountain-top to Lake Lucerne, about nine miles away, by means of an inclined plane built of timber.

This extraordinary device, completed in 1812, became an object of wonder to all Europe, and was called the Slide of Alpnach, from the name of the Commune in which it was situated. The Slide was a trough made from 25,000 pine trees, six feet broad, and from three to six feet deep. It was kept moist, and its length was 44,000 feet. It had to be built in a straight line over the summits of rocks, along their sides, underground, and over deep gorges, where it was supported by scaffolding. It was extremely difficult to construct.

The perseverence of the engineer, M. Rupp, overcame all difficulties, and in eighteen months his work was finished. The tree trunks descended from the mountain with great speed. The larger pines, about one hundred feet long, travelled eight and a third miles in about six minutes.

A gentleman who saw this great work informed us that a tree passing him travelled so quickly that he could only strike it once with a stick as it rushed by, however quickly he tried to repeat the blow. But the markets of the Baltic were opened by the peace, and the Slide of Alpnach fell into ruin, being abandoned as unprofitable.

summarised from "The Library of Entertaining Knowledge - Timber trees" (1829), pub. Charles Knight, Pall Mall.

ND, habitat21

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