Dazzling Views From Georgia's Death-Defying Cable Cars

Over a dozen USSR-built cable cars still help the residents of Chiatura get around town.

Sixty years ago, the Soviet Union built a cable car system for Chiatura, Georgia. The system was intended to navigate the small town's steep landscape and to more efficiently tap into the bountiful manganese deposits.

Today, 15 of the 21 cars remain in use. The system covers 20,000 feet and remains the quickest, most convenient way to get around. 

This summer, The Atlantic's Alan Taylor highlighted Chiatura's tramways with Amos Chapple's stunning photographs. They run without a braking system; instead most of the tramways use a "jig back" system where two cabins are connected to the same cable. An electric motor pulls one of the cable cars down, using its weight to pull the one on the other end up. Operators usually wait until there are 3 or 4 passengers at stations on both ends before starting a trip.

Recently, Reuters photographer David Mdzinarishvili took a look at Chiatura's cable cars. Owned by the local mining company, anyone is welcome to use it, making it a critical part of getting around the town's steep cliffs and river valleys:

Cable cars pass above an industrial area in Chiatura, some 136 miles northwest of Tbilisi, September 25, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
People pass a cable car station that is not running during a power cut in Chiatura, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
People sit in front of a cable car station in Chiatura, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
Commuters wait for a cable car, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
Cable car operator Lasha Ghughunishvili, 32, speaks on his mobile phone inside a booth, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
A boy stands at the door of a 60-year-old cable car, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
A commuter pushes a 60-year-old cable car, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
Cable car control devices are seen inside an operator's booth, September 25, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
A conductor closes the doors of a 60-year-old cable car before its departure, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
Commuters chat inside a cable car, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
A cable car passes above apartment buildings in Chiatura, September 25, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
A cable car casts a shadow on a residential building, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
Malkhaz Kapanadze, 36, oils and checks a cable car during maintenance work, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)
Cable car operator Tea Kekenadze, 30, watches commuters entering the cable car, September 25, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 
Chiatura is seen from inside a cable car, September 12, 2013. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili) 

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