Wire Rope

Wire rope is far stronger than natural-fiber rope. German mining engineer Wilhelm Albert invented wire rope about 1834. Wire rope is sometimes called Albert rope after the inventor. Early on, they were used to hoist stuff to and from silver mines in the Hartz Mountain. The first rope was three wrought-iron cables twisted around one another.

There’s not much to write about wire rope; it’s important but boring.

Wire rope is a collection of wires wound around one another to form a rope, much like natural fibers form traditional rope. Wire rope is extremely strong. It holds up bridges, connects high-stress aircraft control, lifts elevators, and has countless other applications. Wire rope was key to building early railroads throughout Europe and the US, helping to hoist equipment in place.

Unlike natural fibers, wire rope lasts a long time. The Roebling Delaware Aqueduct, an 1847 wire rope bridge, is the oldest suspension bridge still in use.

There isn’t much variation in wire rope. Some has a core of fiber, others of metal. Ropes wine to the left or right. Seriously, wire rope is one of the most useful yet boring inventions ever made.

The end of a wire rope is typically an eye hook made by pressing the rope in a loop, much like a regular rope. Giant hydraulic presses form the eye hook.

One interesting use of wire rope is the famous cable cars of San Francisco, plus the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Wire rope made the cable cars possible because they would not stretch or break due to the constant starting and stopping. The rope came to California during the gold rush.

Wire ropes are twisted with something called stranding equipment that twists the wires into place.

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