The Simons Town aerial ropeway began being built in 1903. Originally the 17 pylons were built of wood but were replaced by steel pylons in 1913. The Simons Town aerial ropeway was built to transport patients, passengers and stores from dockyard below to the New Naval Hospital and Sanatorium on the top of Red Hill. The aerial ropeway was also used sometimes to assist in mountain fires.
Designing a route for the Simons Town aerial ropeway was challenging. The cable cars had to pass directly over St Georges Street which caused concern about headspace for pedestrians and carts. The cable cars also had to pass directly over three houses. The owner’s of these houses got paid an annual fee of £1 for the “right of way.”
The lower station of the Simons Town aerial ropeway was situated in the West Dockyard next to the Sail Loft, because the buildings were so close together, one of the cables actually passed through an aperture in the wall of the Mast House. There were also two landing stations. One at the Navy Hospital and another one at the top of Red Hill.
The engine house for the aerial ropeway was situated alongside the Naval Hospital at the middle landing station. The original diesel engine was later replaced by an electric unit. The engine driver stationed in the engine house could not see the beginning or end of the ropeway and relied on painted areas on the cables to determine when he should stop the the carts.
The journey took 15 minutes up or down, the attendant in the cable car would ring a bell at each pylons and this recorded the position of the cable car on a clock in the engine room.
The aerial ropeway operated with six cable cars. Two for passengers, two for patients with two cots in each and two open cable cars for carrying stores.
The ropeway operated until 1927 and every Friday the ropeway was closed to passengers. An unknown official interpreted this as a breakdown in the system each week and the order was issued to shut down the ropeway. The cables were removed in 1934 and the metal pylons have remained, unused.