To educate potential clients about the process of buying a tram or incline car, every so often I plan to publish a short article here.
In this first piece, I thought a short summary of the overall business might provide good background for making the purchase decision.
A HISTORY OF AMERICAN TRAMS
It's generally accepted that the first American trams were engineered and fabricated in the upper midwest (the land of 1000 lakes). These trams were usually designed for use on the site of a fishing camp, using a small car or single seat and an electrically-powered winching device.
As the economy improved, Americans began spending more of their disposable income on leisure items - and the old fishing camp was transformed into a summer home for the entire family. The second-home concept quickly spread across the country. Lakeside property, often cheap land occupied by trailer parks, was soon being developed into upscale seasonal residences. Clearly "Grandpa's old tram" was not suitable for family transportation; the resultant demand created several incline car manufacturers serving this burgeoning market.
Today the market is defined by two or three companies which can sell and service throughout the entire US, as well as five or six firms with a regional focus. Naturally, in most areas there remains the ever-present barn mechanic who will cobble together his version of an incline lift - usually at a substantial discount. For safety and reliability reasons this fellow should be avoided, no matter how attractive the purchase price might seem.
As it happens, two of the larger, most popular firms (Marine Innovations and Hill Hiker™) are located in Minnesota. For tram buyers in that state, as well as the other states in the upper midwest, I would direct your attention to either of them. They also have strong dealerships in the far west. For clients in the northwest, a company called Accumar offers a high-quality variety of products, as does The Dock Doctors in the upper northeast. In those respective areas of the country, I strongly recommend dealing with those companies. Most importantly, in the east and southeast (FL to NY and west to IN/TN), Lakeside Trams LLC and our associate JS Incline Cars LLC offers the most reliable and cost-competitive tram products.
Usually the purchase process begins with an event that causes the buyer to search for "the better way" to get up and down that hill between house and waterfront. While some tram companies do advertise, it’s usually a demand-driven purchase initiated by the buyer who searches the web for a solution to the problem. Often with no idea that such a thing as a tram even exists, the homeowner looks for “incline cars”, “hillside cars”, “incline lifts”, “funiculars”, “trolleys”, etc and is rewarded with a list of the more successful tram companies.
Most often the buyer’s next step is to look for a nearby company, making the commonly accepted and correct assumption that it's safer to make a large purchase locally. While this is generally true, most of the companies that promote a nationwide capability do so through a network of dealers in order to service regions outside their corporate reach. Many of these dealers are reasonably capable, however, since trams are frequently not their major product line, their credentials should be closely evaluated.
After the buyer has made a list of tram companies that appear to offer a quality product and are reasonably close to their site, the next step is to begin the due diligence comparing product, service, price, etc.
In future articles I will discuss tram regulations, permitting, measuring and preparing your site etc. In the meantime, if you have specific questions or just want to chat about possible solutions to improve your site, please give me a call at 704-400-8143. There's no obligation… and I always enjoy talking trams!
~ Jack Bowman, Owner