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Charting Singapore Cable Car's 50-year history through five generations of cabin designs

Since its 1974 launch, the iconic attraction has seen improvements such as audio commentaries, glass bottoms and LED illumination

New 5th generation SkyOrb Cabins in 2024 (left) and 1st generation Singapore Cable Car (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
New 5th generation SkyOrb Cabins in 2024 (left) and 1st generation Singapore Cable Car (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)

SINGAPORE — Seven of the "world's first chrome-finished spherical cabins", called SkyOrb Cabins, were launched last Friday (15 March) to celebrate Singapore Cable Car's (SCC) 50th anniversary. The new fleet of fifth generation cabins come with glass-bottomed floors that will allow guests to view the scenery below their feet.

For a "futuristic ambience", the cabin windows have a ring of lights that will cast an illuminating glow at night. It also has double window louvres at the front, and triple windows louvres at the rear, for enhanced air ventilation. The design of the cabins was a collaboration between Mount Faber Leisure Group and renowned Swiss-based cable car cabin manufacturer, CWA, the group said in a press release.

The new SkyOrb Cabins will open to the public on Wednesday (20 March). Tickets can be bought at the Singapore Cable Car Mount Faber and Sentosa Station ticketing counters.

Interior of SkyOrb Cabin with glass-bottom floor (left) and SkyOrb Cabin on the Mount Faber Line (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
Interior of SkyOrb Cabin with glass-bottom floor (left) and SkyOrb Cabin on the Mount Faber Line (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)

While the new futuristic looking cabins look exciting, the cable cars have been a part of Singapore's history for half a century. How has Singapore's first and only cable car attraction evolved through the years?

Let's take a trip down memory lane through all generations of the cabins.

First generation (1974 to 1994): opening and international fame

The year was 1968 when the idea to build a cable car system first came about, along with the government's plans to turn Pulau Blakang Mati from a naval base into island getaway for both tourists and locals. It eventually became the Sentosa we know today.

Six years later, SCC opened its doors on 15 February 1974. Former deputy prime minister Dr Goh Keng Swee and his first wife Alice Woon sat in the first cable car at the launch. Singaporeans accounted for three-quarters of riders in SCC's first year of inception.

In 1979, SCC made its first appearance on an international television show, the popular detective drama series Hawaii Five-O. Such appearances paved the way for the cable car to gain international fame through the 1970s and early 1980s.

On 29 January 1983, an oil-drilling vessel struck the Sentosa cableway, causing two cable cars to drop into the sea. Two more cable cars on the cableway were also impacted, and seven people died. The Sentosa cableway only resumed operations in August after months of tests and repairs.

A new one-way communication system was installed to allow passengers to receive communication from the cable car operator if necessary, and a new rescue system specifically for stranded cable car passengers was established by the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

The cable cars went through its first overhaul in January 1988, replacing the original haul and track ropes.

The same year, the world's first mass wedding celebration also kicked off with 30 couples riding the cable cars from Mount Faber. One year later, SCC also hosted Miss World pageant beauties contesting in Singapore.

Cabling works for 1st generation Singapore Cable Car (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
Cabling works for 1st generation Singapore Cable Car (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
Hoisting (left) and mounting of 1st generation Singapore Cable Car (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
Hoisting (left) and mounting of 1st generation Singapore Cable Car (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
A coloured photo of Singapore's first cable car (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
A coloured photo of Singapore's first cable car (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)

Second generation (1994 to 1999): higher speed, audio commentaries on board

By 1994, SCC had more than 18 million visitors. In commemoration, "nostalgia trips” of the pioneering cabins were offered to Singaporeans on 10 April 1994.

The second-generation cabins were launched four days later on 14 April. It boasted higher speeds, more ventilation and audio commentaries on Sentosa landmarks and highlights in six languages.

Three years later, a life-size cabin based on SCC's design was presented by Lego in Singapore.

On Valentine's Day in 1998, couples were hosted a three-course dinner named "Sky Dining" for the first time. It circled Mount Faber and Sentosa for one-and-a-half hours, and each course was served when the cabin returned to Mount Faber station.

2nd generation of Singapore Cable Car (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
2nd generation of Singapore Cable Car (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
Interior of second generation of Singapore Cable Car (Photo: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
Interior of second generation of Singapore Cable Car (Photo: Mount Faber Leisure Group)

Third generation (1999 to 2009): world's first glass-bottom cable cars

On SCC's 25th anniversary in 1999, six limited edition third-generation cabins were launched. It made history as the world’s first glass-bottom cable cars that offered unobstructed views of the harbour and seascape south of Singapore.

Five years later, a "Surviving the Sky" challenge - based on popular American reality competition television show, Survivor - was organised. It saw 33 teams of two stuck in the cabins for a week, where each couple only had 10 minutes to visit the toilet every 24 hours.

Back facade of 3rd generation Singapore Cable Car (left) and sky dining experience
Back facade of 3rd generation Singapore Cable Car (left) and sky dining experience (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)

Fourth generation (2009 to 2024): LED illumination, metallic black and chrome cabins

In 2009, the cable car system went through a fourth revamp on its 35th anniversary. 67 LED-illuminated, sparkling metallic black and chrome cabins on a mono-cable ropeway formed the new fleet of cabins.

The new cabins had windows with ultraviolet protection against tropical heat and humidity, and minimal obstruction to all-round views. It linked Mount Faber to Harbourfront Towers and Sentosa.

In 2010, SCC launched the world's first seven-star VIP Jewelled Cabins, where the interior panels were decked with Swarovski crystals. The next year, the world’s first Sky Art Gallery was launched in celebration of Singapore’s 46th birthday.

In December 2015, SCC welcomed its 50-millionth guest. Four years later, it celebrated its 45th birthday with a multimedia night show and a year-long line-up of activities such as a light installation, a self-guided exploration activity, and the launch of five augmented reality (AR) filters on Facebook.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, various initiatives were launched to encourage locals to rediscover the cable car. Examples include Faber Licence, an annual local membership which offers unlimited cable car rides.

Leading up to its golden jubilee celebration, SCC pushed out Pokémon-themed cable car cabins on the Mount Faber Line in May 2023. The second phase of the Pokémon campaign was launched last November with festive-themed Pokémon cable car cabins. The exterior of all 67 cabins were dressed in five Poké Ball designs, while the cabin interior featured Pokémon in festive outfits.

Pokémon-themed cable car cabins in Singapore (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)
Pokémon-themed cable car cabins in Singapore (Photos: Mount Faber Leisure Group)

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