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Engineers, Manufacturers, Erectors of Aerial Tramways Since 1896

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Riblet History

As one might expect, the history of our 100+ year old company is long and, at times, quite interesting. It's never been compiled in one place, a task that we hope to accomplish one day. Byron Christian ("BC") Riblet, 1865-1952, a native of Osage, Iowa, completed the Civil Engineering program at the University of Minnesota in 1885, and arrived in Spokane, Washington  in July of that year. BC's early career was spent as a railroad engineer (no, not driving a train). His tramway work began in 1896 in the Nelson, British Columbia area, where the Riblet manufacturing facility was run by BC's brother, Walter Riblet. 

Legend has it that BC, having been instrumental in laying out Spokane's streetcar system, was first invited to visit British Columbia to advise on what he thought would be a streetcar ("tram") system.  Learning on arrival that the project would be somewhat different, BC proclaimed himself a designer of aerial tramways, and left the railroad and streetcar business behind. In 1903, BC went to work as chief engineer for the A. Leschen & Sons Wire Rope Company of St. Louis, designing and building tramways and using Leschen ropes, while brothers Walter and Royal minded the store in Nelson. In 1908, BC returned to Spokane and the Riblet Tramway Company for good.

Byron Riblet's younger brother, Royal N. Riblet, was the more flamboyant of the brothers, being a sales and promotion person, not an engineer. Royal had no reservations about taking credit for what were, usually, BC's accomplishments, and around Spokane, is the better known of the two. This is in part a result of his home, grandly named Eagle's Nest when built in 1924, and in part, perhaps, a result of his having had eight wives. Situated on a cliff above the Spokane River, the home can be seen for miles along Interstate 90.  Now referred to as the Cliff House, Royal's home is currently owned and operated by Arbor Crest winery. Although not quite as imposing up close as it is from the valley below, the Cliff House and its grounds are spectacular. The wine is great, too. Royal Riblet was disassociated with the Company in 1933, and died in 1960.

The first Riblet chairlift was built in 1939.  By the late 1940's, skiing and chairlifts were beginning to grow in popularity, and by the mid to late 1950's, were going strong, having become a major part of Riblet's business. Riblet built its first Triple chairlift in 1963, and its first Quad in 1967. As of 2003, Riblet has furnished approximately 500 chairlifts in North America, plus a number of lifts in South America and Australia.

No kinks, please!       Don't spill the oil!
6,000 feet of track strand = 600 men @ 10 ft. each.

More later; please enjoy our growing website.


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