Plans to refurbish one of the Black Country’s best-loved attractions are underway as part of DZG’s 75th anniversary celebrations.
Work is scheduled to start on the site’s 1958 chairlift in spring with completion set for mid-July.
The £117,000 project will take 12 weeks to complete and work will include a full refurb of the 42 chairs and roller system which carries the cable, plus an overhaul of the engine (British-made AC electrical driven with reduction gearbox). The chairlift was last operated in 2002.
CEO, Peter Suddock, said:?”We are currently finalising details to allow the schedule to start in April so the chairlift will be open to visitors by the middle of July.
“We are so thrilled this is happening; one of the most common questions we are asked by national and overseas visitors is When’s the chairlift going to be running’ so we are very well aware that the refurbishment will create lots of interest.”
Finance for the project is via a £1.2million bid for Heritage Lottery Funding, which will also see the restoration of four of the site’s 12 listed Modernist structures which form part of the world’s largest single collection of Tecton buildings designed by renowned architect Berthold Lubetkin.
Mr Suddock added: “It’s going to be a fantastic year; not only is it our 75th anniversary, we’ll also be finalising plans for the new entrance, retail complex and Tecton interpretation centre which will go on public display, there will be additions to the animal collection and, of course, the chairlift will be restored, so there’s a lot to celebrate.”
Anniversary celebrations will begin on Sunday, May 6 the date the zoo opened to the public in 1937 and include a variety of animal-themed events for visitors of all ages.
It was the first passenger-carrying aerial ropeway to be installed in England,and transports visitors from the zoo’s lower zone to the 11th century Dudley Castle on the upper level, within a two-minute journey, offering panoramic views across Sandwell to Birmingham, and travelling directly over flamingoes, llamas and rare breed sheep grazing on the banks. Mr Suddock said:?”We have all the original drawings, and despite its age the changes mainly centre on cosmetic refurbishment where the chairlift has suffered exposure to the elements, and slight modification to the T-bars on the chairs. It’s a fantastic piece of machinery and a tribute to 1950’s engineering techniques.” The chairlift opened to DZG’s visitors on May 11, 1958 and within six months had carried more than 154,000 passengers – approximately one third of persons visiting the zoo during that period. Mr Suddock added: “Early passengers paid sixpence for their journey, but 2012 travellers will be able to use the facility for free.” CAPTIONS: TOP and ABOVE: CEO?Peter Suddock with the 1958 chairlift that will be refurbished for visitors’ use this year. RIGHT: Seventies’ visitors enjoy the panoramic view from the chairlift.