The tall trestles were until 1987 crucial for transporting coal from mines "by air" via cable car from the center of town to the processing facility at Hotellneset. Now the massive wooden structures are protected cultural heritage monuments that Store Norske is responsible for.
Repairs on the big trestle next to Kulturhuset are scheduled to be completed this spring. The foundation is well preserved in permafrost two meters beneath the surface, but the four thick poles that connect the 30-meter structure to its foundation have rotted and must be replaced.
"It's special work," said Trond Håvelsrud, head of Svalbard Bygg, which has been hired for the renovation project. "Before we started digging we weren't quite certain how trestle's foundation was."
Rotten poles will be dug up and replaced two at a time. Two opposing poles will remain and workers will secure the 20-ton structure while replacing the "feet."
"We gradually have good experiences in replacing such support structures," Håvelsrud said. "In both Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund we have repaired buildings where rot has affected the foundation."
Many more repairs
Store Norske plans to maintain a number of addition cable car trestles. The lessons learned from this first project will come in handy later by essentially generating a user manual for such work.
A total of 58 trestles in Longyearbyen and seven in Hiorthhamn have been examined by experts to date, and many likely need to be maintained.
"Rot is a well-known problem with such structures," says Sveinung Lystrup Thesen, Store Norske's property manager. The company manages the cultural heritage landmarks on behalf of the Norwegian government, working with experts from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research and the company Mycoteam, which specializes in rot work.
Store Norske received a grant from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund for the project, with the cost of the first trestle refurbishment estimated at 300,000 kroner.
"We would like to administer the legacy of our special mining history," Thesen said. "A lot of mining facilities, cable cars and cable car centers will receive necessary maintenance. It's important that such remains are taken care of."
Translated by Mark Sabbatini