Lift 41: Our First Two-Pitch Lift

Model: 4-Person, 2-Pitch (750-pound capacity)
Track: 140', ~80' at 24° at the top and the rest at 46°
Year: 2011

The upper station is cantilevered out from the path running behind the house. Because the platform is single purpose and not far off the ground on the track side the owner opted to not add an interlocked gate.

The upper station is cantilevered out from the path running behind the house. Because the platform is single purpose and not far off the ground on the track side the owner opted to not add an interlocked gate.


Heavy duty "V" rollers are used to curve the suspension cable smoothly over the curve in the track. The cable on the left side turns the governor that trips the overspeed brakes if the car goes faster than 0.5 m/sec or ~100 fps.

Heavy duty "V" rollers are used to curve the suspension cable smoothly over the curve in the track. The cable on the left side turns the governor that trips the overspeed brakes if the car goes faster than 0.5 m/sec or ~100 fps.


The car tucks in at the back of the dock and takes up no dock space. Some dock was added to match the angle and location of the car.

The car tucks in at the back of the dock and takes up no dock space. Some dock was added to match the angle and location of the car.


Scott MacDougall made the first run with a person on board. We'd run it over the curve several times empty and there were no problems, no concerns, and no surprises. The lift is obviously still under construction at this point.

These cottage owners needed a lift to access their boathouse but a single pitch lift would not work, the top part of the slope was flatter than the bottom part and the lower station could be seen from the top station.

After years of building only single-pitch lifts that could not work on these sites we developed a two-pitch lift. The inspiration for our design came from the Big Chute Railway which connects the Severn River to Georgian Bay at Port Severn. There, the lower wheels ride on one set of tracks and the upper wheels ride on another. Simple geometry required that we reverse the wheels, use a cantilevered geometry with the car base attached to the lower end of the dolly, and add a "pipe" track to the outside of the standard track to keep the car floor level.

Here the upper section of track runs from the cottage station to the top of a cliff where it is connected to a curved section (which is an arc of a circle). This curved section then transitions smoothly to a second, steeper section that runs to the lower dock station. Installing the 2-pitch track required developing some new techniques: when we set the first, uppermost section of track it has to be positioned so that the lower station will be where it needs to be even though we can't see the lower station.

The mechanism that keeps the car level throughout its ride (including the 22-degree change in pitch) is simple and robust. The video shows the car going over the curve. 

We did all the engineering and construction of the curved track section (aside from the actual bending of the 3 sections of angle iron and the one section of heavy wall pipe and some machining), and the car/dolly/track system in-house. There are no added motors, pumps, batteries, switches, hydraulic cylinders, or black boxes to complicate things or to fail.

This lift design solves a challenging terrain problem with an elegantly simple engineering solution and the prototype, Lift 41, worked exactly as expected. We've since built 6 more 2-pitch lifts with virtually no design changes.