Down to the Water’s Edge


Marine Innovations inclined elevator offers a smooth ride and convenience to Texas marina visitors.

The booming city of Austin has a lot going for it: as the capital of Texas, it is a center of political power; it is the home of the University of Texas, a premier public institution of higher learning and research; it has a music scene that rivals those of Nashville and New Orleans; and it’s a major hub for the technology industry. A lot of hard work goes on in Austin, and people who work hard also like to play hard.

One of the top recreational locales in the Austin area is Lake Travis, a manmade reservoir on Texas’ Colorado River. Swimming, fishing and boating are among the most popular activities on the lake. Many boaters use the services of the several marinas that dot the shores, and NorthShore Marina at the Hollows is among the most exclusive. Four times named “Texas Marina of the Year,” NorthShore offers 368 slips and can accommodate boats up to 80 ft. long. A full-service ship store is on site, offering fuel and boat rentals.

The parking facility is atop a cliff that rises 100 ft. above the floating docks. The marina already had one Marine Innovations elevator but needed another to provide more access. For this project, NorthShore turned to Marine Innovations for a second custom inclined elevator. The challenge was to meet the needs of the marina to safely transport pedestrians and their supplies to a constantly fluctuating landing elevation automatically, while meeting all ASME A17.1, Section 5.1 codes and state inspections. Although the marina and ship’s store could be accessed by stairs, the addition of an inclined elevator offers greater comfort and convenience. Visitors don’t have to carry supplies and boating gear down to their boats.

The lake level fluctuates up to 70 ft., depending on area rainfall. The elevator follows the floating dock system, automatically adjusting for any change in lake level. This is accomplished through a hoistway that extends underwater to the bottom of the lake. At full lake elevation, 150 ft. of track sits beneath the surface. The lower landing is on a separate track system paralleling the elevator hoistway, which also adjusts to the current lake elevation, providing a safe portal at the marina level to access the elevator car.

The greatest installation challenges were a bit out of the ordinary. The first problem was the site had no crane access, so everything had to be completed with human manpower and rigging, including installation of hoistway support legs, some as much as 30 ft. tall. The second, greater challenge was that a major portion of the hoistway, track and stairs was assembled underwater, which necessitated the employment of scuba divers, barges and special equipment to complete the project.

The elevator uses many advanced features, including rail brakes, slack-cable safety system, SJ wireless control communications, emergency communications and LED cab lighting. Component suppliers include SJE-Rhombus (controller), Elektrim (motor), Winsmith (gearbox), Kings III (cab emergency communications), Dodge (bearings) and BODE (governor). The stained concrete landing leads to the attractive carriage with 36-in., automatic, air-actuated, aluminum sliding doors. The structure portrays strength and safety, and the green canopies match the marina roofing and surrounding vegetation.

The elevator is accessed from a platform near the marina parking area. Automatic sliding cab doors allow access to the 1200-lb.-capacity cab, where controls wirelessly transmit instructions to the controller. The elevator travels at 70 fpm and has a soft start/stop control system to give passengers a smooth ride. Galvanized steel track and supports provide a strong, corrosion-resistant structure. An aluminum trolley features captive polyurethane rollers for a smooth ride without disruption from debris. The aluminum carriage is strong, lightweight and durable. Perforated side panels provide safety with ventilation and passenger visibility.

The inclined elevator was installed by Hal Engelhardt of Austin Docks and Trams and was inspected and commissioned into service on Labor Day 2018. It has been servicing The NorthShore at the Hollows Marina nonstop since, offering patrons easier, more direct and quicker access to their boats.

Because C-channel rail can allow debris to build up, Marine Innovations uses 2-in.-X-3-in. galvanized, 11-ga. enclosed tubing for its rail systems. Further, the company says, its in-house manufacturing allows it to maintain strict quality control, so that every piece of the assembly is held to high standards. Because of this, Marine Innovations is able to offer a superior warranty: 15 years for structural components; three years for nonstructural components (gearbox, motor and brakes); and one year for drive and brake cables, and electrical parts and components. The company also has full-time staff available to offer phone support, annual inspections and maintenance service, if needed.

Marine Innovations credits its strong dealer network and reputation for quality for its inclined elevators having been installed in 31 states and four foreign countries (Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala and St. Vincent/Grenadines). Many of these jobs have presented challenges that were overcome, such as:

♦ A 700-ft.-long residential system on Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota

  • A private residential installation in Maine with a curved track that required formed track rails and a unique trolley to allow for smooth operation on a curved, sloped system
  • A commercial system retrofit in Idaho that required a new control system and a new, reengineered drive system including a 30-hp motor, gearbox, holding brake and custom power frame.
Length: 200 linear ft.
Vertical height: 90 ft.
Hoistway: 2-in.-X-5-in. proprietary rectangle-steel galvanized track; 2-in. galvanized steel support posts; grade-8 hardware
Equipment: Electric/mechanical, double-cable traction drive; no counterweight
Car capacity: 1200 lb. Travel speed: 70 fpm Stops: Two
Car construction: Powder-coated welded aluminum Doors: 36-in. automatic; air-actuated aluminum sliders
Car safeties and features: BODE governor with rail brakes and switches; slack cable sensor with switches; door
interlocks; SJ wireless communications; Kings III emergency communications; LED lighting; Sunbrella canopy
About the Marina
NorthShore Marina at Th e Hollows, the only deepwater marina on Lake Travis, sits adjacent to Th e Hollows, an exclusive gated community. Th e facility, owned by Austin Cameron and managed by Billy Neel, off ers its clientele luxury amenities, including smooth and reliable transportation between the parking area and marina. Th e elevator was custom designed and manufactured for this application and has performed daily since it was commissioned.

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Elevator World | March 2019 Cover