Initially wrought iron wires were used, but today steel is the main material used for wire ropes.
Historically wire rope evolved from wrought iron chains, which had a record of mechanical failure.
Wire rope consists of several strands of metal wire laid (twisted) into a helix.
The term "cable" is often used interchangeably with "wire rope", but narrower senses exist in which "wire rope" refers to diameter larger than 3/8 inch (9.52 mm), whereas sizes smaller than this are designated cable or cords.
While flaws in chain links or solid steel bars can lead to catastrophic failure, flaws in the wires making up a steel cable are less critical as the other wires easily take up the load.
For example, aircraft cables are available in 3/64 in. Like a modern ski lift, the down cable is part of a loop, in the shorter cable lifts and use of single track grades in the Ashley Planes built earlier by the same people, often hidden underground but for the end 'Barney Tunnels which held huge wheels and a semi-circally shaped track for the barney pusher cart.
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