The mountain milk churn lift at Blois-sur-Seille in the Jura, a village of about 100 inhabitants, opened in 1893 and was in use until the Comté cheese dairy closed in 1982.
Locals now want to see it renovated. Mayor Laurent Besançon hopes it will be a tourist attraction.
“When it was working, the milk churn lift was a huge relief to farmers up in the mountain,” said Mr Besançon.
“As far as we know, it is the only one of its kind in France.” A local farmer had the idea after completing his military service in Grenoble, where the army used a similar system to bring stone down the mountain.
Back in the Jura, he got together with seven other farmers and brought in a builder from nearby Saint-Lamain to construct it.
“It is 500 metres long, going up 200 metres in height.
“It functions using gravity to send the empty churns back uphill as the full ones are sent down. Some 200 litres of milk could be transported on each journey. It really was an ingenious system.” It will cost around €100,000 to renovate as many of the parts need replacing.
“We have been holding fundraising events with the association Les Loups de Blois to raise money to get the lift working again but our village is too small to make the amount of money we need, so we are asking for help.
“The Fondation du Patrimoine, which supports projects to save local heritage, has given us an appeal page on its website.”
Mr Besançon hopes they will begin renovation works at the start of this summer so it can open in autumn.
Meanwhile, the government has announced ski lifts will not open on February 1 and are most likely to stay shut for the whole month. This is bad news for ski resorts which hoped to make up some of the losses faced at Christmas during the February school holidays.