The Inclines


One of Pittsburgh's distinctive features is its cable-powered inclines (known elsewhere as funiculars) for transportation between the river valleys and the communities on top of the overlooking bluffs. At one time Pittsburgh had about fifteen inclines. Two of them remain, on the south bank of the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, across from downtown Pittsburgh. They provide service to the Mount Washington residential area.

The cars are not self-powered, and do not even have operators on board the car. Instead, they are pulled up and down the inclined track by a cable driven by an engine in the upper station, where the operator works. The cars operate in pairs, permanently attached to opposite ends of a single cable, with one going uphill and the other going downhill at the same time. The cars therefore counterbalance each other, so the engine needs to provide only enough power to overcome friction and the difference in the weight of the passengers in the two cars.

We are going to examine 4 of them...the first two are still in operation today, the last two, arent.


The Duquesne Incline



The Duquesne Incline (built in 1877) is located just west of the Fort Pitt Bridge, and faces the Ohio River. it has a length of 793 feet, a height of 400 feet, and a grade of 58% (30 degrees). Its lower station is served by many buses on West Carson Street. It is operated by a non-profit preservation society, but transfers can be made to and from Port Authority Transit buses at both stations.

The incline almost faced its end in 1962 due to lack of funds and worn parts, but due to donations and huge public spport, was re-opened in 1963. In 1964, it was aquired by the Port Authority. Instead of closing The Duquesne Incline, which as yet could not be operated economically as part of the transit system, the Port Authority graciously leased the Incline to its rescuers for one dollar a year(which, each year after receipt of the lease fee, PAT promptly returns as a donation to The Duquesne Incline).

Much work has been done to restore and rehabilitate the entire operation. The interior of the Incline cars has been stripped of gray paint to reveal the original hand-carved cherry panels trimmed with oak and birdseye maple. The transoms have some of the original amber glass. Much time has also been devoted to the Waiting Rooms, the cable and motor rooms, and to track maintenance and idler replacement.

In addition, a small wing was added to house administrative offices and an enlarged gift shop, as well as a small extension of the Upper Station's museum gallery. Income from the sale of souvenirs has been most important in providing funds for the Incline's capital-improvement program.


General overview of the Duquesne Incline.

One car to the other on the Duquesne Incline.

A view up the Duquesne Inclines tracks.

Inside the Duquesne Incline.

Nice shot of the incline.

The inner workings...Gear and Drum assembly.

View from upper carhouse.

The lower station of the incline, including the old pot bellied stove.

The upper station. There is a observation platform and a gift shop here.

The incline is beautiful at night.

Here's a old shot...from 1953...The cars are a little faded, but look at the busy industy at the bottom of the tracks! That was gone before I was around!


The Monongahela Incline

The Oher Incline, The Monongahela Incline, by Station Square. I have been priveledged to operate this one myself..
This Incline (built in 1870) is located near the Smithfield Street bridge, directly across the Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh. Its lower station is across the street from the Station Square shopping complex, and is easily accessible from the light rail system at the Station Square station. It is operated by the Port Authority which operates the rest of Pittsburgh's transit system. Transfers can be made between the incline and the light rail and buses.

Some fast facts...

  • Length: 635 feet
  • Elevation: 369.39 feet
  • Grade: 35 degrees
  • Gauge: 5 foot
  • Speed: 6 MPH
  • Passenger Capacity: 23 per car
  • Opened: 28 May 1870
  • Renovated: 1882 (with steel structure)
  • Original steam power replaced with electricity: 1935
  • Renovated: 1982-83 new track structure, cars and stations
  • Renovated: 1994 upper, lower stations, restored cars, replaced electric motors and controls



Nice shot of the Mon Incline.


Nice view up the tracks before the pass.

View from Grandview Ave on Mt. Washington.

Installing the cars in 1994.

The inclines 3 level cars.

The lower station.

Overview of the incline.

The right side car. Dusk is falling, so the lights are on.

A nice shot in the fall...

The incline is extremely nice looking at night.

Here is the Mon in a shot around 1953.

A better shot from 53 of the car...A lot has changed for sure!


The Knoxville Incline


The Knoxville Incline was an inclined railway that ran between Pittsburgh's South Side and Knoxville neighborhoods. The incline was constructed in 1890, and was demolished in 1960. It had a track length of 2644 feet, and the Knoxville Incline featured a curve, an unusual engineering feat for an incline. The Knoxville Incline was operated by the Pittsburgh, Knoxville & St. Clair Electric Railroad, and later by Pittsburgh Railways. During its operation, the incline ferried people and freight between the South Side and Knoxville.

On October 7, 1953 a boy hanging from a car was killed. While it is reported that Pittsburgh inclines recorded no fatalities, this, along with an incident on the St. Clair Incline, provide the only marks on the safety record of inclines in Pittsburgh. None of the fatalities occurred with paying passengers who had not jumped from cars.

The bottom "landing" of the Knoxville Incline.

A view up the tracks...Check out the pulley system.

Here comes the car...Coming down the hill. This incline was so unique with the pass taking place in the curve.

Looking up the tracks from inside the car.

This was shot on the last day of operation, in 1960.

This is the track coming down the hill...Toward the landing. How different the skyline looks today!

This car is coming up through the curve...Awesome!

Bottom view of the upper station.

The other side of the upper station.


Castle Shannon Incline


The Castle Shannon Incline was originally built in 1890 as part of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad as a means of transporting passenger traffic over Mt. Washington, rather than using the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Tunnel through Mt. Washington, which used a former coal mine. The mine continued to be used as a tunnel to transport coal to a separate incline that unloaded at a station on Carson Street. The incline ran from Bailey on Mt. Washington to Carson Street and Arlington. Its large cars were able to carry both passengers and automobiles. Originally steam powered, it was converted to electrical operation in 1918 by the Otis Elevator Company. Its track length was shorter than most, at 1,350 feet.

The incline was closed 21 June 1964. The former route of the incline is partly replaced by East Sycamore Street.


A snowy day but its still going!

You can see just how big the car were...Drive your car right on in there!

It is a forboding sight, to say the least.

Interesting shot, with the Smithfield St. Bridge in the background.

Awesome shot, with the newly constructed Civic Arena in the background. It was getting close to the end.

Old cars parked along Sycamore St.

The lower "station".


More to Come!