The Duquesne Incline

The Duquesne

The hills around Pittsburgh were once lined with inclines of various sizes and shapes. These were once the most convenient way to get from the top of the surrounding hills to the city, and back up. There were inclines for pedestrian traffic, wagons and vehicles, and some larger ones for coal and heavy cargo.

The Duquesne Incline opened on May 20, 1877, and scales the slopes of Mount Washington from the lower boarding station along Carson Street to Grandview Avenue in Duquesne Heights. The incline was built on property formerly occupied by the Kirk-Lewis Coal Lift. Construction was financed with Duquesne Inclined Plane Company stock certificates totalling $47,000.

Duquesne Incline Plane Company Stock Certificate

The original passenger cars were in use from 1877 to 1889, then replaced with the cars that are still in use today. The interior of each incline car is very ornate, with hand-carved cherry panels trimmed with oak and birdseye maple.

The Duquesne Incline 1880
The Duquesne Incline in 1880.

The Duquesne Incline gave the workers of the growing hilltop community of Union Borough, later Duquesne Heights, easy access to downtown Pittsburgh, where employers like Andrew Carnegie’s Painter’s Steel Mill, the Clinton Iron Furnace and other industries stood on the southern shore of the Monongahela River. Prior to the opening of the incline, the workers often walked the mile long path called the Indian Trail. In 1909 the city constructed the “Indian Trail Steps” along that route.

The Duquesne Incline 1880
The Duquesne Incline in 1900.

The Duquesne Incline’s power system was renovated in 1932. The steam engine was removed and replaced by an electrical system. In 1972, the electrical equipment was updated. The Duquesne Inclined Plane Company operated from 1877 until 1962. when it closed due to financial hardship.

Cartoons by Post-Gazette artist Cy Hungerford.
Cartoons by Post-Gazette artist Cy Hungerford that ran in the November 21, 1962 newspaper (left) and
in the July 1, 1963 edition marking the sad closing and joyous reopening of the Duquesne Incline.

The The Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline was established to help preserve the historic structure. The incline reopened for business on July 1, 1963. The Society has carefully restored and maintained the Duquesne Incline while keeping as close to original consition as possible.

The Duquesne Incline rises along the slopes
of Mount Washington to Duquesne Heights.
The fully-restored Duquesne Incline rises towards the homes along Grandview Avenue in Duquesne Heights.

Today, both the Duquesne Incline and the Monongahela Incline are the only two 19th century inclines remaining in the city of Pittsburgh. The serve as working historic landmarks that continue to fill their original purpose of providing daily transportation to commuters traveling to and from downtown Pittsburgh as they did over 130 years ago. They have become major tourist attractions, bringing people from around the world to see the spectacular view of downtown Pittsburgh and the three rivers.

Wikipedia: Duquesne Incline.

The Duquesne
 Incline      The Duquesne Incline

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