The Penn Incline descends from the Hill
District, over Bigelow Boulevard, to the Strip District below.
Pittsburgh's hills were once dotted
with inclines, made of steel, wood, train rails, cables and vehicles that
scaled the hills surrounding the city. Called Gravity Planes, or Funiculars,
the incline's cars were pulled up, and lowered, using a system of cables and
pulleys, powered by large engines located in the upper station. These inclines
were a convenient way to get from Mount Washington to Carson Street, from
Knoxville to the South Side, or from the Hill District to the Strip
District, and are forever linked to the history of Pittsburgh.
The Duquesne Incline offers a picturesque
view of Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle.
These inclined planes navigated many
hills throughout the city. Some were for coal transport and others serviced
passengers, wagons and freight. Pittsburgh had some of the longest and
steepest inclines in the world. Today, only the historic Monongahela Incline, still the world's steepest, and the Duquesne Incline, owned by the Port Authority, are still in existence.
The Pittsburgh Incline Plane,
known as the Knoxville Incline.
Altogether, there were a total of
twenty-three inclines built on the hillsides of Pittsburgh. Most of the
earliest planes were constructed by the various mining ventures. Ten of inclines
were built and owned by the Monongahela Inclined Plane Company. The hilltop
neighborhood of Allentown had eight nearby inclines in service at one time:
the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Plane, Mount Oliver, Monongahela,
Monongahela Freight, Castle Shannon, Castle Shannon South, Knoxville and
Keeling Coal Inclines.
The Monongahela Incline, built in
1870 and still in use
today, remains the steepest incline in the world.
The adjacent Monongahela Freight Incline was in
operation for 51 years, from 1884 to 1935.
During the first half of the
20th century the inclines were very popular. Some averaged over 2000 riders
a day. As time progressed and transit opportunities increased, their
popularity declined. By the mid-1960s, the coal planes had been dismantled
and financial losses had forced closure of all but two of the passenger and
freight planes. As for the eight that once operated near Allentown: The
Keeling Coal was dismantled in the early 1900s, the Pittsburgh and Castle
Shannon Plane closed in 1912, Castle Shannon South in 1914, Monongahela Freight
in 1935, Mount Oliver in 1951, Knoxville in 1960 and Castle Shannon in
Click on images for
Ormsby Mine Gravity Plane * (1844-1878) - route location near the St. Clair Incline -
St. Patrick Street to South 21nd Street and Quarry Street - connected to narrow gauge
railway - Ormsby (Southside).
Kirk Lewis Coal Incline/Hoist (1854-1876) - Grandview Avenue (formerly High Street) near the
present Duquesne Incline - Duquesne Heignts (Mount Washington).
The Cray and Company Coal Incline (pre-1872) - upper station near Junius Street and Camden Street
(formerly Catherine Street and Hill Street - Westwood; lower station at Shaler Street
- West End Valley (Union Borough).
Clinton Iron Works Coal Incline (pre-1872) - located on the hillside below Maple Terrace to West
Carson Street (formerly Washington Turnpike) near the present Station Square -
Jones and Laughlin Coal Incline (pre-1872) - Josephine Street between South 29th Street and South
30th Street to Summer Street - Southside Slopes.
Keeling Coal Incline * (1870-1928) - route similar to lower end of Mount Oliver
and Knoxville inclines, along Southside slope - from narrow guage railroad
exiting Keeling Coal Company mines to station at South 12th Street - Southside
Monongahela Incline (1870-present) - West Carson Street at Smithfield Street Bridge
to eastern end of Grandview Avenue at Wyoming Street - Mount Washington.
Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Plane (1864-1912) - (known as the Mount Washington Coal Incline from 1864-1874)
route similar to Castle Shannon Incline from Neff Street (formerly Nimick Street) below
Bailey Avenue and William Street to East Carson Street at Arlington Avenue (formerly
Pittsburgh and Brownsville Turnpike) - Mount Washington.
Mount Oliver Incline (1872-1951) - officially known as the South Twelfth Street
Inclined Plane - South 12th Street at Freyburg Street to Warrington Avenue - Mount
Duquesne Incline (1877-present) - West Carson Street opposite the Point to Western
End of Grandview Avenue (formerly High Street) between Oneida Street and
Cohassett Street - Duquesne Heights (Mount Washington).
Fort Pitt (1882-1906) - from north end of South Tenth Street Bridge
to Bluff Street - Duquesne University Bluff.
Monongahela Freight (1884-1935) - parallel to the east side of the Monongahela
passenger plane - Mount Washington.
Penn Incline (1884-1953) - over Bigelow Boulevard to Liberty Avenue,
from Ledlie Street to 17th Street - Hill District.
St. Clair Incline (1886-1935) - (also known as South 22nd Street Incline) South
22nd Street and Josephine Street to Salisbury Street between Fernleaf Street and
Sterling Street - St. Clair Village.
Bellevue and Davis Island Incline (1887-1892) - Dilworth Run ravine, from South Starr and West
Bellvue following abandoned course of Oak Street to Ohio River at Davis
Nunnery Hill Incline (1887-1899) - Federal Street at Henderson Street (formerly
Fairmount Street), North Side, to Catoma Street near Meadville Street
(formerly Clyde Street) - The first curved track incline in
Pittsburgh - Fineview.
Troy Hill Incline (1887-1898) - near end of old 30th Street Bridge to Lowrie
Street at Ley Street, west of Lofink Street and Rialto Street (formerly Ravine
Street) - Troy Hill.
Ridgewood Incline (1889-1900) - Charles Street North (formerly Taggart Street)
near Nixon Street to Ridgewood Street at Yale Street - Perry
Clifton Incline (1895-1905) - Strauss Street (formerly Metcalf Street and
Myrtle Street) on North Side to Clifton Park (Chautauqua Street) - Perry
Knoxville Incline (1890-1960) - officially known as the Pittsburgh Incline
Plane - South 11th Street at Bradish Street to Warrington Avenue and Knoxville
Avenue - The second incline in Pittsburgh with a curved track -
Castle Shannon Incline (1890-1964) - East Carson Street near Arlington Avenue to
Bailey Street - Mount Washington.
Castle Shannon South (1892-1914) - Warrington Avenue to Bailey Street - Mount
Norwood Incline (1901-1923) - Island Avenue near Adrian Street to Desiderio Avenue
between McKinnie Avenue and Highland Avenue - McKees Rocks/Stowe.
* Dates for the Keeling Coal Company inclines are approximate and based on available
maps and data.
Wikipedia: List of Pittsburgh
Bridges and Tunnels of
Allegheny County and City of Pittsburgh: Incline List.
The Knoxville Incline
The Pittsburgh Incline Plane, or Knoxville
Incline, was 2460 feet long, rising of 375 feet. There was a 18 degree
in the middle. It was one of only two curved inclines ever built in
Pittsburgh. It ran for 70 years, from 1890 to 1960.
The incline's upper loading
platform (left), was located on Warrington Avenue. A car (right) leaves the upper
The Knoxville Incline's cars moving along
both sides of the tracks, with the Mount Oliver Incline in the distance. The
Keeling Coal Incline is also visible in the photo on the left, wedged in
between the Knoxville and Mount Oliver planes.
The Knoxville Incline looking up from the
lower station (left), with the Mount Oliver and Keeling Coal Inclines to the left.
A car moves along the curve (right), with the Mount Oliver Incline in the
The Knoxville Incline descends to its
lower station at Bradford Street in the Southside.
The tracks of the Knoxville Incline (left)
and the upper loading platform.
Wikipedia: Knoxville Incline.
The Mount Oliver Incline
The Mount Oliver Incline descends
towards the Freyburg street station and another view from the top.
Built in 1872, the incline was in operation for 79 years, closing in 1951.
The Mount Oliver and Knoxville Incline
cars pass on their way up and down from the hilltop neighborhoods to the flats.
The lower station of the Mount Oliver Incline (right) at Freyburg Street on the
Southside, between 11th and 12th Streets.
Wikipedia: Mount Oliver Incline.
The Castle Shannon Incline
The Castle Shannon Incline was the final
part of Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad trip from the
southern communities to Pittsburgh. The incline itself was in operation from
1890 to 1964.
The Castle Shannon Incline looking down
towards the McArdle Roadway Bridge and railroad tressel (left)
and looking up towards the Bailey Street Station (right) at the top of the
The Castle Shannon Incline descends
Mount Washington with the City of Pittsburgh and the Civic Arena
in the distance (left) and the Bailey Street Station at the top of the
Wikipedia: Castle Shannon Incline.
The Penn Incline
The Penn Incline descends from atop Polish Hill
over Bigelow Boulevard to the passenger station on Liberty Avenue in 1908.
The Penn Incline ferried passengers
and freight from the Strip District to Ridgeway Street on the Hill.
It was possibly the longest inclined plane in the world. Built in 1884, it
operated until 1953.
The lower station of the Penn Incline
(left), shown in 1937, was located on Liberty Avenue. In the photo
on the right, taken in 1951, the incline descends over the Pennsylvania
The Penn Incline in 1953 shortly before
closing. The incline was in operation for seventy years.
The Monongahela Incline
The Monongahela Freight and Passenger
Inclines in operation in 1905. The freight incline is no longer in service.
The Monongahela Incline offers a wonderful view
of the city. The 38 percent grade is the steepest in the world.
The Monongahela Incline comes down over
McArdle Roadway (left) and the view from the bottom looking up.
The Monongahela Freight and Passenger Incline in 1926 (left)
and the Passenger Incline in 2007.
The Monongahela Passenger and Freight
Incline scaling the Mount Washington slope in 1908.
Wikipedia: Monongahela Incline.
The Duquesne Incline
The Duquesne Incline, built in 1877,
has been transporting riders up and down Coal Hill for over 130 years.
The Duquesne Incline celebrates Pittsburgh
Steeler Deee-Fense (left); A view of the entire incline from top to
The decorative inside of the Incline car
(left) and a view of the incline scaling Duquesne Heights.
Looking up from the lower station (left)
and a view down towards Carson Street.
The fully-restored Duquesne Incline rises
towards the homes along Grandview Avenue in Duquesne Heights.
Wikipedia: Duquesne Incline.
The Keeling Coal Incline
The Keeling Coal Incline was built around 1870,
linking mines along the Southside Slopes with the railroads on the flats.
The incline was located between the Mount Oliver and Knoxville Inclines. The plane
was closed around 1928.
Wikipedia: Keeling Coal Company.
The Ormsby Gravity Plane
and The St. Clair Incline
The Ormsby Gravity Plane was located along the Southside
Slopes, connecting to a narrow-gauge railroad (left) that ran along 21st Street to the Jone
and Lauglin Steel Mills. The coal incline was built between in the mid-1800s and operated
until 1878. The Ormsby Gravity Plane was replaced, in 1889, by the St. Clair Incline, which
transported passengers and freight from St. Clair Village down through the ravine (right) to
a station along Josephine Street.
Wikipedia: Keeling Coal Company, St. Clair Incline.