Pittsburgh's Old Inclines

The Penn Incline
 decscends over Bigelow Boulevard
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
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 Knoxville Incline
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 Freight and Passenger 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 1964.

Click on images for larger pictures

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Pittsburgh's Inclines

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 - Mount Washington.

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 Slopes.

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 Oliver

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 Island.

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 Hilltop.

Clifton Incline (1895-1905) - Strauss Street (formerly Metcalf Street and Myrtle Street) on North Side to Clifton Park (Chautauqua Street) - Perry Hilltop.

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 - Knoxville.

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 Washington

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 Inclines.

Bridges and Tunnels of Allegheny County and City of Pittsburgh: Incline List.

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The Knoxville Incline

The upper platform of the Knoxville Incline, on Warrington Avenue.   The Knoxville Incline
The Pittsburgh Incline Plane, or Knoxville Incline, was 2460 feet long, rising of 375 feet. There was a 18 degree curve
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 station.

The Knoxville Incline descends the hill,
 while the tracks of the Keeling Coal Incline
 (center) and the trestle of the Mount Oliver
 Incline (rear) stand in the background.   The cars of the Knoxville Incline
meet in the middle of the plane.
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 the rails.   A Car of the Knoxville Incline
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 distance.

The Knoxville Incline   Knoxville Incline station at Bradford Street.
The Knoxville Incline descends to its lower station at Bradford Street in the Southside.

The Knoxville Incline rails.   The upper station of the Knoxville Incline.
The tracks of the Knoxville Incline (left) and the upper loading platform.

Wikipedia: Knoxville Incline.

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The Mount Oliver Incline

A view from the top of the Mount Oliver 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 Knoxville and Mount Oliver Inclines pass on the Southside slope.   Mount Oliver Inclines Station at Bradford Street
between 11th and 12th Streets on the Southside.
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.

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The Castle Shannon Incline

Castle Shannon Incline looking towards downtown Pittsburgh.   Castle Shannon Incline, looking up from Carson Street.
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.

Looking down from the top of the Castle Shannon Incline.   Looking up from Carson Street.
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 plane.

View from the Castle Shannon Incline
showing the Civic Arena in the distance.   The Castle Shannon Incline station at Bailey Street.
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 incline.

Wikipedia: Castle Shannon Incline.

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The Penn Incline

The Penn Incline in 1908.
The Penn Incline descends from atop Polish Hill over Bigelow Boulevard to the passenger station on Liberty Avenue in 1908.

The top of the Penn Incline was at Ridgeway Street.   Penn Incline looking down towards Strip District.
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 Penn Incline lower station was on Liberty Avenue.   Penn Incline descends over the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks.
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 Railroad tracks.

The Penn Incline in 1953.
The Penn Incline in 1953 shortly before closing. The incline was in operation for seventy years.

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The Monongahela Incline

The Monongahela Freight and Passenger
Inclines in operation in 1905.
The Monongahela Freight and Passenger Inclines in operation in 1905. The freight incline is no longer in service.

Monongahela Incline over McArdle Roadway.   View from the bottom of the Monongahela Incline looking up.
The Monongahela Incline offers a wonderful view of the city. The 38 percent grade is the steepest in the world.

Monongahela Incline over McArdle Roadway.   View from the bottom of the Monongahela Incline looking up.
The Monongahela Incline comes down over McArdle Roadway (left) and the view from the bottom looking up.

The Monongahela Incline in 1926.   The Monongahela Incline in 2006.
The Monongahela Freight and Passenger Incline in 1926 (left) and the Passenger Incline in 2007.

The Monongahela Incline - 1908
The Monongahela Passenger and Freight Incline scaling the Mount Washington slope in 1908.

Wikipedia: Monongahela Incline.

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The Duquesne Incline

The Duquesne Incline in the early 1900s.
The Duquesne Incline, built in 1877, has been transporting riders up and down Coal Hill for over 130 years.

The Duquesne Incline celebrating Pittsburgh Steeler Deee-Fense.   The Duquesne Incline from Mount Washington
to the Carson Street station.
The Duquesne Incline celebrates Pittsburgh Steeler Deee-Fense (left); A view of the entire incline from top to bottom.

The inside of the incline car.   The Duquesne Incline scales Duquesne Heights.
The decorative inside of the Incline car (left) and a view of the incline scaling Duquesne Heights.

The Duquesne Incline celebrating Pittsburgh Steeler Deee-Fense.   The Duquesne Incline from Mount Washington
to the Carson Street station.
Looking up from the lower station (left) and a view down towards Carson Street.

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.

Wikipedia: Duquesne Incline.

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The Keeling Coal Incline

The Knoxville and Mount Oliver Inclines descend
on either side of the Keeling Coal Incline.   The route of the Keeling Coal Incline is visible in this
photo, between the Knoxville and Mount Oliver Inclines.
The lower station of the coal incline is still visible.
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.

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The Ormsby Gravity Plane and The St. Clair Incline

The Knoxville and Mount Oliver Inclines.  
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.

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