The Monongahela Incline

The Monongahela Incline

The hills around Pittsburgh were once strewn 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 a couple large ones for larger cargo. Today, only two of these 19th century inclines remain, the Monongahela Incline and the Duquesne Incline further down river.

The Monongahela Incline - 1888
The Monongahela Freight and Passenger Inclines descend from atop Mount Washington to Carson Street in 1888.

The Monongahela Incline was the first passenger incline in the city, opening on May 28, 1870. It was built by the Monongahela Inclined Plane Company, chartered in 1867. Stock certificates were issued totaling $50,000 to cover the initial construction expenses. The wire rope cable was designed by John Roebling and the passenger cars were built specifically for the incline, which spans 642 feet from Carson Street to Grandview Avenue.

The Monongahela Incline - 1905
The Monongahela Freight and Passenger Inclines scaling the Mount Washington slope in 1905.

From 1884 to 1935 this was a double incline, with the passenger incline on one side and the adjacent Monongahela Freight Incline running parallel. The inclines were originally powered by steam. In 1935, the passenger incline was renovated and the power system electrified.

The Monongahela Inclines - 1926
Three inclines stand in line along Mount Washington in 1926. The Monongahela Freight Incline, The Monongahela Passenger
Incline and a temporary service incline built to haul materials during an overhaul of the inclines foundations.

By this time the freight incline was considered obsolete and removed during the renovation. The cement foundations of the old freight lift are still visible on the hillside. The original Monongahela Incline passenger cars were replaced in 1983. As with the original cars, the replacements were specifically built for the incline.

The Monongahela Incline    The Monongahela Incline    The Monongahela Incline

The incline is now operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County and, as well as being a world-renowned tourist attraction, it is still a much utilized method of pedestrian transportation from Grandview Avenue atop Mount Washington to Carson Street and Station Square below.

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

The Monongahela Incline has the distinction of being the steepest and the oldest operating incline in the United States. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Wikipedia: Monongahela Incline.

The Monongahela Incline - 1928
The Monongahela Passenger and Freight Incline in 1928. Also visible are the newly-completed Liberty Bridge
in the foreground and McCardle Roadway running along the face of Mount Washington.

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