Thank you to Duquesne Incline for providing complementary tickets and a tour for my family. All opinions are my own.
The Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh is an amazing example of living history that combines a trolley ride up Mount Washington, engineering genius and an amazing city view. We were traveling to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving and planned to arrive early enough to visit the Duquesne Incline before our big turkey dinner. It was a beautiful clear day, and we were eager to get out and take a trolley ride on the Incline after our drive from Cleveland.
The best way to get to the Incline is to park at the gravel Station Square parking lot just below the Incline’s Carson Street Station. Head up the stairs and over the Carson Street pedestrian bridge that takes you to the beautiful station with notable old-world charm. When we arrived, a trolley was ready to depart, and we were able to get right on the trolley for a private ride to the top of Mount Washington. We were surprised that the car ran without a driver onboard, but later realized that the trolley was operated by a control station at the top of the hill. The trolley sits on top of a platform with an angled base that keeps it level for the entire ride. It felt like we were stepping back in time when we entered the original trolley car.
The detail of the wood work in the trolley car was absolutely exquisite.
The 794-foot wooden track was both an engineering masterpiece and a work of art.
We thoroughly enjoyed our private ride up the Incline and made sure to check out the view from every angle. When we neared the upper station, the trolley car slowed down until it came to a gentle stop, and the doors opened.
We met Tom Reinheimer, who handles Marketing and Group Tours for the Duquesne Incline, when we arrived at the upper station. Tom provided us an amazing tour of the museum and gave us an overview of the history of Pittsburgh, its many inclines and the engineering challenges that the engineers had to overcome to build and operate the Incline. The Incline was designed by Samuel Diescher, who designed a majority of the inclined planes in the US in the late 19th century. Diescher was associated with John Endres, who built the nearby Monongahela Incline along with his daughter Caroline, who was one of the first female engineers in the US. Diescher married Caroline in 1872, and the two lived on Mount Washington. The Duquesne Incline was completed a few years later and opened on May 20, 1877.
The main purpose of the Incline was to transport cargo and people between Grandview Avenue at the top of Mount Washington to Carson Street at the bottom. The Incline was especially helpful to the many coal miners who worked by the river providing coal for Pittsburgh’s steel industry and lived up on Mount Washington. Those who did not take an incline would have to climb up or down 1,400 stairs instead.
On the tour, Tom shared a great deal of Pittsburgh history – all the way back to the city’s role in the initiation of French and Indian War. Steam originally powered the Incline, but eventually was retrofitted to electricity and a generator just before the Great Flood of 1936 when passengers were stranded midway up the Incline for the only time in its 140 years of operation. Passengers were warned that the Incline might not make it to the upper station due to rising flood waters. We also learned that Pittsburgh was once the US steel capital and produced 60% of the country’s steel. Before the Clean Air Act, the city was very smoky due to soot produced by the coal mines.
Tom then took us to the David H. Miller Working Museum to tour of the Incline’s hoisting machinery. The Incline still uses its original hoisting equipment that features giant cogs with wooden gear teeth.
The tour concluded on the observation deck. The view was magnificent. We saw Pittsburgh’s “Three Rivers” confluence of the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River, which together form the Ohio River and the city’s “Golden Triangle” central business district. Other highlights include views of the outline of Fort Duquesne, the Steelers’ Heinz Field, the Pirates’ PNC Park, the Carnegie Science Center and many bridges (up to 18 can be visible).
The Duquesne Incline is a historic landmark but does not receive state or federal subsidies. The Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline is a non-profit organization that operates the Duquesne Incline and relies on fares, gift shop income and donations to maintain the Incline.
Our family really enjoyed the Incline ride and breathtaking view. We all learned a great deal about Pittsburgh history and engineering during our visit. It is a great attraction for families and visitors of all ages because of the fun trolley ride up, the historical significance and the amazing city view. It’s no surprise that USA Today recently named the Duquesne Incline as one of the 10 great streetcars, trams and funiculars. If you can organize a group of 10 or more, I definitely recommend that you request a tour by contacting Tom Reinheimer to schedule.
Before You Go: The Duquesne Incline runs every day (even Thanksgiving!) and stops only for electrical storms because of concerns related to a power surge. Note that the Duquesne Incline accepts only cash and requires exact change. There is an ATM available at the upper station. You can request free tours for any group larger than 10, including school groups and Cub Scout groups (check out their Patch Program) through the Incline’s website.
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