Why I Love Pittsburgh: The Duquesne Incline

Why I Love Pittsburgh: The Duquesne Incline

My little sister came to visit me in Pittsburgh this weekend and so we decided to experience the city through one of the oldest and most unique forms of public transportation.  The Duquesne Incline was built in 1877 and is a funicular railway that is one of the most awe inspiring forms of transportation I’ve ever used. The Incline is 800 feet long, 400 feet high, and has a somewhat terrifying slant of 30%, making it still much less steep than at least one other street in Pittsburgh.

Cable car transit up the mountain

We decided to start at the top of Mount Washington and ride the funicular railway down to the bottom and then ride back up again.

Downtown seen while riding down the Funicular

USA Today listed the Duquesne Incline at the top of the list of “10 great places to study skylines of the world” and the New York Times spoke with Chuck Massey, a conductor who has worked for the incline for years. He described how the engineer that built the incline boosted ridership when it was first built in 1877:

It seems the incline wasn’t catching on at first, Mr. Massey said, with a lot of potential customers still taking a series of stairs down Mount Washington rather than spending money for the ride.

The engineer hired somebody to scare those who chose to travel by foot by popping out of the bushes in the evenings. Rumors spread that the steps were haunted, and ridership on the incline picked up.

“Supposedly a true story,” Mr. Massey said.

I ride my bike across one of these bridges daily

After basking in the sun and swooning for the view, it was a little disappointing to leave the old-fashioned atmosphere of the 130-year old rail and cross the street to be greeted with this ugly scene:

Screaming billboards

I thought we’d be able to walk around and see some shops but I didn’t realize that there was nothing there except speeding cars, and visual noise yelling at me about my finances, my health, and my flooring. Ew.

So we turned to admire the view of downtown instead:

Yum! Soothing Views Across the River

I hope they turn on that fountain soon. We spent about five minutes taking pictures of downtown and in that time were honked at three times by three separate Neanderthals who had apparently never seen girls in dresses before.

That very distasteful experience left a sour taste in my mouth but then I just got back on the Incline and kept on swooning for my new city.

I’m not trying to make you jealous, but do you have views like this in your town? I bet not, and if not, you should move here. It’s gorgeous, very affordable, full of space, opportunity and charming people, and is the only city in the U.S. to be voted Most Livable City TWICE. There’s something for everyone here, including that obscure part of the population who like “sports”.

I felt a bit sorry for my sister who had to leave that afternoon to go back to DC.

If you want some more information about the Incline, check out The Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline. The Society operates and runs the Incline which does not and never has received any direct government subsidy for operations from the City of Pittsburgh, County of Allegheny, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or the Federal Government. Operation of the Duquesne Incline relies entirely on fares collected, membership fees, donations, and gift shop sales.

So if you’re one of those disposable income types always looking for a way to lighten your wallet for a good cause, why not put some of it into the Incline?


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