(US) The great era of (lost) American funiculars

(US) The great era of (lost) American funiculars

Published on September 16th, 2017
Copyright © 2017 Funimag – Michel Azéma, Paris (France)

The United States of America was a great country of funiculars but American people do not know or have forgotten.

The United States of America has built the most spectacular funiculars but they have practically all disappeared for a long time.

Here are more than fifty lost or stopped funiculars in order to remember what was the great era of American funiculars. This list is not exhaustive and is just a selection of the most representative ones.

(click on photos to enlarge)

California New Hampshire
Colorado New Jersey
Florida New York
Iowa Ohio
Michigan Pennsylvania
Minnesota Tennessee
Massachusetts Utah
Montana Washington
North Carolina West Virginia

California

Catalina Island (1904-1923)

Located on Catalina Island off Los Angeles, the incline was used to link Avalon and the amphitheater to Pebbly Beach on the other side of the hill.

Catalina Island (1904-1923)
Catalina Island (1904-1923)
Court Flight (1905-1943)

Court Flight incline was the other funicular in downtown Los Angeles. Not so famous as Angels Flight, which was opened in 1901 and is still active, Court Flight funicular linked Bunker Hill to Court Street.

Court Flight (1905-1943)
Court Flight (1905-1943)
Fairfax Manor (1913-1930)

Fairfax Manor Incline Railroad was used to access Manor Hill near Redwood in Marin County and promote promote sell lots.

Fairfax Manor (1913-1930)
Fairfax Manor (1913-1930)
Los Angeles – Mount Washington (1909-1919)

The Los Angeles & Mount Washington Railway was a funicular which was built to develop the summit of Mt. Washington Hill.

Los Angeles - Mount Washington (1909-1919)
Los Angeles – Mount Washington (1909-1919)
Mount Lowe (1893-1937)

The Mount Lowe Great Incline was part of a great set of railways built to reach top of Mt. Lowe from Pasadena near Los Angeles.

Mount Lowe (1893-1937)
Mount Lowe (1893-1937)
Playa Del Rey (1901-1909)

This funicular was built to access the beach from Playa Del Rey, between the actual Marina Del Rey and Los Angeles International Airport.

Playa Del Rey (1901-1909)
Playa Del Rey (1901-1909)
San Francisco – Fillmore Hill (1895-1941)

The Fillmore Hill incline was an independent counterbalance funicular to climb from Broadway to Green and was not connected to the classical San Francisco cable cars.

San Francisco - Fillmore Hill (1895-1941)
San Francisco – Fillmore Hill (1895-1941)
San Francisco – Telegraph Hill (1884-1886)

As Fillmore Hill, The Telegraph Hill incline was an independent counterbalance funicular to climb from Broadway to Green and was not connected to the classical San Francisco cable cars. It ran on Greenwich Street from Powell to the Pioneer Pavilion.

San Francisco - Telegraph Hill (1884-1886)
San Francisco – Telegraph Hill (1884-1886)
Shasta Springs (1898-1950)

Shasta Springs was a famous resort near Mount Shasta volcano in North California.

Shasta Springs (1898-1950)
Shasta Springs (1898-1950)

 

Colorado

Golden Castle Rock (1913-1918)

A funicular railway was used on the Northwest face of South Table Mountain where a Casino was built on top of Castle Rock above Golden near Denver.

Golden Castle Rock (1913-1918)
Golden Castle Rock (1913-1918)
Golden Lookout Mountain (1912-1916)

In 1912, the first funicular of Golden was built at top of the Lookout Mountain Park.

Golden Lookout Mountain (1912-1916)
Golden Lookout Mountain (1912-1916)
Mount Manitou Incline Railroad (1907-1989)

Mount Manitou incline is certainly the most famous of US disappeared funiculars may be because it was recently closed. Its empty track is today used for vertical runs.

Mount Manitou Incline Railway (1907-1989)
Mount Manitou Incline Railway (1907-1989)
Manitou Red Mountain (1912-1925)

Few meters only from the famous Mount Manitou Incline and the Pike Peak Cog Railway, there was may be the most unknown US funicular… the Manitou Red Mountain Incline.

Manitou Red Mountain (1912-1925)
Manitou Red Mountain (1912-1925)
Mount Morrison (1909-1914)

The Mount Morrison Incline Railroad was also an unknown and ephemeral funicular but as spectacular as those from Manitou Spring.

Mount Morrison (1909-1914)
Mount Morrison (1909-1914)
Royal Gorge Incline (1931-2013)

The Royal Gorge Incline was in operation since recently but was forced to stop because of big damage after fire in the area.

Royal Gorge Incline (1931-2013)
Royal Gorge Incline (1931-2013)
Seven Falls (….-1992)

Located near Colorado Springs, the Seven Falls is a famous natural spot. A funicular was first built to help visitors to access the gorge… today it is replaced by an underground vertical lift.

Seven Falls (....-1992)
Seven Falls (….-1992)

Florida

Tampa Harbour Island People Mover (1985-1999)

A very short life for this cable Automated People Mover which was built to link the Harbour Island to downtown Tampa in Florida. Today, every thing is gone.

Tampa Harbour Island People Mover (1985-1999)
Tampa Harbour Island People Mover (1985-1999)

Iowa

Dubuque Eleventh Street (1883-1927)

On 11th Street there was  the second funicular of Dubuque which was less famous than Fenelon Place Elevator which is on 4th Street.

Dubuque Eleventh Street (1883-1927)
Dubuque Eleventh Street (1883-1927)

Michigan

Kalamazoo Western Michigan College (1908-1949)

This funicular was located inside Western Michigan University of Kalamazoo. In 2002 a replica was built by some students but it is only a static exposition.

Kalamazoo Western Michigan College (1908-1949)
Kalamazoo Western Michigan College (1908-1949)
Macatawa Lookout Pavillion (…-…)

The Angel’s Flight Inclined Railway of Macatawa was built to reach the top of Lookout Point over Lake Michigan.

Macatawa Lookout Pavillion (...-...)
Macatawa Lookout Pavillion (…-…)

Minnesota

Duluth 7th Avenue West (1891-1939)

This is a very famous funicular which was a real icon of Duluth during more that 40 years.
More informations about the Duluth 7th Avenue West Incline.

Duluth 7th Avenue West (1891-1939)
Duluth 7th Avenue West (1891-1939)

Massachusetts

Granite Railway and Incline– The first railroad in America (1826-1940)

Granite Railway & Granite Incline were located south of Boston. They were the first railway and the first inclined railway in America. They were built in 1826 transport granite stone from Quincy quarry to erect the Bunker Hill Monument of Boston for the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill.
More details about Granite Railway and its incline

Granite Incline in 1934
Granite Incline in 1934
Mount Holyoke Summit House (1858-1951)

A tramway and a covered funicular was built to transport tourists to the Mont Holyoke Hotel at the top of the hill.

Mount Holyoke Summit House (1858-1951)
Mount Holyoke Summit House (1858-1951)
Mount Tom Railroad (1897-?)

Located new Holyoke, a railroad and a funicular were built to reach the summit of the Mount Tom above the western bank of the Connecticut River.

Mount Tom Railroad (1897-?)
Mount Tom Railroad (1897-?)

Montana

Lewis and Clark Caverns (1947-1973)

Lewis and Clark Caverns were first accessible with a Jeep railway and a funicular. Unfortunately both of them were forced to close for administrative reasons.

Lewis and Clark Caverns (1947-1973)
Lewis and Clark Caverns (1947-1973)

North Carolina

Ghost Town in the Sky (1961-2002)

Ghost Town in the Sky is a Wild West-themed amusement park on top of a mountain in Maggie Valley which was accessible by a double funicular composed of four cars of 48 passengers each. The park is now accessible by two chairlifts.

Ghost Town in the Sky (1961-2002)
Ghost Town in the Sky (1961-2002)

New Hampshire

Cranmore Skimobile (1938-1989)

Cranmore Skimobile was composed of 192 cable hauled cars in two sections to transport skiers and sightseers on top of Mount Cranmore in North Conway (New Hampshire).

Cranmore Skimobile (1938-1989)
Cranmore Skimobile (1938-1989)
Uncanoonuc Incline Railway (1907-1941)

Uncanoonuc Incline Railway and Development Company built an electric railway from Goffstown to the top of Mount Uncanoonuc near Manchester (New Hampshire).

Uncanoonuc Incline Railway (1907-1941)
Uncanoonuc Incline Railway (1907-1941)

New Jersey

Hoboken wagon lift (1874-1928)

The Hoboken wagon lift was a funicular used to lift vehicles from the foot of Paterson Plank Road to Jersey City Heights and close to the famous Hoboken Elevated Railway railway trestle.

Hoboken wagon lift (1893-?)
Hoboken wagon lift (1893-?)
Morris Canal Inclined Planes (1830-1924)

The Morris Canal was a 172 km canal used to transport coal on boats from Delaware river to Hudson river at Jersey City. There was 23 water-driven inclined planes the Morris Canal.

Morris Canal Inclined Planes (1830-1924)
Morris Canal Inclined Planes (1830-1924)
Weehawken wagon lift (1892-?)

The Weehawken wagon lift was a funicular used to lift vehicles from the foot of Hackensack Plank Road to West Hoboken (now Union City).

Weehawken wagon lift (1893-?)
Weehawken wagon lift (1893-?)
West Orange Cable Road (1892-1906)

The West Orange Cable Road was a cable railway up the mountain in West Orange.

West Orange Cable Road (1892-1906)
West Orange Cable Road (1892-1906)

New York

Lake George Prospect Mountain (1895-1903)

The Lake George Prospect Mountain railway was built by Otis to climb the top of Prospect Mountain west from Lake George City.

Lake George Prospect Mountain (1895-1903)
Lake George Prospect Mountain (1895-1903)
Mount Beacon Incline Railway (1901-1978)

The Mount Beacon Incline Railway was a funicular railroad up to Mount Beacon at Beacon on left bank of Hudson River.

Mount Beacon Incline Railway (1901-1978)
Mount Beacon Incline Railway (1901-1978)
Otis Elevating Railway – Catskill Mountain (1892-1918)

The Otis Elevating Railway was a cable funicular railroad to the Catskill Mountain House in Palenville on right side of Hudson River.

Otis Elevating Railway - Catskill Mountain (1892-1918)
Otis Elevating Railway – Catskill Mountain (1892-1918)
Sea Cliff Incline Railway (1886-1907)

Located at Sea Cliff on Long Island, the Sea Cliff Incline Railway was used to transport passengers of steam boats from the dock to the top of the hill were was the Sea Cliff Hotel.

Sea Cliff Incline Railway (1886-1907)
Sea Cliff Incline Railway (1886-1907)

Ohio

Cincinnati

The city of Cincinnati is famous to have been a great city of 6 early big funiculars mainly capable to transport streetcars and other vehicles on the top of the hills but in 1948 all the inclines were gone!

Cincinnati / Bellevue Incline (1876-1926)

Also known as the Cincinnati & Clifton Inclined Plane Railroad, the Bellevue Incline was able to transport tramway and other vehicles from Elm Street at McMicken Avenue to Ohio Avenue.

Cincinnati / Bellevue Incline (1876-1926)
Cincinnati / Bellevue Incline (1876-1926)
Cincinnati / Fairview Incline (1892-1923)
Cincinnati / Fairview Incline (1892-1923)
Cincinnati / Fairview Incline (1892-1923)
Cincinnati / Mount Adams Incline (1876-1948)

The Mount Adams & Eden Park Inclined Railway was the last and most famous funicular of Cincinnati. It was designed to transport street cars up to Adams Hill, the Zoo and Eden Park.

Cincinnati / Mount Adams Incline (1876-1948)
Cincinnati / Mount Adams Incline (1876-1948)
Cincinnati / Mount Auburn Incline (1871-1898)

The Mount Auburn or Main Street Incline was the first funicular of Cincinnati. First it was a passenger only incline than it was modified with an open platform to transport tramways and horse-driven vehicles.

Cincinnati / Mount Auburn Incline (1871-1898)
Cincinnati / Mount Auburn Incline (1871-1898)
Cincinnati / Price Hill Inclines (1874-1943)

The Price Hill Inclines was composed of two separate funiculars. One was reserved for passengers only (on the left of the photo) and the other one was reserved for freight and vehicles.

Cincinnati / Price Hill Inclines (1874-1943)
Cincinnati / Price Hill Inclines (1874-1943)

Pennsylvania

Allegheny Portage Railroad (1834-1857)

The Allegheny Portage Railroad was a 36-mile railroad built to cross the Allegueny Moutains and to link Johnstown on Conemaugh River and Hollydaysburg near Altoona. The railroad was able to transport canal boats on rail and over the moutain with 10 funicular inclined planes.

More informations about Allegheny Portage Railroad.

Allegheny Portage Railroad (1834-1857)
Allegheny Portage Railroad (1834-1857)
Ashley Inclined Planes (1843-1948)

The Ashley Planes were composed of three inclined planes to transport coal wagons from Mountain Top down to Ashley and the Wyoming Valley.

Ashley Inclined Planes (1843-1948)
Ashley Inclined Planes (1843-1948)
Penn Haven Inclines (1851-1864)

The Hazleton Railroad was in charge to transport coal from Weatherly from top of the mountain down to the Lehigh River valley. Inclined planes were built at Penn Haven (actually Penn Junction) to reach the bottom of the valley.

Penn Haven Inclines (1851-1864)
Penn Haven Inclines (1851-1864)

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is unquestionably the American city that has had the most funiculars. The city counted up to 20 funiculars. Today there are only two: Monongahela Passenger Incline and Duquesne Incline.

Pittsburgh – Castle Shannon Incline (1890-1964)

The Castle Shannon Incline was carrying passengers and vehicles. It ran from Carson Street
(near the present-day trolley tunnel) to Bailey Avenue on Mt. Washington. It was originally steam powered, and was converted to electric in 1918. Close to it there was also the Castle Shannon Coal Incline in charge to transport and the Castle Shannon South which was a kind of cable railroad to bring passengers to the main Castle Shannon Incline.

Pittsburgh - Castle Shannon Incline (1890-1964)
Pittsburgh – Castle Shannon Incline (1890-1964)
Pittsburgh – Monongahela Freight Incline (1883-1935)

The Monongahela Incline which is still in use since 1870 is the oldest funicular in USA (right on the photo). In 1883 a second incline was built just on the left of the 1870 passenger incline. The Monongahela Freight Incline (left on the photo) was reserved for freight and vehicles and was dismantled in 1935.

Pittsburgh - Monongahela Freight Incline (1883-1935)
Pittsburgh – Monongahela Freight Incline (1883-1935)
Pittsburgh – Mount Oliver Incline (1871-1951)

The Mount Oliver Inclined Railway Company built an incline whose engine house was located on Mount Washington near Mount Oliver Street and down to the Southside.

Pittsburgh - Mount Oliver Incline (1871-1951)
Pittsburgh – Mount Oliver Incline (1871-1951)
Pittsburgh – Norwood Incline (Penny Incline) (1901-1923)

The Norwood Incline (or Penny Incline because a penny was charged to use it) ran from Island Avenue near Adrian Street to Desiderio Avenue between McKinnie Avenue and Highland Avenue McKees Rocks/Stowe.

Pittsburgh - Norwood Incline (Penny Incline) (1901-1923)
Pittsburgh – Norwood Incline (Penny Incline) (1901-1923)
Pittsburgh – Nunnery Hill Incline (1887-1899)

The Nunnery Hill Incline was the first curved track incline in Pittsburgh. It linked Federal Street at Henderson Street (formerly Fairmount Street), North Side, to Catoma Street near Meadville Street (formerly Clyde Street).

Pittsburgh - Nunnery Hill Incline (1887-1899)
Pittsburgh – Nunnery Hill Incline (1887-1899)
Pittsburgh – Penn Incline (1883-1953)

The Penn Incline (or 17th Street Incline) was a freight, vehicles and passengers funicular railway from 17th Street between Liberty and Penn avenues in the Strip District to Arcena (Ridgeway) Street near Ledlie Street in the Hill District.

Pittsburgh - Penn Incline (1883-1953)
Pittsburgh – Penn Incline (1883-1953)
Pittsburgh – Knoxville Incline (1890-1960)

The Knoxville Incline was the longest incline in Pittsburgh with 806 meters and a curve in the middle of the track. It was designed to transport freight, vehicles and passengers from Arlington Ave at Warrington on Mt. Washington down to Bradish Street on Southside.

Pittsburgh - Knoxville Incline (1890-1960)
Pittsburgh – Knoxville Incline (1890-1960)
Shohola Glen Switchback Gravity Railroad (1887-1908)

The Shohola Glen Amusement Park in Pike County operated a switch back railroad from using passenger cars salvaged from the Pa. Coal Company Gravity Railroad that operated from Dunmore to Hawley. One section was an funicular inclined plane.

Shohola Glen Switchback Gravity Railroad (1887-1908)
Shohola Glen Switchback Gravity Railroad (1887-1908)
Mauch Chunk Switchback Gravity Railroad (1827-1933)

The Mauch Chunk, Summit Hill & Switchback Gravity Railroad was first designed to transport anthracite from mines on hills down to Lehigh River. In 1874, the railroad was transformed into a tourist attraction that became one of the first roller coasters. Tourists in cars were pulled up two hills (Mount Pisgah and Mount Jefferson) then the cars were released to follow the railroad by gravity.

 

Mauch Chunk Switchback Gravity Railroad - Mount Pisgah Incline (1827-1933)
Mauch Chunk Switchback Gravity Railroad – Mount Pisgah Incline (1827-1933)
Mauch Chunk Switchback Gravity Railroad - Mount Jefferson Incline (1827-1933)
Mauch Chunk Switchback Gravity Railroad – Mount Jefferson Incline (1827-1933)

Tennessee

Chattanooga – Lookout Mountain First Incline (1886-1898)

The Lookout Mountain Incline was the first Incline (Incline n°1) at Chattanooga to climb to the Lookout Mountain at the old Point Hotel. This incline was located few meters beside the actual Lookout Mountain Incline (Incline n°2) which was built in 1896 and then replaced the incline n°1.

Chattanooga - Lookout Mountain First Incline (1886-1898) (photo Picnooga)
Chattanooga – Lookout Mountain First Incline (1886-1898) (photo Picnooga)

Utah

Kennecott Copper Mine – Bingham Canyon Incline (1909-1970)

The Kennecott Copper Mine (today Rio Tinto Kenneecott) is famous for its big open pit mine near Salt Lake City. During decades inside this big pit there was a real village called Bingham Canyon with many railroads. The village was located at the bottom of the canyon and the train station was on the top of the hill. A funicular was built to reach the village from the train station until 1970 when the village was abandoned and destroyed to expand the open pit mine.

Kennecott Copper Mine - Bingham Canyon Incline (1909-1970)
Kennecott Copper Mine – Bingham Canyon Incline (1909-1970)

Washington

Seattle – Washington Hotel (1901-1907)

The Washington Hotel (first named Denny Hotel) was built in 1889 on top of Denny Hill. To reah the entrance of the hotel from Third Avenue a short inclined railway was built. The hotel was demolished in 1907 during the regrade of Denny Hill.

Seattle – Washington Hotel (1901-1907)
Diablo Dam – Skagit Incline (1920-2001)

May be one of the most spectacular inclined plane ever built. The Skagit Incline was part of the Skagit Electric railway and was built to carried loaded freight cars and locomotives broadside up the hill to the Diablo Dam. The inclined plane was stopped after September 11 2001 terrorist attack for security reason but is still visible.

Diablo Dam - Skagit Incline (1920-1954)
Diablo Dam – Skagit Incline (1920-1954)

West Virginia

Mozart Park, Wheeling (1893-1907)

In 1893, a recreational park was built on top of the hill near Mozart area. To link the new Mozart Park to South Wheeling, an incline railway was built near 43rd Street. It operated until 1907 and was replaced by a street car. The Mozart Park itself remained open until 1917.

Mozart Park (1893-1907)
Mozart Park (1893-1907)