England · Europe · United States

Funiculars (or “Inclines”)

I just happened to come across this picture today of an elevated incline  ….

Incline, North Yorkshire
North Yorkshire, England.  Saltburn -by-the-Sea.  Pinterest.

…. and it reminded me of the fascination that I’ve always had with “funiculars”.  I think you hear this term used more frequently in Europe.  In the states, I usually see the term, “incline”.

I was born about 2 hours away from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I mention this because Pittsburgh has 2 spectacular inclines located at the base of Mt. Washington, the Duquesne Incline and the Monongahela Incline.

Incline, PIttsburgh
Pittsburgh. PA incline.  Pinterest.

I’ve been on one of the inclines in Pittsburgh.  Once you get to the top of Mt. Washington, you get a spectacular view over Pittsburgh.  There are also many nice (expensive!) restaurants at the top.

Incline Le Mont restaurant
View of Pittsburgh, PA from Le Mont restaurant on top of Mt. Washington. Pinterest.

I just thought these 2 inclines looked so similar that I would post them today.  Here is another view of the Duquesne Incline…

incline Duqesne

It opened on May 20, 1877 and provided an easier way for Pittsburgh residents to access their new homes located on top of the hill.

Coincidentally, the Saltburn-by-the-Sea “cliff lift”, as they call it, was opened in 1870!  It started as a “cliff hoist” wherein up to 20 people could be placed in a wooden cage that was lowered by rope to beach level.  I wonder if they ever dropped any?  Who holds the rope??  (apparently, these were counterbalanced by timbers). The reason this funicular was built had to do with the pier that was constructed in 1869.  Townsfolk and visitors had a difficult time accessing it from the  steep cliff.

incline Saltburn 1800's
Saltburn water-balanced “cliff lift”.  Pinterest.

The new incline had two (12 person) cars. Each was fitted with a water tank.  The car at the top had its water tank filled until its mass exceeded the mass of the car at the bottom.  It then traveled down the incline, counterbalanced by the mass of the other car which traveled to the top.  A brakeman controlled the safety and speed of travel.  Once the car reached the bottom, the water was released and pumped back up to the top of the cliff.  The original cars even had stained-glass windows!!

incline stained glass windows

It’s interesting how these 2 towns, located in different countries, with such different layouts and scenery, had the need in the 1870’s for an elevated incline.

Incline Pittsburgh winter
Pittsburgh incline with a vibrant city and river background.  Pinterest.


Incline North Yorkshire 2
Saltburn’s Incline with a wide vacationer’s beach and sea as its background.  Pinterest.



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