I love panoramas. Not the picture kind, but the scenic kind. Scenic lookouts are some of my favorite things to find while traveling. It kinda makes you feel like Lewis and Clark cresting a mountain and seeing what’s on the other side.
We went in search of just one of those scenic lookouts while in Pittsburgh. If you’ve seen pictures of Pittsburgh, you’ll notice that the downtown area sits right where three rivers come together: the Allegheny River, the Monongahela River, and the Ohio River. All three are mountain rivers, and they cut through Appalachia. That means that Pittsburgh sits right at the bottom of a valley.
And if it’s in a valley, there are mountains around it. Which means: Scenic lookout.
Lucky enough for us, someone has already thought of that. Well, first they thought of a solution to a transportation issue they were having.
Way back in 1877, when people lived up on the mountainside and worked down in the city (but before everyone had cars), the people needed a way to get from their homes to their places of business. Trams were the common mode of public transport at the time, and so they put a tram line going up Mt. Washington, just outside of downtown Pittsburgh, which ran down to one of the main roads to the city at river level. This line, called a funicular, was named the Duquesne Incline (pronounced: doo-kayn).
When it was first built, it was the major line between Mt. Washington and the city, and so was used quite a bit by locals trying to get around. However, once people started buying cars and moved away from using public transport, the line fell into disrepair. In 1962, it was closed down, in poor repair and with no money to fix it.
As so often happens in small communities, the people who lived in the neighborhood around the incline decided to save their own little piece of history. They all chipped in, and within a year, the incline was refurbished and reopened as a nonprofit. While they were doing this work, great care was taken to make sure that the incline retained its historical charm. Paint was removed, original wood was polished, the rails were replaced, and the engines were cleaned up and opened to the public.
And, for good measure, an observation deck was added. For the scenic view.
Riding the Duquesne Incline:
Fare: Adults can ride the incline for $2.50 each way. This is a cash-only establishment, and exact change is appreciated.
Duration: The ride up or down the mountain takes about 6 or 7 minutes, but be ready to stand in line.