JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Duluth Incline Railway: 1905

Circa 1905. "Minnesota Point from Incline Railway, Duluth." Our third look this week at the Zenith City. Detroit Publishing Co. glass negative. View full size.

Circa 1905. "Minnesota Point from Incline Railway, Duluth." Our third look this week at the Zenith City. Detroit Publishing Co. glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

My house

The white house was my home from 1961 to 1972. My 5 children were born there and went to Emerson school; now it's apartments. We were married at St. Peter's church, now closed. Do not live in Duluth anymore but still make a trip up there to visit family.

Grandma's House!

From 1915 to 1960 the white house to the right belonged to my grandmother Clara Oleson Landstrom Magnuson. She was from Sweden and had three boys who all grew up in Duluth. The house is still there, but in horrible shape.

7th Avenue West Incline

After the 1901 powerhouse fire and resulting crash, the incline railway was rebuilt with only one car between 1902 and 1911. More here.

Lone sailor

In the midst of all this, see the lone sailboat out in the harbour? If he only knew he'd been caught on camera and seen by us.

Side View here

Side view of the incline car from

Look What I Saw

Regarding the comment on the utility poles not having flatly sawn ends (as if by a chainsaw): human-powered saws have existed for hundreds of years. These particular poles were shaped with pointed ends (probably by an ax) so that they would shed snow and rain and therefore not deteriorate as quickly.

[There were of course also the circular and band saws found in sawmills powered by water, steam or electricity. - Dave]

Duluth Skyride

There are some other photos that show two cars, and trolley wire over both tracks, and very narrow stations between the tracks. Click to enlarge.

so apparently the incline's operation changed over time. Possibly this was before or after the big 1901 fire that destroyed the summit pavilion and sent the flaming car flying down the incline.

Another photo from the Duluth Transit site, showing trolley wire on both tracks:

The old postcard posted recently shows the single-car operation, with the station platforms bridging the counterbalance car track.

One wonders why the trolley wire, since the cable was apparently driven by the head house. In some photos, the poles are down. I suspect the trolley wire just ran the car lighting.


Pittsburgh has two funicular railways that are in operation and heavily used. The other well-known funicular is Angel's Flight in downtown Los Angeles, which has been out of service for several years but may reopen at some point.

Detroit Publishing

The company went into receivership around the late 1920s and never recovered. An excellent history of the company can be found here.

Superior Street to Skyline Drive

A Duluth Public Library page has two photos and some commentary. It dates the railway from 1891 to 1939.

The "Incline" ran uphill from Superior Street at 7th Avenue W. to Skyline Drive. Two sets of tracks were elevated on concrete footings. The cars were pulled by a steam engine at the top.


A funicular usually has two passenger cars, cabled together - one goes up when the other goes down. This one just has a dummy car on the left, low enough to fit under the pedestrian bridges.

Double the wait times, half the capacity.

Superior View

What I like so much about this picture is the sense of distance. The Incline Railway sets the tone, of course, with its straight lines heading away down the hill. The foreground, with the geometrical black and white shadowing, and the car with the figures, are in clear focus. Look down the line to the docks in the middle distance and you can see the distance haze, with the muted greys. Further off, past the spit of land, the far shore is barely visible at all.


The right side of the tracks

Can't help but note that the dwellings on the right seem in a tad bit better condition than those on the left. The house in the right foreground, in particular, seems to have a fresh coat of paint and seems to be in much better repair than its counterpart immediately across the tracks. Could also be because it's newer construction, though.

Also take note of the utility poles. This was before the advent of the chainsaw, when trees were felled by sturdy men with axes. The poles all sport the telltale wedge-shaped tips made by the blade of an axe.

I love this site!

Hi Def image

Thanks to the HiDef image - What I thought was birds on a pile of wood in front of the house at the right side of the Railway turned out to be a man either holding a long stick or resting his hand on a rail while a woman and child are exploring the slope near the rocks. The two persons between the crooked poles just about to walk under the railway now, because of the hats, look like ladies on thier way to ride to rail instead of a couple of men out for a stroll.

Thank you for the pictures and the opportunity for us to get acquainted with our history and heritage.

You look familiar.

Two people wearing hats peering over the top of the funicular. On the right between the poles. Same as the Radio School building. Something fishy here.

Nowhere but Shorpy

Once again, Shorpy makes me gasp. Nowhere else would I see such a spectacularly unexpected viewpoint from such an out-of-the-way time and place. The full view has something dreamlike in its details: the figures on the bridge near the railway car, the angles and brilliant white of the house on the right, the rough slabs of rock and the conic rooftop beyond them, the blurred buildings and shipping in the distance... I am almost lost for words (but not quite, as you see).


Like many good movies these pictures sent me googling to learn what I could about this place.. Duluth I had never heard of.. more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world. Largest Finnish population outside of Finland.. a port larger than New York.. the place has quite a history. Like so many American cities it has suffered a precipitous decline due to the decline of our manufacturing base, suburbanization, etc.


We need an update of these wonderful pictures to see how things have changed. Does the Incline Railway still exist? If not, when did it stop operations. Great shot. Is Detroit Publishing Co. still around or have they been absorbed by someone else?

Gravity: Duluth's frienemy

Beautiful photo and great choice, Dave. Would there happen to be any side shots of the car? Too much to hope for, I suppose.

[Fraid not. - Dave]

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Accessibility Statement | Site © 2024 Shorpy Inc.