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Incline Saloon: 1907

Duluth, Minnesota, circa 1907. "Up the incline railway from Superior Street." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Duluth, Minnesota, circa 1907. "Up the incline railway from Superior Street." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Another great view of Duluth Incline

Thanks Dave, this photo is new for me and it is great as usual!

Mike Cash is absolutely right, there was only one car and a flat counterweight when this photo was taken in 1907.

I guess the old man with beard is waiting for the incline as the ladies do and not for the telephone because this door is the unique access to the incline. The waiting room seems to be full of people. Note, behind the "WARNING ... DANGEROUS" panel, there is another door. The car of the incline will stop just beside that door and the door will be just in front of the unique door of the car.

Everybody look innocent!

Here comes the constable.

A Worthwhile Read

A good account of the history of this line, together with many interesting photos can be found at the Funimag Photoblog.

The car in the photo was a repurposed streetcar body pressed into service after the original cars were destroyed as a result of a 1901 fire in the powerhouse at the top of the incline. Prior to the fire there were two cars, each counterbalancing the other. The cars were 16 feet wide and could accommodate the horse-n-buggy trade. The fence at the bottom was originally a gate allowing for teams to drive straight into the cars.

The small building at the foot of the right-hand track is a station. During the time of this photo there was only one car in use, counterbalanced by a wheeled flat weight on the other track. The repurposed car had its door on the right (as we view the photo) and the station building had to be placed to allow access. If you look carefully up the incline you can see footbridges built to allow access to the car from stations along the way. These blocked the right-hand track but the flat counterweight was able to roll along beneath them.

Counterbalanced cars

I was on an incline railway years ago at Niagara Falls and it seemed the two cars were almost in balance with each other and the engine or electric motor at the top added only a small amount of power to move one car up as the other car descended. Both cars were connected with a haulage cable riding over a large powered drum at the top end, the cars themselves having no propulsion.

In this view I notice the car on the left track has a trolley pole similar to that found on a streetcar running on tracks on the street. The trolley wire terminates at a feeder on the steel pole the "dude" with the Smokey the Bear hat is leaning against.

The trolley wire is suspended above the track with horizontal brackets extending out from poles next to the track in normal single-track street railway operation. I assume the trolley wire is for lights within the car and its headlight centered on the dash.

The trolley pole must always be on the downhill end as it probably is not long enough to reach the wire if turned on its base to the uphill end of the car. There does not seem to be a trolley wire over the right track.

Strange if the two cars are identical. With the varying slopes, the haulage cables would be quite high above their idler pulleys at times.


Thank You.

Multi-layered Duluth

Ah, Duluth: life at the top of the map, as they say. This picture just has layer after layer.

It's a hot day: every window that can be opened is open, even in the dubious-sounding furnished rooms available above Mr. Donovan's Incline Saloon.

In other layers: it appear that Gramps may have a significant wait to use the telephone, as he's in line behind at least two ladies.

Between the two idlers who seem to have nothing better to do than to observe the hottie on the train is a barrel of something frightfully sticky-looking. Does this help the train? What about in the winter? There doesn't appear to be anything (like cog-railways have) to make the train work properly when there's ice. Are they just risking it?

And the guy center-bottom-left appears to be preparing for a monumental sneeze.

This is why we look at Shorpy's pages.

So inclined

I lived in Duluth for many years and you do not need an Incline such as this to head to the local saloon -- but the incline sure helps a bunch if you're in doubt. Just driving in the winter will help you find a saloon or find God real fast.

Very Not Flat

The track sure does undulate up and down an awful lot, like a very lame roller coaster. Here in Cincinnati all the inclines but one maintained a constant grade. The one that didn't (the Main Street/Mount Auburn Incline) got noticeably steeper at the very bottom. I've never found out if they had any way to keep the platform level, which would be a big deal if carrying a streetcar or carriages. This one doesn't look like it deviates enough to really matter much, but it's an operational puzzle anyway.

This looks like great fun

Dangerous and yet fun.

Don't even think of trying it

I love the sign at the base of the incline, "WARNING Walking on this railway is positively forbidden. It is DANGEROUS."


Thanks - My Grandpa used to tell me stories about riding the incline as a young boy. This site is amazing.

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