Trackside Classic:  Cincinnati Mount Adams Incline – Upward Bound

Inclines, or more accurately incline plane railways, were once ubiquitous in the US.  Developed to conquer the tyranny of elevation, many of these inclines were designed by European immigrants where this mode of transportation was first used.  They transported all manner of things; people, products, and raw materials.   The most famous may be “Angels Flight” in Los Angeles which has been highlighted in many movies and TV shows.  The larger inclines always fascinated me, especially their operation.  One of the largest was located in my home state of Ohio – the Mount Adams incline in Cincinnati.  One wouldn’t typically think of Ohio as having mountains, but the southern part of the state mirrors the rolling hills of West Virginia and Kentucky.  In fact, in their heyday, Cincinnati had five inclines.

Mount Adams was the longest running incline in the city operating from 1876 until 1948.  It was 945 feet in length traveling an elevation of 268 feet.  A trip took 2 minutes and 20 seconds to complete and was done 6 times an hour, 19 hours a day.

Initially designed for passengers and horse-powered carts, it was later strengthened to carry large electric trolleys, allowing crowds to visit the beautiful Eden Park and later the Cincinnati Museum of Art.

Power was provided by two large coal-fired steam engines located at the summit station.  Not a lot of info on the specifics of these engines but I did find this schematic, along with a picture of the cable drum.

These inclines were true 19th century engineering marvels – and fortunately several cities in the US have saved and restored theirs – Pittsburgh and Chattanooga being two.

Fun fact:  A funicular is an incline that uses primarily a counter-balance pulley and the kinetic energy of a descending car to raise an ascending one.  Water in ballast tanks below the passenger area was initially used to balance the weight, these were later replaced with electric motors that assisted or retarded the cable.