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Pittsburgh's Wooden Cable Cars Recall Yesteryear

  • Ade Astuti
  • Nia Sutadi

Nicknamed the Steel City because of its roots as the center of America's steel industry, today's Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania does not look much like a gritty steel manufacturing town of yesteryear. But a piece of Pittsburgh's historic past is still an active part of the city today. For producers Ade Astuti and Nia Sutadi, VOA's Carla Coolman takes us for a ride on Pittsburgh's historic Duquesne Incline.

Many consider the view from Pittsburgh's Mount Washington breathtaking, and the best way to get to the top is via a ride on the Duquesne Incline.

Tom Reinheimer is with the Duquesne Incline explains, "The Duquesne Incline was named after a fort which was built here by the French in the 1700s, and they named it after the prime minister of Canada at that time and his last name (was) Duquesne."

Originally carrying cargo up and down the mountain, the Duquesne Incline now transports passengers. "I love it! It's incredible," says tourist Roney Cosey. "I can't believe it - the rivers that connect it, it's gorgeous."

A museum of the city's history is housed in the upper station showcasing old photographs and information on inclines around the world.

People can look out at the Pittsburgh cityscape from an observation deck that hangs over the cliff. "I love it," says tourist Alison Maloney. "I've been here (a) couple of times, just to make sure. [You] really like Pittsburgh more when you get to see it from up here."

To get there, riders take a step back in time - a very steep step - on a more than century-old wooden cable car.

Reinheimer tells the passengers of the Duquesne Incline, "We are 400 feet [120 meters] above the Ohio River and the track is 800 feet [240 meters] long, and it's pretty close to being a 30 degree angle." He says the machinery that moves the incline along the slope has operated for more than 130 years, though electricity - not steam - powers the two passenger cars now.

But more than a tourist attraction, the Incline is an inexpensive way for some Pittsburghers to commute to their jobs. "The residents can ride the Incline down to the bottom of the hill, where they can transfer to the bus," says Reinheimer.

While Pittsburgh once had 17 inclined planes, this incline is one of only two still in operation.

Designated as a historic landmark, the Duquesne Incline is a unique way to get a glimpse into Pittsburgh's past while looking over the city's future.