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While visiting the Westmoreland BMX track last week, it was revealed that track director Steve was involved in maintaining the Duquesne Incline funicular cable car in Pittsburgh. I talked to Steve about the Incline and thought it would be wonderful to check out with our friends, Phil and Sheena, visiting from Canada. Steve told us to give him a call and he’d be glad to arrange a “behind the scenes” tour.
We called Steve this morning and he said it would be fine for us to come by this afternoon; that he’d meet us there. We programmed the address into our friend, Phil’s GPS and headed out. We made a pit stop at a Foot Locker in downtown Pittsburgh so we could pick up flat pedal shoes for the Beast. (Ohio Dreams BMX camp requires BMX training on flat pedals and the Beast only has clip shoes with her for our road riding.)
Once the Beast found a suitable pair of black and white Nike “skate” shoes, we put her casual Crocs in the bag and she wore the new shoes out the door. I used to love wearing my brand new sneaks out of the store when I was a kid, too.
We jumped into Phil’s truck and followed the GPS directions to the parking lot for the Incline. We looked up and were immediately awed by the steep track that led from the depot to the top. We climbed the steps and crossed the foot bridge above the traffic on Carson Street and arrived at the starting point for the ride up. The ticket taker was already informed about our arrival and gave us a complimentary pass to ride the Incline up.
The Duquesne Incline does not receive federal, state or city funding. It relies mostly on donations and the fares it receives from both tourists and local riders. Local riders benefit from time saved by avoiding downtown traffic jams during rush hour; there is a bus stop right outside the front of the Incline.
Mark first led us out on the upper deck of the Incline where you had a perfect view of where the famous “3 Rivers” (the Allegheny, the Mongehela and the Ohio) come together and the Ohio River officially begins). He showed us where the old “Three Rivers Stadium” once stood and the site of the newer PNC field is now. We also saw Heinz field. We took lots of pics and we were lucky that a nice lady offered to take a pic of all of us standing together in front of the Pittsburgh skyline.
Mark told us how they change out each of the cables every 6 years, changing each 1 of the 3 major cables 2 years apart. What used to take 9 hours and 14 men to do, now takes 5 hours and 7 men to do. The Incline was originally powered by a steam engine and is now powered by a 75 horse power electric motor. Unfortunately, the original plans and any photos of the steam engine have not been uncovered.
We made our way to the gift store and were pleased to discover they sold Christmas ornaments depicting the Duquesne Incline. Years ago, Frankenbutt and I started collecting Christmas ornaments from places we visited. Each year, when we put up our tree, we re-live a bit of our travelling history. We’ve also given our kids an ornament representing something significant in their past year. In the early years, we mostly had Charlie Brown Christmas trees, while I was building my event business. I didn’t have a lot of money so I showed the kids the “Charlie Brown Christmas” movie and then we ventured out looking for a scrawny tree to save and beautify, knowing that those would be the most affordable, too. Once my business grew successful and cash flow was less of an issue, the kids still wanted the cheap, sparse tree; they still wanted to feel they’d given life to the lonely, left behind tree. I like that about my kids.