Fixing the Duquesne Incline not an easy job |

Fixing the Duquesne Incline not an easy job

Tom Davidson
People line up through the pedestrian tunnel crossing East Carson Street while waiting to board the Duquesne Incline Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016.
The Point State Park fountain seen from the Duquesne Incline on Mt. Washington Wednesday, October 14, 2009.

There’s an obvious grand view of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington.

About 30 people were treated, or at least forced to endure, a long view of the scene when both of the Duquesne Incline’s cars stopped about midway on the hillside.

“When the Duquesne Incline stops in the middle and your wife is afraid of heights,” one of the passengers tweeted Thursday afternoon from the stalled incline.

It happened about 3:30 p.m. There wasn’t a quick fix. Things get complicated when that machine is nearly 142 years old and one of only three operating in the region.

“It’s a unique piece of equipment. It’s not like you can just run out to Lowe’s and get a part,” said Tom Reinheimer, office manager of the Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline, which operates the landmark funicular railway.

Each of the two incline cars can hold 18 adults. The cars weren’t full when it happened, and Reinheimer couldn’t say exactly how many people were stuck. Most of them were out-of-towners visiting the city, he said.

Workers from Lins Elevator Service came to the rescue and were able to help make the repairs needed to get the incline running again. Reinheimer didn’t know the exact culprit of the breakdown.

While the cars were stuck, he was busy answering the phone. That’s how they maintained contact with the people stuck on the cars, and he said he was swamped with calls from the media searching for information.

He also shuttled commuters down Mt. Washington to the parking lot below because they couldn’t use the incline. A tour group also wasn’t able to take a ride Thursday.

The last time the incline was stuck on the tracks was more than 15 years ago, Reinheimer estimated.

“We have electrical problems every once in a while. Rarely does it ever happen that the cars get stuck,” he said.

The Duquesne Incline opened May 20, 1877, and it’s one of two funicular railways left in Pittsburgh — the Monongahela Incline is less than a mile away. Both connect Mt. Washington to the South Side. The Monongahela Incline is closed after flooding damaged its lower station.

About 100 regular commuters use the incline regularly during week days.

The Johnstown Incline is the other funicular that remains in the region, which once had more than 20 inclines that were a quicker, easier alternative to the city steps that remain in many of the city’s neighborhoods.

The incline was fixed by about 4:45 p.m., according to tweets from passengers.

Fares were refunded to the passengers. They were given refreshments and a ride to the lower station if they didn’t want to chance another trip on the incline, Reinheimer said.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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