Last fall I was able to cross a few stops in Duluth’s west end off of my to-do list. I wanted to walk the path that once ran alongside the Incline Railway for several years, but it always got pushed down on my list because I haven’t spent a lot of them in this part of town. I decided to park along Skyline Parkway (between N Sixth Avenue W, and N Eighth Avenue W) and walk down to Fourth Street W where the pathway appeared to end. Even though there are a few houses close to the walkway, it still feels like you’ve discovered a hidden piece of history.
The Incline Railway (a.k.a. The Seventh Avenue West Incline, and later the Duluth Skyride) was built in 1890 by Highland Improvement Company to transport people and horses up and down the hill. Two separate tracks ran a half-mile up the hill, rising to more than 500 feet above Lake Superior. The original trolly cars were large enough to hold four teams of horses with a wagon or up to 250 people per car. Cars ran every fifteen minutes, and a one-way trip took about sixteen minutes.
On May 28, 1901, a fire broke out in the power station at the top of the hill. The heat from the fire melted a cable that released one of the cars, sending one to the top of the hill, and the other careening all the way down the slope and crashing into the ticket house on Superior Street. No one was injured, but it took six months to resume partial service. The railway continued to operate until Labor Day, 1939. The tracks were eventually dismantled and sold for scrap to benefit the war effort.
Historical photos and more about the Incline Railway can be found at funimag.com.
“Duluth Incline Railway”. MNOpedia. Minnesota Historical Society.
“Duluth is so steep it needed a special incline railway for its streetcar system“. Aaron Isaacs. MinnPost.
History of Public Transportation in the Twin Ports. Duluth Transit Authority.