In front of you is the site of Inclined Plane No. 6, one of ten inclines on the Allegheny Portage Railroad. The track visible today has been reconstructed.
From 1834 to 1854, railroad cars bearing canal boats, freight, and passengers were pulled up and lowered down this slope by a continuous rope driven by steam engines located in an engine house to your right. The rope ran between the rails, supported by idler pulleys every 24 feet. Whenever possible, ascending cars were counterbalanced with descending cars.
In an open shed at the foot of the incline, a "hitcher" connected westbound cars to the main rope with a short rope. Up here at the engine house, another hitcher disconnected them for the continuing journey by horses or locomotives along the Summit Level.
A Passenger's Perspective
"Three short hours have brought you from the torrid plain to a refreshing and invigorating climate. The ascending apprehension has left you, but it is succeeded by the fear of the steep descent which thought trembles in your mind, that it [the tram] may slip over the head of the first descending plane, rush down the frightful steep, and be dashed in a thousand pieces at its foot."
Actual size cross section of hemp rope
used on Incline No. 6. By 1849, all inclines converted to wire rope which was stronger and more durable.
Inclined Plane - Allegheny Portage Railroad elevation profile [across bottom of marker]