The Great Gorge Route

The Great Gorge Route (HM1FAT)

Location: Niagara Falls, NY 14301 Niagara County
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Country: United States of America
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N 43° 5.625', W 79° 3.718'

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The Most Scenic Ride

The Great Gorge Route (1895-1935) once offered spectacular trolley rides through the Niagara Gorge. Initially, the route ran from Niagara Falls to Lewiston, NY. After the Lewiston-Queenston Suspension Bridge opened in 1899, however, the line connected with Canada's railway along the gorge rim, creating a 20-mile circular route. The 'Belt Line' offered breathtaking views and scenic stops.

Rock falls, washouts, ice avalanches, and other mishaps made the gorge quite dangerous at times, resulting in some injuries and deaths. Flooding took its toll as ice floes rose out of the river and damaged the tracks. In 1932, when the Canadians did not renew their lease, the popular circular route ended. Soon after 5,000 tons of rock fell onto a large section of track in 1935, the trolley line stopped running. Today, hiking trails exist where the Great Gorge Route once travelled.

Trolley passing by 'Giant Rock,' a popular stop for photographers.

Open trolley cars ran in the warmer months; closed cars were used during cold weather.

President William McKinley (center) on a special trolley to Niagara Falls (September 6, 1901). After his excursion, he returned to Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition for a public reception where he was shot. He died a week later.

Open car #677 along Whirlpool Rapids, June 1927.

Special cars, built with wicker chairs and other conveniences, catered to prominent visitors.

This electric observation car, equipped with searchlights to illuminate the Whirlpool Rapids, was a popular tourist attraction.

On September 6, 1935, 5,000 tons of rock fell onto the trolley tracks. The line was abandoned soon after.

In 1936, after the abandonment of the Great Gorge Route, all but a few trolleys were intentionally burned.

Time Line

1886 - Niagara Falls and Whirlpool Railway company is formed.

1891 - Captain J.M. Brinker of Buffalo purchases and reorganizes the company as the Niagara Falls and Lewiston Railroad Company.

1895 - Work on the roadbed begins in April at Lewiston and is completed to Whirlpool Rapids. First trial run on tracks occurs in July; line opens to public in August.

1896 - Route completed from Lewiston to Niagara Falls, NY.

1899 - Lewiston-Queenston Suspension Bridge opens; trolley line connects to Canadian railway along gorge rim.

1901 - President William McKinley rides trolley through gorge on September 6. Late that day, he is shot at the Pan-American exposition in Buffalo.

1905 - Evening searchlight excursions begin in the gorge.

1915 - Trolley descending the escarpment at Queenston, Ontario, derails, resulting in many deaths and injuries.

1917 - Section of track near Whirlpool Bridge is washed out, causing the trolley to leave the tracks and flip over into the river, resulting in many deaths and injuries.

1924 - Niagara Falls Power Company purchases trolley line.

1932 - Canadian line fails to renew its lease, ending the circular 'Belt Line' route.

1935 - The Great Gorge Route goes out of service soon after 5,000 tons of rock fall onto a large section of track.

1936 - Trolley cars are burned and steel parts salvaged. Rails are removed from gorge.

Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, October 24th, 2014 at 9:40pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17T E 657727 N 4773048
Decimal Degrees43.09375000, -79.06196667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 43° 5.625', W 79° 3.718'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds43° 5' 37.5" N, 79° 3' 43.08" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)716
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling South
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 701 Whirlpool St, Niagara Falls NY 14301, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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