Category: Transit

  • It Used to Be an Incline

    Remains of Castle Shannon Incline No. 2

    Why is there a narrow strip of forest between these two streets on Mount Washington? And, for that matter, why was the neighborhood laid out with two streets so absurdly close together, so that nothing fits between them but a narrow strip of forest?

    You already know the answer, of course, because you read the title of this article. It used to be an incline.

    Several inclines, of which two are still going, went up Mount Washington from the South Side. Only one went down the back slope of Mount Washington: Castle Shannon Incline No. 2, which began at the upper station of the Castle Shannon Incline on Bailey Avenue and ran down along Haberman Avenue to Washington Avenue (now Warrington Avenue) in Beltzhoover. This was more or less a cable-car line, like the ones that still run in San Francisco and ran all over Pittsburgh for a brief period before electric streetcars took over. It ran for a little more than twenty years; it opened in 1892 and was closed in 1914.

    Castle Shannon Incline No. 2 in operation
    Castle Shannon Incline No. 2 abandoned

    This picture of abandoned freight cars along the incline, taken in 1916, shows the cable in the middle of the track.

  • Working on the Incline

    Monongahela Incline, upper station

    The Monongahela Incline is getting a thorough going-over. They’re going to fabricate new drive sheaves and replace the gabions, and if you understand what those things mean you probably know a lot about inclines. Here’s something you might like: “Glass flooring will be installed in the Upper Station waiting area that will allow the public to view the inner workings of the Incline.”

    Here we see the upper station: note the incline car parked just below the station to empty out the building for the work.

  • Under the Asphalt

    Carson Street shaved with streetcar tracks showing

    Scratch any major street and you’ll find streetcar tracks, as we see here on Carson Street on the South Side, currently under construction.

  • Dormont Junction

    Dormont Junction

    Dormont Junction ceased to be a junction in the 1960s, but the Pittsburgh trolley system is crusty with tradition, and the name has never been changed—in spite of occasional attempts by the Port Authority to call the station “Dormont.” The current station was designed in the 1980s, and like most of the stations put up then it is utilitarian to the point of ugliness. Above, two Red Line cars pass; below, a closer view, showing the 1980s-vintage T-in-a-circle sign at the entrance.

    Dormont Junction

    Dormont Junction is at the north end of the Mount Lebanon subway tunnel, which is never called a “subway” by real Pittsburghers, to whom “subway” means the section of four underground stations, one ground-level station, and two elevated stations from Station Square to Allegheny.

    Tunnel entrance
  • Smithfield Street Bridge and Monongahela Incline

    Smithfield Street Bridge

    Looking southward on the Smithfield Street Bridge from Fort Pitt Boulevard, with the Monongahela Incline beginning its descent in the background.

  • Station Square Station

    Station Square station

    The Station Square subway station was built in the 1980s, when the streetcars were diverted from the Smithfield Street Bridge to the Panhandle Bridge and into the subway downtown.

    Station Square station

    Even though it’s clearly above the ground, this is the end of the section of combined trolley lines that Pittsburghers call the “subway.” From here the outbound streetcars go underground into the Mount Washington tunnel, but that’s not a subway. That’s just trolleys running underground. You need to be a Pittsburgh native to follow the logic.

    Station Square station
    Trolley leaving Station Square
    Trolley leaving Station Square
  • PCC Car and Schoolhouse, Bethel Park

    Schoolhouse Arts & History Center

    This old school is now a community center for Bethel Park. In front is a Pittsburgh PCC car, the ideal Art Deco streetcar that dominated Pittsburgh transit for a generation, restored to its Pittsburgh Street Railways livery. (It was one of the last PCC cars to run in Pittsburgh, and had been repainted in the 1980s Port Authority livery.) Yes, we do have quite a few pictures of it, because old Pa Pitt is an unashamed fan of PCC cars, which always look to him like trolleys that would run on the planet Mongo in the old Flash Gordon serials. More modern, but less futuristic, trolleys still run on the Silver Line just a block away.

    PCC car
    PCC car
    Schoolhouse
  • Catenary

    Broadway in Beechview

    It used to be a common sight all over the city: “catenary,” the complex assembly of wires hanging over the street to power the streetcars. The complexity comes from the necessity of keeping the wires that actually provide power almost straight (so that the pantograph on the trolley is always touching them), which can be done only by bracing them and pulling them from all directions.

    The only long sections of live street trackage left in Pittsburgh are Broadway in Beechview, seen here, and the Brown Line, which is not in regular service but takes the other lines over Mount Washington (via Warrington and Arlington Avenues) when the Transit Tunnel is closed for maintenance. There you can still examine live catenary and marvel at the geometry of it.

  • Trolleys Passing in Castle Shannon

    A southbound Siemens trolley and a northbound CAF trolley cross Castle Shannon Boulevard in the middle of Castle Shannon.

  • Subway Crossing First Avenue

    Subway crossing first avenue

    A Silver Line car crosses First Avenue on its way toward Steel Plaza. In the background, One Oxford Centre, the Grant Building, and the Jones & Laughlin Headquarters Building.