What is a Funicular?

A funicular is a hybrid between a train and an elevator, used to carry passengers and freight up and down hillsides. Like a train, it has cars that run on rails. Like an elevator, it uses a cable to pull the cars up the hill. A funicular has a pair of cars that run in opposite directions, so the one going down helps pull the one going up.

Are Any Funiculars Still in Service?

“Funiculars” are often called “Incline Railways” in the United States. There were many throughout the country in the 1870-1930 period, but most have ceased operation. Those remaining include:

Dubuque, Iowa: www.dbq.com/fenplco
Chattanooga, Tennessee: www.ridetheincline.com
Los Angeles, California: www.angelsflight.com
Johnstown, Pennsylvania: www.inclinedplane.org
Altoona, Pennsylvania:
www.railroadcity.com/visit/world-famous-horseshoe-curve
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:
    portauthority.org/paac/RiderServices/Inclines.aspx#MonIncline
    www.duquesneincline.org

Many more remain in operation in Europe and Asia. An excellent list of funiculars past and present is available at
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_funicular_railways.

Other references:

www.funiculars.net 
science.howstuffworks.com
 

Video Snippets:

Dubuque:  This 2-minute video, taken while riding down the 4th Street Elevator in Dubuque, Iowa, gives you some idea what funicular travel is like.


Thanks to Kevin Macleod for the background music!

Angels Flight:  This tiny snippet comes from a 1955 movie, Kiss Me Deadly.


Click the image to play the clip.

Here are some photos I took of Angel's Flight on a recent trip to Los Angeles:


From the bottom of the hill


From the top of the hill


Station at the top of the hill


Interior of the car

 

Copyright - Barb Warden