The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

without dissolution

with 4 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the middle 19th century, enormous numbers of German speaking people began to migrate to Pittsburgh to take advantage of the limitless employment opportunities in the burgeoning iron and steel industries. One of them was a Prussian engineer named John Endres, who actually lived in Cincinnati. Endres designed and oversaw the construction of the 1870 vintage Monongahela Incline. This funicular railway is the oldest continuously operating funicular in the United States.

There used to be 17 incline or funicular railways in Pittsburgh, several of which were used exclusively for freight rather than passenger service. The inclines allowed workers to move into the steep hills and valleys surrounding the so called “Golden Triangle” river delta.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Operated in modernity by the Port Authority of Allegheny County (whose Monongahela Incline staff were incredibly nice, helpful, and friendly, btw), this attractive structure is the station house at the top of Mt. Washington on Grandview Avenue. The overlook which I shot yesterday’s post from is just alongside it on the uphill side. You walk in the building (masked up since it’s considered mass transit), and are free to observe several framed historic photos and newspaper clippings. There’s a gift shop, and a ticketing machine. A round trip ticket cost me $3.50.

Before boarding, I changed lenses, and attached the foam collar I’ve mentioned a few times to the thing. The foam collar allows me to place the lens against windows without annoying reflections manifesting in the photos, as well as forming a flexible prophylactic that keeps the lens from interacting mechanically with the window glass – in terms of transmitted vibration.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking out of the window of the Monongahela Incline at the lower station house, which I’m told was rebuilt in 1904. The way that these haul rope cable railways work is that as one car is descending, the other one ascends. How amazingly simple, and how super complicated, this system is, huh?

I had a single fellow passenger in the car with me and we briefly chatted about her City on our journey down to the lower station. She was retired, and extolled the virtues of Pittsburgh to me from that point of view. It seems that the City is currently tied with Miami for the number of retirees living in the area, due to its fairly low cost of living. The City encourages mass transit use by this population by making transit free to people over 65.

Entirely different from back home in NYC where “go fuck yourself asshole, ride a bike” or “you’re a racist” is the answer to most things transit related, and where our familiar MTA public transit agency is a dumpster fire of a political patronage mill whose managerial payroll is populated by the not too smart nephews and nieces of god awful upstate politicians, ones who haven’t yet been sent to jail for financial corruption or sex crimes. Heh, look at that, I actually suggested that the political class in New York can be convicted for the crimes they commit in office. Hah.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The incline car carried us to the lower station house, where my new acquaintance expected to meet a bus – which would travel in its own dedicated lane – that would in turn take her to a supermarket. She planned on making the return trip, with bags of groceries, using the bus and incline. Imagine being able to use a predictable form of mass transit, with buses that run on schedules that are more or less accurate.

I’m just so sick of all the dystopian shithole crap in NYC these days, you have to forgive me. I just cannot reconcile the amount of tax money that our politicians allocate to transit with the level of services delivered. There are no consequences for bad behavior either. Get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, or stroking the cookie jar suggestively, you just get railed by the headline writers and then disappear for a few months and run for another office. Single party rule sucks, it breeds corruption, and it’s result is… well, just look around your neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the lower station of the Monongahela Incline, nearby a fairly tragic series of land use decisions called “Station Square.” This area too will be explored in some detail in later posts from my 72 hours in Pittsburgh. As a note, several of the locals complained about heavy traffic to me as being a detriment to life in this city. Maybe I’m jaded by NYC’s omnipresent traffic jams, clustered around the river crossings, but “by me” everywhere I looked – even at rush hour – it was smooth sailing.

After getting a few shots down here at the foot of Mt. Washington, I used my round trip ticket and headed back up to the top.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gosh, do I love me a good funicular.

There’s one funicular in Chile’s City of Valparaiso that I aspire to ride on someday, but that’s going to take a lot more than an Amtrak ticket and 72 hours to accomplish. I’m also going to have to develop a functional ability to speak Spanish to chat with the locals for that one.

More tomorrow – at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Also, if you enjoyed this post, or Newtown Pentacle in general – would it be too much to ask for you to share it out to your social media feeds? Maybe just hit “like” or leave a comment?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 2, 2021 at 11:00 am

4 Responses

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  1. Loving the “On The Road” Creek. Do Buffalo next.

    Bergen Joseph

    November 2, 2021 at 11:11 am

  2. […] street and Point State Park, and then the Monongahela River side Bridges and both Inclines – Monongahela and Duquesne – between Point State Park and the Smithfield Street Bridge. It’s almost as if […]

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  4. […] Human Clothing, Other Constellations, Certain Circumstances, Terrestrial Gravity, Needed Form, Without Dissolution, Calculations Would, Grave Doubt, Luckily Obtainable, Abnormal Toughness, Prodigious Time, […]

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