The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Mt. Washington

grave doubt

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First things first – being from Brooklyn, I say things the way they’re spelled. “Hor d’oeuvres” is pronounced “whores da ova vreez” and “buffet” rhymes with bucket. I don’t say “terlet” or “erl” or “boid” but my parents did. The Duquesne Incline and the word “Duquesne,” thereby and in my mind, should be pronounced as “Doo Kezz Knee” but it’s actually pronounced “Doo Kayne.” It seems the Pittsburgh people are a bit sensitive about this topic, as I learned. Can’t take me anywhere.

Monongahela River is pronounced Brooklyn style, as a note – “Mo Non Ga Heela.” Saying all that, welcome to the Duquesne Incline, on Pittsburgh’s Mt. Washington along the Monongahela River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As was the case with the Allegheny Incline described in earlier posts, the Duquesne Incline is a funicular railway operated by the Allegheny County Port Authority. There’s a large patio/overlook at the facility which offers iconic views of Pittsburgh and the conjunction of its three rivers. I’ll show you the iconic views tomorrow, but for today I’m still in nerd mode and geeking out about the funicular.

For those of you who might have missed the earlier post – a funicular railway runs on an angled track up and down a hill, and it’s cars are connected via haul ropes or cables. One car goes up, the other comes down. This is a pretty early form of “people mover” and there aren’t that many examples of this technology left in the modern day world. Pittsburgh used to have 17 of these, including ones whose entire occupation revolved around moving freight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s 1877 vintage, the Duquesne Incline. Designed by an engineer dubbed Samuel Diescher, this funicular was originally powered by steam, but is now electrically driven. It’s 800 feet long and 400 feet in height, and is set against the hill at a thirty degree angle. It uses the Eastern European style broad track gauge of 5 ft, which is an outlier in the United States. The Duquesne Incline actually went out of business in 1962, but local residents raised the money to resuscitate and renew the thing, and in 1963 it reopened. It has since been refurbished and returned to its historic state, and along with the Monongahela Incline a mile away, serves up transit to one million riders a year. A big part of that ridership, of course, are tourists like me. The modern day incarnation is overseen by the Allegheny County Port Authority, as mentioned above.

Both inclines are on the National Register of Historic Places, and are on the American Society of Mechanical Engineer’s Landmark list.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one is from the lower station, and just like the Monongahela Incline, a round trip ticket cost me $3.50. The ticket agent actually left her booth to keep an eye on me while I was shooting this. She informed me that she couldn’t leave me alone in this area while the mechanisms were operating due to liability concerns, but that I could take all the pictures I wanted to. She seemed happy to be able to take a fresh air break, frankly.

I really have to compliment the Port Authority people for their friendliness and a willingness to answer questions. Another marked contrast with my daily experience in NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the late 1970’s, the cars were refurbished and returned to a somewhat original appearance. Check out that tin roof detail. The cars were built in 1877 by a Philadelphia outfit called J.G. Brill and Co. who were manufacturers of street cars, motor buses, and railroad cars. They went out of business in 1954, and their intellectual property was acquired by General Electric’s transportation division in that year.

Gosh almighty, does a humble narrator enjoy his self a funicular or what? Nerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After riding up and down, one got busy with the camera again. Tomorrow – some of those iconic Pittsburgh views from the Duquesne Incline’s overlook. As a point of interesting trivia, I encountered this 1877 illustration, drawn from a point of view here on Mt. Washington. Marked counterpoint with the modern Steel City, huh?

More tomorrow, from your traveling Pentacle.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 4, 2021 at 11:00 am

calculations would

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s about a mile’s walk, all uphill, along Pittsburgh’s Grandview Avenue, from the Monongahela Incline to the Duquesne Incline. Along the way, I was shooting, and the shutter was a-clicking.

The up hill walk gave me time to reflect on everything I was experiencing. It also reminded me that I grew up nearby “Flatlands Avenue” and not too far from a place called “Flatbush.” “Flat” is a recurring theme in NYC, after all. We all live on a flood plain, whereas Greater Pittsburgh is definitively “not flat.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in earlier posts, Mt. Washington used to be called “Coal Hill” and by early 19th century standards the mineral deposits found here were considered to be one of the most valuable resources in Western Pennsylvania. Coal Hill was rechristened as Mt. Washington in 1876. From my limited observations, it seemed like a pretty nice choice as far as places to live.

Once again, the topology of Pittsburgh boggles the mind, especially for someone who grew up in a place defined by terms like “sea level” and the omnipresent usage of the descriptor “flat.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vehicular roads leading to and from Mt. Washington use sharp turned switchbacks to allow cars and trucks egress to the area. The ridge directly overlooking the downtown area had several multi unit homes arranged along it, but there were also plenty of places for visiting lookie-loo’s like me to check the scene out from.

For a sense of the elevation, the UPMC building at the left of the shot is the tallest building in the city.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a look at one of the neighborhoods up on Mt. Washington, where that weird topology is manifestly visible. I have a friend who’s got a brother that lives in the Pittsburgh area, and said brother is a photographer. The Brother – who is dubbed Tim Fabian – provided photos for a book by author Bob Regan on “The Steps of Pittsburgh.” It seems that all of these neighborhoods – up and down the hills – are vertically connected by 712 public stairways. Again – fascinating.

The housing stock of Pittsburgh, if I might comment, is disturbingly heterogenous. You see all sorts of floor plans and massing shapes here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned the other day, day two in the Steel City bore the threat of possible rain, but I didn’t find myself inconvenienced by precipitation. The volatile weather of Pittsburgh was on display, however, as just a couple of miles away it was raining – as you can discern in the shot above. Weird, huh?

It really was quite a walk between the two inclines. If you find yourself here and on foot, I’d suggest reversing the order I chose – Duquesne Incline first and Monongahela Incline second. If you hit the higher one first, it’s all downhill from there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My “good photo luck” game was strong on Day 2 in Pittsburgh, and I spotted a push boat towing an equipment barge under the Fort Pitt Bridge. Wasn’t the last lucky capture of the day for me, not by a long shot.

Tomorrow – the Duquesne Incline!


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2021 at 11:00 am

needed formula

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before another word gets mentioned, a humble narrator must confess that he is an absolutely goof for funicular railways. A cable car arrangement, which uses haul ropes and a system of sheaves to exchange the positions of the two cable cars from top to bottom, this is a pretty early example of “people movers.” I got to ride on one or two of these in Europe a few years back, and so was one of my nerd obsessions born. Pittsburgh has two working funiculars, but they call them “inclines” there. Both are found on Mt. Washington and are operated and maintained by the Port Authority of Allegheny County. The Monongahela Incline, pictured above, is the oldest operating funicular in the United States, having operated continuously since 1870, and later in the week you’ll come for a ride on it (and the other one too) with me.

Amazingly, one of the features of these “inclines” is the presence of a large terrace or “overlook” platform open to the public, to take in and appreciate the views from high up on the prominence of Mt. Washington. Before I got busy with “nerding out,” the camera and tripod were deployed and I got busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pittsburgh is famously sited at the conjunction of three rivers – Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela. The latter is on the south side of the city and pictured above. This was day two of the Pittsburgh leg of my September travels on Amtrak, and all in all I was in the city for about 72 hours. A late afternoon boat tour ticket was in my pocket, but for now I was in the cat seat high above the Golden Triangle of Downtown.

I kept on thinking to myself that about a hundred years ago you wouldn’t be able to even see the city for all of the smoke stacks belching coal smoke into the air. Steel mills, power plants, railroads – that’s what Pittsburgh used to be before the deindustrialization of the 1960’s and corporate reorganizations of the 1970’s and 80’s which reduced Pittsburgh’s population by half and annihilated its tax base.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bridge at the center bottom of the shot above is small but spectacular, and as I learned later in the day, kind of special and noteworthy from a Civil Engineering point of view. Especially so if you happen to live in NYC’s Queens. More on that in a later post.

It was about 65 degrees, overcast, and the forecast called for passing showers. I never got rained on, but from up here on Mt Washington, you could see that it was raining just a few miles away in different sections. Again, the weird topology of Pittsburgh and its riverine continental climate just fascinated me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured is a pretty major bridge for the City, the Fort Pitt bridge, which connects to the Fort Pitt Tunnel which carries southbound traffic out of Downtown and towards their airport and suburbs. Behind it is Point Park, with its fountain, and the convergent intersection of the three rivers. Again – more on all that in future posts.

This city has 446 bridges, and I could spend months talking about the “who, why, where, and significance of” each one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the south side of the Monongahela River, the bridges cross over still quite active freight tracks. The bridge closest to the camera is a rail bridge, whereas the other three are vehicular crossings.

We’ll talk about – again – the granular details about them when the posts from the boat tour reach you in the near future. At this stage of the morning, a humble narrator was deep in photo mode.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What a spectacular place this is. I’ve been to Pittsburgh before, but that was back in the early 1990’s when I was in town hawking a comic I had drawn which was just published. One used to spend his weekend’s traveling from place to place, usually by car, doing “shows.” Shows were Comic Conventions. You’ve got your “big shows” like San Diego Comicon, or the New York and Atlanta ones, but there’s a comic convention happening in a hotel ballroom in some analogue of Wayne, New Jersey each and every weekend in the United States. For the Pittsburgh one I attended – during the Presidential administration of George Bush Senior – I was actually the featured guest and the promoter flew me out and paid for my hotel room. A friend from college is from Pittsburgh and she gave me the nickel tour when I was here, but even at that time I had made a mental note to return here someday and explore.

More tomorrow.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 1, 2021 at 11:00 am

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