An interesting Archway Shelter along Island Ave in Mckeesrocks which has unique story to it.

Every Time I ride down Island ave near the Mckeesrocks Bridge I pass this interesting archway and shelter between 2 very old apartment buildings I knew there had to be some story to it and I was correct .

This archway was built as a reminder of what was once a very unique Incline

The story on this interesting piece of engineering  is written below for the

The Mckeesrocks Historical Society  found on its face book Page  thank you MHS

OK you asked for got it...Norwood Incline history.
The Norwood Incline by
John Makar
Pittsburgh was at one time known as the “Incline Capital of the World.” Between 1870 and 1905, at least 17 incline planes were built in the Pittsburgh area and another 20 were in the planning stages, but were never built. The people who lived on the many hills of the city needed the hillside railroads to travel to work or to visit the downtown area, both near river level.
One of the few inclines located in the suburban Pittsburgh was the Norwood Incline of McKees Rocks. It accommodated the residents of the Norwood and West Park sections of Stowe Township who would otherwise have had to travel over the elevated sections by foot or via McCoy Road or Broadway Avenue, two longer, roundabout routes.
The incline’s lower station was located on Island Avenue in McKees Rocks, across the street from the former Norwood Pharmacy. The upper station and power house were on Park Way (now Desiderio Avenue) in the Norwood Place section of Stowe, near the old Ohio Valley General Hospital. This is now the site of Mother of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, of the St. John of God Parish. Thus, the funicular was cut in two by the border line between the two municipalities.
Norwood Incline was an idea of Charles Wesley Robison, General Manager of the Greater Pittsburgh Improvement Company, creating an access route to the Norwood Plan of Lots, which was being developed by Robison’s company. The original idea was to establish a trolley line along the planned right of way. In fact, the Bird’s Eye View of McKees Rocks, published early in 1901 by Thaddeus M. Fowler, clearly shows a trolley climbing from Island Avenue to Norwood. Shortly afterward, the decision was made to build an incline, instead. The designer and engineer of the incline are lost to history.
Once it finally began operation on September 7, 1901, the incline was a major factor in the rapid growth of the hilltop areas of McKees Rocks and Stowe during the “boom” of1901-1906. The homes build in Norwood itself were offered on the “easy monthly payment plan,” the first time such an offer was made to buyers.
Originally, no fare was paid on the incline and it was advertised as “the only free incline in the world.” By 1903, however, the operator was forced, because of operating expenses, to charge patrons of the transportation system one cent during peak hours, which gave the landmark its nickname, the “Penny Incline.” Within a short period, the little incline was showing a comfortable profit.
An early notice in one of the cars read:
“Everyone must pay fare
One cent each way until 8PM
Two cents each way after 8PM
Monthly tickets 30 cents (includes man and wife)
Good ‘til 8PM
School children of Norwood free during day.”
Trips were made whenever there was a passenger. No one had to wait very long for a car.
The little yellow cars of the incline, nicknamed “Becky Jane” and ‘Becky Reis” ran on tracks of 42 inch gauge, very tiny when compared to the six-to-ten-foot gauges of most of Pittsburgh’s hill climbers. They were built on three rail automatic turn-out system which was also unusual, considering that all the other local inclined planes operated on a four-rail system, two rails for cars traveling in each direction. This caused strangers to the area who traveled on the incline to fear a mid-hill collision. By a deftly devised curve, however, the cars would suddenly switch out and pass each other. No one has ever counted the number of hear attacks which might have occurred on the hillside….
The cars were attached to the ends of a double cable which was wound around a steel drum operated by a powerful steam engine at the upper station. The cables enabled the cars to ascend or descend the hill without slipping and the drum prevented the cars from moving too quickly on their journey.
The man in the powerhouse who operated the cars also collected the fare and, in the early days, fired the boilers. He was, in fact, the entire operation. Harry D. Kirkland, a Norwood resident and Stowe School Director, was an early manager-operator of the incline and later, so was his son, Ed. But the best known of the operators was Bert Noble, who took over the power house in 1907 and kept the system in good working order for a number of years, until the system deteriorated so badly that no one could help it.
But progress caught up with the operation of the Norwood Incline. In 1914, a government inspector condemned the funicular’s old boiler. Within a short time, electricity was installed and the basic operations became completely automatic. The system could now experience the joys and sorrows of “living electrically.”
In its last years, the incline had its share of problems. Frequent malfunctions of the large steel drum and in the power station caused extensive repairs. In August 1919, a Highland Avenue resident was injured slightly when he tried to close, by hand, the stubborn automatic doors of one of the cars. The doors suddenly came loose and he was caught between them.
The aging landmark was also losing patronage due to the trolley lines firmly established by 1910 on Island Avenue and in West Park and the popularity of the automobile, which led to the construction of the original Stowe Tunnel between the two sections in 1908-09.
These factors, combined with the increasingly decrepit condition of the cars and right-of-way, caused the abandonment of the Norwood Incline in 1921, after nearly a quarter century of service.
After the old landmark was dismantled, its remnants removed (and some relics buried on site), a number of plans were considered for its replacement. Since the right-of-way was not on a very steep gradient, one plan called for a simple pathway down the hillside. It took a number of years for a final decision to be reached, because McKees Rocks and Stowe officials spent much of the time feuding over who would be responsible for the maintenance of the completed structure. In 1930, after years of controversy, wooden steps were finally built on the old right-of-way. They were finally replaced by concrete steps by the 1950s.
By the mid-1970s, the Norwood Steps were beginning to show their age. Cracks and holes were showing up over the whole length of the passageway. The metal railing was rusting. The land next to it was eroding with the waste water constantly running down the hill. It also resembled a large refuse dump, with garbage strewn all over. Once again, the two municipalities could not agree to a regular maintenance schedule. Each feared that they would eventually be saddled with most of the costs. By the 1980s, noting that most residents were finding other ways of getting up and down the hill, both municipalities quietly agreed to abandon the steps.
Today, there is little left to show that there was once a thriving transportation system climbing the hill of Island Avenue. The right-of-way is completely overgrown. The concrete has crumbled to dust. All that is left is the little shelter on Island Avenue next to Boni’s Floral Shop with the two engraved “N”s on each side. Few remember that this was the site of a unique transportation system.
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