The History of the Incline
Johnstown, Pennsylvania has become known for many things, among them a reputation for its devastating floods. The largest flood in Johnstown's history occurred on May 31, 1889 when some 2,209 people lost their lives.
The Cambria Iron Company began construction of the inclined railway in 1890, to carry people, horses and wagons to the new hilltop community of Westmont. On June 1, 1891 the Johnstown Inclined Plane began providing convenient transportation up Yoder Hill which had a steep 70.9% grade.
On March 17, 1936 when flood waters again ran through Johnstown, the Inclined Plane proved its worth by carrying almost 4,000 residents to safety. In the most recent flood to hit Johnstown on July 20, 1977, the Inclined Plane once again carried people to the safety of higher ground, as well as carrying boats, emergency personnel and equipment down to the valley to aid in rescue operations.
Technical Design of the Incline
The Inclined Plane was designed by Samuel Diescher of Pittsburgh, internationally known as an engineer of vertical railroads, having designed the Monongahela, Duquesne, Fort Pitt, and Castle Shannon inclines.
He also designed machinery to operate the first Ferris wheel, unveiled at the Chicago World's Colombian Exposition in 1893. His design for the Cambria Inclined Plane utilized many of the engineering schemes he had tested in previous inclines.
The design is simple: a balanced inclined plane with a double track, each with an eight-foot gauge. The two cars are permanently attached to steel cables, counterbalancing each other while in operation. As one car rises, the other is lowered. Power is only needed to lift the net weight.
The angle of the railway is set at 35 degrees, 25 minutes; the length is 896.5 feet. Its perpendicular lift is 502.2 feet, to an elevation of 1,693.5 feet.
Lights: 114 high pressure sodium lamps
Cars: 15'2"x15'6"x34' long, 38 tons each
Length: 896.5 Ft. from top to bottom
Grade: a very steep 70.9%
Ties: 720 in total, each 12" x 12" x 14'
Rails: total length: 3,586 ft., total weight: 120,553 lbs. Cable Size: 2" powersteel, wire rope, 6 x 36 right regular lay