A 1926 Description of a Ride on Duluth’s Seventh Avenue West Incline Railway

In Volume I of his two-volume 1926 novel The Duke of Duluth, author Thomas Shastid, a Duluth physician, depicts a scene in which the main character, John Gridley Smith, who is visiting Duluth, is walking on West Superior Street and comes upon the entrance to the Incline Railway on Seventh Avenue West. On pages 74 to 80, Shastid describes the Incline and John’s ride up to the top:

Following his lonesome way, he came, after an interminable time, to a place on West Superior Street where a high fence was, composed of tall, slender pickets of red-painted iron. In the middle of the fence squatted


From Duluth Public Library Slide Collection

a little red house, with a closed door. Of a sudden, there came rushing down from upper space—it must have been an airship. A moment later John saw that it was really a funny little car coming down a steep track of wide-set iron rails.The car came to a stand almost against the fence at the left of the little red house, or station, and, a few moments later, the door of the station opened, and people began passing into the street. When they had all got out, John went into the station, and thence, by a sliding side-door, into the car.

He passed at once to the front of the car, at least to the end that looked back over the sidewalk on which he had just been walking, and there took a seat. . .People began to fill the backmost seats. Presently a gong rang. . Then a wonderful thing happened.

The car did not rise. Instead, the street below began dropping. It kept on dropping—softly, ever so softly. John now looked over the spikes of the iron fence, now over the


From Duluth Public Library Slide Collection

tops of the street-cars and automobiles in the street, now over the labyrinth of railway tracks and docks down by the Lakeshore. A great pentagonal building shot up from the edge of the water, with a black-and-white sign painted across it which seemed to have been made for eyes accustomed to large things—FIREPROOF STORAGE.

A sudden wave of cool, ozonish air blew up from the Lake, engulfed the car and, apparently, the whole city. . .John’s attention turned once again to the scene, to the vast void before him which was slipping, slipping away; also deepening and deepening. He was now looking easily over all the house-tops and the pillared elevators, and away and away across the wide inland water. Straight before him stretched the long Bay of


From Duluth Public Library Slide Collection

Superior. Running off from that to the right—St. Louis Bay, crossed by its numerous railway bridges, and bordered, both shores, by a delicate tracery of coal- and ore-docks. To the left, like a scimitar swung in defense against the assaults of storms, curved Minnesota Point. Tiny toy houses, somewhat incongruously with the scimitar idea, stood all over the Point, in the midst of spruce and pine trees. . .In a narrow neck of the Point and somewhat near the mainland, arose, like a portal to the large world, the far-famed Aerial Bridge.

To the left he looked again. Far beyond the steamer that was passing through the world’s gateway, he beheld yet another steamer. Beyond that—another, another still. A long line of diminishing steamers clear over to the distant water’s edge. And then—up, up, above that junction-line of green water and blue sky, sailed, like a good-bye message, a tiny smudge of smoke from a steamer that had dropped below the horizon.


From Minnesota Reflections   https://reflections.mndigital.org

Then his sight came back to the solid bluff beneath the car, and to the rapidly receding tracks running far down to Superior Street. Over the roofs of houses, and over giant slabs of gray trap-rock even larger than store buildings! How long would the magic trip endure, this hitherto undreamed of journey into the Land of Sky?

A heavy hand on his shoulder. Then a voice, “All out—you didn’t hear me.”

John arose like a man in a sunlit dream, and left the car.




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