Incline #1 (no longer in operation) PicNooga
Incline #2 (track of current incline) late 1890s PicNooga
In the Beginning
The first Incline up Lookout Mountain opened in 1887. It ran from the 38th Street area in St. Elmo to just below the Point. The second Incline, engineered by John Crass, opened November 16, 1895, and is the Incline that is still in operation today. The success of the second Incline was the primary reason that the first Incline closed in 1899.
Lookout Mountain has been a popular tourist destination in Tennessee and Georgia for centuries. Over the years, several businessmen have built hotels on the mountain to allow visitors to experience its attractions and breathtaking views.
The Lookout Inn PicNooga
Opened in 1889, the Lookout Inn was located directly across from the incline at the top of Lookout Mountain. It would later be destroyed by a fire in 1908.
A railcar from 1901-1911 PicNooga
Electric power was used after 1911
Originally the cars were made of wood and powered by huge coal-burning steam engines. Electric power was used after 1911, and it now uses two 100 horsepower motors that power the large drums that operate the cable. The cable is made by the company which supplied the cable for the Brooklyn Bridge. Since 1895 the Incline has carried millions of riders up and down the mountain in complete safety.
Taken a month after the powerhouse and station burned, 1919 PicNooga
Upper Station Destroyed
On March 19, 1919, an accidental fire destroyed the upper station and one of the cars causing the Incline to close down for two years while they rebuilt, they also bought new cars at this time for the reopening. The new cars held thirty-two passengers and had heaters under the seats.
Lookout Mountain Hotel in 1940 PicNooga
The Lookout Mountain Hotel
Built in 1928, the Lookout Mountain Hotel was known as “The Castle in the Clouds.” Famed for its elegant furnishings including red velvet carpet, heavy gilt floor candelabras, overstuffed velvet loveseats, and a spectacular ballroom, it was a popular summer resort into the 1940s and 1950s. In 1964, the hotel building became part of Covenant College.
Railcar in 1960 PicNooga
The incline has had a few famous riders in its time in operation. Teddy Roosevelt rode the incline in 1905 while he was still President of the United States. The famous actress, Elizabeth Taylor, also rode the Incline in the 1950’s.
Railcar at the split in the 1980s
Railcar in the 1980s
In 1974 Jo Conn Guild Sr. and Linn White, the original designers of today’s Incline, were given the honor of having their engineering marvel be designated as a National Historic Site by the United States of the Interior. Ninety-six years after the Incline’s inaugural journey, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers honored the Incline as its 100th National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in recognition of its innovative design, and the historically significant role that it has played in the development of Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga.
A new pair of cars were installed in the Incline in March 2020. The entire installation cost a total of $4 million and included upgrades to the iconic railcars: more window space for a panoramic view of the valley, wheelchair accessibility, heating, new lighting and onboard security cameras. Today the Incline attracts people from around the world, and with its upgrade, “Americas Most Amazing Mile” can continue its historical legacy for the Chattanooga community.