22 Jul 2009 8:00 am   //   Filed under: Failure, Transit

If so inclined

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Once, this scar on the side of North Beacon Mountain, New York, was an inclined railway. Built in 1902 (toward the end of America’s short-lived funicular railroad craze) it shuttled tourists to a hotel and casino at the top of the hill.

A lot of good times were had on the Mount Beacon Incline, but it always seemed to be catching on fire. And after 70 years of clickity ups and clackity downs, some of the novelty wore off. The railroad shut down in the 1970s, when a disco-happy public found the windy conditions of the mountains a poor match for their polyester clothes, and retreated indoors to play Uno.

The Mount Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society has lots more information about this failed tourist trap, and their dedicated efforts to start it back up.

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Today the abandoned railway stands as a fascinating piece of industrial decay in a pleasant patch of woods at the edge of Beacon. I visited it on a hike last Saturday. A path runs from a parking lot to the ruins of the mountaintop resort. It’s one of those popular overlook trails that every town ought to have. A steep, one-mile climb is just tough enough to feel like an accomplishment, but easy enough for children and dogs. At the top is a panoramic view of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge crossing the Hudson River.

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