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STANDARDS

CCSS: 7.EE.B.4.A, MP2, MP4, MP5

TEKS: 7.7A

Going Up

Take a tour of the world’s most interesting inclines and specialized vehicles that take you to the top!

Use the slopes of the following funiculars to find out how far they travel. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Use the slopes of the following funiculars to find out how far they travel. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Oldest in the U.S.

THE MONONGAHELA INCLINE

Richard Cummins/Alamy Stock Photo

Jim McMahon/Mapman

Since 1870, residents of the Mount Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have relied on the Monongahela Incline funicular to commute up and down its steep hill. People build funiculars when a hill is too steep for a train to climb.

Often described as half-train, half-elevator, funiculars have cars running on tracks, like trains, that are pulled along by cables, like elevators. Also like elevators, funiculars traditionally use a counterweight system. The force of gravity pulling down on a counterweight helps lift the funicular car.

In the case of true funiculars, two cars are connected by cables in a pulley system, one car going up, one car going down. The force of gravity on the descending train helps pull the ascending train up the slope.

Pittsburgh’s Monongahela Incline is the oldest passenger funicular in the U.S. The Allegheny Port Authority, which runs the funicular, tries to keep it looking and feeling original. That means no electricity in the cars—and no air-conditioning!

“In the winter, they’re cold, and in the summer, they’re hot,” says spokesperson Adam Brandolph. “But it’s worth it for the spectacular view.”

Since 1870, people in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have had a unique way to get to work. They take the Monongahela Incline funicular up and down the steep hill in the neighborhood. Funiculars are often described as a half-train, half-elevator. People build them when a hill is too steep for a train to climb. Funiculars have cars running on tracks, like trains. But the cars are pulled along by cables, like elevator cars. Funiculars also traditionally use a counterweight system like an elevator’s. The force of gravity pulling down on a counterweight helps lift the funicular car.

True funiculars have two cars connected by cables in a pulley system. As one car goes up, the other car goes down. The force of gravity on the descending train helps pull the ascending train up the slope.

Pittsburgh’s Monongahela Incline is the oldest passenger funicular in the U.S. It’s run by the Allegheny Port Authority. The agency tries to keep the funicular looking and feeling original. That means no air-conditioning!

“In the winter, they’re cold, and in the summer, they’re hot,” says spokesperson Adam Brandolph. “But it’s worth it for the spectacular view.” 

The Monongahela Incline has a slope of 18.5/25.8. As you ride up the funicular, you travel a horizontal distance of 516 feet. How high is it at the top?

The Monongahela Incline has a slope of 18.5/25.8. As you ride up the funicular, you travel a horizontal distance of 516 feet. How high is it at the top?

World's Steepest

STOOSBAHN

EYESITE/Alamy Stock Photo

Jim McMahon/Mapman

High up in the Swiss Alps is the world’s steepest funicular, the Stoosbahn. Its incline is 47.7 degrees—more than halfway to vertical!

Unlike traditional funiculars, which use wedges to keep passengers horizontal, Stoosbahn passengers sit in cylindrical cars that rotate to keep them perfectly horizontal on their trip.

The Stoosbahn takes passengers to the car-free Alpine village of Stoos, where attractions include hiking, skiing, and a spectacular view. It replaces the Schwyz-Stoos funicular, which had been in operation since 1933 and was a favorite of Michel Azéma, a funicular expert and editor of an online magazine about funiculars called Funimag. After nearly a century in operation, the old funicular could no longer meet modern demands. It took 14 years of planning and construction before the new high-tech funicular opened in 2017.

High up in the Swiss Alps is the world’s steepest funicular. It’s called the Stoosbahn. Its incline is 47.7 degrees—more than halfway to vertical!

Traditional funiculars use wedges to keep the floor under the passengers horizontal. Stoosbahn passengers sit in cylindrical cars that rotate to keep them right-side-up on their trip.

The Stoosbahn takes passengers to the car-free mountain village of Stoos. Attractions there include hiking, skiing, and a spectacular view. The Stoosbahn replaced the Schwyz-Stoos funicular, which had operated since 1933. It was one of Michel Azéma’s favorites. Azéma is a funicular expert and editor of an online magazine about funiculars called Funimag. After nearly a century, the old funicular could no longer meet modern demands. It took 14 years of planning and construction to open the new high-tech funicular in 2017.

The Stoosbahn’s slope is 1/2. When you ride it to the top, you travel 4,929 feet horizontally. How far do you travel vertically?

The Stoosbahn’s slope is 1/2. When you ride it to the top, you travel 4,929 feet horizontally. How far do you travel vertically?

World's Oldest

THE REISZUG

MICHEL AZÉMA

Jim McMahon/Mapman

The world’s first known funicular is called the Reiszug. It was built in 1460. The private funicular goes from a convent to a medieval fortress overlooking the city of Salzburg, Austria. A single car on wheels, the Reiszug was most likely built to carry building materials up to the fortress when it was being expanded. Azéma says that the original funicular was likely run by workers turning a crank! In 1910, it was renovated and human power was replaced with electricity.

When Azéma visited the fortress in 1993, he knew about its public funicular, which takes tourists to the castle, but had no idea the Reiszug existed. Azéma was walking up to the castle along a footpath when he spotted what he knew was a funicular. He was excited to find this secret funicular!

Azéma took many photos. When he got home, he did some research and learned just how old the Reiszug is thought to be. “The funicular never stopped. It’s been running since 1460. That’s unbelievable,” Azéma says.

The world’s first known funicular is called the Reiszug. It was built in 1460. It runs from a convent to a medieval fortress overlooking Salzburg, Austria. The Reiszug is a private funicular consisting of a single car on wheels. It was most likely built to carry building materials up to the fortress when it was under construction. According to Azéma, the funicular was originally probably run by workers turning a crank! In 1910, it was renovated to use electricity instead of human power. 

Azéma visited the fortress in 1993. He knew about its public funicular, which takes tourists to the castle. But he had no idea the Reiszug existed. Azéma was walking up to the castle along a footpath when he spotted what he knew was a funicular. He was excited to find this secret funicular!

Azéma took a lot of photos. When he got home, he did some research and learned how old the funicular is thought to be. “The funicular never stopped. It’s been running since 1460. That’s unbelievable,” Azéma says.

The Reiszug has a slope of 52.4/113 . On the trip, riders travel 565 feet horizontally. How far do they travel vertically?

The Reiszug has a slope of 52.4/113 . On the trip, riders travel 565 feet horizontally. How far do they travel vertically?

Underground

THE CARMELIT

iStockPhoto/Getty Images

Jim McMahon/Mapman

The only subway system in the Middle Eastern country of Israel is a funicular! Located in the northwestern port city of Haifa, the Carmelit takes passengers from downtown, near the port, up the slope of Mount Carmel to Carmel Center. It makes four stops in between.

“It is the easiest way to get from the top of Mount Carmel down to the port because there are no streets that run straight down. They’re all zigzagged because it’s on the mountainside,” says Yosef Sa’ar. He’s a public transportation enthusiast and also works as a train fare collector in Elat, Israel. The one-way trip on the funicular takes about
15 minutes.

A true funicular, the Carmelit has two counterbalanced trains, one going up, one going down. They share a single track that splits into a double track in the middle where the cars pass each other. Since its 1959 opening, the Carmelit has undergone several upgrades. The latest renovation was completed after a fire in the bottom station in 2017.

“They’re not willing to let it die,” says Sa’ar. “They want to keep it running. And I think it’s really for transportation purposes, not for tourists. You can cover a lot of Haifa using the funicular.”

There’s only one subway system in the Middle Eastern country of Israel. And it’s a funicular! The Carmelit is located in the northwestern port city of Haifa. It takes passengers from downtown, near the port, up the slope of Mount Carmel to Carmel Center. It makes four stops in between. The one-way trip takes about 15 minutes.

“It is the easiest way to get from the top of Mount Carmel down to the port, because there are no streets that run straight down. They’re all zigzagged because it’s on the mountainside,” says Yosef Sa’ar. He’s a public transportation enthusiast in Eilat, Israel.

The Carmelit is a true funicular. It has two counterbalanced trains, one going up and one going down. They share a single track at the top and bottom. It splits into a double track in the middle, where the cars pass each other. Since it opened in 1959, the Carmelit has undergone several upgrades. It was most recently renovated after a fire in the bottom station in 2017.

“They’re not willing to let it die,” says Sa’ar. “They want to keep it running. And I think it’s really for transportation purposes, not for tourists. You can cover a lot of Haifa using the funicular.”

When leaving from the port station at sea level, the Carmelit funicular travels 5,658 feet horizontally along a slope of 14.6/94.3. What is the elevation of the top station?

When leaving from the port station at sea level, the Carmelit funicular travels 5,658 feet horizontally along a slope of 14.6/94.3. What is the elevation of the top station?

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