The Incline Railway Crash

In 1845, Prospect Park Incline Railway was located just north of the American Falls in Niagara Falls, New York. It was built by General Parkhurst Whitney, the owner of the Eagle Tavern and the later owner of the famous Cataract Hotel.

The incline railway was built to replace an earlier staircase that was built in 1818 to allow people to access the ferry landing at the base of the Niagara Gorge. This incline railway was located near Prospect Point

The incline railway was an enclosed two rail track that led guests from the top of the gorge to the bottom. On each rail, a cable propelled open railcar. Like all other incline railways: one car went downward while the other went upward. Each car was capable of carrying 15-20 passengers at a time. A 250 step stairway was located parallel to one side of the incline railway for regular or emergency use.

The Prospect Point Incline Railway operated for years on water power and was later converted to electricity once hydro electric power began being generated at Niagara Falls.

In the 1860’s the famous “Shadow of the Rock” tourist attraction was built. The two buildings consisted of change rooms and a covered walkway where tourists could walk to an open-air platform to view and feel the powerful waters of the American Falls.

In 1892, the Shadow of the Rock attraction buildings at the base of the gorge were destroyed by ice and fire and were never rebuilt.

In 1894-1895, the Niagara Reservation State Park built a chalet at the base of the incline railway. The building housed a waiting room and lower terminal. This building continued to operate until it was demolished in 1907.

On July 6th 1907, a cable of the Prospect Point Incline Railway snapped in half sending the two railcars containing five occupants crashing to the base of the incline and into the chalet.

Five people were in the cars at the time of the accident. One person was killed from the accident and 4 others only sustained minor injuries. All the injured were taken by the maid of the Mist tour boat to the Canadian shore where they were taken to hospital for treatment.

The demolished building was never repaired and the 42 year old Prospect Point Incline Railway was torn down.

In 1908, work began on elevators which operated in separate shafts drilled through the rock and opened out to a building at the base of the gorge. At first there was no building at the top of the gorge to protect passengers using the elevators. They later changed their mind when shelter was necessary to protect tourists from inclement and winter weather.

The new elevators opened to the public on January 20th 1910. They continued in service until 1954 when they were closed because the elevator shafts were leaking water at the time of the massive rock fall of Prospect Point.

The Niagara Reservation State Park built the Prospect Point Observation Tower as a replacement to the closed elevators. Building on the tower began in 1960. The tower observation deck which included a new elevator to the base of the gorge was open to the public on February 10th 1961.

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