The Incline Railway — The History behind the Ride

Chattanooga is known for many things: its beautiful natural scenery, its vibrant downtown area, and its rich history. One of the most fascinating pieces of that history is the Incline Railway, a historic funicular railway that climbs up Lookout Mountain and has been in operation since 1895. Often called “America’s Most Amazing Mile,” the Incline Railway is a must-visit summer attraction for anyone wanting to take in the magnificent beauty and history of Chattanooga.

 The history of the Incline Railway is as fascinating as the ride itself. In the late 19th century, Lookout Mountain was a popular tourist destination, known for its beautiful views as it still is today. However, getting to the top of the mountain was a difficult and sometimes dangerous proposition back then. Enter: The Incline Railway.

The first Incline up Lookout Mountain opened in 1887 and the second Incline, engineered by John Crass, opened November 16, 1895, which is the Incline that is still in operation today. 

From the beginning, the railway was a popular attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world to experience the thrill of the ride and the stunning views from the top of the mountain. Over the years, the railway has been updated and renovated, but its basic structure and design have remained largely the same, a testament to the ingenuity of its original builders. 

Today, the Incline Railway is still one of the most popular attractions in Chattanooga, and for good reason. The railway car climbs the steep incline at a 72.7% grade, one of the steepest in the world, for the approximately 1-mile-long track. From the top of the mountain, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of Chattanooga and the surrounding area. 

More than just a thrill, the Incline Railway takes you on a ride through Chattanooga’s rich history and culture as it has been recognized as a National Historic Site and a Mechanical Engineering Landmark. Its museum and gift shop allows visitors to learn more about the railway’s history and the people who built it.  

The Incline Railway offers something for everyone, making it the perfect addition to your summer itinerary. Grab an ice cream cone at Clumpies or a slice of pizza at Mr. T’s with the family before boarding at the base in St. Elmo. Once you’ve made the climb to the top, you can explore more of Chattanooga’s history at Point Park and Battles for Chattanooga Museum. Don’t forget to enjoy the gorgeous panoramic views of the Chattanooga Valley from the observation deck and grab some fudge or a souvenir from the gift shop before embarking on the journey back down the mountain.  

Join the millions of residents and tourists that have journeyed up and down historic Lookout Mountain via the Incline Railway. They are open Monday-Friday 9:00am-6:00pm, Saturday-Sunday 9:00am-7:00pm. For tickets and more information, visit

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