Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Fenelon Elevator

Yesterday we had a chance to ride the Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque.  This is always a fun experience, and we hadn't been there for several years.  The present system basically dates back to 1893, but was rebuilt somewhat in 1977.   It's a 3' gauge funicular railway, with the usual two counterbalanced cars meeting in the middle.  This is an extremely simple system with few frills. 

We parked at the top and started there.  The electric motor, winding machinery, controls, and ticket window are located in this building which blends in pretty well with the surrounding residential district.

Except that it's on the edge of the bluff, overlooking downtown Dubuque and the river.  The ticket taker also operates the cars, and they run up and down whenever there's a passenger.

The cars are built at a steep angle, as seen here, and the seats are just like boxes on each side.   I guess the car could seat eight.  It's a short ride, so the spartan accommodations are fine, unless it rains heavily.  Note that there are no doors on the uphill end of the car.

And now we start down the steep grade.  Most of the line is three rails, with a passing siding in the middle.  The video below has a better picture of the siding. 

The cables are carried by wooden rollers which wear out after a while.

At the bottom is just a little hut.  When the car reaches the bottom, the sliding doors on the downhill side of the car open automatically.  

And here's a picture of the entire railway.  

At the end of track, this angled rail engages a lever on the car to open the doors.  The outside running rail is to the left.

If you want to go up, you pull one of these ropes to signal the operator at the top.  Very simple.

Here we are on the way down, approaching our scheduled meet with the westbound train.

On the way back up, approaching the terminal:

And since we were in Dubuque, we were able to have dinner at one of my all-time favorites, Timmerman's Supper Club in East Dubuque.  Along with the food and drinks, it offers a great view out over the Mississippi River valley, and if you have a table by the window, you can look down and watch the trains going by on the Burlington line.   What more could you want?


Anonymous said...

So if you get to the top and have no money for the fare, do they send you back down as punishment, or make you get off so that you only rob them of a one-way fare instead of a round trip?

Anonymous said...

I recall that there were some elements of the Columbian Exposition were incorporated into this operation. Perhaps some gates or something?

Randall Hicks said...

I have the brochure right here in front of me. The original elevator was a small, privately-owned operation, mostly wood, that burned up in 1893.

"Ten neighbors banded together and formed the Fenelon Place Elevator Company.... This group traveled to the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago to look for new ideas. They brought back a streetcar motor to run the elevator, the turnstile, and steel cable for the cars."

Evidently the 1893 motor was replaced in 1977. The present turnstile certainly doesn't date back to 1893 either.