From Construction to Completion

Eager to start building, the newly formed Edmonton Incline Railway Company requested a charter. However, two formal objections towards the incline railway surfaced from nearby property owners who feared it would decrease property values by blocking the street and creating noise.

Despite this opposition, by late September 1907, construction had begun, supervised by local engineers Charles E. Taylor and J. S. Nesbitt. As October began, the rails and power house, which were to be located at the top of the lift, were assembled and the brick walls, running alongside the railway were almost finished.

Black and white photo of the Incline Railway being constructed.Incline Railway under construction, 1907 [EA-10-1828]

Until this point, the company had planned to use electricity supplied by the City, yet due to Edmonton’s rapid growth the City’s electric plant could no longer meet the required supply. As a result, the Edmonton Incline Railway Company was forced to find a new source. The most obvious solution was powering the railway by coal, but nearby coal mines were no longer as productive as they had been, so it was decided to power the railway through steam. By November the brickwork for both the top and bottom foundations neared completion, the ties had been laid and the two cars were placed upon the rails.

The hoisting machinery, 75 horsepower steam engine, and boilers arrived in April, 1908. By May 7, the smokestack had been erected and by May 13 the engines were put to work, hauling up the very first car. Signal bells and telephones were installed and a thorough test was performed on May 14. At last, on May 20, 1908, the Incline Railway opened for business. It became the only railway of its kind west of Hamilton, Ontario.

Edmonton Incline Railway Blueprints.These blueprints were submitted to the City in 1907 as part of the documentation to get the railway running. Notice the many safety features listed in the specifications. [RG-8 Joseph Hostyn, Contract #12]

  1. Pilot House: Located at the top of the hill, this structure housed the controls for operating the railway.
  2. Ticket Office: Ticket offices were located at the Victoria Avenue entrance, and at the bottom of the hill.
  3. Hoist Room: The hoist room included the drums, break wheels, line shafting, guide sheaves, gear wheels, motors, motor generator set, and safety cable devices. The engine ran a pulley system that was thirty-two feet long and ten inches in diameter, and was attached to the three gear wheels.
  4. The Gates: While in operation, automatic gates opened when the car reached either entrance, preventing the possibility of the gates opening while the incline railway was in motion. When the railway was closed, iron gates were used to secure the track.
  5. The Cars: The incline railway used a double car hoist that could carry both passengers and teams of horses and their wagons. The cars each had a maximum carrying load of 12 tons, and were 18 feet 6 inches by 28 feet. At just over 500 square feet, each car was the size of a small apartment.
  6. The Size: The incline railway was 230 feet long and 45 feet wide - about the size of two NBA basketball courts. The vertical rise was 88 feet - roughly the height of a 9-storey building.

RG-8.13 Joseph Hostyn, Contract #12

These specifications accompanied the blueprints and provide additional detail. [RG-8 Joseph Hostyn, Contract #12]