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September 4, 1939: Last Chance for the Skyride

On this day in Duluth in 1939, the Seventh Avenue West Incline Railway ran up and down the Duluth hillside for the final time. All summer long riders were greeted by the sign “LAST CHANCE • DULUTH SKYRIDE • INCLINE SOON TO BE ELIMINATED UNDER DULUTH’S TRANSIT MODERNIZATION PLAN.” The Incline was the last piece of the Duluth Street Railway system, which once operated streetcars from Lakeside to Gary-New Duluth and across the Interstate Bridge to Superior. The company became the Duluth-Superior Transit Company in 1933 and started dismantling the streetcars and replacing them with buses. The Duluth News Tribune and the Duluth Herald both announced the Incline’s last day in the Sunday edition on September 3, but the 4th was Labor Day and apparently every reporter in town took the day off: the next day there was no coverage of the final ride. While we don’t know if the car carried any important individuals, we do know who threw the switch to set it in motion at 7 p.m.: P. A. Hughes, who had worked at the Incline’s powerhouse for 26 years. The News Tribune described what that last moment would be like for Hughes: “He will listen for the signal, ‘East car, clear,’ set the machinery into motion and let her go for the very last ride.” You can read the history of the Seventh Avenue West Incline here.

The Superior Street station of the Seventh Avenue West Incline photographed during the summer of 1939 before it closed on September 4. (Image: Duluth Public Library)