The Mozart Incline


Incline Railway Once Provided Transportation to Mozart Park

From the Wheeling News-Register, by Dawn Marie Sampson, Staff Writer

Submitted by Phyllis Dye Slater.

A small playground on top of a hill in the Mozart area is the only reminder Wheeling residents have of the once popular Mozart Park and its Incline Railway.

Commissioned by park founder, Henry Schmulbach, the incline was first operated in October 1893. The idea for the incline was rooted in the problem of accessibility to the park which was located atop the hill over-looking South Wheeling.

Henry Schmulbach

Before the incline, there were no streetcar lines or other forms of transportation leading to the park and people were forced to walk up a steep hill to reach the park.

According to the Upper Ohio Valley Historical Review's 1981 winter issue, Schmulbach had built several facilities at the hilltop recreational area: a dancing pavilion, casino, bowling alley, restaurant building, outdoor stage and one-third-mile-long bicycle track. Plans even called for a zoo to be constructed at Mozart Park but it never materialized.

To remedy the problem of accessibility to the park and its amusement park, Schmulbach took it upon himself to engage a company from Pittsburgh to build the huge inclined railway, like those in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, from the hill's base to the top.

The incline costed Schmulbach over $100,000 and was ready for a test of operation by October, 1893. Representatives of the local press, vice-president of thr Schmulbach Brewery, Charley Horstmann, and crowds of local citizens were present to witness and/or participate in the historic first ride, according to accounts of the event.

Although skepticism may have been in the thoughts of some, a major problem was not encountered until the following year.

On June 3 and 4 of 1894, the park's stockpiles were out of coal, which was essential to run the incline's engines. The incline was out of operation for these two days, but began working again later that week after coal supplies were replenished.

By November of that year, crowds rushed on a daily basis to the park specifically to ride the 205-yard-long incline. The incline carried an average of 1,200 persons every hour.

The cars were running every two minutes. Patrons could ride the incline for 15 cents, including admission to the park. Soon the price was decreased to 10 cents during the park's second season. Some records indicate the price for a ride at one point was as low as 5 cents.

The incline operated until 1907 when the Mozart Street Car Line came into existence and assumed transportation service to the park. This car line ran fron Caldwell's Run Road up to the back side of Mozart.

The park itself remained open until 1917. Schmulbach later sold the park land in pieces, eventually leaving only the small playground.