I Bet You’ve Always Wondered What The Steepest Railway in the World Is!


My mom grew up in Iowa, which I have mixed feelings about because I definitely don’t trust landlocked states…weird things happen in landlocked states, but thats a story for another day.  Anyways, because my mom grew up in Iowa, I’ve been there multiple times in my life.  I find it amazing to visit because it’s the only time in my life I’ve actually believe in time machines.  I leave Connecticut in 2012, and when I get off the plane in Iowa (or many times Chicago) I literally feel like I walked right into 1999.   Things can be a bit backwards out there, but all in all, its quite a lovely and peaceful place to be.

4th St. Elevator

Fourth Street Elevator.
Picture taken from Fourth Street...Fenelon Street is at the top

Anyways, when you think of Iowa, most of you probably think flat and farms…wrong.  Well not exactly “wrong”, there is a lot of flatness and a lot of farms in Iowa, but where my mom grew up in Dubuque, it’s extremely hilly.  Which leads me to the Fenelon Place elevator, also known as “The 4th St. Elevator”.  The 4th Street Elevator is described as the world’s shortest, steepest railwa at 296 feet in length, elevating passengers 189 feet from Fourth Street to Fenelon Place. It was originally  built in 1882 for the private use of a rich local doctor, but was opened to the public a few years later at the charge of $.05/ride.

The small car, which holds approximately 6 people is pulled up the ridiculously steep incline by a cable.  Although I’ve done it a dozen times in my life, I still get nervous each time.  It goes so slow and both sides of the car are open so you can see down the 290 food drop as you get close to the top.  Once you do get to the top, you can see all of Dubuque.  I know you’re probably thinking “Dubuque, big deal, who cares? so what?”  Well I’ll tell ya what!  It’s really cool.  Dubuque has that “old city” charm, and additionally, you can see the Mississippi River in the background!  One of these days I’ll have to tell ya abou the Mississippi River…a lot of crazy stuff in there!

me and kate

This is a pic of me and my sis Kate at the top circa 1996. My lil bro Scotty is on the side there, but he's not really in the pic. See? You can see the whole city and the Mississippi River in the background...How Cool!

me stef and stacey

This pic is me and my best friend Stef and one of her friends Stacey. We were on a roadtrip home from Colorado and stopped in Iowa....and Kansas...and Tennesee...story for another time for sure!

Check out this video to get the real effect of being in the elevator.  It goes so slow, you’re almost waiting for that thin little cable to snap!  It’s always a relief to get to the top!

So, if you’re ever in the midwest and you get sick of foothills, farms, and kissin’ cousins, make a trip on over to Dubuque and check out this one-of-a-kind historical landmark!  It’s totally worth it!

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About erinHasThoughts

I just started eHT in January of 2011, and I'm shocked and humbled that people read it! For some reason it seems like I am always in the most ridiculous situations and witness things only seen in movies, so I like to share my experiences with all of you. Thanks for reading! xo

Posted on April 7, 2012, in Random Experiences. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I seriously get scared every time we go on this too! Those wires don’t seem too reliable… but I still love going on it!

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