Fenelon Place Elevator

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Fenelon Place Elevator
Locale Dubuque, Iowa
Transit type Funicular
Website www.fenelonplaceelevator.com
Began operation July 25, 1882 (1882-07-25)
Operator(s) Fenelon Place Elevator Company
System length

296 feet (90 m)

Fenelon Place Elevator
Coordinates 42°29′46.7″N 90°40′9.7″W / 42.496306°N 90.669361°W / 42.496306; -90.669361Coordinates: 42°29′46.7″N 90°40′9.7″W / 42.496306°N 90.669361°W / 42.496306; -90.669361
Built by J.K. Graves, C.B. Terwin
Part of Cathedral Historic District (#85002501)
NRHP Reference # 78001215[1]
Added to NRHP August 3, 1978

The Fenelon Place Elevator is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge[2] funicular railway located in Dubuque, Iowa. Also known as the Fourth Street Elevator, it is claimed to be the shortest and steepest railroad in the world (although several other funiculars also make this claim). It was individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.[3] It was included as a contributing property in the Cathedral Historic District in 1985,[4] and in the Fenelon Place Residential Historic District in 2015.[5]


Fenlon Place elevator in 1940

A predecessor to the Fourth Street Elevator was built in 1882 for the private use of local banker and former state senator J.K. Graves. The funicular was opened to the public in 1884, charging 5 cents per ride. After several fires, the current funicular was built in 1893 on the footprint of the 1882 incline; the 1893 funicular inaugurated the use of the cable car technology that continues in use today.[6]


The upper station of the elevator is located at 512 Fenelon Place, whilst the lower station is located at the western end of Fourth Street. At the top there are two observation decks, which offer a commanding view of the downtown Dubuque area. The states of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin can all be seen from the observation decks.[7][8]


The funicular is 296 feet (90 m) long, and angles up at 106 degrees with a vertical elevation of 98 feet (29.9 m). The two cars start at opposite ends, passing each other at the midpoint of the elevator. The two cars counterbalance each other, drawing motive power from an engine in the station house at the top of the hill. The engine only needs to overcome inertia and friction and compensate for the varying weight of the passengers in the cars.[citation needed]

The Fourth Street Elevator is run from April 1 to November 30. The hours are from 8 am to 10 pm.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NPS Focus". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. Retrieved 2011-09-07. 
  2. ^ "Trams of the World 2017" (PDF). Blickpunkt Straßenbahn. January 24, 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 16, 2017. Retrieved February 16, 2017. 
  3. ^ Stewart, Connie (2011-11-05). Old funicular is quaint, fun, and TSA-secure. LA Times, 5 November 2011. Retrieved on 2011-11-07 from http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-hometown-dubuque-20111106,0,561245.story.
  4. ^ Lisa Hawks; Pam Myhre-Gonyier. "Cathedral Historic District" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-01-03.  with photos
  5. ^ James E. Jacobsen. "Fenelon Place Residential Historic District" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  6. ^ "Fenelon Place Elevator Company History". Fenelon Place Elevator Company. Retrieved 2011-11-06. [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b "Ride Rates". Fenelon Place Elevator Company. Retrieved 2015-05-10. [permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Fenelon Place Elevator Company". Fenelon Place Elevator Company. Retrieved 2015-05-10. [permanent dead link]

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