All of Chattanooga’s tourist attractions seem to be somehow connected with Lookout Mountain, so at some point you’re bound to end up near or on top of the hill. While you can drive to the top for a sweeping view of the city, you can also take a ride on one of Chattanooga’s historic landmarks: the Incline Railway.
The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway lays claim to the title of “Steepest Passenger Railway in the World”. Near the top, the rails climb at a 72.7% grade (meaning for every ten feet the railcar moves forward, it gains 7.27 feet). By comparison, the steepest grade you’ll find on most interstate highways is only 6%.
But the trip isn’t that steep at the start. As you board the railcar, you’ll immediately notice that the floor is slanted. It will seem more level at the top.
As you climb, you’ll pass a small gift shop at the side of the tracks. It’s a good place to find souvenirs, so consider driving back to it later in the day.
Once you hit the steeper portion of the track, you’ll feel the railcar tilt forward. About that same time…
… the view out the front of the car opens up, and you can see the city of Chattanooga far below.
At the upper rail station, take time to walk up to the observation deck (which is free, even for people not riding the incline). This is where you’ll find the best perspective on the tracks. There’s also a small cafe
Steel cables are connected to both cars, so that one counterweights the other. Two 100-horsepower motors are at the top, and you can see the giant wheels as the railcar pulls into the upper station. There’s also an elevator-style braking system to stop the cars, should a cable snap.
Note: This trip was first published in 2006.