The Incline and Lookout Mountain History
The Incline’s home, Lookout Mountain, played a pivotal role in the American Civil War. Union forces under the command of William Rosecrans suffered one of their greatest defeats by Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s men in the shadow of Lookout Mountain, at Chickamauga. The loss was so great in fact that then Major General Ulysses S. Grant was called in to take over the Union troops while Bragg’s Confederate army kept an eye on their besieged opponents hiding out in Chattanooga from the top of Lookout Mountain.
Grant tapped Union Generals William Sherman and Joseph Hooker to break up the Rebel siege of Chattanooga. The resulting three-day conflict that took place on the face of Lookout from the foothills to just below the top of the mountain would later be known as the "Battle Above the Clouds."
Following the Civil War, more and more tourists flocked to the sites of these famous battles. However, the two-dollar, four-hour buggy ride up Lookout Mountain to attractions such as Whiteside Park, the Natural Bridge and Lula Lake prevented many from enjoying the mountain’s natural beauty and rich history.
During the railroad boom of the 1880's, a luxury hotel resort was developed on the mountaintop that was serviced by a simple narrow gauge railway. However, in November of 1895, a new, broader gauge passenger railway simply known as "The Incline" opened to easily whisk residents and visitors up and down the steepest part of Lookout Mountain.
Built by John Crass and the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway Company, The Incline is a technical marvel that at its extreme reaches an incline of 72.7%, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. The original coal-burning steam engines were replaced by two 100-horsepower motors in 1911, but other than that the railway hasn’t changed very much in its more than 100 years of operation.
Today, The Incline still attracts people from around the world and has carried literally millions of residents and tourists up and down historic Lookout Mountain. Hop aboard and enjoy a ride on “America’s Most Amazing Mile” today!