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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Niagara Falls in Niagara County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Great Gorge Route

The Most Scenic Ride

 
 
The Great Gorge Route Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, July 7, 2014
1. The Great Gorge Route Marker
Inscription.  The Great Gorge Route (1895-1935) once offered spectacular trolley rides through the Niagara Gorge. Initially, the route ran from Niagara Falls to Lewiston, NY. After the Lewiston-Queenston Suspension Bridge opened in 1899, however, the line connected with Canada's railway along the gorge rim, creating a 20-mile circular route. The 'Belt Line' offered breathtaking views and scenic stops.

Rock falls, washouts, ice avalanches, and other mishaps made the gorge quite dangerous at times, resulting in some injuries and deaths. Flooding took its toll as ice floes rose out of the river and damaged the tracks. In 1932, when the Canadians did not renew their lease, the popular circular route ended. Soon after 5,000 tons of rock fell onto a large section of track in 1935, the trolley line stopped running. Today, hiking trails exist where the Great Gorge Route once travelled.

Trolley passing by 'Giant Rock,' a popular stop for photographers.

Open trolley cars ran in the warmer months; closed cars were used during cold weather.

President William McKinley (center) on a special trolley to Niagara Falls (September 6, 1901). After his

Missing: The Great Gorge Route Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, November 20, 2020
2. Missing: The Great Gorge Route Marker
The marker is missing. The pedestrian bridge and the Robert Moses Parkway have been removed.
excursion, he returned to Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition for a public reception where he was shot. He died a week later.

Open car #677 along Whirlpool Rapids, June 1927.

Special cars, built with wicker chairs and other conveniences, catered to prominent visitors.

This electric observation car, equipped with searchlights to illuminate the Whirlpool Rapids, was a popular tourist attraction.

On September 6, 1935, 5,000 tons of rock fell onto the trolley tracks. The line was abandoned soon after.

In 1936, after the abandonment of the Great Gorge Route, all but a few trolleys were intentionally burned.

Time Line
1886 - Niagara Falls and Whirlpool Railway company is formed.
1891 - Captain J.M. Brinker of Buffalo purchases and reorganizes the company as the Niagara Falls and Lewiston Railroad Company.
1895 - Work on the roadbed begins in April at Lewiston and is completed to Whirlpool Rapids. First trial run on tracks occurs in July; line opens to public in August.
1896 - Route completed from Lewiston to Niagara Falls, NY.
1899 - Lewiston-Queenston Suspension Bridge opens; trolley line connects to Canadian railway along gorge rim.
1901 - President William McKinley rides trolley through gorge on September 6. Late that day, he is shot at the Pan-American exposition in Buffalo.
1905 - Evening searchlight excursions

Southward View The Great Gorge Route Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, July 7, 2014
3. Southward View The Great Gorge Route Marker
Descending the pedestrian bridge towards the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, the marker is at the foot of the bridge, to the left, appearing white due to sun reflection. The pedestrian bridge and the parkway it crossed have since been removed.
begin in the gorge.
1915 - Trolley descending the escarpment at Queenston, Ontario, derails, resulting in many deaths and injuries.
1917 - Section of track near Whirlpool Bridge is washed out, causing the trolley to leave the tracks and flip over into the river, resulting in many deaths and injuries.
1924 - Niagara Falls Power Company purchases trolley line.
1932 - Canadian line fails to renew its lease, ending the circular 'Belt Line' route.
1935 - The Great Gorge Route goes out of service soon after 5,000 tons of rock fall onto a large section of track.
1936 - Trolley cars are burned and steel parts salvaged. Rails are removed from gorge.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: DisastersEntertainmentEnvironmentRailroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #25 William McKinley series list.
 
Location. Marker is missing. It was located near 43° 5.625′ N, 79° 3.718′ W. Marker was in Niagara Falls, New York, in Niagara County. Marker could be reached from Discovery Way 0.2 miles north of Main Street (New York State Route 104). Marker is on the grounds of the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, part of Niagara Falls State Park. Marker was at the foot of a pedestrian
Northward View The Great Gorge Route Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, July 7, 2014
4. Northward View The Great Gorge Route Marker
Marker is reflecting sunlight to the right of the garbage can. The pedestrian bridge crossed the Robert Moses Parkway to the Aquarium of Niagara. Beyond the picture, the gorge is to the left, the Robert Moses Parkway to the right. The parkway has also been removed.
bridge over the Robert Moses Parkway for access to the Aquarium of Niagara. The pedestrian bridge and parkway have been removed. Touch for map. Marker was in this post office area: Niagara Falls NY 14301, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. The Niagara Falls Power Company (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Birth of Hydro Electric Power (about 400 feet away); Welcome to Schoellkopf Power Station No.3 (about 500 feet away); Niagara Gorge Industrial Heritage (approx. 0.2 miles away); Niagara Gorge Important Bird Area (approx. 0.2 miles away); Niagara Falls Medal of Honor Memorial (approx. ¼ mile away); In Honor of the Soldiers, Sailors & Marines (approx. ¼ mile away); The Most Combat Decorated World War II Soldier (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Niagara Falls.
 
More about this marker. The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center was formerly known as the Schoellkopf Geological Museum. Niagara Falls State Park was formerly known as Niagara Reservation State Park.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
 
Rear View The Great Gorge Route Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, July 7, 2014
5. Rear View The Great Gorge Route Marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 28, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 13, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 430 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on July 13, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.   2. submitted on November 20, 2020, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.   3, 4, 5. submitted on July 13, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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Mar. 5, 2021