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

Southward View The Great Gorge Route Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, July 7, 2014
2. 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.
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 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

Northward View The Great Gorge Route Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, July 7, 2014
3. Northward View The Great Gorge Route Marker
Marker is reflecting sunlight to the right of the garbage can. The pedestrian bridge crosses the Robert Moses Parkway to the aquarium. Beyond the picture, the gorge is to the left, the Robert Moses Parkway to the right.
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.
 
Location. 43° 5.625′ N, 79° 3.718′ W. Marker is in Niagara Falls, New York, in Niagara County. Marker can be reached from Robert Moses Parkway. Touch for map. Marker is on the grounds of the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, part of Niagara Falls State Park. Marker is at the foot of the pedestrian bridge. Marker is in this post office area: Niagara Falls NY 14301, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. 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. mile away); In Honor of the Soldiers, Sailors & Marines (approx. mile away); The Most Combat Decorated World War II Soldier
Rear View The Great Gorge Route Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, July 7, 2014
4. Rear View The Great Gorge Route Marker
(approx. mile away); Park Place Historic District (approx. 0.3 miles away); The Boundary Waters Treaty (approx. 0.3 miles away in Canada); Bridges of Niagara (approx. 0.6 kilometers away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Niagara Falls.
 
More about this marker. The Niagara Falls Gorge Discovery Center is north of the Rainbow Bridge, accessed by car from the Robert Moses Parkway or by trolley bus (in season) from park areas south of the Rainbow Bridge. It can also be accessed from the parking lot of the Niagara Falls Aquarium (free parking for aquarium patrons) via the pedestrian walkway over the Robert Moses Parkway.

The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center was formally known as the Schoellkopf Geological Museum. Niagara Falls State Park was formally known as Niagara Reservation State Park.
 
Regarding The Great Gorge Route. The gorge hiking trail is sometimes blocked/closed by rock slides.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
 
Also see . . .
1. Niagara Falls State Park - New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation
Pedestrian Overpass to The Great Gorge Route Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, July 7, 2014
5. Pedestrian Overpass to The Great Gorge Route Marker
The gorge trails begin sign is in the foreground.
. (Submitted on July 13, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.)
2. The Niagara Gorge Belt Line - Niagara Frontier Chapter NRHS. (Submitted on July 13, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.)
 
Categories. DisastersEntertainmentEnvironmentRailroads & Streetcars
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 13, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 283 times since then and 41 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 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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