Life and Times

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Life and Times from 2000

Pittsburgh 2016

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3

Part 3

Finishing up at the Cathedral, we headed downtown.  There, I wanted to explore around a little bit, and Elyse wanted to see some vintage elevators.  My plan was to park on the street, as I had done at all of our other destinations so far, but this unfortunately didn’t work for downtown.  As is the case in DC, Pittsburgh restricts parking on certain streets during rush hour, and those streets that still did allow on-street parking during rush hour were full.  In addition, with my being less than familiar with Pittsburgh’s downtown area, we ended up going ways that I was not intending due to a few one-way streets, plus a few freeway ramps and such that I happened upon by accident.  Thus we ended up going for a distance on I-376 and then turning around.  We also went through the Liberty Tunnel and the Fort Pitt Tunnel.  I admit that it wasn’t a bad tour of the local infrastructure (of which Elyse got video), and I was surprised to find European-style exit signage in both tunnels.  However, I was also a little bit annoyed with myself because of the various wrong turns that I had made, which caused a lot of unnecessary driving when the car was starting to get low on fuel.


Leaving downtown via the Liberty Tunnel.


Returning downtown via the Fort Pitt Tunnel.


We eventually found parking at the Allies Garage, which was one of our planned stops anyway.  I originally tried to avoid parking there, hoping to get a cheaper price on the street, but due to the lack of available street parking, that didn’t exactly work out.  However, by the time we got there, the evening rate had kicked in, so in the end, it only cost me six bucks.  I suppose that I could afford that.

The elevator there was admittedly pretty cool.  The exterior floor indicators were mechanical, and the buttons were neat, too.


Elyse’s video of this vintage Westinghouse elevator.


Elyse presses one of the floor buttons on the Allies garage elevator.

Elyse presses one of the floor buttons on the Allies garage elevator.


Elyse gets a photo of the neon "ELEVATORS" sign on the first floor.

Elyse gets a photo of the neon “ELEVATORS” sign on the first floor.


Leaving the parking garage, we headed over to the Investment Building.  That building had a vintage Otis Autotronic elevator.  This was so vintage that the buttons stayed in when you pushed them and popped back out when the elevator got to the top or bottom, and had lights to the side.  Elyse and I made several trips up and down that elevator, and she filmed it.


Elyse’s video of the Investment Building’s elevator.


Buttons on the Investment Building elevator, with pop-out buttons and indicator lights to the sides of the buttons. The first floor is selected in the left photo.  Buttons on the Investment Building elevator, with pop-out buttons and indicator lights to the sides of the buttons. The first floor is selected in the left photo.

Buttons on the Investment Building elevator, with pop-out buttons and indicator lights to the sides of the buttons.  The first floor is selected in the left photo.


Before and after, showing the buttons for the 16th and 21st floors selected (left), and after they had reset (right).  Before and after, showing the buttons for the 16th and 21st floors selected (left), and after they had reset (right).

Before and after, showing the buttons for the 16th and 21st floors selected (left), and after they had reset (right).


We also had a conversation with the property manager, who was sitting in a chair in the main lobby.  Turns out that he had heard about elevator enthusiasts before and their interest in his building’s vintage elevators, and had seen others’ videos of the elevators, but Elyse was the first elevator enthusiast that he actually met.  The property manager was a genuinely nice guy, and I think that we all learned a lot from each other.

From here, we headed over to Wood Street station, where we caught the light rail, known as the “T”.  That system had changed since the last time I had been there.  When I rode in 2003, the rail lines were designated with numbers based on the bus routes.  Now, they were colors, with a Red Line and a Blue Line.  Additionally, there were now CAF LRVs, and the older Siemens LRVs had been rebuilt by CAF.  They also now have a system similar to SmarTrip for fare collection, though they only sold paper versions of the card in the stations, with the plastic cards’ only being available at retail locations.

As proper transit fans, we rode the light rail from Wood Street to the end of the line at Allegheny, then reversed ends and rode back to Station Square, where we left to go ride the Monongahela Incline.


A Blue Line train consisting of Siemens LRVs (rebuilt by CAF) services Wood Street station.


A Red Line train consisting of CAF LRVs arrives at Wood Street station.


Aboard car 4307 on the Red Line.

Aboard car 4307 on the Red Line.


Station Square station.

Station Square station.


The Monongahela Incline was little changed since the last time I rode it back in 2003.  However, they now accepted the newer PAT SmarTrip-style fare media, and the lights along the tracks were now blue, vs. yellow and green when I was there before.


The tracks on the Monongahela Incline, viewed from the lower station.

The tracks on the Monongahela Incline, viewed from the lower station.


View of the tracks from the upper station.

View of the tracks from the upper station.


View of the city from the top of the Monongahela Incline.

View of the city from the top of the Monongahela Incline.


Leaving the Monongahela Incline, Elyse and I went to the nearby Station Square office and retail complex in search of a restroom.  We found the restroom, and also found another touchscreen destination dispatch elevator, this one serving a seven-story office building.  This elevator was undergoing modernization, with the elevators on one side of the lobby completed and the other side under renovation.


The retail part of the complex was fairly blah, with a somewhat dated interior, and unremarkable retail tenants.

The retail part of the complex was fairly blah, with a somewhat dated interior, and unremarkable retail tenants.

The retail part of the complex was fairly blah, with a somewhat dated interior, and unremarkable retail tenants.  The retail part of the complex was fairly blah, with a somewhat dated interior, and unremarkable retail tenants.


Completed elevator at Station Square.

Completed elevator at Station Square.


Completed elevator at Station Square.

Elevator still undergoing modernization across from the completed elevator.


Touchscreen floor selector in the first floor elevator lobby.

Touchscreen floor selector in the first floor elevator lobby.


Elyse and I then stopped at the Subway restaurant in Station Square, where we got a quick dinner, and then we found our way back to Station Square, and caught the T again, taking the Blue Line one stop to First Avenue.


4228, a rebuilt Siemens LRV, at Station Square.

4228, a rebuilt Siemens LRV, at Station Square.


SigCom pull station rebranded for Simplex in the parking garage attached to First Avenue station.

SigCom pull station rebranded for Simplex in the parking garage attached to First Avenue station.


From there, we walked back to the Allies Garage and retrieved the car.  Then we headed up the P.J. McArdle Roadway to Grandview Avenue.

Up on Grandview Avenue, which overlooks the city, we had two goals.  First, Elyse and I were going to ride the Duquesne Incline.  Second, I wanted to revisit the Grandview Overlook, in the Mt. Washington neighborhood, which my friend Patrick took several of us to in 2003, as I wanted to get some updated photos of the view.

The Duquesne Incline is the same basic idea as the Monongahela Incline, but it differs in the details.  It uses smaller, single-level railcars, and the tracks are lit with red lights, vs. the blue lights on the Monongahela Incline.  The view is just as gorgeous, though.


Duquesne Incline upper station building.

Duquesne Incline upper station building.


View of the city from the upper station.

View of the city from the upper station.


Interior of the northern (left when viewed from the top station) car on the Duquesne Incline. I was surprised about how much wood was in this car.

Interior of the northern (left when viewed from the top station) car on the Duquesne Incline.  I was surprised about how much wood was in this car.

Interior of the northern (left when viewed from the top station) car on the Duquesne Incline. I was surprised about how much wood was in this car.


View down the track from the upper station.

View down the track from the upper station.


View of the lower station as we approached.

View of the lower station as we approached.


Railcar at the Duquesne Incline lower station.

Railcar at the Duquesne Incline lower station.


Additionally, the Duquesne Incline has its own observation platform, which the Monongahela Incline does not.  It provides a view of the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers come together to form the Ohio River, as well as Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh’s Panthers team.


View from the Duquesne Incline's observation platform.

View from the Duquesne Incline’s observation platform.

View from the Duquesne Incline's observation platform.

View from the Duquesne Incline's observation platform.

View from the Duquesne Incline's observation platform.


Leaving the Duquesne Incline, we headed over to the Grandview Overlook, to update my photos from 2003.  I did my new photos slightly to the west of where I shot them in 2003, mostly from an observation platform.


The observation platform, formally the Thomas J. Gallagher Overlook, named for a former mayor. This was the westmost of three similar platforms along Grandview Avenue.

The observation platform, formally the Thomas J. Gallagher Overlook, named for a former mayor.  This was the westmost of three similar platforms along Grandview Avenue.


First thing I did was try to get a few long exposure shots with Elyse in them.  Somehow, we had communication issues, though, as Elyse kept moving mid-exposure, as in, she thought that I was done when I actually wasn’t.  Ah, well.  The final result kind of makes her look like a ghost, which amused me.


Elyse as an unintentional ghost.  Elyse as an unintentional ghost.

Elyse as an unintentional ghost.


View from the Grandview Overlook.

View from the Grandview Overlook.

View from the Grandview Overlook.  View from the Grandview Overlook.

View from the Grandview Overlook.


Airplane flying over the city, captured with a 30-second exposure.

Airplane flying over the city, captured with a 30-second exposure.


Grandview Overlook.

Grandview Overlook.


Saint Mary of the Mount Church, across the street from the overlook, lit up at night.

Saint Mary of the Mount Church, across the street from the overlook, lit up at night.


Finishing up at the overlook, that completed all of the stuff that we had originally planned for this trip, which turned out to be a nice combination of nostalgia and exploration.  However, we did make one additional unscheduled stop: Giant Eagle at the former Parkway Center Mall, in order to purchase a plastic ConnectCard, i.e. SmarTrip for Pittsburgh.


Giant Eagle, which is all that was left of Parkway Center Mall.

Giant Eagle, which is all that was left of Parkway Center Mall.


Unfortunately, while the store was still open at that late hour (around 10:30 PM), we had missed the opportunity to buy a transit card, as the customer service counter had already closed for the evening.  Ah, well – something for next time, I suppose.


However, we did find a very dirty Gamewell Century ("full moon") pull station.

However, we did find a very dirty Gamewell Century (“full moon”) pull station.


And from there, it was time to go home.  We caught I-376 and headed east, out of the city and towards the turnpike.  Another disappointment: Elyse had wanted a turnpike ticket as a souvenir, but if the toll equipment detects an E-ZPass, it will not dispense a ticket.  If anyone knows how to get a turnpike ticket without leaving the E-ZPass at home and then “losing” the ticket and paying the maximum toll, let me know.

Otherwise, the trip home was fairly uneventful.  We had three scheduled stops again going back, at the South Somerset service plaza, Breezewood, and then the I-70 rest area, where I had to take a quick power nap before continuing home (Elyse slept most of the way back).

All in all, I’d say that this was an awesome trip.  Elyse and I had a lot of fun in Pittsburgh, doing lots of nerdy things together.  From start to finish, this trip lasted 21 hours – incidentally, one hour longer than the trip to New York last year with Doreen.  I definitely want to do Pittsburgh again, but maybe not as a day trip.  We shall see, I suppose…

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Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3

Part 3