A century ago, half a world apart, wealthy people faced a similar dilemma.
In 1881 in Hong Kong, there was a hotel at the top of Victoria Peak, and a rich man wanted to continue to build residences for the wealthy at the top. But the journey up was tragically inconvenient, requiring a sedan chair and a pair of pointy-hatted poor folk to carry them uphill. What to do? A rail line! And, thus, in 1882, approval was granted for the Hong Kong High Level Tramways Company, a rail line which would prove much more efficient than two dudes and a chair. It finally opened in 1888 as the first cable funicular in Asia, covering 1,350 metres.
In Dubuque, Iowa in 1882, Mr. J. K. Graves, a banker (as well as former mayor and state senator), faced a similar inconvenience. The buggy ride from his bank to his home took 30 minutes, yet it was only two blocks away (at least it would look that close when viewed from a helicopter, which hadn’t been invented yet). What to do? A cable car, like he had seen in the Alps, would be a great solution. In 1882, he received permission to build. It opened in 1882 (for his private use), six years ahead of Hong Kong (take that, Brits!)
After a hundred plus years, through fires, floods, Japanese occupations, British handovers, and numerous revampings of the motors, cars, and electrical reworkings, both remain open to the public.
In Hong Kong, a ticket booth proffers expensive tickets for the dramatic journey on the Peak Tram, which culminates in one of the world’s most astounding views (and, for good measure, a shopping mall). From the top of Victoria Peak, intrepid travelers can hike along the nature trails enjoying views of Hong Kong harbor and the skyscrapers far below.
In Dubuque, you walk over to the open-doored cab at the Fenelon Place Elevator Co. and pull an old-school cord which rings a bell. The operator at the top sounds a warning buzz, closes the door, and starts the motor which takes you in Price-is-Right-Cliffhanger fashion to the top of the bluff, where you can enjoy a view over the Mississippi River and a bulletin board with postcards that people have mailed from trams across the world, just to make Dubuque jealous, I guess. But the $2 round trip price is worth it.
Related Post: Views of Hong Kong