The Railroad Roots of Altoona, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Railroad:

No city is more synonymous with the Pennsylvania Railroad than Altoon. Located at the foot of Brush Mountain, in the Logan and Pleasant valleys, it is the tenth largest population after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Reading, Scranton, Bethlehem, Lancaster and Harrisburg. But it was this mountain that first stopped and then caused growth.
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Covered by hardwood forests and intersected by the ridge of the Appalachian mountain range, which extends from Newfoundland to Alabama and serves as the Eastern Continental Divide in Pennsylvania, were an obstacle to both population development to the west and trade with their own part of Allegheny Ridge, push to height 4000 feet towards the sky. A supranational journey along the rudimentary trails left by wild animals and Native Americans over impressive peaks required three weeks – in the best conditions.
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British colonists, etching several logs for farms in the 18th century, were the first modern settlers in the area, while the first industrialists used its minerals through coal and iron furnaces. However, their products could only be transported by wagons to Pittsburgh, considered the gate to the west, through these primitive routes.
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The first remedial effort to mitigate this transport barrier was made in 1823, when John Stevens received a statute for the construction of a two-part railroad, the first from Philadelphia to Columbia, and the second from Columbia to Pittsburgh. But the idealized east-west rail connection evaporated with the promised capital.
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A new impulse to connect, however, came when trade, which was hitherto vigorous in Philadelphia, was led back to the Erie Channel route, completed in 1825, and the legislator, trying to reverse its effects, authorized the construction of a state channel connecting the main channel of Philadelphia with Pittsburgh for the first time.
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via the Allegheny Portage railway. Opening on March 18, 1834, he used an intermodal system in which canal boats sailed to the Hollidaysburg canal basin in the east before being transferred to railroad carriages, and then transported over the 36.65-mile section of Allegheny Ridge ridge using cables and stationary steam engines. Moved to the Johnstown Canal Basin in the west, they will complete their trip to Pittsburgh by water.
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Although he shortened his trip to Pennsylvania to four days based on the basic route-based Conestog car method, the system was still less than optimal, tedious to negotiate, and occasionally failed. A single-mode, continuous connection was needed, an obstacle to which of course was mountainous terrain.
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This spark was once again lit up by the competition. Indeed, it was intended for Pittsburgh, at least in construction form, to be used by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, extending 178 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, and approaching it from the southeast.
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Fearing a second loss of lucrative west trade, Philadelphia opted for a Pennsylvania lifeline across the state in the form of a fast, efficient rail connection in one mode. Surprisingly, the Pennsylvania State Assembly, as needed, allowed both the extension of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to Pittsburgh and the state card line ‘Pennsylvania Railroad’, which was to build the 249-mile extension of the existing Philadelphia-Harrisburg Track, therefore, it competes with the Main Line Canal and Allegheny Portage Railroad exchange system.
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The first move of the indigenous line within the state, no more than an inch, was imprinted on paper in the form of the signature of Governor Francis R. Skunks of April 13, 1846, Changing the Vision to the Right, and so on, great support was received for the new railway that the Baltimore Card Ohio was canceled the following year.
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After selecting the first board of directors, which included: President Samuel Vaughn Merrick and chief engineer John Edgar Thomson, March 30, 1847, Surveys revealed three potential routes, the most feasible of which was west of Harrisburg via Logan & # 39; s Narrows to Sugar Gap Run, then on Robinson & # 39; s Summit (which will later be called “Altoon”), following the rivers Susquehanna and Juniata, before they reach 800 feet above Allegheny Mountains and end in Pittsburgh.
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But the Allegheny Portage railway could only beat impressive peaks with ten sloping planes. So how could Pennsylvania Railways do it without them? And although they were both seen as competitors, in reality they were initially complementary.
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The eastern section of the Pennsylvania Railroad, consisting of 173 miles of track from Lancaster to Duncansville, was opened in September 1850, linking the next month to the Allegheny Portage system, while the western section, from Pittsburgh to Johnstown, was completed on December 10, 1852.
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Allegheny Portage, who was already wearing shoes in Pennsylvania with his intermediate and arduously slow, mountain vault, between the water and rail junction, only temporarily served as his connection because he tried to design a route on all tracks.
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The problem was literally a track layout that would have to climb a rocky slope to overcome its 1216-foot peak through a tunnel with existing locomotive capabilities, while avoiding a stationary inclined engine. The required grade would be excessive.
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The solution was a long, double loop of track that assumed a more gradual increase in locomotive height, reducing a 10% drop (or an increase of ten feet every 100 feet) to a milder 1.8 percent.
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The line running along the northern side of the valley turned left, over the artificial embankment, to Kittanning Point, where after the necessary chiselling of the rock walls it created the famous, half-kilometer-long Horseshoe Curve, its gradual elevation indicated by its west facade, which is 122 feet higher than its east.

Declared operational on February 15, 1854, he shortened the four-day trip between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh through the Allegheny Portage Railroad to just 15 hours by its Pennsylvania counterpart, and caused rapid loss of passengers and freight, forcing exchange to fail in two modes.

Although he used hybrid technology for infant development, he managed to overcome the topographical obstacle and was one of the necessary steps in technological climbing of man.

More importantly, the Horseshoe curve, symbolizing the triumph of the Allegheny state mountains in east-west travels, caused a secondary rise – from the pristine land – of the city needed for its maintenance and the railway that gave birth to it. This city was Altoona.

Altoon’s shopping complex:

Located at the foot of Alleghenies, Altoon grew out of a 224-acre farm by David Robinson, whose strategic location, 235 miles west of Philadelphia and 116 miles east of Pittsburgh, was optimal, from which additional locomotive power could be sent to help climb the grade. In conjunction with these train reconfigurations, there was a need for maintenance and repair of both the engine and rolling stock without propulsion.

The transfer agreement, signed on April 24, 1849. After paying a purchase price of USD 10,000, it provided the necessary land for the first railway stores. Being the heart of the Allegheny Mountains, feeding on coal, iron, wood and the region’s water resources, the city pumped life in the region.

Based on original plans developed in 1849, the Altoona Complex in the Pennsylvania Railroad included a machine workshop, engine room and assembly workshop, to which was added an eight-armed cabin with a round track and a long structure and a long structure housing a locomotive repair workshop, foundry, blacksmith, machine workshop, carpentry workshop and paint shop, thanks to which it can maintain its first, single-track connection with Pittsburgh using the New Portage Railroad sections in 1850. Progressive possibilities enabled him to perform three basic functions of car production, production of locomotive parts and repair.

But unsaturated demand required more and more efficiency. Until 1855, existing facilities were expanded and a 26-stall engine building was built.

The city’s own development was comparable to that of the railway complex, increasing from 2000 in 1854 to 3591 in 860 and exceeding the level of 10,000 a decade later, when a full ten percent of its population was employed in railway stores. From time to time, they broke into their own mini-metropolis with a car shop, tin shop, carpentry shop, car workshop, boiler room, round house, motor workshop, paint shop and iron and brass foundry. Administrative offices were located throughout the city.

The takeover of the main public works line in 1857 and the closure of the new Portage railway line only served to increase the demand for rail transport, requiring a corresponding increase in capacity at the Altoona complex.

Required by the civil war, the railway wagon for the carriage of ammunition and Union soldiers also made the Pennsylvania Railroad infrastructure an integral part of this effort, triggering another series of expansion in 1862.

However, endless demand, affecting the borders of the original Altoon complex from 1850, With the increase in the size of locomotives, prompted him to consider the location of production and repair of secondary engines. The engines themselves, previously weighing less than 30 tons and built from smaller sections, could be manually moved and mounted using basic blocks, lifts and rotary cranes, but their increased capabilities, reflected by their size, required greater clearance and propelling cranes to move, none of which may be placed in their original composition.

For example, the consolidation engine weighed 48 tons, but was replaced by the 57.3-ton class 1885.

The new place in the eastern part of the city was reflected in the name of the facility itself – Juniata Shops – which were built in the period from September 1888 to 1890 and offered a full range of functions: blacksmith; paint; boiler store; electric, plumbing and gas houses; paint structure; warehouses; hydraulic transfer table and office. The longitudinal assembly line in the configuration of the boiler-blacksmith’s workshop made it possible to increase the production of locomotives, which normally began with the flange, punching, construction and riveting of the boiler in the appropriate store before its transfer, in full form, to the place of assembly. The frames and forgings that were transferred from the blacksmith to the machine shop were now unified with cylinders and castings located in the center of the building, while the boiler was connected to the matching parts in the assembly workshop.

Final assembly, going from individual parts at the west end of the building to the completed unit at the east, usually required a week.

The Juniat complex, like its counterpart Altoon, has grown in response to demand for it. For example, in 1902–1903 enlarged erecting, blacksmith, machine and boiler plants were built, and then a second blacksmith shop and a completely new warehouse were added.

At the end of World War I, a second mechanical workshop took place in the extensive facility, which was initially used to build and repair tenders for locomotives.

Until 1926, the Juniata locomotive store consisted of two blacksmith workshops, a boiler room, two mechanical workshops, a tank workshop, and an assembly and machine workshop, enabling the repair of four locomotives a day and the production of 12 completely new ones per month. The fire that took place on December 27, 1931 and overpowered the original Altoon complex, moved all the work of the locomotives to Juniat seven years later.

Two historical events increased activity to a fever: during World War I tanks constantly called for armor reinforcement, and the transition from a traditional steam engine to a more advanced type of diesel required internal reconfiguration. However, due to increased reliability, he also signaled a reduction in staff by 1957, because it required less repairs and overhauls.

Altoona Works, peeking with 122 buildings and 218 acres of a three-mile long shipyard, employed 20,000 – 4,000 of them worked in the backyards, and 16,000 of them in stores – and produced 6,873 locomotives, becoming the largest complex of its type in the world railway stores. The Altoon population was around 90,000.

Once divided into five locations, it carried out repairs and production of locomotives in Altoon’s machine workshops, which themselves consisted of 36 departments and ran from 12 to 16 streets. Altoon’s auto stores, located in the southern part of the city, both built and repaired passenger, parlor, sleeping and postal coaches. Juniata stores offered a full range of current types of locomotive propulsion: steam, electric, gas-electric and electric diesel.

With a 395-foot diameter and 75-foot turntable, the East Altoona Engine House, fourth location, was the largest in the world with 50 stalls. The locomotive service center operated from 325 to 350 daily, including the T-1 class, the last and largest steam engine built in Altoon after installing a 110-foot turntable in 1942. The nearby East Altoona Coal Dock, a 135-foot concrete structure based on a steel frame and supplemented with 35 self-dump trucks, supplied steam engines used in Pittsburgh and Middle divisions with a capacity of 1250 tons.

South Altoona foundries, the fifth part of the complex, produced wheels for locomotives and cars.

The decline in train travel after World War II, caused by the growing popularity of cars, caused a gradual replacement of railways with highways, beginning the period of building the Altoon store and reducing employment.

The brief merger between the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central, which formed Penn Central on February 1, 1968, and initiated a $ 6.5 million modernization program, just as quickly sank into the bankruptcy tunnel two years later, on June 21, appearing as After Congress, Conrail passed a regional rail reorganization law of 1973 to investigate the uncertain situation in Penn Central. The recommended and accepted solution was to create a private company Consolidated Rail Corporation or “Conrail” from similarly corrupted companies, including Penn Central, Erie Lackawanna, Central of New Jersey, LeHigh Valley, Lehigh and Hudson River and Reading railroad tracks, in which case they chose stores with Juniata’s locomotives as the main repair facility that took over management control.

After the modernization program of 1983, he was able to offer a full production menu, repair, overhaul and maintenance services for engine controllers, alternators, power units, fans, generators and blower motors, as well as the production of the most modern modern EMD and General Electric locomotives for BNSF, CSX and Norfolk Southern, which eventually acquired the Conrail route system in Pennsylvania and, indirectly, the Juniata Shop Complex.

It still runs about 60 to 80 trains a day, including eastern and western “Pennsylvania” to New York and Pittsburgh served by Amtrak, Altoon, at the foot of Allegheny front, near the Horseshoe curve, using its obstacle topography, making an invaluable contribution to both infrastructure the country’s transport and industrial revolution, through the Pennsylvania Railroad and shopping complex, in the final transformation of obstacles into opportunities.

Altoona’s Railroad City, a tourist center in Allegheny Mountain, shares its past with current guests through the Railroaders Memorial Museum and the Horseshoe Curve monuments.

Railway Memorial Museum:

Located in the 1882 Master Mechanics Building, once used by the Pennsylvania Railroad as a test laboratory, the “Railroaders Memorial Museum”, in accordance with its self-appointed purpose, is dedicated to revealing, interpreting, commemorating and celebrating the significant contribution of railwaymen and their families to American life and industry, “a chronicle of railway history without which Altoona would not exist.

Sprouting from seeds first planted in 1967, when the Altoon Railway Museum Club was established, it was officially included as the “Railway Museum” five years later. The final plot of five acres, once occupied by the Penn Central Railroad Shop Complex and sold by the Altoon Reconstruction Office to Center Associates, was acquired in 1993. Together with the former Masters Mechanics plant and museum, which already had its grand opening on September 21 1980 celebrated its second event 18 years later, on April 25, 1998, with these additions.

Entering the interactive museum time portal that takes the visitor back to the Pennsylvania Railroad Operational Summit in the 1950s, recreated scenes, storefronts, interiors, voices and sounds, sits at a lively train station with hissing steam and piercing ears train whistles, just before entering the full-size replica of the K-4 locomotive number 1361.

The reason for the city’s existence is explained in “Why in Altoona in the world?” expose. He explains that Pittsburgh needed a rail link to the eastern part of the state, and the fledgling Pennsylvania Railroad fiercely competed with the already founded Baltimore and Ohio for the right to build it. He eventually won, merging Pittsburgh in the west with his mirror metropolis in the east, Philadelphia. But climbing Alleghenies was almost impossible. The place of wildlife, chosen by chief engineer Thomson, evolved into a base camp, which supported the feat and was called “Altoona”, eventually evolving into the capital of the world’s railways. Trains have been designed, built, tested and repaired here. His people would change the face of America and prove necessary in its protection, from the civil war to World War II.

Like many technological development chapters, Altoona, his people and the Pennsylvania Railroad have played an important role in the development of America as a nation.

Additional insight into the roots of the railways can be found in the two films ‘Altoona at Work: An Era of Steam’ and ‘Birth of a Curve’, shown on the first floor of the South Theater in Norfolk.

The “Railroad Work” and “A City of Railroaders” exhibitions on the second floor bring early Altoona back to life by recreating it in stores and surrounding areas such as Dutch Hill and Little Italy, and even include the extensive Pennsylvania Railroad model.

“Pennsy was the driving force behind Altoon’s growth,” he explains. “But the company didn’t build the city, which was the rest of the train.” Although it founded, arranged and helped, it decided not to own or build a city outside of real stores. Nevertheless, the strength and influence of the company penetrated through its arteries. Many of his districts were the result of his friends reinvesting their savings into building houses, which in turn provided rents to supplement their income.

The guest can temporarily get in their shoes. On Newstand, which was once at 12th Street Bridge, the boy, “standing” behind him in holographic form and bordering magazines for sale, tells the story of old Altoon. In the Kelly & # 39; s bar, which was once at the threshold of one of the many train shops, you can also overhear the city’s conversations.

Several residents shared their insights on the philosophy they left behind. For example, Sally Price, a Pennsylvania Railroad official, announced: “A dirty city was good because it meant people had a job. We always thought it was gold dust, not coal. It made America run away. ”

In May 1936, Fortune Magazine reported: “Think of the Pennsylvania Railroad as a country at war. The people who move these trains are soldiers on duty, day and night. ”

The far-reaching value of the railroad track network, which eventually spread northeast like a spider web, was captured by this compact gem: “Travel is the university of the nation.”

There was no more appropriate name for the railway than the one that reflected the state it conquered and associated with the rest of the country.

Museum exhibits on the third floor that focus on children include “Railroaders as American Heroes”, “The World & # 39; s Fair, “How to Run a Railroad,” “Report to Shareholders,” Test Laboratories, “and” End of the Era. ”

Outside the museum, it invites visitors to “stand in the center of the former railway store complex in the world – Altoona Works of Pennsylvania Railroad”. Established in 1850, along with the city, the stores expanded to 218 acres and occupied 122 buildings. With 88 acres under the roof, they housed 4,500 machine tools and 94 overhead cranes. Four separate groups of buildings appeared.

Stores met the ever-growing need to build, test, repair and rebuild a huge Pennsylvania fleet. During the eight decades, from 1866 to 1946, 6873 steam, diesel-electric and electric locomotives were produced here, as well as thousands of standard – and the first in the world – only steel cars, of which 16,415 left its door from 1921 to 1940. .

Today you can see several types of Pennsylvania Railroad wagons, including a N5 class cab / cabriolet (No. 477577), a steel X29L class car (No. 2136), express fridge (No. 2561) and a D78F class dining room car (number 4468). At 81 feet long, this “Altoon-built restaurant on wheels” accommodated 36 at formally set tables, but subsequent reconfiguration reduced the number to 32, with another ten sitting in the seating area. In 1941, the Pennsylvania Railway served 3.9 million meals.

Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark:

An innovative engineering approach to the conquest of the Allegheny Mountains, and thus providing trans-Pennsylvania, continuous track, east-west rail connection between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Horseshoe Curve replaced the obstruction of the inclined plane used by the Allegheny Portage Railroad. It is located 9 km from Railroaders Memorial Museum and is included in the price of the admission ticket.

Due to the growing popularity as a train view area, Kattanning Point, the bend site, was transformed into a telegraph and observation station in 1855, while the tank, built inside, supplied water to the ever-growing city of Altoona.

The demand for rail transport, generated by the equally growing demand of the country for factory-made goods, soon required an increase in train frequency, which in turn required an additional track to accommodate. The Horseshoe Curve, opening with a single line, was quadrupled in the late nineteenth century, receiving the second song in 1898, the third in 1899, and the fourth in 1900, the last two of which could be laid only after additional clearance was provided by removing parts of the face of the rock – all the while trains were still running on the inside of the arch.

Kattanning Point, for the first time in 1932, reached by a gravel road, grew out of a small stone guest lodge at its base eight years later, but was moved to a gift shop and visitor center, because this road was a symbol of which gradually bit away from the original goal of the track. This actual station was then demolished.

In 1957, the park’s operations were moved from the Pennsylvania Railroad to the city of Altoona, and a decade later Horseshoe Curve was declared a national historical landmark.

The semi-circular curve – an industrial connection to the west, topographic triumph and growth catalyst – is in fact an act of excellence, designed by and for the railway that gave rise to the city where locomotives and wagons were manufactured in such a way that the Horseshoe Curve could connect them with the rest country – one need, causing many by-products to serve each other, none of which would be possible without the other, in the final earthly expression “creation. ”

Two tables confirm these facts. The first, reflecting his status as a National Historic Land Engineering Landmark, states: “Horseshoe Curve was designed and built under the direction of Pennsylvania’s chief rail engineer and later company president J. Edgar Thomson. 366 meters wide, 1310 meters long and had a rating of 1.8 percent. ”

The second states: “Horseshoe Curve has been entered into the National Register of Historic Railway Monuments – 1854-2004. The first railroad that crosses the Allegheny Mountains between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh with a maximum rating of 1.87 percent was designed by J. Edgar Thomson 150 years ago. ”

In the museum, opposite the souvenir shop, there are exhibits titled “Building the curve”, “Conservation” and “Changing the face of the curve”, as well as a relief map and a small video room in which the film “Birth of the” Curve “can be viewed, if she was missing at the Railway Memorial Museum. It is also the starting point of a 12-seater cable car that leads to the top of the ridge and the K curve Horseshoe viewing area. Alternatively, the area can be reached by climbing 194 steps.

The dotted picnic park, centered on the 7048 diesel locomotive on the Pennsylvania railroad, allows visitors to see frequent trains around the three tracks, which now consist of a horseshoe curve in front of it or behind the Kattanning tank, which looks like a blue gem shimmering amongst green hills. The train viewing schedule, available at the souvenir shop for visitors, includes frequencies, approximate transit times and operations involving passengers or freight, and is supplemented by loud speaker transmissions from real trains. Norfolk Southern freight trains with a double locomotive, emitting protesting screams, circling massive turns on the farthest slate rock from the viewer, are common targets.

The table says the curve is 2,375 feet long and has a nine-point, 15-minute curvature, 220-degree center angle, a 1,594-meter elevation at the eastern end, and a rating of 91 feet per mile.

The plaque, placed in front of the track and entitled “Over the Hill”, describes “how the railways defeated Alleghenies’s backbone between Altoona and Johnstown.”

The Allegheny Portage state railway, of course, was the first to do so, its eastern end was west of Hollidaysburg, and its “first of ten” was designated because it was the first of ten inclined planes. Duncansville served as the original point of connection between it and the Pennsylvania railway line, whose initial main line was run by Altoon, until the opening of the Horseshoe Curve in 1854.

In parallel with his design, a continuous New Portage Railroad was built, which eliminated the uncomfortable method of traveling on an inclined plane. When buying it in 1857, the Pennsylvania Railroad did not use it until 1904, when the increased demand for freight transport required an unloading route, but abandoned it for the second time in 1981.

Area tracks were also used by SE Baker Railroad and later by Glen White Coal and Lumber Company.

Today, the Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line, originating in New York and running through Philadelphia and Harrisburg, moves through the Curseshoe Curve before negotiations with many but smaller, including McGinleys, McCanns, AG, Greenough, Brandimarte, Allegrippus, Cold, Bennington and Salpino . Continuing through the Allegheny and New Portage tunnels, he travels to Pittsburgh and to the west – a destination predicted over a century and a half ago.