RAILFANNING THE PRR: ALTOONA, PA. AREA

RAILFANNING THE PRR:
Altoona, Pa. Area


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Acknowledgements

Dave Rice drice41@cat99.altoona.k12.pa.us
Updated directions to Horse Shoe Curve.

General Directions to the Area

Your best bet to follow along is topo maps. Horse Shoe Curve and Gallitzin are on 2 separate maps. However, my description below should be sufficient for any without a topo map. I don't recall how distinct the items I'm describing are on a DeLorme.

Click on the map to get a larger (10K) version.

The Altoona area is most easily accessed from exits 10 (Johnstown) or 11 (Altoona) of the Pennsylavania Turnpike, the latter connecting to US-220/I-__ (expressway) to the north. From the east, you can use US 22/322, which has the additional benefit of paralleling the Pennsylvania Middle Division mainline.

Altoona Proper &
Railroaders' Memorial Museum

Horse Shoe Curve

HSC may be accessed by driving downhill from the road described below until just after you pass through the one-way tunnel with the traffic signal. Or, you may approach it by turning west on 40th Ave in Altoona and following this road up the hill to the visitor's center. Or, from I-99 (new US 220), PA 764 (becomes 6th Ave.), left onto 58th St. (at Sheetz Corporate Training Center), over tracks and winding road, left at "T" onto Horseshoe Curve Rd.

Gallitzin/Tunnelhill Area

My thanks to Drew McGhee for setting me straight on a number of items, and for adding others.

Note that the village of Tunnelhill is just east, and somewhat south, of the rather larger town of Gallitzin. Through Tunnelhill passes an approximately N/S road that connects, from north to south, to:

  1. the road downhill (east) to the Curve
  2. Gallitzin
  3. Tunnelhill and Sugar Run Rd. to the east
  4. Allegheny Portage RR NHS and (new) US-22.

Gallitzin is situated at the western portals of the tunnels, which are quite widely separated to allow for a 'loop' track to turn helpers from the eastern grade. A wooden cabin car is situated off the northern 2 portals (Allegheny and Gallitzin) at UN interlocking (remotely controlled from AR, and now from the dispatcher's desk). AR tower is found just off the southern portal (New Portage).

SF Interlocking

Taking the road from Tunnelhill downhill to the east, Sugar Run Road, in short order you will come upon a slightly widened shoulder on the north side of the road, from which emanates a dirt road to the north. (There are 2 such shoulders in the area; if memory serves, the more western of the two is the desired one.) New US-22 (expressway) should be visible on a high fill to your south. The dirt road leads to a Conrail gate and then to SF interlocking, just east of the east tunnel portals. The New Portage Branch (Mule Shoe Curve) used to join in here.

Portions of the New Portage RoW to the south (RR "east") of SF interlocking are now covered by the new US 22 fill.

MG Interlocking

Continuing down Sugar Run Rd. from Tunnelhill another 0.5-1.5 mile, or so, you will note a dirt road cutting off to the left and up, at about a 60 degree left turn from the road. There is a power line on wooden poles paralleling it. This is the road to MG.

This quite rocky and rutted road will split in about a mile into an upper and lower road; take the upper one, to the left. This will take you to the roadbed which will be visible to your left and above you. Park to the side, as the road is used by others in summer.

I would not recommend taking the road after a rainstorm in a standard car. The beginning of the road may be deceivingly passable, and the hike out and up to Tunnelhill in the rain will not be pleasant if you get stuck further in. This is definitely a Jeep/4WD Truck road which is, however, quite passable by car on a good day. The road, so far as I can tell, is public. The railroad, of course, is not.

Drew McGhee reminds me that Sugar Run Rd. ultimately leads to 7th Ave & 58th St / US Route 764 in Altoona (Alegheny Twp).

Other Access Points

The local topographic maps (get the 7.5' series) show quite a number of "jeep roads" on the uphill side of Horse Shoe Curve and elsewhere. It appears these roads are not on Conrail property, but I do now know this for a fact.

Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS

While there, do not miss the Allegheny Portage RR site, which is quite easily overlooked. The park is south of Gallitzin, just off 22, but is *divided* into 2 halves which are *unconnected* by road. You must get back on a local road and get over to OLD US-22 (unmarked as such, but those of you experienced in observing geography and Man's influence upon it will recognize a road of bygone glory). There's a beautiful *curved* stone bridge there, and further down the grade, old US-22 passed underneath the Mule Shoe Curve, easily accessible by a wide shoulder/dirt road just on the SW side of the RR bridge. This is quite a steep grade, and a very sharp curve is just E of the RR bridge, so make your turning-off intentions *quite* obvious to all.

There may also be something at Foot of Ten [foot of incline #10], I don't know. Then, there's the Johnstown incline on the other end, and the Johnstown flood memorial. Plus all the stuff in Altoona and HS Curve itself.


Mark D. Bej
bejm@eeg.ccf.org
+1 216-444-0119
1996.04.15