Photographs & History

Photographs and History

A Ride on the Pennsylvania

Though I have spent some seven years documenting the former Pennsylvania Railroad I can count on one hand how many times I have actually rode the original Main Line between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. This past weekend I graduated to three fingers making the round trip to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia. This one however was no ordinary trip; in fact it was quite special, for it was made on two privately owned historic rail cars; Bennett and Eric Levin’s lovingly restored Warrior Ridge and the Pennsylvania 120 a former PRR business car. As an invited guest myself and several others were lucky enough to see the landscape that that PRR has traveled since its completion in 1852, traveling through places I was all to familiar with but not always from the perspective of the passenger.

"Storm lifting in the Packsaddle", William H. Rau photograph. The Packsaddle is one of several locations that were used during various illustration and photographic campaigns on the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 19th Century. Collection of American Premier Underwriters, Inc. 

"Storm lifting in the Packsaddle", William H. Rau photograph. The Packsaddle is one of several locations that were used during various illustration and photographic campaigns on the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 19th Century. Collection of American Premier Underwriters, Inc. 

It got me thinking as several of us discussed various facets of the PRR including illustrative and photographic campaigns undertaken over the years by the company. These campaigns were geared around flaunting the scenic vistas along this prolific engineered corridor; some are revisited several times, in particular during the second half of the 19th Century. Riding in a car that served PRR President Walter Franklin among other officials, I could imagine the conversations and acknowledgment of these beautiful locations that seemed to captivate railroad men whether it was because they conquered a particularly difficult pass there or because the beauty was just that breathtaking.

For over 160 years the PRR has traversed this natural landscape following the majestic Susquehanna, Juniata, Conemaugh and Allegheny Rivers among others. Throughout that time countless passengers gazed out the window at areas commanding names like Warrior Ridge, The Packsaddle, Mineral Point and Jacks Narrows. Let us not forget how many experience the westbound ascent of Horseshoe curve out of Altoona, entering the famous engineering landmark high above Burgoon Run one quickly gets a sense of the curve's purpose, watching an eastbound descend the mountain across the valley at a noticeably higher elevation. Places like this were engineered by brilliant and driven men on the backs of cheap labor wielding pick axes and shovels, they are a testament of what was possible in the by gone era of industrialization. But yet they still survive, moving countless trains on a given day, a refined version of J. Edgar Thomson’s engineering genius. Besides the trains themselves little has changed from when Frederick Gutekunst or William Rau left footprints in the cinders making the large format images that preserved this rugged beauty. I have always been fascinated by the undefined spaces the railroad travels, the areas in-between the towns, cities and villages that create a sort of rhythm that illustrates the growth and progress the railroads fostered along the line, watching the ever changing landscape from the window of train who’s predecessors we owe our Nation’s existence to.

"The Horse Shoe Curve, Pennsylvania Railroad" Illustration of the engineering landmark envisioned by  J. Edgar Thomson from an 1895 travel book which illustrates the scenic highlights of the Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line. Collection of the author. 

"The Horse Shoe Curve, Pennsylvania Railroad" Illustration of the engineering landmark envisioned by  J. Edgar Thomson from an 1895 travel book which illustrates the scenic highlights of the Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line. Collection of the author. 

Yes this weekend was a welcome distraction, a reminder of why I embarked on this project, to document and share a railroad so historic and massive that its reputation and design lasted longer the company itself. To spend time on the railroad with like minded folks on a pair of beautifully restored private cars was exactly what I needed to put into perspective the past, present and future of railroading on the Pennsylvania Railroad and the landscape it travels. In regard to preservation, I take off my hat to people like the Levin’s who share the legacy of railroad travel in style and take every opportunity to see to it their guests are comfortable and having a good time. And to my fellow travel mates, I made some new friends and shared some great stories about the very railroad that bought us all together. Though the Pennsylvania Railroad has been gone for quite some time it is experiences like this that reinforce that the spirit and pride of the former Standard Railroad of the World is still very much alive through so many people and their work to preserve our railroad heritage. This is a trip that will stick with me for quite a long time!

Harrisburg Passenger Station

Front elevation drawing of the Harrisburg Train Station.   (below) Detail drawings of the fireplace and floor tile work. Drawings collection of the Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service drawn by Harry Weese & Associates  .

Front elevation drawing of the Harrisburg Train Station. (below) Detail drawings of the fireplace and floor tile work. Drawings collection of the Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service drawn by Harry Weese & Associates.

Harrisburg was at the crossroads of the eastern system, and the largest city on the PRR between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. From the east passenger trains originated from Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore and Washington DC, from the west traffic came via Buffalo and Pittsburgh gateways to the North, South and West.

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The surviving passenger station, built between 1885-87 is the third such built by the PRR in the general area between Mulberry and Market Streets. Constructed of brick and stone, the Queen Anne style station was altered several times during the early 20th Century and featured details like facing granite and brick fireplaces in the main waiting room, coffered ceilings, wood paneling and intricate mosaic tile floor patterns. After a destructive fire in 1904, the station was completely remodeled restoring the unique gambrel roof while converting the attic space into a third floor for offices adding the eight dormers on the front (east) elevation. A major addition to facilitate the electrification to Harrisburg in 1936-37 added a two story, three bay extensions on the south end of the building to accommodate the new Power Dispatcher’s facility and State Interlocking.

Train shed interior looking east. Notice the intricate iron work on the stair railings and trusses. The active center platform has been elevated to accommodate Amtrak/ ADA compliance needs but the remaining low level platforms are still traditional herringbone brick with stone curbs. This shed is one of few remaining examples of a style of station that was once commonplace in America.

Train shed interior looking east. Notice the intricate iron work on the stair railings and trusses. The active center platform has been elevated to accommodate Amtrak/ ADA compliance needs but the remaining low level platforms are still traditional herringbone brick with stone curbs. This shed is one of few remaining examples of a style of station that was once commonplace in America.

The surviving train sheds behind and to the east of the station were of even greater significance. When constructed they were considered some of the largest of its time, utilizing historic Fink trusses constructed of wood and iron to support the roof. The twin station sheds were extended at various times and measure roughly 540 feet in length providing shelter to 8 of the 10 station tracks maintained in the busy terminal.

View from photographer Harlen Hambright, taken during the 1981 HAER survey. Survey caption reads "View, looking north (railroad west) under shed from concourse, showing exposed truss after shed roofing was removed." Collection of the Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service.

View from photographer Harlen Hambright, taken during the 1981 HAER survey. Survey caption reads "View, looking north (railroad west) under shed from concourse, showing exposed truss after shed roofing was removed." Collection of the Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service.

Current view of the south (railroad east) end of the station bound by the Mulberry Street Viaduct itself a beautiful curved concrete arch bridge. The track curving off from the bottom right is Norfolk Southern's connection with the former Reading Company Lebanon Branch, now part of the busy Harrisburg Line. The track immediately behind that and parallel to the station is the Royalton Branch which provides freight an alternate route off the Port Road via Shocks Mill, running alongside Amtrak's Keystone Line west of Roy Interlocking.

Current view of the south (railroad east) end of the station bound by the Mulberry Street Viaduct itself a beautiful curved concrete arch bridge. The track curving off from the bottom right is Norfolk Southern's connection with the former Reading Company Lebanon Branch, now part of the busy Harrisburg Line. The track immediately behind that and parallel to the station is the Royalton Branch which provides freight an alternate route off the Port Road via Shocks Mill, running alongside Amtrak's Keystone Line west of Roy Interlocking.

Today the passenger terminal and sheds survive and are on the National Register of Historic Places and are also designated as a National Engineering Landmark. Known as the Harrisburg Transportation Center, the building serves both bus lines and Amtrak, where the Keystone Service from Philadelphia and New York Terminates, and the daily New York – Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian calls in each direction. While passenger train service is a mere ghost of what it used to be, the historic building survives as a monument of what rail travel used to be for future generations.

Situated on the former #5 Station track, PRR class GG-1# #4859 resides as part of a permanent display owned and maintained by the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, also accompanied by a class N6b PRR Cabin Car (caboose to non-PRR people). The 4859 is of particular significance to Harrisburg as it hauled the first scheduled electric powered passenger train into the station in 1938. The locomotive was part of a fleet of 140 locomotives built by both the PRR in Altoona and General Electric, the ubiquitous G,  was the workhorse of both the limiteds, regional and local passenger/ mail trains as well as freight on the PRR. The last operational  GG-1 ran in October of 1983 and 16 survive around the US as static displays.

Situated on the former #5 Station track, PRR class GG-1# #4859 resides as part of a permanent display owned and maintained by the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, also accompanied by a class N6b PRR Cabin Car (caboose to non-PRR people). The 4859 is of particular significance to Harrisburg as it hauled the first scheduled electric powered passenger train into the station in 1938. The locomotive was part of a fleet of 140 locomotives built by both the PRR in Altoona and General Electric, the ubiquitous G,  was the workhorse of both the limiteds, regional and local passenger/ mail trains as well as freight on the PRR. The last operational  GG-1 ran in October of 1983 and 16 survive around the US as static displays.

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

Part Five: Johnstown Proper: Although Johnstown has lost a good deal of manufacturing the City still has a lot to offer including several great museums, walking tours, the historic Inclined Plane to Westmont, Point Park and a Minor League Baseball Stadium among other key features that are part of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association. Below are several images made over the past five years of the City Center, exploring both the City's relationship with the railroads as well as the landscape and architecture in general.

View looking Northeast of Franklin Street Bridge across the Stoneycreek River from Somerset Street. Building on the far side is the Conrad Building which dates from 1900  .

View looking Northeast of Franklin Street Bridge across the Stoneycreek River from Somerset Street. Building on the far side is the Conrad Building which dates from 1900.

View of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, demolished some time after this visit in 2007, for the Northrop Grumman Technology Park that now occupies the site  .

View of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, demolished some time after this visit in 2007, for the Northrop Grumman Technology Park that now occupies the site.

View from Flood Wall, Stoney Creek River and Franklin St Bridge. The church to the right is the Trinity United Methodist Church.

View from Flood Wall, Stoney Creek River and Franklin St Bridge. The church to the right is the Trinity United Methodist Church.

Support tracks and an interchange yard that runs parallel to Washington St fans out behind the Gautier Works in town, illustrating the Work’s dependency on the railroad to transport both raw and finished materials from just one of the many divisions of the Bethlehem Works.

Support tracks and an interchange yard that runs parallel to Washington St fans out behind the Gautier Works in town, illustrating the Work’s dependency on the railroad to transport both raw and finished materials from just one of the many divisions of the Bethlehem Works.

Leaving the Gautier Works complex behind the C&BL crosses the Conemaugh River on a impressive through truss span, and ducks under the PRR mainline just East of the Johnstown train station.

Leaving the Gautier Works complex behind the C&BL crosses the Conemaugh River on a impressive through truss span, and ducks under the PRR mainline just East of the Johnstown train station.

Just past the C&BL underpass is the train station the PRR built in 1916 by famous Architect Kenneth M. Murchison of New York City. Murchison is also known for his historic designs of the surviving Delaware and Lackawanna Stations in Hoboken NJ and Scranton PA as well as Baltimore’s Union Station (later known as Baltimore Penn Station for the dominate service of the PRR).  The station, just recently donated to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association is intended to become a cornerstone to the downtown tourism development and provides a beautiful entry to a City on the verge of rebirth as an Industrial and Cultural Heritage Center in Western PA.

Just past the C&BL underpass is the train station the PRR built in 1916 by famous Architect Kenneth M. Murchison of New York City. Murchison is also known for his historic designs of the surviving Delaware and Lackawanna Stations in Hoboken NJ and Scranton PA as well as Baltimore’s Union Station (later known as Baltimore Penn Station for the dominate service of the PRR).  The station, just recently donated to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association is intended to become a cornerstone to the downtown tourism development and provides a beautiful entry to a City on the verge of rebirth as an Industrial and Cultural Heritage Center in Western PA.

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

Part Four: Johnstown's Old Conemaugh Section: Moving into Johnstown from Franklin we enter a historic neighborhood that at one time was served by several railroads. The Baltimore and Ohio’s Somerset & Cambria Branch was a line incorporated in 1879, to tap local coal resources and serve the Bethlehem works. Though not nearly the operation of the PRR, the B&O nonetheless maintained a presence in town. Coming up from the South along the Stonycreek River, the line comes into the Old Conemaugh Section of town and forks, moving West toward a connection with the C&BL along Washington Street, and East along the sprawling Gautier Works between Clinton and Short Street toward the former Station area and Freight house that still stands today.

View looking West on Short Street with former S&C Freight House on the right and the Cathedral of Saint John Gualbert standing prominently in the center.

View looking West on Short Street with former S&C Freight House on the right and the Cathedral of Saint John Gualbert standing prominently in the center.

Three very unique houses along Railroad Street in the Conemaugh Section of Johnstown.

Three very unique houses along Railroad Street in the Conemaugh Section of Johnstown.

Two Churches are evident in this view from a lot bordering the Former S&C Branch looking Northwest. The Steeple in the foreground belongs to the 1891 Zion Lutheran Church the two further towers are part of the Cathedral of Saint John Gualbert built in 1895.

Two Churches are evident in this view from a lot bordering the Former S&C Branch looking Northwest. The Steeple in the foreground belongs to the 1891 Zion Lutheran Church the two further towers are part of the Cathedral of Saint John Gualbert built in 1895.

View North from Matthew Street with Clinton Street side of the Gautier Works.

View North from Matthew Street with Clinton Street side of the Gautier Works.

Rear view of the 1906 Central Catholic School, part of St. Joseph's German Catholic Church on Railroad Ave. This view is from Short Street looking south

Rear view of the 1906 Central Catholic School, part of St. Joseph's German Catholic Church on Railroad Ave. This view is from Short Street looking south

View from Singer Street looking Northwest. Note the Gautier Works behind the buildings on Railroad Street at the bottom of the hill.

View from Singer Street looking Northwest. Note the Gautier Works behind the buildings on Railroad Street at the bottom of the hill.

As mentioned the B&O and C&BL served the Gautier Works located along Clinton Street, accessing the sprawling facility from the North Side. The Gautier Works produced wire fencing, plows and other steel products for the agriculture industry. The size of this facility is quite evident from high views such as the one afforded from the surrounding hill sides.

View of trackage along Washington Street looking Northwest. Note the Gautier Works to the right. From  from the track layout this appeared to be an interchange area with B&O S&C Branch and the C&BL.

View of trackage along Washington Street looking Northwest. Note the Gautier Works to the right. From  from the track layout this appeared to be an interchange area with B&O S&C Branch and the C&BL.

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

Part Three: Franklin

Franklin is directly across from East Conemaugh, spread in two small neighborhoods, the eastern section is stacked on the hillside overlooking the former mill and river valley, once a home to many steel workers and the actual “hot side” of the Johnstown Works.

View of the eastern section of Franklin from East Conemaugh.   Former PRR Mainline and Woodvale Yard in foreground. Note the Strank Memorial Bridge and old Chessie boxcar that appeared in the East Conemaugh Post last time from the opposide side of the Conemaugh River.

View of the eastern section of Franklin from East Conemaugh. Former PRR Mainline and Woodvale Yard in foreground. Note the Strank Memorial Bridge and old Chessie boxcar that appeared in the East Conemaugh Post last time from the opposide side of the Conemaugh River.

The former blast furnace and open hearth mills of the Bethlehem Johnstown Works from the Locust St. Bridge in Franklin. Note the C&BL lead that used to provide rail service into the mill.

The former blast furnace and open hearth mills of the Bethlehem Johnstown Works from the Locust St. Bridge in Franklin. Note the C&BL lead that used to provide rail service into the mill.

Further West, down Rt 271, heading South West, you cross the Conemaugh River and enter the western end of town, including a small area of housing and churches that also was home to the Rail Car Division later spun off to FreightCar America Works, which was to become one of the last remaining steel related manufacturing facilities of the former Bethlehem Johnstown Works.

Car Wash and St. John the Baptist Church from Jasper Alley.

Car Wash and St. John the Baptist Church from Jasper Alley.

Various freight cars waiting for work at the Franklin Railcar America facility   .

Various freight cars waiting for work at the Franklin Railcar America facility.

In 2008 the works closed its doors, taking much need jobs and tax revenue from this struggling little town.  As of the Fall of 2010, the facility was being leveled, ending hopes of manufacturing jobs that were once plentiful in a small town with big industry.

Stored tank cars awaiting reconditioning. The weedy yard and empty tracks of the C&BL interchange yard speak of the impending shut down of Railcar America facility which happened in 2008.

Stored tank cars awaiting reconditioning. The weedy yard and empty tracks of the C&BL interchange yard speak of the impending shut down of Railcar America facility which happened in 2008.

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

Part 2: East Conemaugh

The railroad maintained facilities here including Woodvale Yard, access to the Johnstown branch and interchange with the Conemaugh and Black Lick RR, the Baltimore and Ohio Railway, and a engine terminal that supported both local operations and helper assignments that assisted Eastbounds on the ascent of the Allegheny escarpment.

View looking toward East Conemaugh. Taken from the Town of Franklin, Conemaugh and Black Lick trackage is in the foreground, the River, and finally the PRR and East Conemaugh nestled along the distant ridge. The bridge to the right is the Strank Memorial Bridge which is soon to be replaced.

View looking toward East Conemaugh. Taken from the Town of Franklin, Conemaugh and Black Lick trackage is in the foreground, the River, and finally the PRR and East Conemaugh nestled along the distant ridge. The bridge to the right is the Strank Memorial Bridge which is soon to be replaced.

The town itself, like many other smaller Pennsylvania towns, is a unique assortment of original buildings, signage, and character, void of the congestion, shopping malls, and the box store epidemic of suburban sprawl.

Small businesses flank quiet side streets that run parallel to the former PRR Mainline and Woodvale Terminal. This is a view from Davis Street between Cherry and East Railroad St.

Small businesses flank quiet side streets that run parallel to the former PRR Mainline and Woodvale Terminal. This is a view from Davis Street between Cherry and East Railroad St.

The town’s design speaks of its relationship to the railroad, how the commercial center borders just blocks off the railroad tracks, becoming more residential as you progress further up the hill. Hand painted signage, beautiful old examples of small town architecture and community churches dot the landscape.

Former First National Bank Building, 300 Block of Greeve St.

Former First National Bank Building, 300 Block of Greeve St.

Church of the Living God, Cambria Street, with residences on neighboring Heritage St. to the right.

Church of the Living God, Cambria Street, with residences on neighboring Heritage St. to the right.

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

Part 1: Eastern Entry to the Valley

The Mainline of the Pennsylvania Railroad entered the Johnstown area from the East following the North Bank of the Conemaugh River. Parallel on the South side was the Conemaugh and Black Lick RR (C&BL), a Bethlehem Steel owned terminal road whose existence was to support the local steel facilities spread through out the valley.

View from Franklin Park Showing the river valley and proximity of the C&BL in the foreground and Mainline on the far Side of the River.  This image is in the area of the Allegheny Portage Railroad trail that leads East to the preserved Staple Bend Tunnel, now a National Historic Landmark and linear park.

View from Franklin Park Showing the river valley and proximity of the C&BL in the foreground and Mainline on the far Side of the River.  This image is in the area of the Allegheny Portage Railroad trail that leads East to the preserved Staple Bend Tunnel, now a National Historic Landmark and linear park.

AO interlocking, deep in the Conemaugh River Valley below the Village of Park Hill, was remote controlled by Conemaugh Tower, to facilitate moves of both freight traffic and helper engines into and out of the Woodvale Terminal.

AO interlocking, deep in the Conemaugh River Valley below the Village of Park Hill, was remote controlled by Conemaugh Tower, to facilitate moves of both freight traffic and helper engines into and out of the Woodvale Terminal.

View from the Parkhill area, looking South West into the Villages of East Conemaugh (right) and Franklin, PA (left).  If one examines the image carefully a long unit coal train can be seen snaking along the North (right) side of the Valley. Opposite, image center, is the remains of the Wheel Mill, a part of Bethlehem’s now defunct Railcar Division.

View from the Parkhill area, looking South West into the Villages of East Conemaugh (right) and Franklin, PA (left).  If one examines the image carefully a long unit coal train can be seen snaking along the North (right) side of the Valley. Opposite, image center, is the remains of the Wheel Mill, a part of Bethlehem’s now defunct Railcar Division.

PRR: A Johnstown View

Johnstown, Pennsylvania is a town dear to me, through my travels photographing the Mainline Series, the location was key to other areas that lacked amenities, central to the railroad's Western ascent of the Alleghenies, and home to some amazing people, landscapes, architecture, and history. Beginning in the 1850’s with Cambria Iron works, the area flourished, with the steel works growing and changing, the facilities eventually became part of the Bethlehem Steel Company. In early times, tragedy in the way of the Great Flood of 1889 struck, taking over an estimated 2200 lives, with almost 1000 more missing. Subsequent floods in 1936 and 1972 necessitated additional flood walls and engineered river channels to prevent the loss of life and property that devastated Johnstown at an early age.

Later, in the 20th Century tragedy would come in other ways, mainly the collapse of domestic steel production. In the early 1970’s employment was holding steady at approximately 11,800 employees. Ten years later compounded by environmental regulations, a location that couldn’t compete with the inter-modal transport Pittsburgh and Burns Harbor was privileged to, and damage incurred from the Flood of 1977; employment plummeted to 2100 workers in 1982. As time progressed some facilities have been re-purposed, others survived only later to be shuttered. While much of the Steel Production is gone the City has embraced re-invention moving forward into the 21st Century.

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Over the three plus years traveling the Mainline from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh I stayed in Johnstown many times, through out the various seasons. It allowed me time to become aquatinted with the area and photograph in the surrounding landscape more than many other places. While Altoona, Pittsburgh, and the Harrisburg areas have plenty to offer, for me, Johnstown is a particularly special place.

Though the steel industry at large has been absent from Johnstown for quite some time, the resilient people have moved on, adapted and are moving forward to bring more business and tourism to the area. Small boroughs, beautiful and unique architecture and a sense of small town life are things that really attracted me to the area, not to mention the history and railroad!

Over the next two months we will examine the region and its relationship to the former PRR Mainline moving from East to West, establishing a larger view of not just the trains, but the greater landscape that thrived around it.

Tyrone Pennsylvania

Just West of the of the former PRR Tyrone train station and current Amshack the Mainline made a sharp turn South heading down the Valley to the well know City of Altoona. This simple study looks across Spruce St and the Mainline at dusk in September of 2008. To the right is the yard trackage and connection to the Bald Eagle Branch, a line that provided a alternative route to the Mainline and access to the Upper Susquehanna Valley.

Just West of the of the former PRR Tyrone train station and current Amshack the Mainline made a sharp turn South heading down the Valley to the well know City of Altoona. This simple study looks across Spruce St and the Mainline at dusk in September of 2008. To the right is the yard trackage and connection to the Bald Eagle Branch, a line that provided a alternative route to the Mainline and access to the Upper Susquehanna Valley.

Hello again! I have been absent for a while but for good reasons! Stay tuned for many more updates and a series of posts about the great City of Johnstown, a place that I spent a great deal of time photographing and visiting during the Mainline Project! The series will touch on history and the landscape in which Steel mills and Steel rails intertwined with the Conemaugh River, defining the city's industrial status though a great deal of the 20th Century. Many other exciting projects are on the horizon, making 2011 a much more productive photography year! I will talk more about that soon, but for now enjoy this post on one of my favorite images from the Tyrone area! I will actually be traveling back to some of these areas this month and hope to share more as they become available! Enjoy!

Mike Froio

PRR: Summit of the Allegheny Mountains

PRR

At the Summit of the Allegheny Range we look east on Sugar Run Valley in Cambria County PA. Immediately below us #3 track exits the New Portage Tunnel, this is the eastbound main commonly referred to as "the slide" on account of its 2.0 to 2.36 grade descending the Summit. Joining from the left, tracks 1 and 2 curve around from Gallitzin and Allegheny Tunnel (now just the newer Gallitzin Tunnel since Conrail increased clearances on the line in the 1990's). While the line is quiet during a steady mid-day rain, activity here can be quite impressive, watching west-bounds top the Allegheny Range and eastbound trains begin there descent to Horseshoe Curve and ultimately Altoona the eastern base of the climb.

Wills Creek on the Baltimore and Ohio

Former Baltimore and Ohio Mainline crossing of Wills Creek, Fairhope Pennsylvania, 2007  .

Former Baltimore and Ohio Mainline crossing of Wills Creek, Fairhope Pennsylvania, 2007.

It's a new year and we are on the beautiful property of Earl and Shirley Cummings of the "Second Best Place" a beautiful A frame cabin in Central Southern Pennsylvania along the former B&O mainline from Cumberland to Pittsburgh. Although its not nearly as busy as the former PRR route to the North, the scenery is breathtaking, rugged, and virtually unspoiled. This is no doubt one of the best places to watch trains, reconnect with nature, hike, fish, or simply unplug from the wired world. My family tries to visit once a year for a long weekend of kids playing in the open field and running to the tracks when the next train approaches.

Mainline for the Holidays

PRR Summerhill PA

We find ourselves in the tiny village of Summerhill PA on the West Slope of the PRR's ascent of the Allegheny Mountains. What is missing to the viewer is the smell of coal fired stoves, and the silent still of a fresh early morning snow. The temperature is about 28 degrees, and the sound of another eastbound is prominent as the Signal on No. 1 track beckons on with a "Proceed" indication on the company's trademark position light signals. Even though this is Norfolk Southern's property now, the spirit of the Pennsy lives on through so many who are dedicated to the preservation of all facets of this once self proclaimed "Standard Railroad of the World".

Thank you for all you interest in my first year of this blog, from my family to yours I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New year!

Sincerely,

Michael Froio

ALTO Tower

ALTO tower stands guard over the Western Limits of the interlocking and the junction of the Holidaysburg Branch that leaves the Main to the left.

ALTO tower stands guard over the Western Limits of the interlocking and the junction of the Holidaysburg Branch that leaves the Main to the left.

Looking west from the 17th Street Bridge, no less than four main tracks pass underneath you and in front of ALTO tower, the last remaining tower of 6 that originally guided trains through the busy terminal area of Altoona PA. Built in 1910, the quaint but weathered structure stands equipped with a typical Union Switch and Signal Electro-pneumatic interlocking plant. Through consolidation over the years, the tower's territory was expanded with the addition of CTC machines to control traffic through SLOPE (West of Alto), ANTIS, HOMER, ROSE, AND WORKS (All East of ALTO).

In addition to the steady flow of traffic coming off Horseshoe Curve eastbound, heavy westbounds will stop for helpers here for the assist up the stiff grade to the summit of the Allegheny Mountains. While Altoona is not the Company town it was for the PRR, Norfolk Southern utilizes the Juniata Shops for heavy overhaul projects for both their equipment and contract work to other railroads. In addition the heritage and stories of the PRR live on at the Altoona Railroader's Memorial Museum, soon to be the home again to K4's 1361.

Woodvale Yard and the West Slope

The sleepy Borough of Franklin wakes up in a low fog alongside former Woodvale Yard on the PRR mainline about 275 miles West of Philadelphia's Broad Street Station. Like many local communities Franklin has a prominent church, St john the Baptist that stands dominant along the nearby mountain ridge.

The sleepy Borough of Franklin wakes up in a low fog alongside former Woodvale Yard on the PRR mainline about 275 miles West of Philadelphia's Broad Street Station. Like many local communities Franklin has a prominent church, St john the Baptist that stands dominant along the nearby mountain ridge.

Woodvale Yard sat along the Mainline and Conemaugh River, in the communities of East Conemaugh and Franklin, Eastern Sections of the City of Johnstown. The yard once provided support for the bustling steel works and acted as an interchange with the Conemaugh and Black Lick Railroad, a Bethlehem Steel owned shifting railroad that serviced the sprawling complex that was spread across the Conemaugh River Valley. Today, the yard is little more than staging and storage for coal trains heading west to the nearby power plant in New Florence. The yard also serves as the western base for helpers to assist trains up the Western ascent of the Allegheny Range to the Summit at Gallitzin PA.