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Pennsylvania Railroads: History and Heritage


An Elderhostel Program


September 16 - 22, 2007


This was my second railroad Elderhostel of 2007.  In June, I

to Colorado to ride the historic trains of that state.  I had

previously participated in the Trains of New England

Elderhostel last year.  This Elderhostel was just as

interesting as the others.  My week long program began

on Sunday, September 16th.  Our group assembled at the

Country Inn of Lancaster, Pa.  We were 27 Elderhostelers

from all over the USA. 



A restaurant nearby served as our meeting place and meal source. 

We will be traveling around the state of Pennsylvania for

the week so we were able to leave our cars at the motel.



We traveled on  this bus and it was very comfortable

as some of our drives were lengthy.



Our first stop Monday morning was at the Railroad Museum

of Pennsylvania.  It was in the city of Strasburg which was

fairly close to our motel.  The museum has a very extensive

collection of railroad cars and locomotives. 



These large steam Pennsylvania locomotives greeted us as

we entered the museum.  They were a sign of things to

come as we toured the museum.



After a brief introduction to the museum, we started

our tour on the second level where we observed the

large collection of cars and locomotives. 

All were in excellent condition.



A Pennsylvania Railroad steam locomotive from days past.



One of the Pennsylvania Railroad's classic 2-C-C-2 class

type GG -1 electric locomotive.  These locomotive's were designed

my famous designer Raymond Loewy.  They

caused a sensation when introduced.



One of several depiction of railroad crews at work.  In this

scene the crew men are adding ice blocks

to this refrigerated box car.



This classic old time steam locomotive on display is an example

of nineteenth century locomotive engineering.  This locomotive

was built in 1875 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works

of Philadelphia.  There was a great range of locomotives

on display.  This locomotive was used by

Virginia & Truckee Railroad. Locomotives on

display ranged from early steam locomotives

to modern day diesel electric models.



A steam switch engine from the Philadelphia and Reading railroad. 

This locomotive was built in 1918 by the P & R Reading shops. 



This Amtrak locomotive was on display in the outdoor section

of the museum.  There were several Amtrak cars at the museum.



On the grounds outside the museum were many more cars

and locomotives on display.  It was difficult to not try

and include them all in this web page.  Above is a steam

locomotive No. 6755.  It was built in 1930.  It was a dual

service locomotive able to haul freight and passenger trains.



Across the street from the Museum was the Strasburg Railroad.  This

operating railroad was in the business of providing a tourist

railroad experience to the public.  The day we visited the railroad

they were featuring train rides behind the locomotive "Thomas the Train". 

There were many families with their children to enjoy traveling

with Thomas.  The station area was set up to provide the maximum

Thomas experience.  Gift tents selling Thomas items were plentiful. 



Here comes the steam locomotive that will pull our excursion train. 

We did not have to travel with all the kids on the Thomas train. 



We passed a large corn field maze as we steamed along.



Several of the farms we passed had building for drying tobacco. 

You can see the tobacco hanging upside down in the barn.



After our day at the museum and Strasburg Railroad, we traveled

out in the countryside to have dinner at an Amish farm.  As we

drove along we went through the towns of Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse, Pa. 

The meal was served traditional family style and was delicious. 

Homemade ice cream and pies were served for desert.



The Amish do not use automobiles and trucks.  All of their families

travel by their well known horse and carriages.  The Amish

kids ride scooters like these to get around.



On the way back to the motel we stopped at another Amish farm to

visit a traditional Amish gift shop.  There were many Amish

made gifts available.  The gifts included expensive

handmade quilts to home made jams and jellies.  The gift shop

was illuminated by means of propane gas lanterns.



Tuesday morning found our group on the bus heading to the

Pioneer Tunnel & Coal Mine.  Above is the Vulcan locomotive

that took us on a short ride to visit an abandon "bootleg"

coal mine.  We also saw an area where a strip mine was located.



At the point where the tracks for the steam train ride ended was

an example of a "bootleg" coal mine.  Shown above is the type

of coal mine that was found throughout the coal mining region. 

These mines were dug by men who were willing to

defy trespass laws and brave cave-ins to obtain a

few bags of coal to sell or to heat their homes. 

When discovered these mines were dynamited shut.



After our train ride, we took a coal mine tour.  We went into the

Pioneer Tunnel to reach the mine area.  Above is the

locomotive that took our train into the mine.



Members of our group waiting to enter the coal mine.



A display of coal mine mule.  Most mules were born and

died in the mines without ever seeing daylight.



An escape route in case of a cave in in the mine.



A display showing a young boy who worked in them mine. 

Many young boys worked in the mines.  They helped to move

the coal down the chutes that carried the coal to

the train that hauled it to the surface.



After our coal mine tour we bussed to Tamaqua for lunch.  We ate in the

"Restaurant at the Station."  The station has been restored

and is an excellent example to what railroad stations were in years past. 

After lunch, we bussed to Wilkes Barre where we check into a

Hampton Inn which will be our headquarters for the next two nights. 

We enjoyed an afternoon lecture by  George Spohrer. 

He talked about his railroading experiences that he had in the

Wilkes Barre and Scranton areas when growing up.



Wednesday morning arrived bright and sunny.  We are off to Steamtown

National Historic Site.  Above is the turntable and round house

area where we received a Steamtown briefing and tour of the site's

repair shops.  The roundhouse houses a visitor center, History Museum,

Technology Museum and theater. 



The Technology Museum had a cut away display of the various

parts of a steam locomotive.  It was a great visual picture of

how a steam locomotive works.



Looking into the boiler of a steam locomotive.



Another locomotive boiler being repaired.



Steamtown has an extensive collection of railroad cars and locomotives. 

Pictured above is the railroad yards where these various

cars and locomotives are stored.  To the far left in this picture is the

Steamtown Mall in downtown Scranton.



This rotary snowplow is one of the more interesting pieces of

rolling stock in the yards at Steamtown.



A traditional box car from the Delaware & Hudson Railroad on

display in the roundhouse area.



One of the more photogenic displays at Steamtown was locomotive 6039. 

It is a oil fired locomotive.



A Vulcan switch locomotive built at nearby Wilkes Barre.



One of the largest coal fired locomotives on display was this

Union Pacific "Big Boy" number 4012.  It is truly a huge locomotive in every way.



Adjacent to  Steamtown was the Electric City Trolley Station and Museum. 

It had Trolleys on display along with several working trolleys.



The entrance area of the trolley museum.  On display were

some restored trolley cars.



We had a trolley ride from the Steamtown station as part of our

visit to their museum.  The trip covered a local route

of five miles.  Part of the trip was in a mile long tunnel.



The ride ended at the trolley's terminal and repair facility near the

local baseball stadium which is the home of the

New Yankee's triple A farm team.



Thursday morning found our group on the road very early for our morning

long drive to ride on the Tioga Central Railroad at

Wellsboro, Pa.  Above is the railroad's gift shop.



This is one of the two locomotives that will provide the power

for our twenty-four mile ride this morning.



The train ride took us through the Pennsylvania countryside. 

We stopped at Hammond Lake before returning to the railroad's station.



A photo of the Tioga Central train traveling back to the station.



Our second stop of the day was at Bellefonte. Pa Central Railroad station. 

We had an interesting lecture about the local railroad's

history and current activities. 



There was an old wooden snowplow on display near the station.



The railroad's main attraction is two Budd Company powered coaches

number's RDC # 1953 and RDC #9167.  These cars are used for

excursion rides by the railroad.

Our day ended with a drive on to Altoona, Pa.  where we will stay for

the last two nights of our week long railroad experience.

We had a very nice dinner in a brew pub near our motel.



Our Friday morning dawned with fog all round.  Above is the

Railroaders Memorial Museum in downtown Altoona. 



You are greeted by a depiction of railroad travel when you enter the museum.



The museum had great displays and exhibits.  The history of

railroading in this area was well represented.  Above is a scene of

two railroad employees measuring a locomotive wheel.



Outside the museum were some interesting static displays of railroad

rolling stock.  Above is a CR "Queen Mary" flat car.  This

depressed flat car was the largest of its kind when built in 1952. 

It was designed to transport turbo-generators sets, transformers, castings

for automotive presses and other heavy pieces of freight. 

It is currently being used as a sound stage for museum events.


This Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotive #4913 was

built in 1942 at the Altoona shops.  It was one of 139 built by the PRR.  

Note that this locomotive is the red color version rather

than the black color scheme seen on other GG!'s



This "Rex" car is the modern version of an express refrigerator car

which was filled with ice to keep produce fresh when ship long distances.



An old passenger car sits on the turntable.  It must wait its turn to be restored.



Another Vulcan switch locomotive.  The "Nancy" was built in 1918

and was used by the Berwind-White Coal Mining Company

until the early 1960's, making it the last steam locomotive

to operate in Blair County.



I am standing beside an vintage ambulance wagon outside the

building at the museum where we had a box lunch.


At the museum was attribute to the Express Mail Carriers

who worked in the mail cars found on many of the trains

traveling round the United States. Note that

the statue is carrying a pistol.  The mail clerks were

armed against mail car robberies.


Our second stop of the day was at Allegheny Portage Railroad National

Historic Site atop Cresson Mountain.


The engine house that housed the steam engine that pulled the

flat cars loaded with barges to the top of the mountain.  Note the

display of double tracks leading up to the engine house.



Inside the engine house was a brick boiler (rear of photo) to

create steam to run the pulley system (foreground)

to help raise and lower the flat cars.



A replica of one of the steam engines that

towed cars across he mountain top.



The railroad tracks leaving from the engine house.  They head across

the mountain where another engine house reversed the process

 of moving the flat cars on the other side of the mountain.  This

was called "An Engineering Marvel" when the Portage Railroad

was opened.  travel between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh was

reduced from three weeks by wagon to four days by railroad and canal. 

Overcoming the Allegheny Mountains ushered in a new

age of travel for Pennsylvania.



The historic site building had several displays of the Portage Railroad. 

Above is a photo of the railroad flat car hauling a barge over

the mountain.  Note the fact that the barges were

built in three sections for easier handling.



Next stop was at  the Gallitzin Tunnels.  The extremely high grade

presented the final obstacle in conquering the Allegheny Mountains, 

making it necessary to build tunnels as early as 1850.  The single

tunnel on the left is the was completed in 1904 and removed from

service in 1995 when the Gallitzin Tunnel on the right was

modified to accommodate double stack railroad cars in 1995.

Here comes a Norfolk & Southern train out of the tunnel.


There it goes!



The last stop of the day and of our railroading adventure was at the

 Horseshoe Curve National Historic Site.   This is the site of one

of the world's most incredible engineering feats.  It was built by the

Pennsylvania Railroad and has been used by many railroads over the

years.  It is located in Kittanning Gap at the summit of the Allegheny

front, approximately 5 miles west of Altoona.  The bend is a tight arc of

approximately 220 degrees.  It was designed  by

J. Edgar Thomson and opened on February 15, 1854.



Helper locomotives going around the curve.



The historic site has an observation area near the tracks on the curve. 

Here comes a long coal train.



A retired locomotive sits in the observation area of the site.



Suddenly a second train entered the curve behind the coal train. 

It is a mixed freight train also heading west.  It was exciting

to see two trains fighting their way around the Horseshoe Curve.



Here comes the four helper locomotives helping to push the

coal train over the horseshoe curve.  They will disconnect once the coal train

reaches the end of the curve.  Then they will help

push other trains back across the curve.



A last look at a train on the Horseshoe Curve.  It has

been a terrific week of train lore and excursions. 

Tomorrow morning I head home with many fond

memories of Pennsylvania Railroads.