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.