Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Horseshoe Curve

My main reason for going to Altoona was to see the Horseshoe Curve near there.  Prior to its construction, trains trying to go from points west to points east would have to go through a railroad portage.  This of course took time, so the railroad looked for alternatives.  When construction of the curve was complete in 1854, their alternative was there.

Ever since then, it has served as a major piece of rail infrastructure.  So much so that during World War II, a group of Nazi Sabouteurs were landed to try and blow it up.  They were caught before they could do it.  Currently, it serves on the Pittsburgh Line of the Norfolk-Southern Railroad.  Since it is one of the main lines, it is fairly busy.
 This visitors center was established in 1992 and the curve itself was established as a Civil Engineering Landmark in 2004.  Per the traditions of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Amtrak will still announce when they are approaching it.
 The visitor's center itself, serves as a mini-museum.
 A spillway from the other side of the mountain.
 During my initial visit, I saw a train wrap around.  The curve itself is almost 2400 feet long and 1300 feet in diameter.  It has almost a 2% grade, which means it goes up 2 miles for every 100 miles of travel.
 This is the Altoona Reservoir.
 A collection of railroad patches in the museum.
 And when I got up to the curve itself.  I was thoroughly impressed.  I think I saw about 5 trains pass in the 2 hours that I was there.  When I say train, I mean three or four engines pulling a long string of cars.
 Most of the engines belonged to Norfolk-Southern.
 But there were a few exceptions.
 Just to give an idea of the size we are talking about here.
 This is called a Funicular.  It is one of the ways you can get up to the curve itself.
 This was an old Conrail diesel painted to look like a Pennsylvania Railroad engine.
 There were all varieties of cars to be seen.
 I think I might have seen every major railroad represented in one way or another.
 Different forms of grafitti.
 But it was the engines that I was most interested in.
 They are impressive.
 Some more views of the gate guardian.
 Looking up at the cabin.  Sadly, you could not get in the engine.
 But that didn't stop me from taking pictures.
 From other angles.
 Looking at the reservoir again.
 Another engine.
 A closeup of the crew compartment.
 Stalker Train!
 Here we see a Norfolk Southern Engine leading a pair of Canadian Pacific Engines.
 A shot of that engine.
 And one of the Canadian Pacific Engines.
 Some more cars.
 Another engine.  I don't remember but I think this one was just a set of engines themselves and they were booking pretty fast.
 Another engine.
 Because I can't get enough.
 Another shot of the old engine.
 And we're back to a newer engine.
 A closer shot of that.
 An oblique angle.
 Operation Lifesaver is a program sponsored by the railroads.  It is a reminder to people that trains are not to be trifled with.  Use safety when you are around trains.  Don't try to beat the trains, etc.
A friendly engineer.

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