The fabled Horseshoe Curve! Completed and opened to traffic on February 15, 1854, this new route across the Allegheny mountains shortened travel time from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh by a day and allowed the Pennsylvania Railroad to lower fares from $9.50 to $8.00. The Curve is 1800 feet across and a half-mile long. The west side is 122 feet higher than the east. At its tightest point, the Curve is 9 degrees, 25 minutes, the sharpest between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Prior to construction of the curve, travel from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh required a rail trip to Lancaster and Columbia, followed by a canal boat trip of 176 miles from there to Hollidaysburg. From there, the canal boats were put onto the Allegheny Portage Railroad and carried 36 miles up and over the mountains to Johnstown, from where they continued by water the 103 miles to Pittsburgh.
Built originally as a single track with a second added before the end of 1854, growing commerce required the addition of a third in 1898, and a fourth track was laid during the winter of 1899-1900. Horseshoe Curve, along with the tunnels at Gallitzen, allowed completion of the Mountain Division (Duncansville to Johnstown) which completed the rail link from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh and provided the Pennsylvania Railroad independence from the state-owned Allegheny Portage Railroad. When the PRR acquired the rail-and-canal network of the state in 1857-1858, it was able to provide through trains from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh without requiring passengers to change.
Gallitzen Tunnels mark the summit of the Allegheny crossing above Altoona PA, 2,161 feet above sea level. A group of dedicated railroaders and railfans acquired and restored Pennsylvania Railroad caboose # 477852, and placed it in a city park above the west portal of the tunnels.
477852 is an N5C-class caboose, built in 1942 and restored to a condition consistant with that era. It is handicap accessible, and contains a history of the caboose and restoration efforts. The park where it is on display is an excellent location for photography.
Horseshoe Curve by ?
Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark by Clint Chamberlin
Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society by the Society
Keystone Crossings by Jerry Britton
Pennsylvania Homepage by Chris Brandt
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