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And as promised yesterday, today I will delve a little bit into the history of it all. The area, the railroad, the trains. Then tomorrow, as promised I will discuss the people … the stories and the personalities.

And trust me, there were personalities up there.

But for now, let me begin with a little bit of a caveat. Although it is certainly making me happy today to write about all of this, the pictures were all gathered in advance of today. On three separate occasions, actually. And today I am trying out the gallery feature of WordPress. So if you click on any of the little pictures in each of the groups below, you will be taken to a slide type show … a gallery, if you will … of that small group of pictures.

At least I am hoping you do.

Let me step back to the first day … Monday, August 13th, 2012 … the day that the train came through going toward Harrisburg.

This picture came directly from the local Altoona PA newspaper and they talked at great length about the fact that this was not a normal occurrence for the area.

At least not a normal occurrence for many decades. So I planned on doing a blog about trains … the area … and although I missed seeing it in person, I copied the picture of the mighty engine here.

Monday afternoon, for the first time since 1977, a steam locomotive chugged around the famous railroad landmark as part of Norfolk Southern’s 30th anniversary.

You can always tell in this area when there is a special event or something newsworthy regarding the railroad. There appear odd non-commercial cars at the local shops. And by shops I mean the once PRR, now Norfolk-Southern Railroad Shops where engines are refurbished and cars are renewed.

And one day … after the Steam Locomotive had passed through on the way to Harrisburg … as I was riding up the road past the shops, lo and behold there were cars moving slowly toward the large enclosure. It made me look twice and hesitate.

These cars were a maroon version of the cars in the Lionel Train I had grown up with. I mentioned a bit about this yesterday.

So, of course I had to slam on the brakes and encourage my friend Linda to jump out of the car and take pictures … especially the one with the clear glass bubble on top, like my favorite car from childhood.

The gentleman who was driving the locomotive saw Linda rushing to take pictures and was kind enough to stop the cars so she could get better shots. Once finished they waved at each other and the locomotive began his journey again to take the cars to their destination.

Being an area laden with Railroad history, it was not difficult to find yet another location with shots to spare.

In this case it was the Gallitzin Tunnels. For those of you not from this area, or not big railroad fans, the Gallitzin Tunnels, the ones in the pictures below, are actually the third of three tunnels, which built in the late 1800’s. I have included an excerpt from their website here …

“The New Portage Tunnel was completed in 1854 at an elevation of 2,167 feet, and was traditionally (and still is) used primarily for eastbound traffic. The Allegheny Tunnel, at 3,605 feet in length, was completed that same year.”

“The third tunnel, known as the Gallitzin Tunnel was completed in 1904 and removed from service when the Allegheny Tunnel was expanded to two tracks in 1995. The Tunnels were so significant to the transportation system that they were guarded during the war years.”

The time was early morning. The place was quiet. The history was evident. The pictures are here.

And then we have the day … the place … the weather.

The day was yesterday … the place was the Horseshoe Curve … the weather was alternately overcast, pouring down rain, and sunny.

And again, for you non-Horseshoe Curve folks, the location is a slow grade around a mountain, used to get trains up the rugged hills, and protected during the Second World War as critical to our nations security.

As is said in the Wikipedia below:

Horseshoe Curve is a 3,485-foot (1,062 m), triple-tracked, railroad curve on the Norfolk Southern Railway‘s Pittsburgh Line in Logan Township, Blair County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It is close to 1,300 feet (400 m) in diameter and has a grade of almost 2 percent. As a train travels west from Altoona, it ascends almost 60 feet (20 m) in the 0.66-mile (1.06 km) segment that makes up the curve and rotates 220 degrees.

The curve was completed in 1854 by the Pennsylvania Railroad as a means of lessening the grade to the summit of the Allegheny Mountains by increasing the distance. It was built as alternative to the time-consuming Allegheny Portage Railroad, the only other method of traversing the mountains. It has formed an important part of the region’s transport infrastructure since its opening, and during World War II was targeted by Nazi Germany in 1942 as a part of Operation Pastorius.

For those of you looking closely at this picture, the location of yours truly yesterday was somewhere between the two benches shown in the center of the picture, but up against the fence facing the tracks.

Nothing is too good for my readers here.

The whole place is serviced by the museum folks at the lower level, the folks at the tram-like incline which takes visitors up to the top level, and the occasional park ranger. More on the people tomorrow.

The museum attached to the ticket counter and gift shop, boasts several very nice displays and a small room with a video. This is all included in the price of admission.

Usually $6.00.

Yesterday $21.50.

Like, I said, more on the people tomorrow.

The outside was spacious, overlooking the beautiful valley below. And although there are precious few pictures here of the top of the Horseshoe Curve, I assure you there will be plenty of pictures tomorrow.

Plenty.

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