Allegheny Portage Railroad, Cresson
Categories: Historic Sites, Tourist Spots
The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the first railroad constructed through the Allegheny Mountains in central Pennsylvania, United States. It was a series of 10 inclines, approximately 36mi long, and operated from 1834 to 1854. It connected two canal divisions of the Main Line of Public Works of the Pennsylvania Canal from Johnstown on the west to Hollidaysburg on the east, thus allowing continuous barge traffic between the Ohio and the Susquehanna rivers. Considered a technological marvel in its day, it played a critical role in opening the interior of the United States beyond the Appalachian Mountains to settlement and commerce. It included the first railroad tunnel in the United States, the Staple Bend Tunnel, and its inauguration was marked with great fanfare.Today, the remains of the railroad are preserved within the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service. The site was established on in 1964 and is about 12mi west of Altoona, in Blair and Cambria counties.Use our Cresson vacation trip planner to arrange your visit to Allegheny Portage Railroad and other attractions in Cresson.
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A must-see National Park that explains the intermediate engineering solution before the Horseshoe Curve was built. A system of steam-powered rope pulleys would haul canal barges up 10 inclines to make... read more »
I had no clue that this existed until I visited with a group of friends. The Visitor Center has displays depicting the logistics of the mountain-crossing system and the cargo carried on the canal boat... read more »
If you're bored and want to go on a nice walk/hike and want to see a little bit of history, this isn't a bad place to go. I like riding my motorcycle out here. Nice place to picnic as well
I'm pretty proud of my historical awareness, and I'm fairly confident of my understanding of how things came about. My father was a big fan of the railroads and engines, so I grew up very familiar with our RR history, and we visited almost every major and minor train station, depot, service, and engineering areas. When I visited this site, I was floored by the history of this place and the mission to cross the mountains. My friend, who didn't care a lick about history found the site informative and interesting. We enjoyed the boardwalk trail and our ability to roam around a beautiful woodland area, seeing where the path was cleared, and exploring the surrounding area. When we discovered the historical buildings, we were thrilled by how the past was recreated and preserved. A wonderful surprise for us, plus a very enjoyable day spent in a beautiful location.
Great scenery and a cool bit of history.
I am a travel writer and photographer for National Park Planner and I was at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in September 2014. The park is located near Cresson and Gallitzin, Pennsylvania. The park commemorates one of America’s early technological achievements. Faced with losing business to New York’s Erie Canal during the rush to move people and goods to the west, the state of Pennsylvania opted to build its own canal from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Only the Allegheny Mountains stood in the way. The canal would be dug from two sides of the mountain, with the eastern leg running from Philadelphia to Hollidaysburg and the western leg running from Pittsburgh to Johnstown. The gap between the two ends of the canal presented the challenge of how to move canal boats over the mountain. The solution was to build a “railroad,” not a railroad in the traditional sense of the word, but an incline railroad powered by steam engines that could take a canal boat out of the water on one side of the canal, place it on a rail car, and through a series of short inclines, pull it up the mountain and lower it down the other side where it could be placed back into the canal so that it could finish its journey east or west across Pennsylvania. Construction on the canals began in the late 1820s, with the incline railroad starting in 1831 and opening for business in 1834. The incline railroad remained functional until the early 1840s, when the state built tracks around the base of the mountains from one side of the canal to the other. This was called the “new” Portage Railroad and it eliminated the need for the inclines. Overall, the Portage Railroad, old and new, remained the quickest way to move people and cargo across Pennsylvania for 23 years until it was replaced by a traditional railroad that bypassed the need for the canal, carrying passengers and goods from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh entirely on rails beginning in 1857. The portage railroad was dismantled once it went out of business and nothing is left except for a few permanent tunnels and the Lemon House, the home of Samuel Lemon, who also ran a tavern from the home. This is open to visitors for self-guided tours of the first floor. The National Park Service has also reconstructed Engine House 6 at its original location at the top of Incline 6 (also open to visitors). The engine house is a building typical of those that housed the stream engines and pulley system that hoisted the canal boats up and down the mountain. In addition, a Visitor Center is located a short walk from the Lemmon House and Engine House 6. It is here that you can get a better understanding of how the railroad worked through information panels, archival photos, and models. There are also three trails in the park. The 8-mile long 6 To 10 Trail takes hikers from the sixth incline (at the Visitor Center) to the tenth incline (towards Hollidaysburg). At the end of the trail is the Foot of Ten Trail that takes hikers to the area where Engine House 10 once stood. In addition, visitors can drive 35 miles towards Johnstown to the Staple Bend Tunnel, the first railroad tunnel ever built in America. It is situated near the top of Incline 1. A two mile paved trail that can be biked or hiked takes visitors to the tunnel. For complete information and plenty of photos of the park, visit National Park Planner (npplan.)
This railroad connected Hollidaysburg with Johnstown back in the day. now it's just a museum that is currently open 7 days a week. There is a Museum and has the Lemon House, some railroad tracks, a hiking trail and a Bridge. It explains how the trains were taken up the mountain and what safety precautions prevented them from falling back down. You can go through the house which dates from the 1800's and check out how the people lived and what they wore, etc. There was an entrance fee of 4 dollars per person, plenty of parking and the rangers there were very friendly. It was soemthing neat to check out because we were in the area, but other than that it was actually pretty boring. and I like trains and historical places.
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