Altoona Things to Do

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  • Things to Do
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  • Baker Mansion
    Baker Mansion
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Best Rated Things to Do in Altoona

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    LEMON HOUSE

    by mtncorg Written Oct 1, 2008

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    Lemon Inn right on the rails
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    This inn was built for travelers on the Portage Railway and was named for its owners, Sam and Jean Lemon. The inn was very successful while the railway operated. Located atop the summit of the railway, it is just across from the Engine House 6. Exhibits contained within describe the inn's history and give you some idea as to what a traveler might have experienced. The average time for a canal boat to cross the entire Portage was 6-8 hours so many trips late in the day would stop here for the night.

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    HORSESHOE CURVE

    by mtncorg Written Oct 1, 2008

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    The Horseshoe Curve
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    This famous railway curve was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1854 to help trains get up and over the Allegheny Mountains of central Pennsylvania. The curve covers about 220 degrees and has been in continuous use since its inception with two to four - three today - tracks running. A potential weak spot in the American transportation system, the curve was earmarked for sabotage by Nazis in World War II. The Pennsylvania Railroad built a funicular railroad to the summit of the overlooking ridge in 1879 and a visitor center is maintained at the site. Admission is $7.50 with the funicular costing and additional two passengers for $1 - free for those electing the 194 stairs. The admission also covers entrance to the nearby Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona.

    The curve rises a foot for every 100 horizontal feet and is located about eight miles west of Altoona. Interesting to contrast this American ‘mountain’ railway with the first ‘mountain’ railroad ever built - though about the same time - in Semmering, Austria. Time schedules are posted allowing you to know the schedule of rail traffic and composition of trains throughout the day along the Curve.

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    GALLITZIN TUNNELS

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    New Allegheny Tunnel
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    Canals never made it over the Allegheny Mountains totally. The final passage was left to railroads. If rails were needed for the %L[]canal boats on that section, then it was only a short time before locomotives were built strong enough to put the canal boats out of business for good. The first rail tunnel in America had been built just east of Johnstown as part of the Allegheny Portage Rail system at Staple Bend in 1834. By 1851, the Pennsylvania Railroad was approaching the summit area of the Alleghenies just to the north of the Portage Inclines. First, the vast sweep of the Horseshoe Curve allowed the tracks to climb up the slopes west of Altoona. For the final crest, the Summit Tunnel - later known as the Allegheny Tunnel - was built between 1851-1854 at an elevation of 2167 feet. In an attempt to counter the New Portage Railroad - which had been built earlier to bypass the expensive Incline system on the Allegheny Portage line - that rail line crested the range just south of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s efforts through what is the Portage Tunnel in 1856. The PRR bought out the Allegheny Portage system in 1857 and the New Portage line was shut down until 1904 when it was reopened to reduce heavy traffic on the main line. In 1981, that line was again abandoned. A third tunnel - the Gallitzin -was built in 1904 next to the Allegheny but this tunnel was removed from service in 1995 when the Allegheny was widened and made taller in order to accommodate double high freight stacks.

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    TUNNELS PARK AND MUSEUM

    by mtncorg Written Oct 1, 2008

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    Old Pennsylvania Rail Caboose next to tunnels
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    Right next to the Allegheny and Gallitzin Tunnels, the local folks have established a small park and museum devoted to the rail lines and tunnels that pierce through the crest of the Allegheny Mountains. There is a restored 1943 Pennsylvania Railroad caboose that you can climb up into while listening to rail traffic radio calls. Driving through the local town is an education in what becomes of a one industry town too.

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    ALLEGHENY PORTAGE NAT HIST SITE VISITOR CENTER

    by mtncorg Written Oct 1, 2008

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    Allegheny Portage Visitor Center
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    The introductory movie and series of displays go a long ways towards explaining how the inclined plane rail system worked to pull canal boats over the crest of the Allegheny Mountains. Included is a period locomotive which was used in combination with the inclined plane to help control the speed of the canal boats - as opposed to actually pulling the canal boats up and over the hill which the locomotive, by itself, was not powerful enough to do. From the Visitor Center it is a short walk to the reconstructed Engine House 6 and the Lemon House.

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    ENGINE HOUSE 6

    by mtncorg Written Oct 1, 2008

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    Rails leading out of Engine House 6
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    This building is the heart of the Park. It is a reconstruction of the buildings within which the steam engines responsible for the power to run the incline planes were housed. Canal boats were made so that they could be split into sections and these were then put onto separate rail cars at either Johnstown (west end) or Hollidaysburg (east end). The cars were then pulled by horses - and later, locomotives - over rails covering nearly level terrain. When they came to steeper terrain, the incline planes took over. Here, the cars were attached to a continuous cable - a 3 1/2 inch hemp rope initially but later replaced in 1949 by a wire cable which served to cut down on cable breakages - and then pulled up slopes that were as steep as 9.9 percent (9.9 foot rise in 100 feet or slightly less than 6 %). The inclines work in the same manner as funicular trains - there are several of these scattered about in western Pennsylvania - except here operators were not always able to exactly counterbalance the system. Counterbalancing entailed trying to keep as much weight ascending as there was descending, thus helping to ease the strain for the steam engines. The twin steam engines mustered 35 horsepower each and were used singly to pull the cable - the other engine was used as a back-up. Three cars were hitched to the incline at a time - averaging about 7000 pounds - and were pulled up the rails at about 4 mph. Each incline could handle about six trains an hour if everything was going right. At the bottom or top of each incline, the canal boat trains were detached from the inclines and horses or locomotives took over again to pull the train to the next incline. The whole rail line covered 36 miles and took a train about 6-8 hours to cover the whole distance.

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    INCLINE 6 TRAIL

    by mtncorg Written Oct 1, 2008

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    Looking down the Incline number 6
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    You can wander down through the woods along a trail of about 0.5 miles to see the Skew Arch Bridge. On your return, you can walk up the bed of the old incline plane and get a better idea of the steepness that the old steam engines had to work against.

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    SKEW ARCH BRIDGE

    by mtncorg Written Oct 1, 2008

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    Incline rails went underneath the road above
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    Bridges are usually at right angles to roads when they cross them. Here, a local main road crossed the rails at an angle less than 90 degrees. The rails could not be anything other than straight for the incline plane to operate so the answer was to twist the road over the rail. This was done by twisting the bridge as it crossed the rails. To do this, you had to find some really good stonemasons since the stones used no longer are neatly arranged in rows, but required to be cut diagonally to allow them to protrude in a zigzag pattern. The barrel of the arch is asymmetric with the two sides of the opening offset.

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    Jaffa Shrine

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jun 11, 2009

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    The Jaffa Shrine or Jaffa Mosque on Broad Street is not an Islamic religious institution, rather it is a branch headquarters for the fraternal Masonic organization called the Shriners of North America, more specifically the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. The Shriners claim some 375,000 members in 191 US, Canadian, Mexican, and Panamanian chapters.

    The Jaffa Shrine was organized in Altoona in 1903, and the first "shrine" was constructed in 1909. The current facility, with its Middle Eastern influenced architecture, was completed in 1930.

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    Other parks, monuments, & historic sites

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jun 10, 2009

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    Tuckahoe Park
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    The Baker Mansion was built in 1846 near the Allegheny Furnace. It has thirty-two rooms filled with various American Indian and railroad artifacts and is the home of the Blair County Historical Society.

    Allegheny Furnace was constructed in 1811. This was one of the first iron furnaces in the region, and though it exploded and was decommissioned, numerous others were later built in the area.

    Tuckahoe Park is located near the Baker Mansion and Allegheny furnace and it has lots of green space and benches.

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    Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jun 10, 2009

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    Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament dominates the skyline over Altoona and is visible from miles away, such as from I-99. This Roman Catholic cathedral was built from September 17, 1924 to November 13, 1960 in a Baroque style with a neoclassic dome. The building resembles many state capitals I've seen throughout America.

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    Downtown Revitalization

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jun 10, 2009

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    Altoona's main street is Eleventh Avenue. While one a bustling commercial district, it has fallen by the wayside in the past 50 years. With recent revitalization efforts, downtown Altoona is again showing promise. One of the newly developed areas along Eleventh Avenue is Heritage Park Plaza, site of murals, concerts, picnics, and farmers markets. This area also embraces Altoona's railroad heritage.

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    World Famous Horseshoe Curve:...

    by mtwohig Written Aug 26, 2002

    World Famous Horseshoe Curve: How to get a railroad train up and over a mountain.
    Constructed by hand at the foot of the Allegheny Mountains, the world famous Horseshor Curve is an engineering marvel that was completed in 1854.
    Visitors will soon have a better view of trains rounding the world famous curve and a better environment to enjoy their visit. The initial phase involves removing trees (newer growth) closest to the track elevation. Then two viewing 'windows' will be cut, along with the topping of other trees.
    The 10 year old facilities will also be upgraded and improved.

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  • Paul was ironing for about 3...

    by MadeleineM Written Aug 24, 2002

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    Paul was ironing for about 3 hours, but he didn't want us to take his picture, so he slammed the door in our face..

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  • Anne, Paul and me went to the...

    by MadeleineM Written Aug 24, 2002

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    Anne, Paul and me went to the Altoona highschool to talk about the Netherlands. Amber's father is a history teacher there!

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Altoona Things to Do

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