Westward, ho! Conquering the Alleghenies by canal and railroad
In the early 19th century, the Allegheny Ridge presented a nearly insurmountable obstacle rising nearly 1,200 feet standing in the way of expansion to the west. To conquer the Ridge — and cross it with roads, canals and rail — was a challenge that mustered American ingenuity and established Pennsylvania as an industrial giant.
The Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, completed in 1830, was the first route connecting Philadelphia with Pittsburgh and shortened the journey from three weeks by wagon to four days by railroad and canal. The Pennsylvania Railroad leaped the mountains with an all-rail route, sparking the development of the region’s iron, steel and coal industries. Civil engineering masterpieces such as the Horseshoe Curve and the Gallitzin Tunnels, as well as the vast Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive and car shops in Altoona, established the Ridge area as an early testing and research laboratory for railroading.
The World’s Steepest Vehicular Inclined Plane
Closed for maintenance - Reopening Spring 2024!
This noteworthy Johnstown attraction was built following the 1889 flood to assist with evacuation of the city in the event of another flood. The Cambria Iron Company began construction of the inclined railway in 1890, to carry people, horses and wagons to the new hilltop community of Westmont. On June 1, 1891 the Johnstown Inclined Plane began providing convenient transportation up Yoder Hill which had a steep 70.9% grade. During the 1936 flood, the inclined plane successfully evacuated almost 4,000 people. Atop the historic Johnstown Inclined Plane, the Gift Shop features souvenirs to commemorate a visit to the area including mugs, T-shirts, books, and blankets. Seasonal hours. Please go to website or call for hours of operation.
The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the first railroad to cross the Allegheny Mountains and the final piece of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal that connected travels from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. This reduced a traveler’s journey from 23 to four days. The inclines and planes of the Allegheny Portage Railroad provided a unique solution for transporting canal boats across the mountains.
The Summit Level Visitor Center features a 20 minute film that provides an overview of the park’s history and the journey through a travelers eyes on the Portage Railroad. Displayed throughout the visitor center are artifacts and a life-size replica of a canal boat and locomotive.
Other exhibits on the park’s grounds include the restored Lemon House Tavern and hands-on exhibits and full-scale models in Engine House No. 6 Shelter.
The park also includes over 15 miles of trails for visitors to enjoy and follow sections of the Allegheny Portage Railroad.
This 901-foot tunnel is the first railroad tunnel built in the United States. In operation from 1833 until 1852 when the Pennsylvania Railroad bypassed it, restorations to the tunnel have revitalized it into part of a five-mile biking/walking trail. The grand entrances, detailed stonework and marvelous sandstone-arched liners greet visitors as they explore the national historic site.
Travel the Mainline corridor for the best train watching spots
The three-track Norfolk Southern mainline carries over 70 trains per day between Johnstown and Altoona. Great viewing spots and photo opportunities: Horeseshoe Curve, near Altoona; along PA Rt. 53 at Gallitzin Tunnels, Cresson, Lilly, Cassandra, Portage, Summerhill and South Fork. Many Rt. 53 towns have viewing parks and picnic areas near the mainline, including Cresson Area Heritage Park, featuring an N5C Caboose and a rail observation platform located parallel to the tracks for an ideal photo-taking spot.
The Johnstown Train Station (JST) was built in 1915-1916 by the Pennsylvania Railroad at a cost of $3 million. Architect Kenneth M. Murchison of New York designed the station incorporating Beaux Arts schemes with Neoclassical elements. The present building is Johnstown’s second railroad station and was built in order to provide a more up-to-date structure that addressed safety concerns and reflected the “industrial strength” of Johnstown while serving as a “tribute to the intellectual and social and spiritual values that find expression in [the] city’s life,” as described by Reverend Walter Everett Burnett during the station’s dedication on October 12, 1916.
The building contains a central Guastavino vaulted ceiling, sandstone columns, terrazzo flooring with marble accents, terra cotta rondels, ornamental windows with decorative metalwork, and many dramatic elements. The marble-based oak benches in the waiting room are original. The only significant alteration to the station was performed in June 1976 when the passenger platform was removed in order to accommodate Amtrak trains.
The station was owned and occupied by the Pennsylvania Railroad until 1977 and is currently under private ownership.
Watch trains pass through the highest and longest tunnels on the former Pennsylvania Railroad
Identified by railroad buffs as a "must see" stopover! The twin tunnels are the highest and longest tunnels on the former Pennsylvania Railroad. The first tunnel completed the railroad west and made the tunnels so valuable that they were guarded by the Pennsylvania Railroad Police during war times. Historic railroad museum with many RR and mining artifacts and video in the theater. Restored PRR caboose.
Follow the path of the Main Line Canal
Making New Connections Between Old Neighbors™ by following the path of the Main Line Canal, the Greenway features historic “hub” communities of Altoona, Johnstown, Blairsville, Freeport, and others and interpretive sites including Hollidaysburg Canal Basin Park, Saltsburg Canal Park, and the National Park Service’s Allegheny Portage Railroad.
Hide and Seek Treasures
Investigate the foundations of history and discover adventure along the Greenway through geo-caching - a world-wide hide and seek quest for treasure using GPS.