Todd's Railfan Guide to
Altoona PA

In General
Getting Here


In General

A great railroad museum in one of the best railfanning areas of the country (a little personnel bias... nah). Their website also covers Horseshoe Curve, and admission to one gets you into both attractions (many years ago, before a visitors center was constructed, Horseshoe Curve was wide open and free to visit :-)

If there was ever one town synonymous with railroading (like Chicago), you must include Altoona which was the hub of Pennsylvania Railroad's innovation, service, and building.  Unlike Chicago tho, Altoona was a town devoted entirely to the railroad.  The exhibits inside the museum illustrate this point, for everywhere you turned back in the 1800's, the railroad was there!

Everywhere you go in the museum, stuff is all around you... you have to inspect the walls, the ceiling, sometimes the floor.  You need to take your time going throough the mueum, for there is a lot here to take in and see!

Every fall, the museum and Altoona hosts a Railfest.  Some of the pictures below are from the one in 2004.  Present were Bennett Levin's E's as stationary displays.  In 2004, they did not have trains running over the hill to Gallitzin and back.

As I understand, the lawmakers in Harrisburg years ago set aside some money for railroad museums, and they decided to give it to Strasburg.  Too bad they couldn't have cut it in half and thrown some of it towards Altoona, for their displays are top notch and give the visitor a unique perspective into the history of railroading in and around Altoona.  Mind you, I'm not beating up on Strasburg, it just doesn't have the rich history as an area as Altoona does.

Aerial shots are taken from www.bing.com/maps. The snap-shots from Bing are made with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it!  Give it a try!

As always, if you have something to add or correct, my email is here

Getting Here

If you're coming in from the east or west via the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I-76, take the exit for I-99 north to Altoona (exit 146).  Altoona is about 40 miles north of the turnpike.  There are 5 or 6 hotels at this exit if you need one.

For those of you a little more north, you can grab I-99 from I-80 at exit 161 near Milesburg (exit 158) and Bellefonte.  Going this way it's about 50 miles off I-80.  The only thing you have to watch out for are game days at Penn State in State College PA.  Traffic could get tied up.

From Ohio and west, I would probably option for I-80 at Youngstown instead of the turnpike, not only to save on the tolls, but to get away from some of the nasty turns on the turnpike and the ever ongoing construction!

From Washington DC and Baltimore, take I-70 west to the turnpike in Breezewood, where you will get on the turnpike at exit 161.... I-99 is 15 miles to the west.  Breezewood has just about everything known to mankind (ok - so it's a slight exaggeration), including a knick-knack store for Steelers fans.

The map below is from my Altoona Railfan Guide - Map 1 Page.




As you can see, some of these pictures are from the 2004 Railfest, like the E's below.










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NEW 08/15/2012
Last Modified 29-Dec-2013