Allegheny Portage Railroad
Allegheny Portage Railroad
Incline 6 Trail and Recreated Tracks
|Location||Blair and Cambria counties, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Nearest city||Altoona, Pennsylvania|
|Area||1,296 acres (524.5 ha)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
|MPS||Allegheny Portage Railroad MPS|
|NRHP Reference #||66000648|
|Designated NHL||December 29, 1962|
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 36 miles (58 km) 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 1,296 acres (524.5 ha) in 1964 and is about 12 miles (19.3 km) west of Altoona, in Blair and Cambria counties.
The Samuel Lemon House, a tavern located alongside the railroad near Cresson that was a popular stop for railroad passengers, has been converted into a historical museum by the National Park Service. The park service also operates a visitor center with interpretive exhibits near the Lemon House.
The Staple Bend Tunnel is preserved in a separate unit of the historic site 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Johnstown.
A skew arch bridge, a masterwork of cut stone construction, is another feature of the site.
Construction of the railroad began in 1831 and took three years to complete. The project was financed by the State of Pennsylvania as a means to compete with the Erie Canal in New York and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Maryland. The work was done largely through private contractors. The railroad used ten inclined planes, five on either side of the summit of the Allegheny Ridge. The vertical ascent from Johnstown was 1,172 feet (357 m). The vertical ascent from Hollidaysburg was 1,399 feet (426 m). The barges were drawn by horses along level sections, which included a tunnel 900 feet (274 m) long as well as a viaduct over the Little Conemaugh River upstream from Johnstown. A typical voyage took between six and seven hours. The entire Main Line system connecting Pittsburgh and Philadelphia was 400 miles (644 km) long. Charles Dickens wrote a contemporary account of travel on the railroad in Chapter X of his American Notes.
In 1854 the portage railroad was rendered obsolete by construction of a locomotive railroad over the Alleghenies by the Pennsylvania Railroad, a private company. Despite this, construction on the New Portage Railroad, a $2.14 million realignment to bypass the inclines, continued, opening in 1856. On July 31, 1857, the Pennsylvania Railroad bought the portage railroad from the state, abandoning most and using the rest as local branches. In 1904, the part east of the Gallitzin Tunnels was reopened as a freight bypass line. However, in 1981, CONRAIL abandoned this line to Hollidaysburg, PA, and removed the rails.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2006-03-15.
- "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service.
- "Allegheny Portage Railroad of the Pennsylvania Canal". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
- Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Boundary Revision Act (Public Law 107-369). Accessed 2009-10-21.
- Dickens, Charles. American notes for general circulation. ISBN 978-0-7607-6892-1.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Allegheny Portage Railroad.|
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. PA-1232, "Skew Arch Bridge, Spanning Incline No. 6"
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. PA-239, "Skew Arch Bridge, Spanning Incline No. 6"
- National Park Service: Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site
- Allegheny Portage Railroad: Developing Transportation Technology
- Map of the Route
- Allegheny Portage Railroad: Developing Transportation Technology, a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan
- The short film Allegheny Portage Railroad (1993) is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]