Summertime means travel time for many of us. It also means getting together with friends and family. My family reunion was in Patton, PA this year, so I took the opportunity to visit both the Horseshoe Curve and the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum. Visiting the heart of where the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) once boomed is an interesting history lesson, but the Horseshoe Curve remains a big part of today’s Norfolk Southern (NS) operation. (Click here to visit the NS website. There are some great stories / photos on the NS site like this.)

Some may ask, “what’s the big deal about the Horseshoe Curve?” I would answer that by first saying take a look at this map. You are looking at the Horseshoe Curve. The curve specifications are as follows: (1) Length of the curve is 2375 feet (a little less than 1/2 mile); (2) Degree of curvature is 9 degrees – 25 minutes, central angle is 220 degrees; (3) Elevation of lower (east) end of the curve is 1594 feet, upper (west) end is 1716 feet-122 feet total elevation climb; and (4) Grade is 1.8% or 1.8 foot rise per 100 feet. Pretty fascinating!



Some more interesting facts about the Horseshoe Curve are here.

I took a number of photographs (see some of them on this post), and spent about 1.5 hours wandering around, watching trains and going up and down the stairs for exercise. I also rode the “Funicular” once, but preferred the stairs for exercise and to save time (if you have to wait for the Funicular you will understand).

You will also find many trains going both directions on the Horseshoe Curve, so bring your camera.


One additional thing I found interesting was the GP9 locomotive that was used as a monument to the demise of the Altoona locomotive shops. Take a look at these pictures of the GP9 and associated plaque.IMG_1774 IMG_1775

Prior to traveling west of Altoona to visit the Horseshoe Curve, I visited the Railroaders Memorial Museum. (Click here to visit the museum website.) The museum admission fee included the admission fee for the Horseshoe Curve and you could not buy separate tickets. So be prepared for visiting both places or paying a rather large admission fee if you visit only the museum. Also, be prepared to provide your own transportation between the museum and the Horseshoe Curve (about 20 miles).

IMG_1642The museum was worth visiting, but I was not “blown away”. There is lots of unused space and lots of work yet to be done (e.g., there is a locomotive turntable and repair stalls on site that appear to be idle and unused for several years). Surrounding the turntable are some rail cars, but there is no explanation about why they are located there or the significance of the rail cars.

Inside the museum are some interesting exhibits, however, I may have found them interesting because a good portion of my childhood was influenced by Juniata and Altoona and the railroad that dominated that area.  Below are several pictures of the interesting things I saw in the museum. If you are ever in the Altoona, PA area the Horseshoe Curve and the Railroaders Memorial Museum are places you should definitely visit.

IMG_1600 IMG_1598 IMG_1592 IMG_1606 IMG_1610 IMG_1620


J-Trax Marketplace