Adventure Pookie: Altoona PA

(Topic: Travel, weighted bears, blueberries, trains)

Pookie wanted to dress like Daddy, and do Work. Daddy asked him what he was reading on Mommy’s tablet.

Blueberry futures, said Pookie. Research. Important Work. Also, yummy.

See, Daddy? Market shares. Sharing. Blueberry PIE. Important. Also, yummy.

Hi Friends!

As part of last fall’s travels, most of which had to do with interviews, I got to take Pookie to lots of cool places, all over the Midwest (ok, really just Ohio, Western PA, Western NY, and southern MI. Still a lot of travel!). I didn’t blog as we went along, but took lots of pictures… after this one, I believe there’s still one more post that will be coming!

The main place I spent time in Altoona has to do with their history. Altoona was essentially founded as a base station for building the massive Horseshoe Curve. There is a great railroad museum downtown, and then you can see the curve if you drive a bit out of town, and there’s a museum and a funicular railcar there, too, which are also suuuuper cool!

What’s Horseshoe Curve? Basically, it’s really hard to get trains through mountains, because they don’t do hills well, or snow, but building tunnels or bridges is a ton of work. A railway route designer came up with a plan to use the curves of a valley to loop the tracks around, giving them enough length to slowly make the ascent that would otherwise be too steep and would have to be on an impossibly long bridge. So they built up and tore down edges of the valley, looped the tracks around in a big, gently slanted uphill, which allowed them to cross the PA mountains and connect to the “west” in a direction that no-one else was doing.

I had permission! ๐Ÿ™‚ This was truly a cool museum if you like the history of railroading.

Pookie in the lobby. Behind him is a model of iron being worked, to make locomotives, which was Altoona’s bread and butter until the 30s and 40s, when steam went by the wayside and diesel took over.

The railroad museum has a lot of neat rolling stock. Nothing really makes Pookie look small than having him sit on something that big… he’s smaller than the coupler!

Much of the roundhouse isn’t open, but parts of it are – they do some restoration in that space.

Pookie got a new hat in the museum store, but this is the wrong end of the train for that hat!!!

After the museum, I wanted to see Horseshoe Curve, but hubby was done a bit early and I’d spent more time at the Railroader’s Museum than I’d realized! Hubby was sweet and wonderful, though, and assented to a visit to the Curve ๐Ÿ™‚ He knows how to make his wife happy!

This is at the curviest part of the curve. You can see a train going on the tracks above the parking lot. There are three parallel lines of tracks running the curve. At one point there were 4, but the 3rd track got removed in the 80s.

Norfolk Southern is one of the main lines going through this particular route. I think the other might have been CSX. At the top of the viewing area, really close to the tracks, they have rail control radio on, and explanations, so that train watchers can figure out what train to expect, from whom, and sometimes what cargo, too.

Containers and trailers, pretty routine.

In the museum courtyard. Pookie is a pretty small cargo!

There’s my little engineer!

The funicular tracks from the museum up to the viewing area.

Some stats for the train buffs reading this ๐Ÿ™‚

Up the funicular!!!

There’s also a locomotive on display in the viewing area. Snapped this picture just as a bunch of tankers went by!

More interesting stats and history, if you’re interested ๐Ÿ™‚

Some of the explanatory signage for novice train watchers.
Looking back around over the valley. The base of the curve is behind me, and you can see it cutting through the hills on the left (lower side) and right (higher side).

Panorama of the curve. I think you can click on the picture to see it larger.

Unintentionally, this trip was also timed perfectly, because my train-themed birthday party was a week or two after this visit! I definitely picked up some of my party favors in the museum store…



To subscribe, find the “subscribe by email” note in the left column and enter your email there. Posts will be emailed directly to you whenever I post them!

Resource list: Visit my spreadsheet at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *