THE BLACK RIVER VALLEY MODEL RAILROAD WEB SITE
At the end of July 2009 my grandson and I made a long anticipated trip to Altoona, Pennsylvania to visit the famous Horseshoe Curve and the Railroaders Memorial Museum. The Museum was an unexpected treat. Horseshoe Curve was both memorable and a little disappointing. Norfolk-Southern was having trackage problems the day we visited so train traffic was much reduced from normal. After spending most of a day in Altoona we continued our journey to Scranton for a visit to the Steamtown National Historic Site. We spent a wonderful day at Steamtown, riding the train, climbing over, around and through locomotives, passenger cars, cabooses, and taking the various tours that Steamtown has to offer. The following 'photo essay' is a brief summation of our Pennsylvania trip. I hope you enjoy it as much as Zachary and I did.
The Railroaders Memorial Museum's open-air rolling stock display is directly adjacent to the museum. The fenced in area contains several resored rail cars including a box car, passenger coach, flat car and a small tank engine. All of the cars have ramps or stairs for easy acces.
As you walk into the Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona you are confronted with the forward one-third or so of Pennsylvanial RR K-4 #1361 which is 'imbeded' in the wall. Here Zachary poses in front of the smokebox of the loco on the ground floor. He was particularly happy to see this loco since he has a model of it on the BRVRR.
From an upper level walkway you can look down on the top of the 'imbedded' PRR #1361. An interesting perspective that gives you some idea of the size of these great machines.
The Altoona Railroaders Museum exhibits include the steam cycle in a steam locomotive, how air brakes work, and the reasoning behind steam locomotive wheel configurations. Here, Zachary is posed in front of a moch-up of a 72-inch driver for a K-class Pennsyslvania locomotive.
I found the backlot of the Atoona Museum to be particularly interesting. It is quite literally covered with rolling stock, locomotives, freight cars, driving wheels, engine cylinders, cabs, trucks, wheels and other railroad related artifacts. Also on the backlot is Pennsylvania RR GG1 #4913 A sleeping giant waiting for restoration. Zachary is inspecting some of the corrosion that is slowly eating away at this awesome machine. Some restoration/preservation work on the locomotive's car body is underway as witnessed by the grinding marks on the nose. Zachary, who is nearly 5-feet tall, gives you some idea of the bulk of the locomotive.
ConRail Wreck Crane #45275 and its boom car are located in the back lot. The patchwork paint job indicates some effort and preserving this relic. The emmense size of the blocks and hooks on this machine state clearly its 'heavy lifting' capapbility.
Zachary particullarly enjoyed climbing around on the Berwind White Coal Mining Co. 0-4-0 locomotive. He had a good time pulling levers and twisting knobs in the cab.
After a quick tour of the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum, we followed the directions kindly provided by the museum staff to Horseshoe Curve. When we arrived at the Horseshoe Curve Nationa Historic Landmark site we could hear, but not see, a freight train passing downbound on the curve. After a brief tour of the reception center/museum we checked out the inclined tram house which was part of the center. The photo shows the view uphill from the tram house to the observation area at the curve.
When we rode the inclinded tram up the hill the car in the photo was coming down at the same time.
A look back, downhill, at the inclined tram tracks. The trams pass each other at the separation. An interesting effect from the inside of a tram car.
Norfolk-Southern loco #2746 leads a fast freight downgrade at Horseshoe Curve in Altoona, PA. The view of the curve and the trains on it was somewhat restricted by trees and brush, but it was a thrill to finally experience first hand what had always been just an image on television. The video is here if you are interested.
Unfortunately the railroad was having track problems that day and the normal volume of traffic was much reduced. After a wait of more than an hour everyone on the observation park became exccited when they thought another train was approaching downbound. It turned out to be this Norfolk-Sourthern track maintenance vehichle running between the tracks. The maintenance truck stopped just out of site behind some trees and brush downbound (East bound) where we could hear pnematic tools hammering away. They crew kept at their task for more than an hour.
I photographed this Pennsylvania RR GP7 while we were waiting for the next train to take the curve. It wasn't open to the public, but it did make an interesting display in the viewing area. There were probably 150-people at the picnic tables and in the shelters waiting for trains that day. Many were just as antsy as Zachary and I with the long wait. After waiting for more than 2 hours we decided to return to the truck and continue our journey to Scranton. Wouldn't you know it? Just as we reached the parking lot, not one, but two trains approached! Unfortunately, they were not visible from the base of the hill! We are going to have to come back someday.
As you come up the driveway toward the parking lot at the Steamtown Musuem you are confronted with three large steam locomotives poised on tracks next to the roadway. Raeway #15 is the first one in the string. Zachary is posed near a drivewheel to give some indication of the size of these magnificent machines. This was the only locomive the the set that had drivers smaller in diameter than Zachary is tall.
The second steamer in line was Reading 4-8-4 #2024. A huge locomotive as witnessed by the apparent size of Zachary as he walks toward the loco. Being this close to a real 4-8-4 steamer gave him an appreciation for their size that his many models of the type can not do.
Grand Trunk Western 4-8-2 #6039 is the third of the big steamers on display along the entrance road leading to the Steamtown Museum. A Huge locomotive, it dwarfs my grandson as he walks along side it.
The old oil house for the former Erie-Lackawana yard/shops in Scranton is now the gift shop for the Steamtown Museum complex. While the railings and access ramps are new, you still get a good feeling for what the oilhouse looked like. Of course, we had to go inside and purchase a few reminders of our trip.
This locomotive and wreck crain togeter with a gondola and caboose are posed in front of the entrance to the Steamtown Museum. There was a maintenance crew of volunteers painting the gondola a bright orange on this day. Approaching too closely with a camera would have been hazardous under the circumstances.
Our first action upon entering the museum was to catch the morning train ride through the property. You can see the excitement on my grandson's face as we rode the short excursion train. We went out onto the mainline a short distance from the Steamtown site and back again. I took some video of the museum's storage tracks and facilitie during the ride, but there are just too many images to reproduce here.
Lacawana #426 locomotive was originally a Delaware, Lacawanna and Western locomotive. At sometime in the past its original Winton engine was replaced with a GM 567 V-6. It is on display inside the circle of the restored roundhouse at Steamtown.
These small steamers were also on display inside the roundhouse circle. Zachary spent litteraly hours climbing in out of the cabs, twisting knobs, pulling and pushing levers and pulling bell cords.
This little red caboose was another of the pieces of rolling stock on display. By putting this photo and the two previous ones together you can get some idea of the extent of the Steamtown roundhouse. If I recall correctly they have 42 tracks/stalls served by the turntable.
Here is Zachary at work as "Engineer Joe" in the cab of one of the small steamers on display. Whenever he disappeard from my immedeate vicinity, I knew where to look for him.
Many of the guides at Steamtown are National Park Service rangers. Our guide for the "Shop Tour" is shown here while he was going over the rules for the tour. I still kick myself for not making a note of his name. In any case, he was courteous and well informed. The shop facilities are quite impressive. Steamtown has managed to retain many of the large specialized machines necessary to service and repair large steam locomotive.
Here is a view of a large steam locomotive undergoing over haul in the Steamtown shops. The project has been underway for nearly a year and has another year and a half to go. When completed the museum will have a fully operable and capable 4-8-4 steam locomotive to power its larger weekend excursion trains.
While on the 'self guided' tour of the maintenance shops we found this loco with the smoke box cover off. The inspections are performed by trained railroad personnel, usually volunteers, that make up a large part of the workforce at the Steamtown site.
Near the end of the day Nickel Plate Road #514 was detached from its excursion train and brought in for maintenance and fueling. This is the first of a three photo sequence taken as the loco was turned on Steamtown's turntable.
Here the loco is a little past half-way on its turntable ride.
The end of the journey. For a moment I thought the crew was going to move the locomotive right up to the back of the museum lobby, but that proved to be wishful thinking. It was fun to see the turntable in action with an actual locomotive on it. Not something you see every day.
The star of the show as far a Zachary was concerned was UP Big Boy #4012. This behemoth is certainly very impressive from close up. The huge locomotive is stored on a display track opposite the three locos on the entry road. Zachary spent nearly an hour examining this magnificent machine foot by foot. Interestingly, while the public side of the locomotive appears to be freshly painted, the backside, away from the public, is badly deteriorated and needs scaling and painting badly.
This little 0-4-0 is posed in front of the Big Boy on the same display track. Talk about a contrast! It too could do with a scraping and painting on the back side.
My grandson and I spent an entire day at Steamtown. There is much more to the Steamtown National Historic Site than is depicted here. Zachary and I enjoyed it immensely and will one day return to do it again. Probably on a weekend so we can ride the steam powered excursion train that runs only on weekends. The only real disadvantage to the site is the lack of a restaurant unless you bring in your own lunch it can get hungry in Steamtown.