Monday, August 15, 2011

22. - 26. Over the Allegheny Frontal Altoona to Gallitzin

 October 1976, a special steam powered excursion powered by the Reading T1 steam locomotive owned by the Allegheny Railroad group headquartered at Akron, Ohio is pulling a heavy train of 1920's era passenger equipment westbound. Assisting the steam locomotive is a General Motors Electro Motive Division GP30 diesel locomotive. The train will take an hour to travel from Altoona to Gallitzin. Altoona is two miles behind and the train is in the vicinity of milepost 238 on a 1.88 per cent grade

In October of 1976 Conrail was six months old. Tracks 3, 2 and 1 to the left of the train are in place. Conrail would in 1984 remove track 2 determining that the capacity it represented was no longer needed. This is a 1.5 degree curve.
The locomotives have just passed underneath the signal bridge at milepost 238.5. The line of white lights on the signal bridge above the train now indicate a stop signal for a following train. The track ahead belongs to the train. The perspective of the photo gives an idea of the severity of a 1.88 per cent gradient.

This photograph was made at about milepost 240.1 looking across the second reservoir within the Horseshoe curve. The gradient is still 1.82 percent. The curvature is 6 degrees with the higher outside rail being 4 inches higher than the inside or closer rail.

The train is at about milepost 241.8 on  a 1.34 per cent gradient through 9.4 curvature with a 4 inch right rail elevation. The steam locomotives wheels have just lost traction and slipping with high speed revolutions. The train is slowing to less than 10 mph.

Milepost 242, the center of the Horseshoe curve. A group of spectators has gathered to see the unusual sight of a steam locomotive in 1976. The last year of steam locomotive operations by the PRR was 1956.

The train has begun to accelerate slightly. The steam locomotive on display behind the spectators is PRR class K4 number 1361. It is currently not at that site, in restoration limbo under the control of Railroaders Memorial Museum, Altoona.

The grade has increase to 1.76 per cent on a 9.4 degree curve with 4 inch super elevation. of the right rail on each track. The locomotive has again lost traction. Its speed is 5 mph or less. The smoke plume is being blown forward by the slight breeze. 

The locomotive has regained its traction and will successfully get the train to Gallitzin, PA. The locomotive is at about milepost 242.3.

The train is almost over the Horseshoe curve. The speed is back to about 10 mph. The smoke is no longer drifting due to a slight breeze. The gradient continues to be 1.76 per cent.

The train is about to enter the Allegheny tunnel at Gallitzin. The 4 diesel locomotive freight train shown has left the Portage tunnel and is eastbound descending a 2.28 per cent grade towards the Horseshoe curve. The track underneath the lead locomotive is the New Portage branch of the PRR from Altoona to Duncansville to Gallitzin. The New Portage Railroad was first built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to replace it system of levels and inclines powered by stationary steam engines to move its cars from Hollidaysburg to Johnstown connecting the western canal from Johnstown to Pittsburgh with the eastern canal connecting Hollidaysburg to Harrisburg and finally Columbia, PA. The PRR while building its line over the Allegheny frontal via the Horseshoe curve used the New Portage Railroad connecting with it at Duncansville from Altoona and connecting east of Johnstown at the Conemaugh Viaduct near Mineral Point, PA. The new Portage Railroaad was dismantled by the PRR in 1858 and its track used elsewhere. Circa 1905 the New Portage branch was rebuilt to serve the increased traffic being carried by the PRR. It also served as a bypass of the Horseshoe curve should circumstances require an alternative route over the Allegheny frontal. The New Portage branch was deemed redundant by Conrail in 1981

The October 1976 special passenger train is entering the Allegheny tunnel at Gallitzin. This is milepost 247.3 at the tunnel entrance. The black apparatus seen outside the entrance to the Gallitzin tunnel to the right is an abandoned sheet metal ductwork attached to fans used to ventilate the tunnel when numerous steam locomotives would foul its air. The fans and ductwork no longer exists.

The 11 miles from Altoona to Gallitzin are an obsolete way to cross the Allegheny frontal. The 1976 photographs provided a perspective as to the nature of the line that photographs from the cab of a diesel locomotive at the head end of train would not demonstrate. The symmetry of the train to the line can only be demonstrated from the open window of  a 1920 era, open window coach.

Is there a better way to cross the Allegheny frontal?

1 comment:

  1. Minor nitpick: The diesel was a GP40 or SD40, definitely not a GP30.