It’s been a long time since I visited Strasburg, PA to watch the action on the Strasburg Railroad. The railroad was chartered in 1832, probably started hauling freight about 1851, and is still hauling some freight but mostly railfan families since its revitalization began in 1958. A group of investor-enthusiasts bought it and commenced its restoration, thus saving it from the “Fallen Flags” category of so many other American railroads. We first visited it about 1966, taking the girls on a train ride into the Lancaster County farmland, to a picnic lunch while we waited for the train to return for us. Here, #475 is being oiled and polished in preparation for a day’s run of fan trips.
This so-called 4-8-0 (referring to the wheel arrangements: four lead wheels, eight drivers, and no trailing wheels) a Consolidation class engine, lived much of its life in service on the Norfolk & Western. Here she has steam up, waiting to be called into service.
I have a vivid childhood memory of standing next to a large steam locomotive when the engineer, having just brought his passenger train into the old original Atlantic City train station, released some of his steam pressure. It scared the hell out of me.
Across the road from the Strasburg Railroad complex is the splendid Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Here are maintained many examples of engines and passenger cars that have served Pennsylvania over the years. There are also lots of well done, informative educational displays.
Here’s the classic GG-1 electric locomotive, the most distinctive locomotive design in the world. These 79′ long engines were built in the PRR’s Altoona shops between 1934 and 1943, and some remained in service into the early 80’s. Twelve axles were each driven by a 385-hp motor.
While it is commonly said that the unique body design was by the industrial designer, Raymond Loewy, he simply improved on the basic design by converting it from a riveted assembly of panels into a continuous welded sheet, and streamlining the pin-striped paint scheme.
After their work on the PRR they continued to serve Penn Central, Amtrak, Conrail, and NJ Transit.
I continued across Pennsylvania to Altoona, for many years a major center for the PRR. Here I’m on the road up to the Horseshoe Curve, passing Altoona Lake, part of Altoona’s water supply system, accumulating water coming down from the Allegheny Mountains through the Kitanning Gap over which the Horseshoe Curve was built. The curve was built in 1854 as a part of the efforts of the PRR to link east and west. It was a means to cross the Kitanning Gap at a lower slope than would have been required in a bridge directly across the gap. While photographing this I could hear mighty diesels pounding their way down the curve above me in the hills, and their freight cars screeching.
Up at the curve there is a visitor center where one can observe the frequent east-west traffic. This old diesel, a GP7, is a monument to all of the trains that have passed here for a century and a half. The visitor center also includes displays on the construction of the curve and how it facilitated crossing the gap.
My patience was rewarded as here came a mixed freight headed downhill towards Altoona, led by two massive Norfolk Southern diesels.