The Norfolk Southern route from Altoona to Johnstown traverses some of the steepest mainline grades east of the Mississippi. The busiest helper district in the US, our area is unique because of the combination of mountain railroading and the density and variety of its traffic.
Among railfan attractions in Altoona are The Railroaders Memorial Museum, Alto Tower (17th St.), the pedestrian bridge near the AMTRAK station, Juniata Shop, Rose Yard, and The Brickyard at Walnut & 34th St.
West of Altoona, on the way to Cresson, is the World Famous Horseshoe Curve (on 40th St.). Further west, at the top of the grade, are the Gallitzin Tunnels.
When you reach Gallitzin, you’ll know you are in railfan-friendly territory. At the tunnels you are welcomed to a small park that sports a beautiful 1941 PRR N5C cabin car. The car is open to visitors. Tunnels Park overlooks the west portal of the Allegheny Tunnel. The park has picnic tables, an adjacent museum and clean restrooms.
Cresson lies three miles west of Gallitzin. On the western slope of the Allegheny Front, Cresson is just west of the Eastern Continental Divide. Cresson is in the Mississippi watershed. Its neighbor, Gallitzin, is east of the Divide and in the Chesapeake watershed.
The engine terminal at Cresson services helper, mine run and local engines. Cresson’s Front Street observation platform provides a good place to photograph terminal operations as well as mainline traffic.
RJ Corman RR brings coal trains into Cresson from its Cresson and Irvona branches. Further west, coal trains are loaded at Portage. On the South Fork Secondary, crews are moving coal from Windber and Central City to the main line junction at SouthFork. SD8OMACs handle most of this South Fork traffic.
Between Cresson and Portage there are photo locations at Carney’s Crossing in Lilly, and at the Iron Bridge in Cassandra.
The Station Inn: Your Rail Action Connection in Western PA. 814-886-4757
- Road 1: 160.800
- Road 2: 161.070
- Yard: 160.980, 160.995
- MOW: 161.430, 161.055
- Carmen: 161.340
- NS Police: 160.680, 160.560, 160.545
- RJ Corman: 160.845
Railpace Newsmagazine has published several feature articles on
the Mainline’s East and West Slopes. The Railpace maps help make
railfanning the area relatively easy. West Slope map packs are provided guests to help them make the best use of their railfanning time. Additional books, magazines, and maps are
available in the Common Room. A review of Doug Obert’s youtube videos (found on this website) offers an overview of West Slope railfanning locations, along with info on how to reach these locations. Click on the VIDEO tab (homepage) to view Doug’s videos.
For Additional Information:
Railpace Newsmagazine – “Hot
News” Page, Online Store, Many Links to Rail Websites
Relevant Railpace Issues: