The Norfolk Southern route from Altoona to Johnstown includes some of the steepest mainline grades east of the Mississippi. This is the busiest helper district in the eastern US. The 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Among railfan attractions in Altoona are The Railroaders Memorial Museum, Alto Tower (17th St., no longer active, and soon to disappear), the pedestrian bridge near the AMTRAK station, Juniata Shop, Rose Yard, and The Brickyard at Walnut & 34th St.
West of Altoona 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. There you are welcomed to a small park that sports a beautiful 1941 PRR N5C cabin car. The car is open to visitors. The park has benches and picnic tables. The park’s adjacent museum has clean public restrooms. Tunnels Park overlooks the west portal of the 1855 Allegheny Tunnel.
Cresson is three miles west of Gallitzin. On the western slope of the Allegheny Front, Cresson is just west of the Eastern Continental Divide and 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 is a good place to photograph terminal operations as well as mainline traffic.
RJ Corman RR brings coal trains into Cresson via its Cresson and Irvona branches. Corman also handles inbound grain loads and outbound grain empties. The grain traffic goes to the Clearfield ethanol facility. At Portage, coal trains are loaded on the NS Bens Creek secondary. Further west, NS 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, Bridge St. and at the Lily maintenance yard at the west end of Railroad St. The Iron Bridge in Cassandra is a great spot for shooting photos, or just relaxing as the trains blast past. In Portage, at the end of Railroad St., there are neat photo angles where the Bens Creek Branch rejoins the main line. If you want more detail, view Doug Obert’s Around Our Neighborhood Youtube which can be found here on The Inn’s website.
NOTE: The inn is unable to accommodate youngsters under the age of eight years.
The Station Inn: Your Rail Action Connection in Western PA. 814-886-4757
Scanner Frequencies – updated Nov. 2020
- Road 1: 160.875
- South Fork Sec.: 161.385
- Old Road 1: 160.800
- Old 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: