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A Norfolk Southern special glides downgrade around Horseshoe Curve towards Altoona (Photo: Norfolk Southern Corp/Casey Thomason)
Central Pennsylvania is a region steeped in history, and rail historian Joe Nevin
leads an overnight tour that explores two key aspects of the region’s past: its railroading heritage and one of the country’s most tragic natural disasters.
Begin with a visit to the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in Gallitzin, which chronicles the brief but significant history of the state’s linked system of aqueducts, tunnels, canals, and rail track that enabled commerce and travel in the early decades of the 19th century. Visit the famed Horseshoe Curve at Kittaning Point, a marvel of 19th-century railroading—and among the list of American industrial sites targeted by potential German saboteurs during World War II. Next, the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum’s three floors of interactive exhibitions tell the rich story of how the city and its residents built a thriving economy and a way of life around the Pennsylvania Railroad before interstate highways overtook the rails. The day’s high point is an hour-long rail trip from Altoona to Johnstown, during which travelers experience Horseshoe Curve firsthand.
In May 1889, a broken dam in a rain-swollen lake in the mountains above Johnstown unleashed a flood that took 2,209 lives. Nevin recounts the role of the railroads in spreading the warning and saving lives, and bringing rescue workers and supplies into the disaster area. The group visits the Johnstown Flood Museum, then rides up the steepest funicular in the world for a spectacular view of the city and the valley down which the flood swept. Other stops include Grandview Cemetery, where many flood victims are buried; the Johnstown Flood National Memorial; the clubhouse of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, which owned the dam at the time of the flood; and the dam’s south abutment.
- Cost includes one breakfast, two lunches, and Saturday dinner are included; overnight accommodations in Johnstown
- Tour departs by bus from the Mayflower Hotel, Connecticut Ave. and DeSales St., N.W., with a pickup stop at the I-270, Exit 26 Urbana carpool lot at about 7:55 a.m.
- Single-room supplement $80 (factored into the Single Room Member and Single Room Non-Member pricing).
- Singles registering at the double-room rate are paired (on a nonsmoking basis) if possible, but must pay the single-room supplement otherwise.
- Detailed information is mailed to registrants about four weeks prior to departure.
- Registrants may want to consider purchasing trip insurance.