Horseshoe Curve Altoona Reviews
Nazi's, Sabotage, and Altoona, PA: History in an unexpected place Sep 27, 2008
The curve was built in response to the difficulty of constructing a railroad through the summit of the Allegheny Mountains which the length of the curve is 2375 feet. It was designed by J. Edgar Thomson and Herman Haupt, opening on February 15, 1854. It was such an important location that it was guarded by Union soldiers during the American Civil War and a number of additional conflicts; including the moust famous conflict during World War II.
A book was written about the conflicts during WWII called "The Horseshoe Curve: Sabotage and Subversion in the Railroad City"... this is about the true story of the FBI agents searching the homes of 225 homes in Altoona on July 1, 1942 as they felt that they were in cahoots with the Nazi's. The horseshoe curve was one of the 10 places in teh United States the Nazi's wanted to destroy. They felt that if they destructed the curve then they could knock down atleast half of transportation in the United States as this was a very highly used train track as at the time it was one of the only tracks to go across the Appalacian Mountain Range.
When arriving you will come to the visitor center first. I went there when I first came to Altoona to get some postcards and again today and the same person is there... well, not literally, but it's usually some younger person with no personality who doesn't talk to you. I like to ask questions and this "Kid" could care less about the history of the area. The Gift Shop is the first room you'll go in... and last room you'll see before you leave. It has some really interesting stuff in it... including alot of factual books from the area and about railroads! You can also get your typical gift shop products like post cards, shirts, shot glasses, childrens toys, mugs, magnets, etc.
Next you pick wher eyou want to go... either up the hill to the curve or into the history center. The "funicular", which is the incline to take you up the hill comes every half hour. So if you want to wait you can go look at the history center.
The history center is actually quite interesting... it has a lot of photos from the past; including important news paper articles, miniature replicas, photographs, a short video and text explaining the curve.
If you decide not to wait for the "funicular" then you can just walk up the switchbacks of stairs to the top. The stairs look more intimidating than they really are and it's an easy walk. Up top there is a old train on display and a picnic table where you can set up a picnic and enjoy the evening. We were up there for about 15 minutes and we saw 4 trains go by... the conductors always blow the horn and wave at the "tourists".
The admission is $5 per person... but if you want to see the railroaders museum farther down the road into town you can pay $8 to see both... (prices are cheaper for Seniors and Children) we didn't see the museum so I hope they have employees who care more about the history!
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