An Engineering Feat

Take a most beautiful drive through the Allegheny Mountains. Experience the challenge the Pennsylvania Railroad workers overcame by completing rail tracks through this rough terrain. Once you have arrived at the Horseshoe Curve, enjoy one of the World’s most incredible engineering feats.

Ride the Funicular or walk 194 beautiful landscaped steps to the tracks for a front seat view of a train mans’ wonder. You will also find the Horseshoe Curve to be a relaxing and entertaining place to enjoy a picnic lunch.

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Horseshoe Curve Facts

The Horseshoe Curve opened February 15, 1854 and was engineered by J. Edgar Thompson. It is located at Kittaning Point, at the base of the Allegheny Mountains.

The length of the curve is 2375 feet. Degree of curvature is 9 degrees; 25 minutes; central angle is 220 degrees. Elevation of lower (east) end of the curve is 1594 feet, upper (west) end is 1716 feet-122 feet total elevation climb. The grade is 1.8% or 1.8 foot rise per 100 feet.

Other interesting facts:

  • Wagon transportation from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh took about 20 days. In 1834, the same trip via train, canal and the Allegheny Portage Railroad (to cross the mountains) took about 4 days-when the canals weren’t frozen.
  • By 1852, trains could cross the state but were still dependent on the Allegheny Portage Railroad, which didn’t operate at night. With the addition of the Horseshoe Curve in 1854, passengers could travel the entire route by rail, and the time was reduced to an average of 15 hours.
  • The construction of the Curve was done by about 450 workers, many of them from Ireland. The work was done entirely by hand, and workers were paid 25 cents per hour for a twelve hour day.
  • The Horseshoe Curve was on a list of twelve key industrial sites targeted by Nazi saboteurs who were captured at two sites on the U.S. coast in June 1942.
  • Famous people who have traveled the Curve: Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and dozens of vaudeville, stage and screen stars.

The Visitors Center

While visiting, be sure to stop by the Visitors Center to view the descriptive displays that will help you better appreciate the work involved in building such a marvel.

The Visitors Center also houses a gift shop of souvenirs for every railroad buff – from books to hats and sweatshirts.

The Funicular

The “Funicular” is an incline plane designed to take you from the visitors center at Horseshoe Curve Historic Landmark up to the train tracks of Horseshoe Curve. Or if you prefer a nature walk, you may take the beautifully scenic steps to the top.

The Horseshoe Curve Timeline

79The park is beautified for public use.
32A macadam road opens to the park.
40Construction of a guest house begins (which later became a gift shop).
57A retired steam PRR locomotive #1361 is put on display in the park. PRR transfers park operations to the City of Altoona.
66National Historic Landmark status is granted.
89A cooperative agreement is signed with the National Park Service to develop the site.
90Museum manages construction of a new $5.8 million facility.
92Grand opening of the new Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark on April 25th.

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