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.