The Allegheny Portage Railroad
A National Historical Site

photo of a large rock with Allegheny Portage Railroad Museum logo printed on it photo of the deck overlooking the grounds at the Allegheny Portage Railroad Museum photo of history and photos on the deck at the Allegheny Portage Railroad Museum

Visit and learn how in 1834 the Allegheny Portage Railroad was completed so it could compete with the Erie Canal. In the early 1800s steam engines weren't very powerful so Irish Immigrants built a series of tracks on incline planes to pull the boats from the PA Canal Basin across the steep summit of the Allegheny Mountains. This reduced the long dreaded 23-day trip from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to 4 days.

The series of 10 incline planes and the ingenious railroad system was known through the Alleghenies as "walking" the canal boats uphill. Railroad cars were attached to thick hemp ropes to a cable that was pulled from level to level by a stationary steam engine. Then a 9-hundred foot tunnel was carved through solid rock by Welsh Coalminers to make this feat possible. This process lasted about 20 years, until steam engines started being built more powerful and able to climb the steep mountains. You can still see 4 of the 10 remaining incline planes when you visit The Allegheny Portage Railroad Historic Site.

Passengers were injured on a weekly basis but that didn't stop famous people like Charles Dickens, Jenny Linn, and Ulysses S. Grant to travel over the Allegheny Mountains. In the 1840's the engine house at incline plane #6 blew up killing four people.

Not long after Charles Dickens took a trip on the line in 1842 and later wrote down his impressions of the experience: "It was pretty traveling thus at a rapid pace along the heights of the mountain and with a keen wind, to look down into a valley full of light and softness and catching glimpses through the treetops...and we riding onward high above them like a whirlwind."

Today you can take a tour of the route taken by following a tour route from the Hollidaysburg Canal Basin to the Allegheny Portage Railroad then on to the Stapple Bend Tunnel, known for its ghostly sightings.

photo of the wooden plague on display inside the Allegheny Railroad Museum photo of the steam engine that sits inside the Allegheny Portage Railroad Museum photo of the wooden plaque that's on the wall inside the Allegheny Portage Railroad Museum

Things to See & Do at
The Allegheny Portage Railroad

Every weekend from early spring to late fall you'll find fun interactive programs offered. From Irish music to taking a golf cart or bike through the hiking trails through the Allegheny Portage Railroad Historic Site.

Within short walking distance from the museum you'll find an overlook deck with history and maps of where to walk and what to look for. You'll find beautiful walking trails that will lead you to places like; the famous Lemon House, a known historic tavern built to accommodate travelers to the Allegheny Portage Railroad. In the same area you'll discover the Engine House, a replica of many buildings that was built to accommodate the Portage Railroad.

You can also take a relaxing nature trail to the Old Skew Arch Bridge. Or stop in the visitor center to enjoy a movie that shows the history of the Allegheny Portage Railroad. See exhibits of the old steam engine, wall plaques and antique tools once used by Irish Immigrants to build this Pennsylvania landmark.

If you love Pennsylvania history and enjoy interacting and seeing the history come alive then you will love visiting the Gallitzin, PA area.

photo of the outside entrance to the Allegheny Portage Railroad Museum photo of poster on display outside the Allegheny Portage Railroad Museum photo of the view outside the Allegheny Portage Railroad Museum

Other PA Historic Sites to Visit
While in the Gallitzin PA Area

There are so many interesting historic sites located through the Allegheny Mountains it would be a shame to travel to the Gallitzin area and leave without visiting Mount Assisi, in Loretto, PA it's only about 8 miles away from the Allegheny Portage Railroad.

Another place you may be enticed to visit is Johnstown, PA. The Johnstown Flood Museum and South Fork has a real connection to the Portage Railroad, while there you can take a ride on the historic Incline Plane and visit the interactive Heritage Discovery Center .

So you see, in just one day you can discover rich historic sites through the Alleghenies. With so much to see and do your family won't even realize they are getting a huge Pennsylvania history lesson.


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