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.
Things to See & Do at
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.