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Altoona, Pennsylvania: The Capital of Railroading

Altoona, a city located near the middle of the state of Pennsylvania, is the tenth largest city in the state that sits in a valley just east of the Eastern Continental Divide, the divide that divides the waters going to the Atlantic Ocean and the waters going to the Mississippi River. It is not one of your more popular places in the country. You will not see it on many lists of must see places. No major sports teams play here, and no major interstates or U.S. Routes pass by the city either. (The Pennsylvania Turnpike is the closest major interstate about forty miles south of the city.) No major corporations are based here, and the only politics are city and county. After reading all of this, you wonder what is so great about Altoona.
For one who loves railroads, the city of Altoona, Pennsylvania is paradise. Although the railroad did not begin here, the railroad was and is still today the lifeblood of this city. Along with the railroad workshops and factories located here, it is also a major crossroads for many railroad lines. It is a hub for the Norfolk Southern Railroad. This is why it is known as the ‘Capital of Railroading’.
The city has three major landmarks of railroading. The Alleghany Portage Railroad National Historic Site, run by the National Park Service, was a place where the railroad carried barges from one canal over the mountain ridge to another canal. The Gallitzin Tunnels were two tunnels built through solid rock and is an engineering marvel. (Only one of the tunnels is still used today.) Then, of course, you cannot forget one of the most amazing railroad sites in the world: the World Famous Horseshoe Curve, a site that is unmatched anywhere else. If that is not enough, you can go and visit the Railroaders Memorial Museum to see how railroads became a major part of Altoona and the United States. If you still have not had enough, you can sit at the train station and watch the trains roll by.
The city of Altoona is a four hour drive from Washington D.C. and is served by Interstate 99 and U.S. Routes 22 and 220. It is forty miles north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstates 70 and 76) and fifty miles south of Interstate 80. It is out of your way unless you enjoy railroads which in that case is a detour worth taking.

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