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The World Famous Horseshoe Curve, near Altoona, PA

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Imagine that you are a railroad engineer. You are operating a long freight train on down the track through the mountains on a bright clear day where you can see for miles. You look over, and you see a long freight train rolling by on some tracks about half a mile away, but wait. It looks like the cars on your train. You then realize that it is your train. This is what you experience when you run your train through the World Famous Horseshoe Curve.
The World Famous Horseshoe Curve is unlike any other site in the world. Located at the base of the Alleghany Mountains just west of the city of Altoona, Pennsylvania, it was an engineering feat. The steep incline of the mountains made it hard to build a rail line. The line slowly inclines up the mountainside to where the curve was used to help the trains up the line. Without this line, it would have taken many days to get freight over the mountain ridge.
The first attempt to speed travel over the ridge was the nearby Alleghany Portage Railroad, but the service did not run in the evening. The Horseshoe Curve, built by hand mainly by Irish workers working twelve hour shifts, cut the travel time by one fourth.
In 1992, the Horseshoe Curve Visitor Center is opened. It includes a gift shop and a museum describing the history and the building of the curve. From there, you can take a ‘funicular’, an incline rail car to the observation area, but if you choose not to wait, you can take the steps to the top. Once at the top which is located at the point of the curve itself, sit back and watch the trains roll through the curve.
The Horseshoe Curve is located at 1500 Glen White Road on the west side of Altoona. (Please note that due to a low clearance tunnel, buses but approach the site from the city.) It is only open from early April to late December. Hours vary by time of year. Admission is $7.00. Details are on the website at www.railroadcity.com. Whether or not you are a railroad fan, you will have a great appreciation this world and National Historic Landmark.

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