What resulted, the Pennsylvania railroad, at one point was the largest corporation in the world.
“If you can imagine from west of Bellwood through Altoona to Hollidaysburg where the y switches are in Duncansville,” said Executive Director Joe Defrancesco. “that was the approximate area of the Pennsylvania railroad.”
It’s there where the K4 locomotive, a standard in the railroad industry was built, and one is now being restored at the Railroader’s Museum in Altoona.
“It is a symbolic piece of railroad history,” Defrancesco said. “It’s one of two and the only one in operational service. At some point, everybody can relate to the steam era, and it’s our goal to make it a symbol of that area.”
But the museum is much more than a collection of rail cars and artifacts.
“That’s what makes the story unique here, it’s about the people and the products they produced,” Defrancesco said.
The museum has three floors of interactive displays and settings such as one from a luxurious dining car.
“Look at that and think that must of been a time to be, everything was fine silver and fine china,” Defrancesco said.
The museum director is using the COVID downtime to refresh and add new features.
“There’s always something that catches your eye that didn’t catch before,”
The museum is open on weekends and now reopening is the nearby railroad site, the Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark.
“It’s exciting the first time in over a year that both have been open at the same time,” Defrancesco said.
You can tour both sites together, or each one independently. See firsthand when the Altoona area was the railroad industry’s construction and innovation center.
“The idea it was built here and being rebuilt on this site of the original shops of the Pennsylvania railroad in the 1850’s,” Defranceso said. “The fact that we have repurposed this site to be the living legacy of that era is really unique.”