Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Chasing Norfolk Southern 2017

This is my second trip to the Altoona area. So I thought it would be fun if I could get one of the twenty Norfolk Southern Heritage Units. So I downloaded the HeritageUnits.com app. I started to check the app every so often to see if anything would be passing through Keystone Corridor over the weekend. I’ve seen two NS Heritage Units on the Horseshoe Curve webcam but never one in person.

I was able to get my first NS Heritage Unit on Labor Day Monday, September 4th, 2017. I followed the updates on the app as #1069 Virginian Railway was making its way westbound. I thought the most ideal location for this first Heritage unit would be Cassandra Railroad Overlook with its awesome curve approaching the overlook for trains making their way westbound. My dad, my wife Jodie and I made our way to this spot. We spent a few hours there waiting for the Virginian’s arrival. I setup my tripod so I could record it passing with my video camera I also had my DSLR to capture still shots. Truly I was quite happy to get my first Heritage Unit.

Later that day Jodie spotted our second Heritage Unit #8103 Norfolk and Western parked in Cresson in front of the The Station Inn. We were traveling there to change up our railfanning location, and we struck gold. Not bad two Heritage Units in one day!

On Tuesday we thought we would spend the day railfanning in downtown Altoona and we were able to get two more eastbound Heritage Units only a few hours apart #1074 Delaware, Lackawanna & Western and #8025 Monongahela Railways.

Railfanning Cassandra

Railfanning Altoona
Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Cassandra

Railfanning Cassandra, PA

Cassandra Railroad Overlook
Most of the railfanning parks are in or near a downtowns, this park is at the end of dead end residential street. There is a small parking lot with a footbridge going across the three main line tracks the bridge takes railfans over to a park that has some benches and picnic tables. This location provides awesome photo opportunities getting trains going westbound with a curve leading up to the bridge. As for eastbound track the best vantage point would be on the bridge. I would recommend bring a three step ladder since the bridge sides are pretty high.

Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra
Railfanning Cassandra

Railfanning Cresson, PA

Cresson Railroad Observation Platform
This location is near the heart of Cresson. The platform gives you great views of trains going both east and westbound. I would highly recommend another spot across the street from The Station Inn, this location puts you at track level. There is a tunnel that goes under the tracks which gives you access to this location. Totally recommend railfanning from both locations in Cresson.

I had people through social media and in person tell me to check out Vito’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant. I wasn’t able to check this place out this trip. I’m told the food is amazing here.

Railfanning Cresson

Railfanning Cresson

Railfanning Cresson
Railfanning Cresson

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Gallitzin, PA is located just west of the Horseshoe Curve. There is a railfanning spot located in downtown with a park overlooking the west portals of the Gallitzin & Allegheny Tunnels. Gallitzin Tunnel is also known as the “Summit” Tunnel it is 3,612 feet long, it was built in 1904 and closed in 1995. Allegheny Tunnel is the same length and was built in 1854. The double track Allegheny Tunnel was made larger to service double stack freight cars in the 1990’s once this was done the Gallitzin Tunnel was abandoned. There is a third tunnel located about a half mile from from the park. The New Portage Tunnel was built in 1855 and it is a single track 1,620 feet tunnel. There really isn’t a good railfanning spot for the Portage tunnel.

Gallitzin and Allegheny tunnels east portals can be viewed by going down Birds Eye Road in Tunnelhill. This is a dirt road I would strongly recommend high profile vehicle such as a pickup truck with 4 wheel drive since some parts of this right of way is quite rough and a car could bottom out. Once trackside I would recommend parking and hiking the rest of the way on the public access road. Please use caution and common sense since you will be almost trackside on this public access way. This public access road give people the ability to visit the Bennington Cemetery.
Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Railfanning Gallitzin, PA

Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Altoona, PA

Most people visiting the Altoona area it is for the the Horseshoe Curve, but there are so many other great location in and around Altoona for railfanning.

In this blog series we will share some of the best railfanning locations in and around Altoona on the Keystone Corridor.

Altoona, Pennsylvania
A great location for watching the mainline and yard moves is on the North 8th Street overpass which over looks Norfolk Southern’s Rose yard. Just two blocks over there is an active Norfolk Southern turnable (221 North 6th Street). There is lots of actively during the daytime. This location is great for some night time shots as well.

Downtown Altoona has a few footbridges going over the the main line near Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum. There is also a paved walkway along the main line as well that is great for railfanning and photography.

Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum highlights the railroad history of this city built around the railroad. The museum has exhibits indoor and outdoor plan on spending a few hours. A combo ticket can be purchase for the museum and the Horseshoe Curve.

Local food Joints

Original Italian Pizza
610 N 2nd St
Altoona, PA 16601

Texas Hot Dogs
101 58th St
Altoona, PA 16602

Sheetz
1915 Pleasant Valley Blvd
Altoona, PA 16602

Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Altoona

Railfanning Altoona

Horseshoe Curve

Visiting the Horseshoe Curve

If you’re a railfan the Horseshoe Curve is most likely on your bucket list. The 2,375 foot long curve was build around a lake, dam, three reservoirs in the Kittanning Run valley. The Keystone Corridor is Pennsylvania’s main line connecting the east coast to points west to Ohio and Indiana. Nearly 60 Norfolk Southern trains pass through this busy corridor daily along with Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian service running between New York and Pittsburgh.

When you visit the curve plan on spending the whole morning or afternoon or even the whole day. This railfanning park has multiple picnic tables and benches throughout the park you can easily find a shaded spot up on the summit. You may want to bring some comfortable walking shoes since it is nearly a 200 stair climb up to the summit. The other option is funicular (a passenger car that runs on tracks with a cable pulley system) that runs every half hour up and down the summit.

What to bring with you to the curve:

  • Camara
  • Extra batteries
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Bottle water
  • Scanner

If you enjoy photographing trains make sure you bring a lens with some long range capabilities to get trains heading west to east around the curve. A tripod maybe helpful as well.

The great thing about having a scanner at this location is there are multiple track detectors along this route. Since the park is high up you can get great reception.

Scanner programing:
160.800 NS Altoona East Dispatcher
160.860 Rose Yard
160.980 JBS Industrial
161.070 Secondary
452.9375 EOT (front-rear)
457.9375 EOT (rear-front)

Horseshoe Curve

Horseshoe Curve

Horseshoe Curve

Horseshoe Curve

Horseshoe Curve

Looking for abandoned railroads?

Looking for abandoned railroads just got a lot easier

While doing research on the many railroad lines around New England, I have found that a whole bunch of them were abandoned around the 1930s. That means these right of ways been untouched for nearly 80 years. Some are easier to find because the rails and wooden ties are still in place, while others are harder to find if the railroad tracks are removed at some point, leaving just a narrow path in the woods.

Topographic Maps
As a kid growing up I got the topographic map book for Massachusetts. The topographic maps are super detailed, showing current and often times abandoned right of ways. There would be a map directory, for instance it would have a map of Massachusetts broken down by section and each section would have a page number. Then you would go to the corresponding page to see a super detailed map of that area.

Google and Bing Maps
The 21st century has brought us some new tools for searching for abandoned right of ways. Today we can explore areas without leaving our house. Both Google Maps and Bing Maps feature tools that allow you to see the area via a satellite image and you can use the street level feature to see everything as if you was driving down the road. Not only is this a great tool for searching for abandoned right of ways, this is also a great way to find spots to railfan along active right of ways.

Macungie, PA - Train Watching Park

Macungie Railfan Pavilion

Macungie, Pennsylvania is located in the Lehigh Valley region in the southeastern part of the state. The 37 mile Norfolk Southern Railway’s Reading Line cuts through Macungie running between Wyomissing Junction, PA and Bethlehem, PA. What once was the train station in Macungie is now a train watching park. It is estimated that anywhere from 30 to 35 trains travel on this line daily.

Back in May, my dad and I spent the weekend in Macungie railfanning. We were able to see almost a dozen trains traveling eastbound and westbound on this route. I would highly recommend railfanning in the Macungie train watching park. The park has a large parking lot with a flower garden and a covered viewing platform with chairs. The great thing about this location is that you can see both the eastbound and westbound signals from the viewing platform. The signal aspects will become illuminated when a train is a few minutes away. A scanner will be a great tool for this location as well. You can hear a defect detector just east of the viewing platform. Most of the route is double tracked (track 1 westbound and track 2 eastbound). I hope to revisit this location in the near future again.

Scanner Frequencies:
Norfolk Southern Railway Road 2 161.0700
Norfolk Southern Railway Road 1 160.8000

GPS:
52 W Main St Macungie, PA 18062

Macungie, PA - Train Watching Park

Macungie, PA - Train Watching Park

Macungie, PA - Train Watching Park

Macungie, PA - Train Watching Park

Bay Colony Railroad

Bay Colony Railroad #1701

If you grew up as a rail-fan in Southeastern Massachusetts, you know the Bay Colony Railroad. This short line railroad serviced all of Cape Cod and almost any other line that wasn’t serviced by Conrail or CSX. Growing up in Middleboro, MA, for nearly 25 years I would normally see one of the Bay Colony Railroad locomotives parked on Longmeadow Rd in Taunton, MA. In 2008, the Massachusetts Coastal Railroad was awarded a contract and the Bay Colony Railroad was history. For a short time, Mass Coastal parked a locomotive on Longmeadow Rd, but that didn’t last long. I guess you could say Bay Colony holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first railroads I rail-fanned. I couldn’t tell you how many times I stopped to see the locomotives parked there. I thought I would never see a Bay Colony locomotive again.

Scrolling through the photos on my Instagram feed, I saw a photo of the #1701 Bay Colony EMD GP8 Locomotive. This locomotive was built in 1953 and started its service on the Detroit & Toledo Shore Line and was later purchased by Bay Colony in 1987. The Bay Colony Locomotive was originally #1750 but then was later changed to #1701. I could be wrong on some of this because it was very hard to piece together the history of this locomotive.

The locomotive is now parked south of Medfield Junction near the Medfield Waste Water Plant on the Millis Branch. Last Sunday, we made a special trip out to Medfield to see the locomotive. Not only did the locomotive bring back memories for me it also brought them back for my dad as well. From what I read, every so often #1701 moves freight on the Millis Branch. We hope to see the locomotive in action sometime soon.

From what I was able to find out, they also service the Watuppa Branch in Dartmouth and Wesport, MA. I need to check out the other locomotive as it is parked in Dartmouth near Old Reed Road.

Bay Colony Railroad
Myself and my dad Kenneth Higgins near Bay Colony Railroad #1701