The Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum in Blair County celebrates the lives of both railroad workers and railroading communities in central Pennsylvania.
Unlike many “train museums” that focus primarily on engines and cars, the Railroaders Memorial Museum focuses primarily on the men and women who kept the engines running and the cars rolling.
Touring the Railroaders Memorial Museum
The Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum uses artifacts, film clips, and life-size dioramas to tell the story of how Altoona became known as “Railroad City” in the 1800s.
Spread out across three floors of the former Master Mechanics Building of the Pennsylvania Railroad, this historic brick structure is the last remnant of what was once the largest railroad shop complex in the world.
The first floor of the museum deals with the history of Altoona itself, it’s role as a “company town”, and why geographically it was important for the Pennsylvania Railroad to have repair shops based in the center of the state, at the foot of the Allegheny Mountains.
The first floor is also home to an extensive gift shop (naturally!).
The second floor of the museum is my favorite, as it deals with the everyday life of the railroad workers and their families.
You’ll see life-size dioramas of how they worked.
How they lived.
How they played.
And how they prayed.
All sorts of railroad-themed memorabilia can be found on the second floor as well.
The third floor of the museum is dedicated to the Pennsylvania Railroad itself.
Here you’ll find artifacts of all sorts related to the Pennsylvania Railroad, as well as a model train exhibit.
On the grounds surrounding the main Railroaders Memorial Museum building, you’ll find a number of engines and cars (“rolling stock”, in railroading terms) on display.
The “roundhouse” next to the museum is where repairs and restoration are performed on the museum’s rolling stock.
Museum Hours and Directions
The Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum is generally open Wed-Sun from 10am-5 pm, but in the age of COVID, it would be wise to check the museum’s OFFICIAL WEBSITE for the latest hours and admissions rules BEFORE visiting.
The museum is located at 1300 9th Avenue, Altoona, PA 16602.
The World-Famous Horseshoe Curve is located just six miles from the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum.
Considered one of the “engineering wonders of the world” at the time of its completion in 1854, the Horseshoe Curve continues to offer railfans an up-close opportunity to experience the thrill of trains passing by along this 2,375 foot-long curved stretch of tracks.
The Gallitzin Tunnels are a favorite of railfans and “trainspotters” in neighboring Cambria County.
The Allegheny Tunnel (known originally as the Summit Tunnel) was the longest railroad tunnel in the world at the time of its completion, at 3,612 feet.
The Allegheny Portage Railroad near Altoona is one of the most historic railroading sites in Pennsylvania!
This 36 mile-long track was the first railroad built across the Allegheny Mountains, allowing for canals on the eastern and western sides of the state to be connected, cutting the travel time from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia from weeks to just days.
The Staple Bend Tunnel in Cambria County has the distinction of being the first railroad tunnel built in the United States!
Constructed as part of the Allegheny Portage Railroad (between the top of Incline 1 and the bottom of Incline 2 near Johnstown), the Staple Bend Tunnel is now operated as part of a rail trail by the National Park Service.
The 5 Best Railroad Overlooks Near Altoona is your guide to some great “trainspotting” destinations near Altoona.
The East Broad Top Railroad in Huntingdon County is once again offering passenger excursions, shop tours, and visits to the “roundhouse”, after a decade-long hiatus.
As the only surviving narrow gauge common carrier railroad east of the Rocky Mountains, the East Broad Top Railroad has officially been a National Historic Landmark since 1964.
Departing from the historic train station in downtown Jim Thorpe, the train winds its way north into Lehigh Gorge State Park, before returning on the same track.
12 Must-See Attractions in Blair County is your guide to some of the most amazing natural and man-made attractions in the area.
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