Exploring the Gallitzin Tunnels in Cambria County

The Gallitzin Tunnels in downtown Gallitzin, Pennsylvania.

The Gallitzin Tunnels are a trio of railroad tunnels through the Allegheny Mountains in Cambria County.

A westbound Norfolk-Southern train exiting the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.
A westbound Norfolk Southern train exiting the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.

Completed at different times between 1854 and 1904, these three railroad tunnels are all important historic sites, and two of them are still crucial rail passages to this very day.

FedEx trailers stacked on a train passing through the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.
FedEx trailers stacked on a train passing through the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.

History of the Gallitzin Tunnels

The oldest of the three tunnels is the Allegheny Tunnel, built by the Pennsylvania Railroad between 1851-54.

Lights from a Norfolk-Southern engine preparing to emerge from the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.
Lights from a Norfolk Southern engine preparing to emerge from the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.

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.

History of the Gallitzin Tunnels.
History of the Gallitzin Tunnels.

To the south of the Allegheny Tunnel, the New Portage Tunnel was completed in 1855, while to the north, the Gallitzin Tunnel was completed in 1904.

Public domain photo showing two trains passing through the Allegheny Tunnel with the now-closed Gallitzin Tunnel visible on the left.
Public domain photo showing two trains passing through the Allegheny Tunnel, with the now-closed Gallitzin Tunnel visible on the left.

Both the Allegheny and New Portage tunnels have been enlarged and are still in use; the Gallitzin Tunnel was taken out of service in 1995.

Western portals of the Gallitzin (left) and Allegheny (right) Tunnels.
Western portal of the Gallitzin Tunnel (left) is now bricked off, while the Allegheny Tunnel (right) was enlarged and is still in daily use.

Exploring Gallitzin Tunnels Park

Today railfans have a beautiful spot to watch trains enter and exit the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin in the form of Tunnels Park.

Tunnels Park and Museum in Gallitzin, PA.
Tunnels Park and Museum in Gallitzin, PA.

Located right next to the western portal of the Gallitzin and Allegheny tunnels, Tunnels Park is a convenient place to park and safely watch trains pass through, as they have for more than 150 years.

A map of Gallitzin Tunnels Park and surrounding points of interest.
A map of Gallitzin Tunnels Park and surrounding points of interest.

If navigating by GPS, use 548 Convent Street, Gallitzin, PA 16641 as the address to find the parking area at the Gallitzin Tunnels Park.

Parking area at Gallitzin Tunnels Park.
Parking area.

The park is well-marked, well-maintained, and if you see a red caboose, you’ll know you’ve found it!

Pennsylvania Railroad caboose on display at Gallitzin Tunnels Park in Cambria County, PA.
Pennsylvania Railroad caboose on display in the park.

The Jackson Street Overpass next to the park offers great views of the tracks and tunnels from walkways on either side of the bridge, with special cut-outs in the fence specifically designed to allow for photography and/or videography.

Jackson Street Overpass just west of the Gallitzin Tunnels.
Jackson Street Overpass just west of the Gallitzin Tunnels.

And whether it’s Norfolk Southern freight trains or Amtrak passenger trains, it’s hard to beat the close-up views at the Gallitzin tunnels.

Norfolk-Southern now owns the Gallitzin Tunnels.
Norfolk Southern freight train passing through the Allegheny Tunnel.

As you watch literally hundreds of double-stack freight cars pass beneath your feet every time a train goes by, you quickly realize how much the railroads still matter to the distribution of goods in America.

Double-stack freight cars passing through the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.
Double-stack freight cars passing through the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.

Between trains, you might even catch a maintenance truck making its way through the Allegheny Tunnel!

An eastbound maintenance truck heads into the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.
An eastbound maintenance truck heads into the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.

The Gallitzin Tunnels Museum

Directly across the street from the Tunnels Park, you’ll find the Gallitzin Tunnels Museum, located in the same building as the public library and the local police department.

Gallitzin Tunnels Museum in Cambria County, PA.
Gallitzin Tunnels Museum in Cambria County, PA.

A one-room affair, it’s not nearly as comprehensive as the nearby Horseshoe Curve or Altoona Railroaders museums, but the Gallitzin Tunnels Museum is still worth a visit if it happens to be open when you visit the tunnels.

Gallitzin Tunnels Museum Hours as of September, 2021.
Museum Hours as of September, 2021.

Final Thoughts

Trains have been passing through the Gallitzin Tunnels from more than 150 years, and whether you’re simply a curious onlooker or a hard-core railfan, Gallitzin Tunnels Park is a place you must visit at least once in your lifetime!

Gallitzin Tunnels signs at the park in downtown Gallitzin next to the tunnels.
Signs at the park in downtown Gallitzin, next to the tunnels.

The thrill of first hearing the whistle and then seeing the trains emerge from the Allegheny Tunnel is something both young and old alike can enjoy in this beautiful and historic park setting in Cambria County.

A westbound Norfolk-Southern train exiting the western portal of the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.
A westbound Norfolk Southern train exiting the western portal of the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.

The World-Famous Horseshoe Curve was considered one of the “engineering wonders of the world” at the time of its completion in 1854.

Westbound train passing through the viewing area at the Horseshoe Curve.
Westbound Norfolk Southern train passing through the viewing park area at the Horseshoe Curve.

In conjunction with the Gallitzin tunnels a few miles to the west, the Horseshoe Curve allowed trains to cross back and forth over the steep Allegheny Mountains, something that had been impossible before 1854.

One of the many exhibits inside the Horseshoe Curve Museum and Visitor Center.
One of the many exhibits inside the Horseshoe Curve Museum and Visitor Center.

Railfans of all ages will certainly want to check out the East Broad Top Railroad in Huntingdon County, back to offering train rides and shop tours in 2021!

A scenic train ride excursion prepares to depart from the East Broad Top station in Rockhill.
A scenic train ride excursion prepares to depart from the East Broad Top station in Rockhill.

Currently, the East Broad Top Railroad is using one of their diesel engines to pull passenger cars on sightseeing excursions, with plans to have at least one of their steam locomotives ready to go for the 2022 season.

View from a passenger car on the East Broad Top Railroad.
View from a passenger car on the East Broad Top Railroad.

Speaking of riding the rails, the Rockhill Trolley Museum is the oldest operating trolley museum in Pennsylvania.

A Johnstown trolley car, built in 1925, in the Rockhill Trolley Museum collection.
The Rockhill Trolley Museum in Huntingdon County.

“Operating” being the important distinction here, as the Rockhill Trolley Museum is a museum where you get to ride the exhibits!

The "motorman" operating the electric trolley on an excursion along the Shade Gap branch of the East Broad Top Railway.
The “motorman” operating the electric trolley on an excursion along the Shade Gap branch of the East Broad Top Railway.

Railroad history lovers will enjoy this article about the abandoned South Penn Railroad Aqueduct in Fulton County, a perfectly-preserved remnant of a railroad that never was!

The intricately-crafted South Pennsylvania Railroad Aqueduct in the Buchanan State Forest.
The intricately-crafted South Pennsylvania Railroad Aqueduct in the Buchanan State Forest.

When William Vanderbilt and Andrew Carnegie set out to build a railroad that would compete directly with the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1880s, they bit off more than they could chew and ultimately wound up abandoned the project, leaving gems like this handcrafted aqueduct frozen in time along the route.

The interior of the abandoned South Penn Railroad arch near the Sideling Hill Tunnel.
The interior of the abandoned South Penn Railroad aqueduct near the Sideling Hill Tunnel.

The Big Savage Tunnel in Somerset County is an early 1900s railroad tunnel that is now part of the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail.

The well-lit and refurbished Big Savage Tunnel along the Great Allegheny Passage in Somerset County PA.
The well-lit and refurbished Big Savage Tunnel along the Great Allegheny Passage in Somerset County PA.

Approximately 300 feet shorter than the Gallitzin tunnels, the Big Savage Tunnel makes for a fascinating bike ride or hiking excursion.

The southeastern entrance to the Big Savage Tunnel along the Great Allegheny Passage.
The southeastern entrance to the Big Savage Tunnel along the Great Allegheny Passage.

The abandoned Cresson State Prison is located just a few miles west of Gallitzin, and is now a privately owned attraction available for scheduled tours.

Razorwire and Tudor-style architecture at the former Cresson STate Prison in Cambria County.
Razorwire and Tudor-style architecture at the former Cresson State Prison in Cambria County.

Fans of old architecture will enjoy touring more than 30 buildings from different eras at the former SCI Cresson compound that was originally built as a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1913.

Inside the Grace Chapel at the abandoned Cresson State Prison.
Inside the Grace Chapel at the abandoned Cresson State Prison.

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Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

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