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Altoona in Blair County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Altoona Works

 
 
The Altoona Works Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 6, 2009
1. The Altoona Works Marker
Inscription.
You are standing at the center of what was once the greatest railroad shop complex in the world - the Altoona Works of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Established in 1850 along with the town of Altoona, the railroad shops eventually sprawled across 218 acres and occupied 122 buildings. Containing 88 acres under roof, these buildings held 4,500 machine tools and 94 overhead cranes.

Four distinct groups of buildings emerged
The shops met the Pennsylvania Railroad's ever-growing need to build, test, repair, and rebuild a vast rolling fleet of equipment. From 1866 to 1946, some 6,873 steam, diesel-electric, and electric locomotives were built here. Thousands of freight and passenger cars, including some of the nation's first all-steel cars, also were built here - 16,415 freight cars from 1921 to 1940 alone. At their peak, these shops provided jobs for 16,500 workers. Around 1928, the entire complex was named Altoona Works.

Altoona Machine Shops
The original complex, which came to be known as the Altoona Machine Shops, occupied this immediate area. There were three roundhouses where locomotives were serviced, and there were four buildings in which the railroad's Test Department evaluated everything from drinking water to light bulbs to steam locomotives. Just west of here stood the Locomotive
South Altoona Foundries Photo on Marker image. Click for full size.
By PRR Company, undated
2. South Altoona Foundries Photo on Marker
ARMM Collection
Test Plant, where engines could be run up to 100 mph on a treadmill while analysts observed them. In 1938, as locomotive repair work was transferred to other parts of Altoona, this complex was renamed 12th Street Car Shops.

Juniata Shops
The need for more space to build locomotives led to the construction in 1888-1890 of the Juniata Shops, a mile farther northeast along the main line. A large addition, known as the Erecting and Machine Shop, opened in 1924. It is still used for diesel locomotive overhauls. Stretching along here and farther northeast were the Altoona yards, where freight trains were made up and broken down. In 1904, a 52-stall roundhouse was opened at East Altoona to handle routine servicing of main line locomotives.

Altoona Carshops
When conditions became cramped at the Altoona Machine Shops, operations expanded with the opening in 1869 of the Altoona Car Shops complex about a mile east of here along the main line. Primarily intended to build and repair freight and passenger cars, this complex expanded over the years. It was cut back when much of the freight car work was transferred to the half-mile-long Samuel Rea Car Shop in nearby Hollidaysburg, which opened in 1955.

[Photo captions follow]
South Altoona Foundries
As the Pennsylvania grew to become the nation's single most important railroad,
Fire of 1931 Photo on Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, 1931
3. Fire of 1931 Photo on Marker
ARMM Collection
the shops expanded. In 1904, the South Altoona foundries complex was opened two miles southwest of here. All foundry work previously done in the Altoona machine shops was transferred there. Also located there was an oil mixing plant, where grease and various lubricants were formulated for the entire railroad.

Fire of 1931
It was Christmas time. A devastating fire destroyed the air brake shop, machine shop, paint shop, and wheel shop. The Depression had begun, and they were never rebuilt.

Dipped in Lye
A major operation of the Works was to recondition locomotives. The first step was to dip the engine in lye for cleaning.
 
Erected by Railroaders Memorial Museum.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Pennsylvania Railroad marker series.
 
Location. 40° 30.834′ N, 78° 23.949′ W. Marker is in Altoona, Pennsylvania, in Blair County. Click for map. Marker is on the grounds of the Railroaders Memorial Museum. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1300 9th Avenue, Altoona PA 16602, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. PRR Class N5 Cabin Car (or Caboose) No. 477577 (a few steps from this marker); PRR Class X29L Steel Boxcar No. 2136 (within
Dipped in Lye Photo on Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, undated
4. Dipped in Lye Photo on Marker
Hagley Museum and Library collection
shouting distance of this marker); The Master Mechanic (within shouting distance of this marker); The Posy Gang (within shouting distance of this marker); PRR Class D78F Dining Car No. 4468 (within shouting distance of this marker); Pennsylvania Railroad Shops (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Scale Test Weight Car (about 500 feet away); Memorial Projectile (about 800 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Altoona.
 
Also see . . .
1. The Pennsylvania Railroad Shops and Works, Altoona PA: A Special History Study. (Submitted on March 20, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. The Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society. (Submitted on March 20, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceRailroads & Streetcars
 
Altoona Works Schematic on Marker image. Click for full size.
By PRR Company, March 24, 1927
5. Altoona Works Schematic on Marker
Altoona Works Schematic on Marker image. Click for full size.
By PRR Company, March 24, 1927
6. Altoona Works Schematic on Marker
Altoona Works Schematic on Marker image. Click for full size.
By PRR Company, March 24, 1927
7. Altoona Works Schematic on Marker
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 570 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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