Altoona in Blair County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The Altoona Works
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
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.
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
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South Altoona Foundries
As the Pennsylvania grew to become the nation's single most important railroad, 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.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Railroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the Pennsylvania Railroad series list.
Location. 40° 30.834′ N, 78° 23.949′ W. Marker is in Altoona, Pennsylvania, in Blair County. Marker is on the grounds of the Railroaders Memorial Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1300 9th Avenue, Altoona PA 16602, United States of America. Touch for directions.
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 shouting distance of this marker); The Master Mechanic (within shouting distance of this marker); The Posy Gang (within shouting distance of this marker); Track Cars (within shouting distance of this marker); PRR Class D78F Dining Car No. 4468 (within shouting distance of this marker); The Juniata Shops (within shouting distance of this marker); PRR Express Refrigerator Car No. 2561 (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map 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.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on March 19, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 718 times since then and 22 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on March 20, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.