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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Duncansville in Blair County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Old Portage Rail Road Monument

 
 
The Old Portage Rail Road Monument Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, February 10, 2012
1. The Old Portage Rail Road Monument Marker
Inscription. (side 1)
This Monument
Was erected to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of
The Old Portage Rail Road
March 18, 1834
A scale model of one of the inclined planes is in the Blair County Historical Museum, Altoona, Pennsylvania.
This monument and the model provided by the State of Pennsylvania.
Erected March 18, 1934.
The Commission
William Elmer, Chairman
Plymouth W. Snyder, Secretary
Thomas G. Peoples
Tarring S. Davis



 
Erected 1934 by State of Pennsylvania.
 
Location. 40° 27.186′ N, 78° 32.597′ W. Marker is near Duncansville, Pennsylvania, in Blair County. Marker can be reached from Old Route 22. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Duncansville PA 16635, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Portage Railroad (a few steps from this marker); Why a Skewed Arch Bridge? (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Portage Railroad (within shouting distance of this marker); Railroad Stone (approx. 0.4 miles away); Inclined Plane No. 6
The Old Portage Rail Road Monument Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, February 10, 2012
2. The Old Portage Rail Road Monument Marker
(side 2)
The bas-relief above is made from a painting in the possession of the Blair County Historical Society, at Altoona, Penna. It represents a train standing on the level at the head of Plane 6. The power house for this plane is shown in the center and the steam engine and the boilers were housed therein. The engines were in duplicate to provide against breakdowns. Each engine had two cylinders 15 in. diameter and 60 in. stroke, 14 revolutions per minute, 70 lbs. steam pressure, 35 horse power. Each engine had three boilers 30 in. diameter and 20 ft. long. The passengers are shown returning to the train after a stop for dinner. The Old Lemon House shown on the right is still standing a short distance from this point, near the head of plane 6.
(approx. 0.4 miles away); Skew Arch Bridge Trail (approx. 0.4 miles away); Allegheny Portage Railroad (approx. 0.4 miles away); Engine House No. 6 (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Duncansville.
 
Also see . . .  Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site. Official site at the National Park Service (Submitted on February 11, 2012, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.) 
 
Categories. Railroads & StreetcarsWaterways & Vessels
 
The Old Portage Rail Road Monument Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, February 10, 2012
3. The Old Portage Rail Road Monument Marker
(side 3)
Description of Old Portage Railroad
In 1825, the state of New York completed the Erie Canal. The citizens of Pennsylvania, alarmed at the possible loss of trade by this new route, besought the legislature to construct a system of communication between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. A charter for a railroad, to be known as the Pennsylvania Railroad, had been granted to Col. John Stevens of Hoboken, N.J., in 1823; but this had come to naught. No one had faith in in railroads in those days , so a canal was chosen. It started at Columbia, and the Eastern Division extended to Hollidaysburg. The Western Division began at Johnstown and ended at Pittsburgh. A railroad was built from Philadelphia to Columbia, and this Old Portage Railroad was built from Hollidaysburg to Johnstown in order to get over the Allegheny Mountains. There were five inclined planes on each of side of the summit, up which the cars were pulled by ropes operated by steam engines. The planes varied in length from 1480 feet to 3116 feet, the grade being about ten percent. The operation was slow and costly, the canal was frozen up in winter and after the opening of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1852 the public works began to deteriorate. The new Portage Railroad was built by the state in order to avoid the inclined planes, and this was opened on July 1, 1855, from that date the Old Portage Railroad ceased to exist. The canals cost $6,327,669. The railroad from Philadelphia to Columbia cost $?
Total cost of state works , Philadelphia to Pittsburgh $?
The Old Portage Rail Road Monument image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, February 10, 2012
4. The Old Portage Rail Road Monument
(side 4)
The bas-relief above is made from a painting in the possession of the Blair County Historical Society at Altoona, Penna. It represents a sectional canal boat being transported over the Allegheny Mountains on cars pulled up the incline plane by a steam engine winding a rope around a drum. At the same time these cars are going up the plane others are going down. This view was taken from almost the spot where this monument stands and the cars have just come through the skew arch bridge behind you. This bridge carried the original highway over the old Portage Railroad. The powerhouse is at the top of Plane 6, which extended through the skew arch bridge and can be followed up the hill on the other side of the concrete highway.
The Old Portage Rail Road Monument image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, February 10, 2012
5. The Old Portage Rail Road Monument
The Old Portage Rail Road Skew Arch Bridge image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, February 10, 2012
6. The Old Portage Rail Road Skew Arch Bridge
The Skew Arch Bridge image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, February 10, 2012
7. The Skew Arch Bridge
This may be the only skewed masonry bridge remaining in the United States. Built in 1832-34 to carry a wagon road over the tracks of Incline 6, it was constructed on a skewed, or twisted angle. The road and the railroad could then cross, with each maintaining their straight path up the slope.
Notice that the arch jambs are not at right angles with the face of the bridge. The bridge abutments are also offset and not directly across from each other. See how the stones were cut and laid in a diagonan direction.
This bridge has withstood the elements for over one hundred and fifty years and is well preserved. Its fine architecture stands in tribute to the skills of the engineers and stone masons who built it.
The Skew Arch Bridge Deck image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, February 10, 2012
8. The Skew Arch Bridge Deck
Skew Arch Bridge From Top of Incline No. 6 image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., July 6, 2009
9. Skew Arch Bridge From Top of Incline No. 6
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on February 10, 2012, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 487 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on February 10, 2012, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.   7. submitted on February 11, 2012, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.   8. submitted on February 10, 2012, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.   9. submitted on March 22, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
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