Pennsylvania has a rich railroading tradition, and there are historic spots for railroad fans to visit throughout the state. That being said, nowhere in PA has a higher concentration of spots for railfans to enjoy that the Altoona area.
Altoona was a major hub of the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 19th century and is home to some of the countries most historic railroad sites as well as the fantastic Railroaders Memorial Museum. To this day, 50-60 trains each day travel along the old Pennsylvania Main Line, along which the spots below are located.
If you are looking for things to do in and around Altoona and love trains, here are a few spots you won’t want to miss that are specifically designed for railfans to watch trains pass by.
The Horseshoe Curve just west of Altoona is one of the most historic railroad spots in the entire country.
The Curve was completed in 1854 and helped trains traverse the Allegheny Mountains. (Something that had previously needed a series of canals and inclined planes to complete at the nearby Allegheny Portage Railroad.)
Today, dozens of trains each day still pass through the Horseshoe Curve, including two Amtrak passenger trains.
Adjacent to the curve, a viewing area has been set up to allow railfans to enjoy watching these trains pass through this historic spot. There is also a small museum on-site and a historic Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive on display.
(Note that this is one spot on this list that has operating hours and an admission cost.)
The Horseshoe Curve can be found at the following address: 2400 Veterans Memorial Hwy, Altoona, PA 16601.
The Gallitzin Tunnels are located in the heart of the community of Gallitzin in Cambria County, named for priest and Russian Prince Demetrius Gallitzin. These historic tunnels are located west of the Horseshoe Curve and were another part of the infrastructure necessary to get trains across the Allegheny Mountains in the mid-19th century.
There are two tunnels here, though only one is currently open for trains to pass through.
The New Portage Tunnel was opened in 1854 and is the tunnel still in use today. The third tunnel was added in 1904 but was closed in the mid-1990s when the tunnel adjacent to it was expanded to two tracks.
Today, railfans can visit Gallitzin Tunnelhill Park, which is located along the tracks on the western side of the tunnel. From either the land next to the tracks or a bridge over them, visitors can watch trains enter and leave this historic tunnel.
There is also a small museum located inside the adjacent borough offices and a historic caboose on the site.
If you really love trains, The Tunnel Inn is a bed and breakfast next to the tracks that features a deck for railfans to watch the trains pass by.
The Gallitzin Tunnels can be found at the following address: 411 Convent St, Gallitzin, PA 16641.
Cassandra Railroad Overlook
The Cassandra Railroad Overlook is a pedestrian-only bridge over the train tracks southwest of Altoona just outside of the small community of Cassandra, PA.
This is an old iron bridge that has been closed to traffic since 1936 over the old Pennsylvania Main Line. Even though it’s very narrow, it used to allow cars to pass over the tracks and into town.
Since the late 1990s, it has been a popular destination for railfans to watch trains. From this spot, the three tracks to the west are straight for over two miles, offering the chance to watch trains for a significant amount of time.
While this spot is less built up than the others on this list, it’s a great spot to bring a chair (there are no benches on the bridge) and relax while watching trains pass below you.
The Cassandra Railroad Overlook can be found at the end of Main Street at the following coordinates: 40.407876, -78.637825. It’s worth noting that this road looks more like a driveway than a road, but it does end at a marked parking area only a few steps from the bridge.
Cresson Railroad Park
Located in the heart of Cresson, Pennsylvania, is Cresson Railroad Park. The highlight of the park is a large viewing platform that has been built along the southern side of the tracks.
This viewing area includes a handicapped-accessible ramp along it, as well as signage that tells a bit about the history of the area. There’s even an old Pennsylvania Railroad caboose within this small park.
One neat aspect of the park is that it is lit at night, meaning that you can easily stop by after dark and watch trains along the track.
This is also another spot that features a place to stay, the Station Inn, that features a deck overlooking the tracks. They also have a webcam that allows you to view the tracks from anywhere in the world.
Cresson Railroad Park can be found at 501 Front St, Cresson, PA 16630.
Altoona’s Amtrak Station
Located in downtown Altoona, the city’s Amtrak Station is not just where you can board the two daily passenger trains that pass through the city, but also features several spots nearby where you can view the trains passing through the city.
Adjacent to the station, there are platforms alongside the tracks, and even a bridge over them, that offer great views of the tracks below. If you don’t want to travel out of the city to see trains or are looking for something to do while visiting the city’s railroad museum, this is a great spot to quickly experience the joys of watching trains.
Altoona’s Amtrak Station can be found at the following address: 1231 11th Ave, Altoona, PA 16601. Note that since this is an active passenger station, some areas are only accessible to those with a ticket.
Do you have a favorite spot to view trains near Altoona? Let us know in the comments below.