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PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:21:45 2012

Late last summer it became apparent that the killjoys at Norfolk Southern were embarking on a project to resignal the entire Altoona terminal area which for the 100+ years have been under the auspices of ALTO tower, which I had visited previously in 2005. This was coming on the heels of a similarly mean spirited project to replace the PRR position lights up and around the horseshoe curve and unlike a number of other recent resignaling projects I was not going to be caught flat footed and therefore resolved to drive out the 3+ hours to Altoona to document what was there before it all came crashing down.

Unfortunately my schedule in the fall of 2011 was quite full and combined with the fact that many people didn't know when the project would be completed and that there was a Fall Foliage running out of Altoona and around the Horseshoe Curve on October 1 I made the choice to pick that weekend for my trip. I say unfortunately because the weather was just a few hairs short of completely unworkable with a light to moderate drizzle falling over the entire day with ambient lighting about what you would expect. Doublely disappointing was that my first trip was in only slightly better conditions so it looked as if every time I was to go to Altoona the clouds would roll in and the sky would open up.

Anyway armed with a pair of cameras, one a high resolution DSLR, I set out in the wee hours of Oct 1 in order to make it to the "Brickyard" automatic signal west of town to snag a picture of the Bennett Levin PRR E8's passing under it. After that I would head downtown to take as many photos of ALTO tower and its related signaling as I could and then I could head out to see if CP-ANTIS was part of the re-signaling project as it's interlocking hardware dated from 1981 instead of the 1970's or before for the rest of the Altoon Terminal. All said and done I took about 500 photos that day which are all visible in the full gallery.

We begin at the Milepost 238 automatic known as "Brickyard" which is also the distant to SLOPE interlocking, which itself is under direct wire control from ALTO tower. This section of the main line has three tracks, the outer two running under Rule 251 with only the center track #2 being bi-directional rule 261. Both eastbound signals on tracks 2 and 3 can display / over / for Slow Speed moves at SLOPE as SLOPE has a very short signal distance to ALTO and will display Slow Approach instead of Approach when a Stop signal is displayed at ALTO. The Approach Medium indication available on track #1 is for 1 to 2 diverging moves at SLOPE.



The MP 328 signal gantry was in a bad way with the uprights separating from the concrete footings and 1930's era signaling with tar impregnated cotton insulation around the signal cable wires. Still the replacing it with cheap Darth Vader masts on an ungainly 4 track wide cantilever is just insulting the the home of the PRR, especially for a railroad that recently installed brand new N&W PL's in its home of Roanoke, VA. Anyway all of the signals up and down the eastern slope are approach lit and were able to provide warning of the approaching Foliage Charter.



PRR E8 #5711 was heading the charge up the grade. The charter's route was to head up and around the curve before heading back through Altoona, up the N&BE to Lock Haven and then down the Buffalo Line to Harrisburg before returning to Altoona (I think).



On the rear was Bennett Levin's PRR 120 and a couple other PV's providing the first class consolidations behind 4 Amfleets and one Metroliner Cab Car.



Unfortunately I left the Brickyard just a few minutes early as the Eastbound Pennsylvanian rolled by as I was waiting to cross the main line at the grade crossing just south of the signal location. Amtrak P42 #51 was providing the power that day.



After parking at the Altoona Railroaders Museum I walked over to the 17th St bridge which provides an uninterrupted view of ALTO interlocking and tower. The tower which dates from the first decade of the 20th century was deceptively given a new coat of paint just a few years ago by NS. Here we can see the eastbound signal gantry directly adjacent to ALTO tower and governing movements on tracks 1 and 101, which is just a short siding between here and SLOPE, as well as the new 3 track cantilever replacement. The new ALTO interlocking will encompass the space between here and the western limits of SLOPE and get rid of the old pusher pocket and replace the right handed yard ladder with a new universal crossover arrangement with the helper tracks pushed off onto the south side of the line.



It wasn't too long before the E8's showed up again. #5711 was still in the lead as there is a loop track west of the Horseshoe Curve at CP-UN. The charter was run in conjunction with the annual Altoona Railfest which wasn't very festive due to the rain.



Here is a video of the move passing through ALTO interlocking.



Here we have PRR 120 passing under the famous ALTO westbound signal gantry which dates from the Penn Central era when the State was installing the 17th St bridge and needed to move things around a bit.



Heading in on track #2 right behind the Charter was an NS helper twin pack composed of SD40-2's 6312 and 6301. Here they are making a diverging move from track #2 into the helper pocket although their final destination would be the Altoona Yard.



Video of the helper set making the diverging move.



Of the 5 tracks the ALTO beam gantry spans, the center one is a pocket track designed for helper sets like 6312/6301, seen here diverging onto track 1, to lay over and be attached to the rear of through trains before they begin their assault on the eastern slope.



A rather wet ALTO as seen from the rear quarter. The whole area is highly accessible from local roads, although be prepared to hug the curb as the "PRR Expressway" lacks both sideways and a shoulder on that side.



When ALTO was partly re-signaled in the 1970's all the new equipment was thrown into this impressive bank of US&S branded relay cabinets to the west of the tower.



The ungainly new three signaled, 4 track wide cantilever mast for whatever will replace ALTO. NS has a real hard on for cantilever masts and almost never uses traditional signal bridges.



With obstructions cleared for construction access I could get a reasonable angle on the eastbound signal gantry which is of a very early lattice design from the era when steel was far more expensive than the manpower needed to bolt it into interesting shapes. The 10R signal governing track #1 is displaying an Approach indication which suggested that some more train action was imminent.



What showed up was NS C40-9W #9763 on the head of an autorack train. Let's hope those C&S workers digging cable trenches called about the location of that burried gas main. Oh, can you tell how fucking hard its raining at this point?



Same train under the PRR signal bridge with SD60M #6775 running elephant style behind 9763.



No rest for the soaked. The famous signal bridge showing a Clear indication on track #3 westbound.



ALTO is divided into two sections, east and west, each with its own US&S Electro-Pneumatic style interlocking machine. The east end consists of a few crossovers as well as the start of track #3. The west end handles the right handed ladder. Here we see a pretty standard condition with Medium Clear displayed on the east end 38L signal and Clear on the west end 2L signal. Also visible is the Clear indication displayed on the 2371 auto signal at SLOPE (which is only in service on tracks 1 and 2.)



What rounds the bend is a unit garbage train (probably from New York City) headed up by another SD40 helper pair with 6319 on point.



The two helpers plus three regular road units take the diverging move over the 31 switch before taking the 2L signal and then passing ALTO tower. The 38L and 36L signals were replaced with PRR Pedestal types when the new transportation center was built.



Video of what I just described above.



The City of Altoona built a railfan observation walkway stretching between the Altoona Transportation Center and the Railroaders Museum. Here we can see the main section of ALTO interlocking with the right handed ladder and connections to the Cove Secondary track and MofW dump siding.



The Museum's most famous resident, now under cover.



Now ALTO tower has a US&S type unit lever CTC machine that has remote control of CP-WORKS, CP-HOMER, CP-ROSE and CP-ANTIS. I already knew that HOMER, WORKS and ROSE were to be included in the re-signaling, but the newer CP-ANTIS is in a rather isolated spot and not typically photographed. Therefore the third activity of the day would be an expedition out to CP-ANTIS to see WTF was going on out there. Using Google Earth it appeared that I could park and make a quick quarter mile trek through unobstructed forest to get to the interlocking.

Unfortunately reality did not follow the plan with quick being replaced by wet, forest being replaced by dense undergrowth and unobstructed being replaced by a significant body of water. However some recent storm damage provided me with a solution and, two cameras in tow, I managed to scurry across...only be be greeted by more bad news.



Oh well, at least I got out there in time to fully document the old interlocking plant and was even rewarded with a westbound unit tank car train headed up by NS SD70M-2 #2771 with an old style PL dwarf signal in the foreground that has more paint than metal.



CP-ANTIS is where the two westbound Altoona Yard leads split from the main tracks. It can sort of be thought of as ALTO's mirror twin. Here the same train takes the diverging route from track #2 westbound onto the inbound yard lead with the new 4-head cantilever signal arm laying on the ground waiting to be installed.



Of course not trip to Altoona would be complete without stopping by the Horseshoe Curve. But like everything else that day the curve was really really wet and miserable and fucking cold which was made worse as I had to change out of my long pants and sweatshirt which had been soaked on my trip out to CP-ANTIS. Here we see a bunch of C40-9W's descending the curve in the rain.



Guarding the curve is PRR GP9 #7048 which replaced PRR K4 #1361 which was sent to Steamtown for restoration.



Here we have a video of NS SD70M-2 #2748 and C40-9W #9858 with a largely empty doublestack train ascending the curve.



And some doublestacks descending.



I'll end things with this shot of the PRR branded funicular ascending the rather short incline between the curve museum and the observation park itself.



Well that's it for this week. Coming up will be two straight sets featuring the Silverliner II so stay tuned.

(1150802)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by salaamallah@hotmail.com on Sat Apr 14 14:27:46 2012, in response to PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:21:45 2012.

very nice photos

(1150804)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Train Man Paul : Metro-North's Best Conductor FOR ALL 3 LINES!!! on Sat Apr 14 14:29:48 2012, in response to PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:21:45 2012.

Very nice!! :-)

The NS trash train, if westbound, is NS 65J. Kearny NJ to Mingo Junction, OH, and the unit ethanol train looks like either 67Q or 69Q, from Port Reading (CP PD), NJ

(1150807)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:42:07 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Train Man Paul : Metro-North's Best Conductor FOR ALL 3 LINES!!! on Sat Apr 14 14:29:48 2012.

Thanks for the IDs. I wonder when NYC will stop stinking up the rest of the country with its garbage.

(1150808)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 14:43:38 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:42:07 2012.

I wonder when NYC will stop stinking up the rest of the country with its garbage

How do you propose to dispose of it?

(1150809)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 14:44:04 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:42:07 2012.

I wonder when NYC will stop stinking up the rest of the country with its garbage

How do you propose to dispose of it? And do you want fewer trains on the rails then?

(1150811)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jackson Park B Train on Sat Apr 14 15:05:57 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:42:07 2012.

when the rest of the country is no longer poor enough to want the money or when NYC gets serious about reduce, re use, recycle.

(1150812)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by orange blossom special on Sat Apr 14 15:10:03 2012, in response to PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:21:45 2012.

1st pic would be good if they didn't rip out the tracks.

(1150814)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 15:15:07 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jackson Park B Train on Sat Apr 14 15:05:57 2012.

You can't recycle in the home. You really think that the enviro-wackos will be OK with plastic re-extrusion in every home, and its awful "carbon footprint"?

(1150815)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 15:35:18 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 14:43:38 2012.

Fresh Kills. That mountain could have gotten a lot higher.

(1150817)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 15:46:16 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 15:35:18 2012.

You don't like seeing more trains on the railroad?

(1150822)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 16:07:36 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 15:46:16 2012.

Not when they stink. You try living near the Philly sub in the summer.

(1150832)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jackson Park B Train on Sat Apr 14 16:58:44 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 15:15:07 2012.

first off, most plastic packaging should be outlawed--example the recent shift by Costco to plastic wrapped TP as opposed to paper. If you don't like outlawing, try a stiff waste tax. second, the really stinky stuff undoubtedly is food related--that's what disposals or composting are for. NYC has finally begun to allow disposals so there is hope. In my case, most of what I put out each week is the paper, plastic, alum or tin can stuff, NONE of which needs to go to landfill. I stopped accepting paper magazines years ago--even the RRHS I belong to has moved to e distribution.
Railroading in the next several decades will see massive shifts in what they move. With any luck, the endless strings of steam coal will diminish (will cut my dividends from Chemical Spill eXpress, oh well) and garbage trains should decline too. Why burn fossil fuel to haul petro based trash to be "stored" when it can be reused?

(1150834)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 17:02:30 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 16:07:36 2012.

Not when they stink

Don't be a baby. Far worse travels by rail.

You don't want the garbage in trucks beside you on the highway; it smells worse. I'd rather the railroads get the business.

(1150835)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 17:09:14 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jackson Park B Train on Sat Apr 14 16:58:44 2012.

most plastic packaging should be outlawed

What do you propose to do with the oil byproducts that usually become plastic, then?

the really stinky stuff undoubtedly is food related—that's what disposals or composting are for

Not very easy to make a compost heap in one's apartment. Rodents would like it very much, though.

most of what I put out each week is the paper, plastic, alum or tin can stuff, NONE of which needs to go to landfill

It still needs to go somewhere. And we have fewer and fewer steel mills in this country, never mind fewer and fewer paper mills. We've even got fewer and fewer plastic reprocessors. The further that stuff has to travel, the more expense in terms of transportation costs.

Railroading in the next several decades will see massive shifts in what they move. With any luck, the endless strings of steam coal will diminish

If you're talking "several decades", then you're a lot younger than I took you for. You won't see "endless strings of" any coal "diminish" so long as Red China wants it.

(1150854)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Train Man Paul : Metro-North's Best Conductor FOR ALL 3 LINES!!! on Sat Apr 14 19:00:51 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:42:07 2012.

Usually, those ethanol trains (66/67Q,68/69Q) come to and from the Chicago area and the Midwest, and often have BNSF and even ICE runthrough power. And 64/65J run almost daily.

(1150857)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 19:15:39 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Train Man Paul : Metro-North's Best Conductor FOR ALL 3 LINES!!! on Sat Apr 14 19:00:51 2012.

He wants the garbage trains to stop.

(1150864)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Rockparkman on Sat Apr 14 19:21:57 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 19:15:39 2012.

garbage trains, ferryboats, what's the difference.

(1150866)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 19:23:20 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Rockparkman on Sat Apr 14 19:21:57 2012.

If you want a landfill in your backyard, that's the difference.

(1150881)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 20:27:01 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 19:15:39 2012.

I'm just making fun of NYC as the nation's source of garbage.

(1150883)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 20:31:35 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 17:02:30 2012.

Railroad business is great, but it didn't make much sense for the city to close a perfectly functional landfill that held several world records and could have served as a ski resort if it ever bothered to get cold again. It's never a good idea for one business to rely on another's waste and inefficiency.

(1150889)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jackson Park B Train on Sat Apr 14 20:54:21 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 17:09:14 2012.

I propose to have a lot less oil pumped, refined, used.

re-read the comments about disposals.

the aluminum is constantly being reused. steel "tin cans" are constantly cycled--check the webcams of NS trains w/ coil steel cars.
as tyo spome plastics, check out Trex which is now common decking/stair material. as to the cost of re using/processing plastics, I repeat, stiff taxes/outright bans in some instances are needed to reduce the first time usage.

As to age/likely mortality, if I mimic my mother I have 28 years to go--she was 1 day short of 96. And if I keel over tomorrow, I still hope for massive changes in resource usage on this planet.

(1150921)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Rockparkman on Sat Apr 14 23:40:16 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 19:23:20 2012.

I want a junkyard for the ferryboats.

(1150942)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by chud1 on Sun Apr 15 05:12:59 2012, in response to PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:21:45 2012.

A+ for u onpictures, videos and narration. i am foaming at da mouth.
chud1

(1150956)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Train Dude on Sun Apr 15 09:00:19 2012, in response to PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:21:45 2012.

You should have gone a bit further west to the east portals of the Portage and Allegheny tunnels.

(1150963)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Train Man Paul : Metro-North's Best Conductor FOR ALL 3 LINES!!! on Sun Apr 15 09:41:39 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Olog-hai on Sat Apr 14 19:15:39 2012.

Ain't happening!! Big business now, especially since now trash is even being shipped by rail from Long Island, plus now they are also coming in from Upstate New York, and possibly Boston, as now CSX is running another set of trash trains over the River Line, which look quite similar to NS 64/65J, using the purplish and gray containers, and symboled in the K-series, as well as the usual Q702/703 trains.

(1150964)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Train Man Paul : Metro-North's Best Conductor FOR ALL 3 LINES!!! on Sun Apr 15 09:42:55 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 20:27:01 2012.

Well, it is a big profitable service for the railroads now. Hell, even CSX Y101/102 from Oak Point to Fresh Pond and back are mostly hauling trash containers. Big business trash exporting is proving to be.

(1150965)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Train Man Paul : Metro-North's Best Conductor FOR ALL 3 LINES!!! on Sun Apr 15 09:47:25 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:42:07 2012.

Not anytime soon, especially since CSX had added another set of unit trash trains on the River Line, either coming straight from the Albany area or even Boston, and plus trash-by-rail has picked up from Long Island. The residents of Glendale and Middle Village have made many complaints about the trash cars running along the Fremont Secondary between Fresh Pond and Oak Point, especially when NY&A are setting up the outbound loaded blocks and leave them tied down just north of Fresh Pond for CSX to pick up.

(1150966)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Train Man Paul : Metro-North's Best Conductor FOR ALL 3 LINES!!! on Sun Apr 15 09:47:55 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sat Apr 14 14:42:07 2012.

Not anytime soon, especially since CSX had added another set of unit trash trains on the River Line, either coming straight from the Albany area or even Boston, and plus trash-by-rail has picked up from Long Island. The residents of Glendale and Middle Village have made many complaints about the trash cars running along the Fremont Secondary between Fresh Pond and Oak Point, especially when NY&A are setting up the outbound loaded blocks and leave them tied down just north of Fresh Pond for CSX to pick up.

(1150978)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jersey Mike on Sun Apr 15 10:49:20 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Train Dude on Sun Apr 15 09:00:19 2012.

Those aren't being demolished.

(1151008)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Olog-hai on Sun Apr 15 13:51:00 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Train Man Paul : Metro-North's Best Conductor FOR ALL 3 LINES!!! on Sun Apr 15 09:41:39 2012.

Yup, and if it ain't the trains, it'll be the trucks. The trucks are up front and close when you're driving, so that smell stays in your nostrils on down the road; on the rails, you have to go to the garbage, so to speak.



(1151009)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Train Dude on Sun Apr 15 13:55:54 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sun Apr 15 10:49:20 2012.

neither is horseshoe curve but sorry for the suggestion.

(1151012)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Jersey Mike on Sun Apr 15 14:29:46 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Train Dude on Sun Apr 15 13:55:54 2012.

No I appreciate it, although if I hadn't been cold, wet and out of light and time I would have gone up to CP-MG or AR tower. The Allegheny tunnel portals are a bit of a tourist trap, especially since NS decided to brick up the unused bore.

(1151013)

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Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET

Posted by Train Dude on Sun Apr 15 14:35:44 2012, in response to Re: PHOTOS: ALTOONA WET, posted by Jersey Mike on Sun Apr 15 14:29:46 2012.

That's the west portal by the tunnel inn. The east portals take a bit of getting to, climbing down from the top of tunnel hill. There is an access road but it's not advisable for a regular car. From the top of tunnel hill you can actually see both the east and wast approaches to Horseshoe curve


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