Campground: Noel's Trailer Park. 35 minutes from Altoona, $25 for 30 amp electric. No water or sewer at site. 6 over the air TV stations(poor), good Verizon signal. This is an old trailer camp, most sites are seasonal and a few full time live-ins. Overhead electric wires hang low and a worker directing me to my pull-thru site kept a watchful eye on the top of my camper to make sure I cleared each set of wires. Electric cut out about 4 times and was weak.
It will do for a couple of nights, but I would not recommend the park.
It will do for a couple of nights, but I would not recommend the park.
|Noel's Trailer Park, a really old trailer park|
my campsite, behind the dumpsters
|Noel's is a really old trailer park|
|lost electric power about 4 times|
and it's a weak, the a/c didn't like it at all
|anyone need storage?|
Distance traveled: 102 miles
|Stop! wait, proceed slowly|
lots and lots of road repairs
I picked this campground mainly because it's approx. half way between Altoona and Johnstown. Both areas I thought might be interesting to tour. With that said, I headed into Altoona the next day. My GPS giving me good directions if a bit on the exciting side. The route chosen went on up over one of the many ridge lines of the Allegheny mountain range. And descending down the mountain on a 14% grade was quite a thrill as the road traveled along the edge of each heavily forested drop off. Thank goodness I didn't have my camper in tow. My fellow Rv-ers will understand fully what a 14% grade means. Even without towing the camper downshifting and breaking periodically are essential.
|from detailed train layouts of Altoona|
The Railroaders Memorial Museum
|to exceptional vintage photo's|
and lots of innovative displays
Altoona was once one of the main centers for the Pennsylvania Rail Road and still is. New train engines were built and tested here. The Railroaders Memorial Museum and the famous horseshoe Curve, approx 5 miles away are well worth the drive over the mountain. My first stop was at the Railroaders Museum and I wasn't disappointed. Exceptional displays telling the life of a railroad worker, the enormous man hours put in to research the best products to be used on the railroads. An example being the testing of various Florida oranges to determine which would produce the most orange juice for the diners, or the testing of light bulbs to determine which would last the longest and produce the most light. Constant upgrades to the rail road equipment for communications and safety were ongoing. Many of the displays described what impact the trains had on local lives.
I highly recommend the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum.
|views from the Train Museum, into downtown Altoona|
|museum is on three levels|
|over 100 knobs, levers and switches|
|comics hit on the popularity of trains|
|each display covering another|
aspect of the train life and worker
|The Chairman of the board|
explains that he's got to make a profit
for the share holders
|this is the era when everything was|
tested for efficiency and maximum use
testing how much juice each type of Florida
orange produced, to be served on the trains
|special devices created to test light bulbs brightness and longevity|
|life in the late 1800's|
|The news boy is off screen, activated by motion sensors|
he appears as you approach the display to tell his story
As a former Government worker I was taught early on that every job had it's fringe benefits. For the railroad worker, it meant their families could ride the trains often for free or for a minimal amount of money. Including being able to travel on other railroad lines as well, since many had reciprocal travel agreements. It was nothing for a wife and children living in Altoona to hop on a train and go into Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or even New York to shop and dine out. They could even take a vacation by rail all the way out west to places like Yellowstone National Park. Now that's a good fringe benefit.
|Train enthusiasts will recognize the Horseshoe Curve|
|trains pass through every twenty mintutes|
|just coming into horseshoe curve|
|it wraps around this reservoir and viewing park|
|even Abraham Lincoln traveled on a train around this bend|
still heavily used today
|these cars are garbage scows sending trash from as far away|
as Philadelphia and New York, heading west
|and around the bend, eliminating the need for bridges|
keeping the train at an even level for the tracks
The horseshoe curve was and still is an amazing accomplishment in railroad history. Due to the numerous mountain ranges in Pennsylvania, the original design of the first railroads was to put down tracks where they could, transfer passengers onto canal barges and back again to trains just to travel across the state. The horseshoe curve enabled the construction of a rail line along the ridge of the surrounding mountains completing the rail line from one end of Pennsylvania to the other. In conjunction with the museum, there's a wonderful park in the center of the horseshoe curve for viewing the trains as they loop around the mountain range.
Another day I toured the Mishler Theatre, built twice, the first time in 1906 and the second time in 1907. Although the first one built had many fire protection features including an asbestos curtain and sprinklers to put out any fire, it was a fire next door to the theater that quickly got out of control that took it down. The owner had already used most of his money and was not sure he could rebuild. Local citizens put up the collateral and it was rebuilt in record time.
Even though it was not a major city, because it was on a direct rail line from Philadelphia and New York, many entertainers, shows and plays would stop here first, before going across country. George Burns, the famous stand up comedian titled his memoirs “They loved me in Altoona”.
Unlike many historic buildings, this one did not remain empty but for a couple of years. It would eventually be purchased by a local non-profit group that has done an exceptional job renovating it and bring back live theater, music and other events.
|downtown Altoona PA|
|Inside the Mishler Theater|
|downtown Altoona PA|
|The Altoona Trust, now a Comic book store|
|The Mishler recently opened a bar in|
the basement, with a really cool vibe
I even stopped in for a peak at the large cathedral on top of the hill close to the theater. A mass was being performed, but I was able to take a picture from the back of the modern day structure, with a picture of Pope Francis at the entrance. Grand yet understated in it's design.
Well, what a mess I made of attempting to do a bit of touring in this city that has been devastated by three major floods. The largest one being back in 1889. The story goes that a number of wealthy industrialists had purchased land surrounding a man made lake, including owning the earthen dam that held back all the water. They built large cottages secluded amongst the treed shoreline and enjoyed the summers in their own little piece of paradise, away from the lower class workers.
The dam having gone through two previous owners before the new wealthy industrialists took over. It was not well maintained. Heavy rains rapidly overflowed the dam and spillway, as a couple of feet had been removed from the middle of the earthen dam to make it easier for the cottage owners to travel across the top of the dam with their carriages. Creating a second point for the overflowing water to travel.
The dam burst and flooded all of the towns downstream with Johnstown being the largest town at the end of the valley where three rivers intersect. With the lake gone and the valley towns destroyed, the wealthy owners of the cottages would never return to their summer homes.
|the Red Cross had it's first major event|
in Johnstown, spending many months coordinating help
Well I started out saying what a mess I made of attempting to tour the area. I did of course tour the Flood Museum, but only after being directed by signage away from what looked like a perfectly good parking lot, over a bridge and to a dirt parking lot at the Amtrak station. It was under renovation, but conflicting signs indicated it was for museum parking and another sign indicating for Amtrak employees only. Being the museum was back across the bridge, I drove back over in that direction and ended up getting street parking/w parking meter. Once again limiting my time for touring.
My second attempt was to take a ride on the “steepest vehicular Incline plane” in the world. Well, my faithful GPS did take me to the site, but not to the base of the ride, no I ended up driving to the top of the hill 900 feet almost straight up. Turned out ok, because on Fridays and weekends, the venicular train doesn't run until late morning and afternoons. So I was able to enjoy the views and see this suburb in the sky before once again descending back to flood plane level.
By then I was eager for some lunch, but not being familiar with the town, I couldn't find any visitor parking in the busy downtown shopping district. I'm sure there were some places to park, but all I saw were parking lots designated for various bank building employees only and other businesses, none for visitors....
Though there were a number of very interesting places to tour in the area, my stomach won out and I headed out of town in search of a restaurant with a parking lot.
A note: I did download a Johnstown app to my phone that was supposedly designed to give a listing of all the interesting places to visit and a map showing ones preferences of places to visit. Unfortunately, after I selected my places of interest and retrieved the custom map, it had little dots on the map, that one needed to open to see what the location marker was for. After clicking on a few of them, I noticed the app added additional places of businesses and shops/restaurants along with my selections. Needless to say, it was not of any help.... good idea, just not helpful.
So a short report covering only a 4 day stay before heading out to an Army Corps campground, my last stop before exiting Pennsylvania.