Description - The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the first railroad constructed over the Allegheny Mountains. It operated between 1834-1854 and was considered a technological wonder of its day. The 1,500 acre park, located in southwestern Pennsylvania, offers the Summit Level Visitor Center, the historic Lemon House, Engine House #6 Exhibit Shelter, the Skew Arch Bridge, picnic area and hiking trails. Artifacts, exhibits, a full-scale model of the railroad, an introductory film, interactive exhibits, a gift shop, restroom facilities and more are located at the Historic Site. Facilities are wheelchair accessible. Cross-country skiing is permitted on trails during the winter months. From Memorial Day to Labor Day a variety of ranger programs are offered daily at the park. During the summer and fall months a series of ranger led Heritage Hikes are offered on Sunday afternoons. These hikes travel to some of the hidden treasures of the Allegheny Portage Railroad outside the main park area. These hikes vary from 1.5 miles to 7 miles in length. Reservations are required.
- The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the first railroad constructed over the Allegheny Mountains. This inclined plane railroad operating between 1834-1854 was considered a technological wonder of its day and played a critical role in opening the interior of the United States to trade and settlement.
Recreation - Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, is located in southwestern Pennsylvania approximately 12 miles west of Altoona. Today's park covers 1500 acres. The main unit contains the Summit Level Visitor Center, the historic Lemon House, Engine House #6 Exhibit Shelter, the Skew Arch Bridge, picnic area and hiking trails. The Staple Bend Tunnel unit is located approximately 4 miles east of Johnstown, PA.
The Summit Level Visitor Center contains artifacts, exhibits, and models that help tell the story of the railroad. A full-scale model of the Lafayette, a locomotive used on the Portage Railroad, is a featured attraction. The visitor center includes a 60 seat auditorium where an introductory 20 minute orientation film is shown. A book sales area, restrooms, pay phone, and water fountain are also available at the visitor center. A wheelchair accessible boardwalk will lead you the short distance from the visitor center to the historic area of the park. On request an alternate form of transportation, for persons with walking difficulties, may be available to access the Lemon House from the visitor center. The Lemon House was a tavern located adjacent to the railroad and was a common rest and dining stop for railroad passengers. This historic tavern's first floor has been restored to 1840 using both reproduction and period furnishings. Park visitors are able to learn more about the social and economic aspects of the railroad in the furnished tavern's bar room, dining room, parlor, and exhibit area.
The Engine House #6 Exhibit Shelter was built to preserve the remains of the original building at the head of Inclined Plane 6. A full-scale model of a stationary steam engine can be viewed from a wheelchair-accessible catwalk. This building also contains interactive exhibits on the railroad's technology.
Staple Bend Tunnel, America's first railroad tunnel, is located outside of the main park area in a remote location. Presently this area is being developed. It is closed to the general public, but information can be obtained at the visitor center for ranger guided hikes to the tunnel.
Other features within the park are a historic stone quarry, the Skew Arch Bridge, and stone sleepers (early railroad ties) and culverts along the railroad trace. A picnic area is a short drive from the visitor center or can be accessed via park trails. The park contains approximately 5 miles of hiking trails for foot traffic only. During the winter months the trails are used by cross-country skiers.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day a variety of ranger programs are offered daily at the park, these include talks, tours, and historic trade demonstrations. All of these programs take place near the Engine House and Lemon House area.
During the summer and fall months a series of ranger led Heritage Hikes are offered on Sunday afternoons. These hikes travel to some of the hidden treasures of the Allegheny Portage Railroad outside the main park area. These hikes vary from 1-1/2 miles to 7 miles in length. Reservations are required.
A schedule of all ranger programs offered at Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS may be obtained at the visitor center. Open 7 days a week 9am to 5pm year-round, closed Veterans Day (November 11), Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1, Martin Luther King Jr. Day (3rd Monday in January), Presidents Day (3rd Monday in February). Park hours can change due to holidays and inclement weather. If traveling a great distance you may want to call the park for operating hours.
Climate - Pennsylvania generally has a moist climate with cold winters and warm summers. This area generally has cold winter months with temperatures averaging 22 to 24 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 to -4 degrees Celsius). The region's average summer temperatures range 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 22 Celsius).
The park is located just off U.S. 22 approximately 12 miles west of Altoona and 10 miles east of Ebensburg. Take the Gallitzin Exit and follow the signs.