In the early 19th century, the Allegheny Portage Railroad was a critical link between America's industrializing Eastern states and the rural West. Today its story is preserved at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site.
A marvel of engineering, the railroad transported passengers, cargo, and boats from the Mainline Canal across 36 miles of rugged Allegheny wilderness. The railroad used an ingenious system of sloping planes to enable trains to climb and descend the rocky grade. The 900-foot long Staple Bend Tunnel, carved through solid rock by Welch coalminers, was the first railroad tunnel built in America.
A film, exhibits, and scale models in the Summit Level Visitor Center explain how the Allegheny Portage Railroad revolutionized travel in its day. Walk or bicycle along the railroad’s inclined planes, under the Skew Arch Bridge, and through the tunnel to experience what travel was like nearly two centuries ago.
If You Go
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site is located between Johnstown and Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Visit the historic Lemon House, a tavern that welcomed Allegheny Portage Railroad travelers, including Charles Dickens and Ulysses S. Grant.
Did You Know?
The Allegheny Portage Railroad was built to enable barges to travel continuously along the Susquehanna and Ohio rivers. The railroad was a key transportation improvement that helped open up the American West.