The city of Altoona, Pennsylvania, United States of America is a railroad lover’s heaven. It is home to many great railroad sites. You have the Railroader’s Memorial Museum. You have the Portage Railroad National Historic Site. You have the Everett Railroad excursion train in Hollidaysburg. For those who are into engineering marvels, you have the world-famous Horseshoe Curve. You cannot forget the railroad shops that are located here. Some claim that Altoona is the railroad capital of America due to the number of railroad sites, but some would disagree as other cities have been given that name. Regardless, the city is a great place if you love the railroad. Along with the sites mentioned, there is one railroad engineering marvel that is little known.
Welcome to the Gallitzin Tunnels in Tunnel Hill, Pennsylvania. What is special about the Gallitzin Tunnels? That is a great question. The same rail line that currently pass through these twin tunnels is the same line that goes around the Horseshoe Curve and passes through the heart of Downtown Altoona. With the high mountain range and the Eastern Continental Divide, building the rail line over the ridge was a very tough feat. The best option was to tunnel through the mountain. First, the Portage Tunnel was built. Then came the Allegheny Tunnel. The Gallitzin Tunnels was the third to be built, and it was a twin tunnel with double track in each tunnel. After much blasting, the twin tunnels were completed making it the highest and longest tunnels on the railroad.
Today, only one of the tunnels is used, and rail fans can stand on a nearby bridge watching trains go in and out of the tunnel. (A section of the bridge fence was cut out to give fans an uninterrupted view of trains entering and exiting the tunnel.) There is a small park next to the bridge where you can watch trains, and it features a caboose from the Pennsylvania Railroad, an old rail signal and a kid’s play area. There is also a museum across the street in the community building that tells the history of the town. The museum has many model trains and a small gift shop plus a small theater where you can watch a short film about the tunnels.
The Gallitzin Tunnels Park and Museum is located at 411 Convent Street and Jackson Street in Gallitzin, Pennsylvania. It is just minutes from U.S. Route 22 and a short drive from the Horseshoe Curve and the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site. (Please note that access to the park involves navigating a small road down a steep hill through the town. Larger buses may find it difficult.) The park is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. The museum and gift shop are open Monday through Friday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. Parking is on site. If you cannot make it during the week, you can call ahead to make an appointment to see the museum. You can get more information at https://www.gallitzin.info/index.php.