My third opportunity in Altoona was a visit to the Railroader’s Memorial Museum.
This facility is housed in one of the few remaining buildings from the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Altoona Works Shop complex. Located in the heart of downtown, across the tracks from the Altoona station, and along the street which was the PRR’s 1854 main line.
The focus of the museum is the railroad worker – the laborer – the people who did the track work, the engineer, conductor, trainman, pullman porter, shop mechanic, machinest, tower operator, and hundreds of other positions. Not to say that the executives are downplayed, but, there is only one small room for them. Even the railroad’s decline after World War II has a place in the displays. The 1950s goverment support of the Interstate road system and the airlines with tax free airport construction but they continued to tax the railroads for land. It is all explained well.
The exhibits also highlight shops, track work, train operation, in addition to the social aspects of employment – the fraternal dance halls, band, chorus and athletic events.
They have an outdoor display area of equipment built at the Altoona Shops – Observation cars, dining cars, freight cars. They are in the process of restoring the K-4 locomotive 1361, which formerly was the display engine on Horseshoe curve; in addition to building a roundhouse to better preserve the large equipment.
Three stories of exhibits, some hands on stuff, and a well stocked gift shop. A nice afternoon visit for both kids and adults.