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Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark

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1852–1854, J. Edgar Thomson, chief engineer; 1992 visitors' center, Richard Glance and Associates. Kittanning Point Rd., 3 miles west of Altoona

The main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad needed a relatively flat route to penetrate the Allegheny Mountains. To achieve this, large earthen bridges or embankments were built across two streambeds at the former Kittanning Point, which allowed the trains to curve 275 feet up the mountainside at the proper grade. Ultimately, the right-of-way of this engineering marvel was expanded to accommodate four tracks. A model of the curve was displayed at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, increasing interest in the site to the point that in the first half of the twentieth century, the Horseshoe Curve was considered one of the engineering “Wonders of the World.” In 1940, the railroad gave permission to the city of Altoona to operate a park at the site, since tourists were driving to it by car. The horseshoe curve was closely guarded during World War II as a prime strategic target. In 1992, a new interpretive center and single-rail funicular were built to allow visitors to see the curve from above and read about the site's history and significance in a hipped-roof building at the base.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark", [Altoona, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 333-335.

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