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229 - Bellwood
234 - Juniata
236 - Altoona

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ALTOONA


PT 236

Downtown Altoona marks the western edge of the NS Altoona East territory. With the closure of ALTO tower on June 16th 2012, the Altoona East dispatcher gained full control of the territory between the control points of ANTIS and ALTOONA. West of ALTOONA, the Pittsburgh East dispatcher takes over. Altoona is home to ALTO tower (now unmanned), Amtrak's Altoona station and the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum. Here, the west end of Rose Yard ties into the mainline at WORKS, COVE JCT and ALTOONA. The NS Cove Secondary breaks off from the mainline and heads south to Hollidaysburg. With the steep 1.8% grade incline of the East Slope starting at the center of town, control points WORKS and ALTOONA are well utilized to keep trains running smoothly.

As mentioned before, on June 16th 2012, the final step of a large signal and track upgrade project was finished with the closure of ALTO tower. During the cut-over week, all the classic ex-PRR PL signals were replaced with modern Safetrans CL installations. WORKS interlocking has been modernized with the removal of some of the redundant dwarf signals. Going east from the controlled siding track, a train can now get a single Slow Clear indication to cross back over to main 1 or 2. The new COVE JCT interlocking now protects the entry to the Cove Secondary to Duncansville. The strange configuration of switches between SLOPE and ALTO has been replaced with a single full crossover (including a new helper pocket) and was renamed ALTOONA. In the subsequent weeks of the cut-over, the now unused switches were removed and the tracks were straightened out. The closing of the manned ALTO tower marks the end of an era which started over 150 years ago. The photos in this part of the guide will primarily show the new post-ALTO signal equipment. Older photos of the PL signals and Alto Tower will eventually be made into tribute page.

PT 235.6 - WORKS and the 7th St Bridge

WORKS is the busiest interlocking in Altoona. It features a full crossover for the mainlines, access to the JBS lead, and several switches to varoius tracks at the west end of Rose Yard. The 7th St bridge over the mainline provides a great view of the eastbound WORKS signals and the west end of Rose Yard. The bridge only has one sidewalk located on the east side.

1) MID PROJECT Westbound 537 has yarded its train and will bring their locomotives to ROSE for fuel. Note the old ex-PRR signals still in use as the new CL singals are being installed.
2) OLD Westbound 13G passes through WORKS after a recrew. (Photo by Tom Granville)
3) NEW A westbound helper set has just left Rose Yard from 1 Relay at WORKS. Seen from below the bridge.

PT 236.0 - 8th St Bridge

Parallel to the 7th St bridge is the 8th St bridge over the mainline. The single sidewalk is located on the west side of the bridge. It is perfect for taking photos of an eastbound or helpers on the rear of a westbound.

1) Eastbound 099 comes through Altoona with a train of export locomotives. (Photo by Robert Shook)
2) Eastbound 852 enters Rose Yard on 1 Yard track with NS 1070 Wabash leading. (Photo by Dustin Faust)

PT 236 - 9th and 9th

Below the 7th and 8th St bridges runs 9th Avenue which briefly parallels the mainline. Right near the intersection of 9th Ave and 9th St, the railroad makes a small turn. Due to this curve, we get some great views of WORKS and the station area, but with from a ground level perspective. The avenue is not very busy, so one may park along side without any problems. On the flip side, this was the exact place where the NKP 765 was serviced during its runs to and from Harrisburg in 2012. The whole area was packed with spectators!

1) Westbound 955 passes under the 7th St bridge after departing from JBS at WORKS.
2) Sunday local CB60 leaves Rose Yard and is heading to Hollidaysburg on the Cove Secondary.
3) OLD Westbound 591 passes through Altoona with two SD70ACes. (Photo by Tony Kimmel)

1) PRE UPGRADE An eastbound coal drag descends the East Slope and is heading into Rose Yard. (Photo by Ben Sutton)
2) PRE UPGRADE Eastbound Amtrak 04T makes its station stop as light helpers head west on track 3 in the distance.
3) PRE UPGRADE Eastbound 18N ducks under all the overpasses on main 1. (Photo by Robert Shook)

PT 236.3 - 12th St Overhead Walkway

Just east of the Amtrak Station, a pedestrian walkway near 12th St passes over the mainline. As expected, this a great spot for photography. One also has an elevated view of the Museum's collection to the south.

1) Westbound 11J has helpers tacked ahead of the road power as it runs for the hill.
2) Eastbound 04T makes its Altoona Station stop on track 2. (Photo by Dustin Faust)
3) PRE UPGRADE Eastbound 294 passes the Amtrak Station while heading through the city.

PT 236.4 - Altoona Amtrak Station

Amtrak's Altoona station is detached from the actual platform due to the close proximity of 10th Avenue to the mainline. The station itself is on the other side of the stree on the northeast corner of 10th Ave and 13th St. Passengers getting on at Altoona must cross an enclosed overhead walkway to get to their train. Amtrak highly prefers that their trains always stop at the station's platform on track 2, so tricky dispatching is required on busy days. There have been occurances where trains were made to stop on track 1 and use the small wooden platform, inevitably causing delays. Amtrak only allows ticketed passengers to access the platform, so good luck trying to get there without one.

1) Westbound light helpers pass the station on track 2, viewed from the station platform.
2) PRE UPGRADE One of the two Station PRR style pedistal signals displays a medium clear indication.
3) PRE UPGRADE Eastbound 536 passes through ALTO on its way into Rose Yard. (All photos by Marc Lingenfelter)

A covered walkway was built across the entire mainline to connect the downtown area near the station with the Railroaders Memorial Museum on the south side of the tracks. Only open during the day, the high walkway is a popular place to watch trains. A large parking lot on the south side of the mainline provides free parking for railfans and features several different photography angles.

1) Westbound photo to come!!!
2) PRE UPGRADE Eastbound 20T enters Altoona on a beautiful spring morning.
3) PRE UPGRADE Eastbound 12N drops down through ALTO and is lined into Rose Yard on 1 Yard track. (Photo by Ben Sutton)

1) Westbound 25Z passes under the 12th St walkway as it approaches the station area.
2) A light helper set passes under the Amtrak Station walkway. (Photo by Aaron Bilby)
3) PRE UPGRADE Eastbound 20T is lined 2 to 2 at ALTO as it passes under the WB signal bridge. (Photo by Aaron Bilby)

PT 236.6 - 17th St Bridge

East of the station, the wide 17th St bridge crosses over the mainline with sidewalks on each side. This elevated view gives you a good look of the station to the east and ALTO tower to the west. The ALTO signal bridges are excellent props for photography.

1) Rose Yard local CB60 will soon deliver several locomotives to JBS at WORKS. (Photo by Aaron Bilby)
2) Eastbound C51 eases a loaded coal drag into Rose Yard with SD80MACs. (Photo by Jim Johnston)
3) Westbound C52 has just departed Rose Yard with coiled steel for Conemaugh. (Photo by Aaron Bilby)

PT 236.7 - ALTO Tower

2012 will probably the last year that ALTO tower will still be in operation. After the cutover date this year, the fate of this historic building will be in the air. Norfolk Southern has disclosed that they are willing to negotiate with preservation societies, but as of this writing, no news has yet surfaced.

1) NS 82T passes ALTO tower with UP runthough power. (Photo by Nick Anshant)
2) The NS F-units arrive back home after taking the OCS out on business. (Photo by Tony Kimmel)
3) Seen from 10th Ave, the PRR E8s pass ALTO tower with a westbound special. (Photo by Tony Kimmel)

PT 237.3 - SLOPE and the 24 1/2 St Bridge

With its location between 24 and 25 Streets, the aptly named 24 1/2 St crosses over the mainline in the middle of SLOPE interlocking. As a result, the SLOPE signals are not visible from the bridge. It is not a total loss since the westbound ALTO signals are visible to the east. Only tracks 1 and 2 are actually controlled by SLOPE and track 3 has a westbound PT 237 intermediate signal. Since the beginning of the East Slope gradient lies half a mile to the east, the engineers on westbound trains will have their locomotives at full throttle!

1) Westbound 401 empty coal train charges up track 3 without the need for helpers.
2) All three tracks are occupied between SLOPE and ALTO on a typical day on the Pittsburgh Line.
3) Eastbound 68Q passes a westbound intermodal climbing the East Slope. (All photos by Ben Sutton)