’Round Town

Father’s Day

Posted:  Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - 7:30am

My father liked trains.

Where we lived in central Pennsylvania, trains were the life blood of our economy, pumping mountains of freight and moving thousands of people. The coal industry was completely dependent upon a massive network of tracks that stretched throughout the state and across the country.

The Altoona Yards (not far from our home place) provided essential services for the rail industry. Thousands worked to insure proper maintenance of engines and the manufacture of new equipment. There were roundhouses, switching yards and metal shops. Also, the famous “Horseshoe curve,” a section of track that traversed the inner rim of the Allegheny escarpment, was nearby.

During my early childhood, my father worked as a traveling salesman for General Hardware and Supply in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. Often, during school vacations and in summer, I would ride along with dad as he made calls throughout his territory, which was centered in train country. Sometimes, during these trips he would manage to land us at the Altoona Yards for lunch with hundreds of workers ... AND, a hike up to the inner apex of the Horseshoe Curve, where, if lucky, we would could stand literally feet from a rolling steam train with its endless stretch of cars, the magnificent steam whistle and a wonderful caboose!

The photo I am sharing with you was made some time ago during a visit back home. I’d asked dad if we could take a drive over to Altoona, with maybe a stop at “The Curve.”

I knew dad would not be able to climb the stairs to the tracks anymore after some serious heart work, but I thought it might be good to get him out of the house.

Altoona is not what it used to be back in the heyday of railroading. The yards are no longer filled with trains, cars and workers. That didn’t surprise me really — time has grown away from there. But, we found a wonderful remnant of the past at the base of ”The Curve.”

The K4, 1361, “Pacific” steam locomotive, built in 1918 for the Pennsylvania Railroad at the Altoona Works.

It was my Father’s Day. Thanks dad.