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Horseshoe Curve Altoona, PA

Updated on June 4, 2008

World Famous Historic Landmark and Living History

People often look at things on the National Historic Register as things of the past.  However, the Horseshoe Curve is still one of the busiest mainlines in the world.

The Horseshoe curve remains an engineering marvel.  If you are a railroad enthusiast, it is an absolute MUST SEE.  There are very few places where you can get so close to operating tracks.

But if you cannot make the trip, you can watch a live webcam of the Horsehoe Curve via this site: 


The Making of a Landmark

Conquering the Alleghenies...

February 15th 1854: Horseshoe Curve officially opened to rail traffic.

J. Edgar Thompson was the brains behind the engineering feat but hundreds of immigrants (predominantly Irish) and pack animals labored for years to create this awe-inspiring mountain crossing.

Standing at the site it is absolutely mind-boggling to imagine the work involved. Picks, shovels and a little gunpowder combined with back breaking effort by both humans and animals literally moved mountains.

They did it though, they conquered the Alleghenies! Their great endeavor opened the gateway to the west.

The Horseshoe Curve's importance in undeniable. It was so significant that Hitler had plans to destroy it. (See the video below.)

November 13th 1966: Placed on the National Historic Register.

The Horseshoe Curve Ghost

How to see the Horseshoe Curve Ghost

Many people lost their lives on, near, or around the Horseshoe Curve. Building a railroad is a hard and dangerous job, death was common.

You would assume that the ghost would be a male railroad worker who died in some accident but that isn't the case.

The Horseshoe Curve ghost is female. She is assumed to be an Irish female who died in the 1800s. Exactly when or how she died is not known.

If you want to see the ghost, here is the best way to do it (or so I have heard).

Sighting the ghost is best done on the night of a full moon when it is either misty, raining, or snowing. Without these conditions you are wasting your time.

Sometime before midnight, drive up 40th Street in Altoona, up the road northeast of Burgoon Run near Kittanning Trail. Drive up past the three reservoirs to the tunnel. Drive through the tunnel heading uphill and turn around approximately 50 yards on the other side using the pull-off area.

Face your car downhill, place the car in neutral with the engine running. Check your watch and wait until just before midnight.

Be sure no other cars are present (safety first, you don't want to end up a ghost yourself). Keep totally silent and begin to drive forward entering the tunnel at exactly midnight. Turn off the car's lights as you enter. (Warning: this is risky.)

Drive slowly and cautiously. Beep your horn three times in the tunnel.

As you exit the tunnel look immediately to the right, you should see the figure of a young Irish lass dressed in white. She will either be sitting on the wall or standing by the big spruce tree. If she is not there, look for her just ahead where half a dozen other spruces stand.

Horseshoe Curve and the Nazi Plot to Destroy It

Thanks WPSU!

Video where Kevin Conaway interviews Dennis McIlnay regarding the attempted Nazi attack on the Horseshoe Curve during World War II.

Video requires broadband and Quicktime.

On Location

You don't have to be a railfan to enjoy visiting the Horseshoe Curve.

Have you ever been to the Horseshoe Curve?

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Reader Feedback - Your Comments are Appreciated

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    • profile image

      sharon 3 years ago

      Anyone knowing of a lady at horseshoe curve that died from playing on the tracks? looking for information due to grandson 3, we where sitting him on the flat car tacking his pictures and he said ma'am wanted him to go the bridge and then on the tracks so he could be with her forever now this has gone on for two weeks until i told him to tell her to leave she was bad.. no more talks from this lady i have lived and was raised in pa. all my life this is a first for me any help we can get please.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      can you ride a train the uses the Curve? we were told that you could and we would like to board at Elizabethtown and ride out and back. Is that possible?

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      I love HSC! It is a great place 2 see train.

      I am a total RAILFAN!

      I go down to the Altoona area at least once or twice a year.

    • Nathanville profile image

      Arthur Russ 10 years ago from England

      Welcome to Railway Enthusiasts. Horseshoe Curve is spectacular although I havenât seen it. I have seen Ffestiniog Railway, which is also spectacular.

    • profile image

      AKAnorth85 10 years ago

      Thanks for commenting on my lens. One thing I've found that's ideal for downtown survival is a healthy blend of historic and modern, which is the idea I have with my internet cafe.

      Anyway this is a great lens you have here. I'll check back regularly for updates.