Horseshoe Curve Altoona, PA
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
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.
Horseshoe Curve Stuff on Amazon
You don't have to be a railfan to enjoy visiting the Horseshoe Curve.