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GEOREF RECORD

The history and geology of the Allegheny Portage Railroad, Blair and Cambria Counties, Pennsylvania

John A. Harper
The history and geology of the Allegheny Portage Railroad, Blair and Cambria Counties, Pennsylvania (in From the shield to the sea; geological field trips from the 2011 joint meeting of the GSA Northeastern and North-Central Sections, Richard M. Ruffolo (editor) and Charles N. Ciampaglio (editor))
Field Guide (Geological Society of America) (March 2011) 20: 111-141

Abstract

The Allegheny Portage Railroad, just one leg of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal system, was the first railroad over the Allegheny Mountains, an imposing physiographic barrier to westward migration in the early 1800s. Construction of the canal system began in 1826 and continued until ca. 1840 without interruption. The Allegheny Portage Railroad began construction in 1831 and opened for business in 1834. This astonishing engineering feat took less than four years for completion, despite the necessity of 10 inclined planes and the use of the new-fangled railroad locomotives. Construction made use of many of the natural resources occurring along and adjacent to the right-of-way, especially the Pennsylvanian-aged sandstones used for the "sleepers" that held the rails in place. Travel occurred in sectional canal boats, boats that were built in two or three pieces that could be easily loaded onto rail cars. Passengers and goods were loaded onto the boat sections in Philadelphia, which were then hauled by horse or locomotive to the Susquehanna River west of Lancaster. The boats traveled north on the Susquehanna River canal to the mouth of the Juniata River north of Harrisburg, then along the Juniata River canal to Hollidaysburg near the foot of Allegheny Mountain. There, the boats were taken from the water, loaded onto rail cars, and hauled over the mountain on the Allegheny Portage Railroad to Johnstown where they were unloaded into the Conemaugh River canal for the journey to Pittsburgh. A New Allegheny Portage Railroad was built in the 1850s to bypass the inclined planes. It was no sooner built, however, when the state sold the entire canal system to the Pennsylvania Railroad for less than half the cost of construction. The Pennsylvania Railroad promptly dismantled the Allegheny Portage Railroad and filled in the canals. Today, the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site oversees and administers the preservation of the few remaining aspects of the old railroad.


ISSN: 2333-0937
EISSN: 2333-0945
Serial Title: Field Guide (Geological Society of America)
Serial Volume: 20
Title: The history and geology of the Allegheny Portage Railroad, Blair and Cambria Counties, Pennsylvania
Title: From the shield to the sea; geological field trips from the 2011 joint meeting of the GSA Northeastern and North-Central Sections
Author(s): Harper, John A.
Author(s): Ruffolo, Richard M.editor
Author(s): Ciampaglio, Charles N.editor
Affiliation: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Pittsburgh, PA, United States
Affiliation: GAI Consultants, Homestead, PA, United States
Pages: 111-141
Published: 201103
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
ISBN: 978-0-8137-0020-5
References: 69
Accession Number: 2011-046241
Categories: Engineering geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. sect., strat. cols., sketch maps
N40°15'00" - N40°45'00", W79°04'60" - W78°07'60"
Secondary Affiliation: Wright State University-Lake Campus, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2019, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201126
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