Norfolk Southern's Pittsburgh Line

The rail line in Gallitzin has changed ownership several times in the last fifty years. In 1968, Penn Central was formed when the Pennsylvania Railroad merged with arch-rival New York Central. Penn Central filed for bankruptcy in 1970, which pushed many of its connecting railroads to file for bankruptcy themselves. The US Railway Association was created by the government to save the failing group of northeastern railroads. On April 1, 1976, Conrail was formed out of the Penn Central, Erie Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley, Reading, and several other companies. Conrail, by way of the 1980 Staggers Rail act (which de-regulated the railroads), was able to streamline and modernize its operations. In 1981, the fourth track was removed through this area, as was the New Portage branch which had run from Gallitzin (SF) to Duncansville. Conrail became a publicly-owned corporation in 1987 when the government sold it's remaining shares (after a thwarted merger attempt by Norfolk Southern).

Horseshoe Curve: World-Famous Horseshoe Curve features a museum, park, and a funicular tram ride.  The Gallitzin Tunnels Park & Museum is just ten minutes from The Curve.
Horseshoe Curve

Westbound SD45's at MG Tower: MG Tower is located halfway between Altoona and Cresson - Midway up the Grade, hence the letters 'MG'.  At one time, a tower operator would control the switches and signals nearby.  Modern installations are remote-controlled, often from hundreds of miles away.  Now, the territory from Altoona to Pittsburgh is controlled from Norfolk Southern's dispatching center in Green Tree, west of Pittsburgh.
Westbound SD45's at MG Tower

Locally, Conrail continued modernizing by enlarging the Allegheny and New Portage tunnels and closing several of the manned control towers (now controlled remotely by the train dispatcher in Pittsburgh). During this time period, Conrail performed final assembly for many General Motors-built diesel locomotives at Juniata Shops in Altoona - it had been many years since a new locomotive turned it's first wheel there.

By the late 1990s, Conrail was competitive and profitable. This led (again) to merger interest from the two southern railroads, Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation. An initial merger announcement was made by CSXT and Conrail in 1997; Norfolk Southern responded with a counter offer. A bidding war ensued that resulted in both roads purchasing Conrail and dividing it's assets roughly in half. In 1999 the merger/split was consummated and Norfolk Southern was the new owner of most of Conrail's routes in Pennsylvania.

SF Before: This view looks east from the top of the hill in Gallitzin, towards Horseshoe Curve.  A westbound Pennsylvania Railroad freight is upgrade at SF Tower.  The tracks at left are exiting the Gallitzin & Allegheny Tunnels, the tracks at right are exiting the New Portage Tunnel.  The New Portage branch diverges at right towards Hollidaysburg.
SF Before

SF After: Two Norfolk Southern trains meet at Bennington. The westbound at left is passing the former location of SF Tower, and is about to enter the Allegheny Tunnel. The descending eastbound is passing through the New Portage Tunnel. The New Portage branch was abandoned in 1981, and is barely discernable in this photograph. This view can be had from a vantage point off of Tunnelhill Road, at the top of the hill.
SF After

Today, this route is called the Pittsburgh Line, which is part of NS's Pittsburgh Division. The "Pittsburgh East" train dispatcher manages train traffic from Altoona to Pittsburgh from a state-of-the art dispatching center in Green Tree, west of Pittsburgh. Track 1 is located in the New Portage tunnel (accessible via short walk or drive from the Tunnels Park) and host most eastbound trains. Tracks 2 and 3 are located in the Allegheny Tunnel. Track 3 (closest to the caboose) hosts most westbound trains, while Track 2 can be used in either direction.

Rail traffic is comprised of intermodal, coal, finished autos & auto parts, steel, mixed freight, and more. Four Amtrak passenger trains ply these rails every day. Approximately half of the traffic through Gallitzin is intermodal traffic connecting New York City with western cities like Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Loaded coal moves eastward to power plants in the northeast; empty coal operates westbound returning to coal mines in southwest Pennsylvania to reload. Almost all merchandise freight (identifiable by the variety of railcar types on the train) is classified at the sprawling Conway Yard twenty miles west of Pittsburgh. Eastbound destinations include Allentown, Harrisburg, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadephia, Newark, Binghamton, etc.

Jackson Street Overpass: Norfolk Southern helper engines pass under Jackson Street. Just out of view to the right is the Gallitzin Tunnels Museum & Park.  Note that cutouts in the fence allow for photography of passing trains.
Jackson Street Overpass

Descending "The Slide"

Scanner Frequencies

Road 1: 160.800
Road 2: 161.070
Yard: 160.980, 160.995
MOW: 161.430, 161.055, 161.130
Carmen: 161.340
NS Police: 160.680, 160.560
RJ Corman (Cresson): 160.845

NS Pittsburgh Division - Pittsburgh Line

Pittsburgh East Dispatcher - AAR 46 (160.800 MHz)
232.4 CP-ANTIS
234.0 CP-HOMER
235.7 CP-WORKS
238.4 HBD-DED 1-2-E
241.0 HBD-DED 2-3-W
241.0 SWD-1-2
243.5 CP-MG
243.7 DED
246.3 BENNY
247.3 SF
New Portage Tunnel No. 1
Allegheny Tunnel No. 2, 3
Gallitzin Tunnel, Abandoned
248.4 CP-AR
248.4 CP-UN
250.5 CP-MO
253.1 HBD-DED-2-3
253.1 HBD-DED-HWD-1
256.8 BC
258.8 DED
259.0 NY
264.6 CP-W
266.1 CP-SO
268.1 HBD-DED
271.2 CP-AO
273.2 CP-C
274.5 CP-JW

Timetable Key

Hot Box Detector
Dragging Equipment Detector
Hot Wheel Detector
Remotely controlled from Alto Tower, Altoona

For Additional Information:

Railpace Newsmagazine - "Hot News" Page, Online Store, Many Links to Rail Websites

Relevant Railpace Issues:

  • May, 1992 - Horseshoe Curve
  • September, 1995 - Conemaugh to South Fork
  • January, 1996 - Summerhill to Cassandra
  • February, 1996 - Lilly to Gallitzin

Gallitzin Area Tourist Council
Gallitzin Tunnels Park & Museum
DeGol Plaza
411 Convent Street, Suite 20
Gallitzin, PA 16641-1295

Phone: (814) 886-8871
Fax: (814) 886-6811

Proud to be part of the Path of Progress
Members of Allegheny Mountain Magic

J. Alex Lang Productions