In 1849, PRR officials developed plans to construct a repair facility at Altoona. Construction was started in 1850, and soon a long building was completed that housed a machine shop woodworking shop, blacksmith shop, locomotive repair shop and foundry. This facility was later torn down to make room for continuing expansion.
In time additional PRR repair facilities were located in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Mifflin, and the Altoona Works expanded in adjacent Juniata, Pennsylvania. Inventor Alexander Graham Bell sent two assistants to the Altoona shops in 1875 to study the feasibility of installing telephone lines. In May 1877, telephone lines were installed for various departments to communicate with one another. Fort Wayne, Indiana, also held a key position for the railroad. By the turn of the 20th century, its repair shops and locomotive manufacturing facilities became known as the "Altoona of the West."
The Altoona Works in 1926 consisted of the Altoona Machine Shops, Altoona Car Shop, Juniata Shops, and the South Altoona Foundries. During that year, Roundhouse No. 3 (Western) in Altoona was closed. The Altoona Machine Shops in that year contained the hammer shop, brass foundry, miscellaneous department, blacksmith shop, spring shop, flue shop, frame shop, wheel shop, boiler shop, three erecting shops, bolt shop, cab and pilot shop, tank and automatic shop, and machine and air-brake shop. These shops, primarily manufactured locomotives, with 5,500 people working there. The Altoona Car Shops contained the passenger car paint shop, freight car paint shop, trimming shop, bolt shop, machine shop, blacksmith shop, two passenger shops, truck shop, steel car shop, steel metal shop, and planing mill ans cabinet shop. These shops primarily repaired passenger and freight cars. They specialized in the repair and manufacturing of steel cars with more than 3,000 people working there. During a typical day, the shops repaired ten open freight cars, gave heavy repairs to three passenger cars, and light repairs to five passenger cars. The Juniata Shops contained two blacksmith shops, boiler shop, two machine shops, tank shop, two welfare buildings, and an erecting and machine shop. These shops constructed and repaired locomotives with more than 4,200 working there, These shops could repair four locomotives a day and build twelve locomotives a month, The South Altoona Foundries consisted of two foundries, power plant, oil mixing plant, machine shop, and pattern shop and storage with more than 700 people working there. The foundries cast wheels and other metal parts and could produce 1,000 cast iron wheels a day.
By 1945 the Altoona Works had grown to be one of the largest repair and construction facilities for locomotives and cars in the world. During World War II, PRR facilities (including the Altoona Shops) were on target lists of German saboteurs. They were caught before they could complete their missions. Recommended reading: The Horseshoe Curve Sabotage and Subversion in the Railroad City by Dennis P. McInaly. Published by Seven Oaks Press
In 1875 the Altoona Works started a testing department for PRR equipment. In following years, the Pennsylvania Railroad led the nation in the development of research and testing procedures of practical value for the railroad industry. Use of the testing facilities were discontinued in 1968 and many of the structures were demolished.
Altoona Works ← More information.
FOR LISTS OF AVAILABLE PHOTOS SEE ALTOONA & JUNIATA SHOPS page.
In June 1928 the Juniata Shops name was dropped in favor of Altoona Works (AW). The Altoona Works name encompassed the Altoona Machine Shops, the Juniata Shops, the Altoona Car Shops, the South Altoona Foundries, and the East Altoona Enginehouse. Finally in August 1938, all locomotive work was transferred to the Juniata Shops (JS).
Standard Railroad of the World:
In 1916 the PRR began using the slogan Standard Railroad of the World. This meant that it was perceived as the standard to which all other railroads aspired. For a long time this was true. It was the first railroad to completely replace wooden-bodied passenger cars with steel-bodied cars, and the first to introduce the vestibuled train. Over its history it led the way in many safety and efficiency improvements. In later years the PRR abandoned the use of the slogan.
The Pennsylvania Railroad was "standard" in another way. It was an early proponent of standardization. While other railroads used whatever was available, the PRR tested and experimented with equipment designs. When they found the right design, it became standard across the whole company. This gave the railroad a feel of uniformity, and it also reduced costs. This was unlike other railroads who purchased locomotives and railroad cars in small lots, taking whatever was available from manufacturers at the time. The PRR was also an early adopter of standard color schemes for their equipment.
Did You Know?
The Impact of the Civil War on the Altoona Railroad Shops:
The opening of the American Civil War in April of 1861 resulted in the Altoona shops repairing engines and furnishing cars to transport soldiers and munitions for the Union Forces. The Pennsylvania Railroad constructed entrenchments along certain sections of their track system and hired guards to protect bridges from Confederate saboteurs. When General Robert E. Lee moved the Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland in September of 1862, Pennsylvania Railroad officials ordered that all locomotives at Altoona be fired up and prepared to leave if Confederate forces moved north toward that city. Some forty locomotives with rolling stock were fired up and prepared to roll out, but the Confederate forces retreated south after the Battle of Antietam.
In June of 1863, Confederate forces under the command of General Lee marched north into Pennsylvania. Rumors circulated around Altoona that a Confederate raid on the railway shops soon would be launched. All work ceased at Altoona with the workers loading up most movable equipment and taking it to places of safety away from the advancing Confederate army. The railroad workers dismantled and packed heavy less easily moves equipment in preparation for evacuation in case Lee's advancing army threatened Altoona. Maintenance of Way crews began constructing fortifications around railroad property. General Superintendent of Motive Power Epoch Lewis selected a dozen men and stationed them along the southern border of Pennsylvania to observe Confederate troop movements and report these activities to the superintendent at Altoona. These scouts reported daily to two or three telegraph operators stationed by the telegraph line and they passed threse messages on to railroad officials. The withdrawal of Lee's forces after the Battle of Gettysburg allowed the Altoona shops to resume normal activities. The Pennsylvania Railroad in a demonstration of support for the Union cause promised to pay the families of men that enlisted in the army five dollars a week for three months.
The Railroad Shops during World War II:
The entry of the United States into World War II in December of 1941 resulted in massive government contracts for the manufacturing of war related items. The Pennsylvania Railroad believed that the shops at Altoona could produce some of these items and by August 1942, forty men in the Altoona Works were engaged in work directly related to the American war effort. The war work included straightening armor plate for tanks, fabricating low pressure cylinders for marine engines, trimming press frames, manufacturing carriages for 400 millimeter guns, manufacturing parts for hot metal cars, repairing army locomotives, fabricating parts for bomber landing gears, machining castings for guns, and manufacturing parts for air compressors. In 1943, the Altoona Works did drop forging for Army tank trucks, machined cylinders for power presses, manufactured water cylinders, and made machine castings for a device to straighten bomber parts. Additional war work in 1944 included forging connections for tank treads, machining and assembling cinder cars, and forging locomotive parts. In 1945, the war work encompassed making flanging and pressurized boilerheads.
STEAM'S GOLDEN AGE
Juniata Shops Made Tremendous Record
This is an address given October 30, 1974 at the Mishler Theater in Altoona before the Blair County Historical Society by John L. Parker, former manager of the PRR's Altoona Works. Taken from the Altoona Mirror. A WORTHWHILE READ: