Engine Houses on the Portage
Railroad cars, or sometimes sectional canal boats, were pulled up or lowered down the inclines by stationary steam engines (30 to 35 horsepower), using a hemp rope approximately 7 inches in circumference. This rope was later replaced with wire cable. The ascending or descending cars were counterbalanced with other cars when possible. The stationary steam engines that drove the hoist mechanisms were at the top of the inclines; hitching sheds at the bottom.
Contents of the Engine Houses
The cast iron wheels or sheaves that drove the hoist mechanism were placed beneath the railway system. The use of these mechanical features helped make the most efficient use of power and reduced the strain on the steam engines. The well accommodated suspending weights and connecting chains that allowed the carriage to be drawn backward and forward.
No drawings or specifications for structures along the Allegheny Portage Railroad have been found despite repeated investigations.
Engine House 6
In 1852 the structure blew up and a second engine house was built. After the railroad was abandoned the engine house was converted to a barn. The foundations were recycled by the Pennsylvania Railroad for use in other buildings. Over time many other changes occurred. The current shelter helps to preserve what remains.
Engine House 6 Exhibit Shelter
Did You Know?
John A. Roebling of Brooklyn Bridge fame got his business start with the Allegheny Portage Railroad. His wire rope was used on each of the 10 inclines. It also was used for suspension aquaducts on the Mainline Canal.