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The railroad's growth during the war and increased demand for locomotive and car repairs after the war resulted in the Pennsylvania Railroad adding machine facilities at the Altoona and Pittsburgh shops. In addition, management placed the shops at Mifflin in a subordinate role to those at Harrisburg and Altoona. Also, in 1867, the railroad constructed a new enginehouse of 44 stalls at Altoona along with a fireproof oil house for the storage and mixing of oil products, a brick sandhouse, and the enlargement of the brass foundry by the addition of two furnaces. [29]

Two fires caused serious loss to the Altoona shops in 1869. On January 21, an arsonist set a fire which destroyed the frame freight repair shop. This department was relocated to the eastern roundhouse and work commenced twenty-four hours after the fire. A second fire occurred on November 16 when the planning mill burned along with its tools. Pennsylvania Railroad officials temporarily set up a planning mill in the Maintenance of Way shop. [30]

Eighteen sixty-nine marked a turning point for the Altoona railroad shops. By this time, the original grounds for the railway shops were filled with shops, tracks, and equipment. In the previous year, Superintendent of Motive Power, Alexander J. Cassatt, who directed the work at Altoona, complained that the existing facilities at Altoona were fully utilized and additional facilities were required to meet further demands. Preferably, he suggested these facilities be set up in a new location away from the congested original shop area. The situation resolved when the railroad purchased land along Chestnut Avenue below Seventh Street for the construction of a new complex of shops known as the Altoona car shops. This area became the primary site for the repair and construction of railroad cars. The original shops' area came to be known as the Altoona machine shops and became the center for repairing and constructing locomotives. In the next few years, the railroad officials authorized construction of a circular car-repair shop, passenger-car repair shop, blacksmith shop, foundry, cabinet/machine shop, firehouse, ice house, engine and boiler shop, and office and storehouse. The reason for this increase in facilities came from the fact that the Pennsylvania Railroad continued to do increasing business, particularly, on those lines east of Pittsburgh. Additional passenger cars were needed to accommodate this growth, but the bulk of the new cars were required to move freight such as coal, oil, and steel. [31]

One of the first buildings constructed for the Altoona car shop complex was the blacksmith shop. Here all the wrought-iron for passenger and freight cars would be produced. The building, originally 74 by 204-foot was extensively altered and extended over the years to its present dimension of 472 feet in length. The building served as a blacksmith shop until the 1960s when Altoona Enterprises purchased it from the Pennsylvania Railroad. Presently, the building serves as the administration offices and factory for Lumax industries which manufactures lighting fixtures. [32]

Another structure dating to 1869 is the cabinet/machine shop adjacent to the blacksmith shop. The cabinet shop produced the woodwork for interior and exterior car use. The machine shop contained lathes, drill, bolt-cutting machines, and other industrial equipment. The building originally measured 304 feet in length, but later was extended another 150 feet. In later years, the cabinet shop was replaced by a sheet metal shop and a tin shop which operated in the building. Currently, the building is part of the factory portion of Lumax Industries. The building is connected with the blacksmith shop by a concrete block wall. [33]

In 1871, a small office and warehouse was constructed for the Altoona Car Shops. Over the years, the building continued to be enlarged to serve various functions. Today, the building serves as offices for the Home Nursing Agency. The same agency's garage occupies a small brick building which may be an 1871 firehouse and stable constructed by the Pennsylvania Railroad to provide fire protection for the car shops. [34]

Another small building constructed in the early 1870s in the car shop area was for "Maintenance of Way Shops." The shops in this 40- by 130-foot brick building repaired and supplied equipment to the signal houses, watch-boxes, small stations and other functions. By 1888, this structure became known as the Bolt Shop and during the next twenty years was extended to 352 feet. The function of the shop later changed to storage and maintenance of batteries for passenger cars. When the first electric lights were installed in passenger cars, electrical power was supplied by batteries which required charging and changing on a regular basis. This structure became known as the battery shop. In the 1960s, the Pennsylvania Railroad sold the building to the Lithcote Company. [35]

By the early 1870s, Pennsylvania Railroad management set as a goal standardization of all cars, engines, and other machinery used on the railway. They sought to accomplish this goal by having the Altoona engineers draw up all construction designs whether the locomotive or car be constructed at Altoona, other company shops, or on contract by a private firm. In this way, they hoped to achieve uniformity and interchangeability of parts and design. Another management decision was not to rebuild old locomotives, but rather to replace them with six new locomotives. This policy resulted in large scale locomotive production at Altoona [36]

In 1874, the Pennsylvania Railroad management introduced a system of cranes for lifting and moving locomotives in the repair shops. Also that year saw the new wheel foundry in full operation with 21,837 wheels being manufactured. [37]

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1875 and patented it the next year. That year two of Bell's assistants traveled to the Altoona railway shops to study the feasibility of placing a telephone line in the shops. Telephone lines were installed for various departments to communicate with one another in May of 1877. [38]

By 1879, the administrative office for the Altoona Works was located in Altoona a short distance from the shops, and Pennsylvania Railroad officials began making plans to move the administrative office closer to the shops. They authorized construction of a two-story office building and in 1882, it opened as the Master Mechanics offices. Later, the building was extended thirty feet to the east and two stories were added to the structure. The Pennsylvania Railroad housed various railroad offices in the building over the years until 1984. Currently the building, known as the Conrail Ninth Avenue & Twelfth Street Office building, is vacant. [39]

The Pennsylvania Railroad established the department of physical tests in 1874 and the next year established a chemical laboratory followed in 1889 by a bacteriological laboratory. The purpose of these units were to conduct scientific testing which would prove beneficial to the railroad. [40] A more detailed discussion of the Pennsylvania Railroad test program will be found in later sections of this report.

In 1881, the state of Pennsylvania experienced drought which forced Pennsylvania Railroad officials to supplement the water supply for the Altoona Works by water carrying tank cars brought in from other locations. To prevent future emergencies, the Pennsylvania Railroad constructed a twenty-eight million-gallon reservoir at Pottsgrove to provide adequate water for the Altoona shops in times of scarcity. The reservoir work was completed in December of 1881 with water turned into the reservoir in January of 1882. This project cost the railroad more than sixty-five thousand dollars. [41]

Also work began in 1881 on a new erecting shop and other buildings needed for the locomotive repair and construction work. This work included an erecting shop known as No. 2 on the south side of the machine shop which measured 65- by 350-foot as well as a new 40- by 170-foot, two-story storehouse, and the dismantling of the old machine shop which was rebuilt to two stories and measured 70- by 355-foot. [42]

Pennsylvania Railroad management formally established the office of General Superintendent of Motive Power in 1882 in Altoona though the position informally existed prior to official recognition. The duties performed in the office included the supervision of all rolling stock and locomotives, setting design standards, and carried out the Pennsylvania Railroad testing programs. Since this person would be located in Altoona, these shops became the most important on the railroad. [43]

An explosion on May 14, 1884 destroyed the bolder house. This structure was rebuilt and extended sixteen feet to provide room for two additional boilers. Also the Pennsylvania Railroad officials discovered that the upper portions of the walls on roundhouse No. 2 were insecure and these were taken down and replaced with wooden walls. In addition, a new roof structure was constructed on roundhouse No. 2 in order to relieve pressure on the lower wall portions. [44]

In 1886, a fire destroyed the flue shop in the Altoona machine shops area. The next year, the directors of the Pennsylvania Railroad authorized the construction of a 44-by 129-foot brick building for a new flue shop along with a brick paint shop facility, and a small structure for electrical light equipment. At the car shops, the directors authorized construction of a building for assembling car trucks and the extension of the storehouse by 47 feet. The board of directors further approved the construction of a reservoir south of Altoona at Brush Mountain to supply water for use at the shops. [45]


In 1886, Pennsylvania Railroad officials began developing plans for construction of additional shops for the purpose of locomotive repair and building. The reason for this new shop complex was that the work load had so increased that it was necessary to expand the shops area. The site selected for the new shops was Juniata. Pennsylvania Railroad officials determined that the Juniata shop complex would contain a paint shop, boiler shop, blacksmith shop, boiler house, erecting shop, two-story machine shop, electric and hydraulic house, two-story office and storeroom, paint storehouse and gas house, and hydraulic transfer table and pit. Construction work on these structures began on September 15, 1888, with most of the construction work completed in 1890 and the first locomotive built in 1891 In full operations, this plant was scheduled to erect 150 locomotives a year. Today the machine shop, blacksmith shop, erecting shop, power plant and boiler, paint storage building, and flue shop remain of the original complex though all have been modified. [46]

After the Juniata shops were fully operational, the Altoona shops complexes consisted of the machine shops located between Ninth and Tenth Avenues and between Eleventh and Sixteenth Streets, the car shops located between the main line tracks and Chestnut Avenue and from Seventh Street to below First Street and the Juniata Locomotive shops located in Juniata. The machine shop complex contained the iron foundry which produced the iron castings used in car construction with the exception of the car wheels, and the brass foundry cast car wheel bearings and all brass castings. Also there were three blacksmith shops containing seventy-six fires and three bolt furnaces. The two wheel foundries were capable of handling 20,000 pounds of melted iron. These foundries processed more than 19,000 tons of melted metal annually not counting the metal used in the wheel foundries, which produced over 100,000 wheels a year. A boiler shop manufactured boilers and a flue shop made and repaired flues. The boiler shop produced an average of two locomotive boilers a week as well as constructing stationary boilers. Also there was a lathe shop for planing, smoothing, and boring cylinders. A vise shop did filing and grinding of parts for engines with great precision. An air brake shop manufactured air brake equipment, steam gauges, and safety-valves. Three erecting shops were used for constructing locomotives. The erecting shops were equipped with a traveling crane capable of lifting and moving twenty-five tons. A paint shop applied paints and varnishes to engines, tanks, and cabs. The tin and sheet iron shop manufacturing items for locomotives from sheet iron and copper while the telegraph machine shop repaired telegraphic and electrical equipment. A pattern shop made various patterns casting. Also this shop produced various miscellaneous items such as locomotive-pilots. In addition, a carpenter shop, administrative office, and two roundhouses were in this complex. A fire department in this complex contained a complement of 60 men with two men on duty at all times.

Also the railroad kept a force of more than forty watchmen with sixteen watching over the buildings and merchandise by day and twenty-five patrolling the grounds at night. [47]

The car shop complex contained two planing mills for doing various woodwork projects including the preparing of wood for depots, telegraph towers, and other company buildings as well as freight and passenger cars. Attached to one mill was a carpenter shop. A blacksmith shop fashioned various iron parts for the passenger and freight cars. The equipment used here included 5,000-pound steam hammers, 60,000-bolt manufacturing machines, and iron shears capably of slicing through a 3-inch thick by 6-inch wide piece of cold iron in seconds. A truck shop manufactured car trucks. A machine shop contained hydraulic presses for placing on and removing wheels from axles. Also in the complex was a cabinet shop which could steam and bend wood into various desired shapes. A passenger shop here produced twenty-five passenger coaches a month plus repairs to these cars. Three paint shops in this complex painted, ornamented, and varnished passenger, parlor, mail, express, and baggage cars. One of the three paint shops worked strictly with freight cars while another served as headquarters for those people who painted depots, telegraph towers, and other company buildings. A freight car shop there had the capability of working on more than seventy-five freight cars at one time. An oil house in this complex was used for the storage of oils and cotton material needed in the lubricating of car axles. A lumberyard covered twenty-five acres and contained facilities for receiving, drying, and storing lumber. In addition, the complex included a bolt and nut shop, upholstering shop, air-brake shop, tin shop, buffing room, storehouse, firehouse, and administrative offices. Thirty watchmen were employed to patrol the grounds here. [48]

In 1888, the directors of the Pennsylvania Railroad authorized the erection of a paint shop for locomotives in the machine shop area which was completed the next year. The locomotives would be brought in on rails to the east side of the shop and went through a series of stations until a fully painted engine emerged from the west end of the shop. Railroad officials in the early part of the twentieth century redesignated the structure as a warehouse. It remained in this capacity until the 1960s when the railroad officials decided the structure was not needed and sold it to the Altoona Pipe and Steel Supply Company which continues to use the building as a warehouse. [49]

The paint shop for passenger cars in the car shop complex was constructed in 1889. Over the years, these painting facilities continued to be improved. The Pennsylvania Railroad sold the property in 1963 to the Lithcote Company. This company continues to use and update the facilities to clean and paint various freight cars including hoppers, tank cars, gondolas, and box cars. [50]

In 1893, the directors of the Pennsylvania Railroad approved a number of construction projects for Altoona. The projects included for the car shops complex, a new 254- by 58-foot air-brake shop along with an 135-foot extension for the blacksmith shop, and a 250- by 30-foot shed for storage. At the Juniata shops, the railroad authorized the construction of a 78- by 21-foot building for storage of sand, firebrick, and other materials and a 51- by 17-foot building to serve as storage for the heavy dies used in flanging boiler sheets. [51]

The Pennsylvania Railroad, to promote their accomplishments and products, created an exhibit for the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago, Illinois in 1893. One part of this exhibit consisted of photographs, drawings, models, and full size products manufactured at the Altoona shops. The products displayed included a passenger coach and telegraph equipment from the Altoona shops. Another part of the exhibit was devoted to the items tested in the chemical and physical testing department at Altoona.

This included various oils used to lubricate locomotives and various steel fabrications used in locomotive and car construction. [52]

By 1895, the number of people employed in the various shop complexes included 4,051 in the machine shops, 2,364 in the car shops, and 789 in the Juniata shops. [53] The machine shop complex consisted of an iron foundry, a brass foundry, three blacksmith shops, two wheel foundries, a boiler shop, lathe shop, vise shop, air-brake shop, three erecting shops, paint shop, tin and sheet iron shop, telegraph machine shop, pattern shop, cab and tank shop, carpenter shop, two roundhouses, and a structure for the storage and the test department. The car shop complex contained two planing mills, blacksmith shop, bolt and nut shop, truck shop, machine shop, upholstering shop, cabinet shop, passenger shop, two paint shops, air-brake shop, freight car shop, tin shop, buffing room, storehouse, oil house, firehouse, and lumberyard. The Juniata shops consisted of a machine shop, boiler shop, blacksmith shop, erecting shop, boiler house, electricity and hydraulic building, paint shop, paint storehouse, gas house, and an office and storehouse. [54] That same year, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company began construction of a brick boiler house and accumulator room to replace the old boiler house. The building which served as the test department, storehouse, and machine shop was enlarged to the north end with a three-story addition of 36 by 40 feet. To supply water to the Juniata shops, a 16-inch pipeline was laid from the shops three miles east to Elizabeth Furnace and Bell's Run to provide water for this shop complex. [55]


Work increased sufficiently at the Juniata shops so that during 1902 and 1903 the erecting shop, blacksmith shop, machine shop, and boiler shop were increased in size with the machine shop more than doubled in length. In addition, a new storehouse and blacksmith shop were constructed. This blacksmith shop known as Blacksmith Shop No. 2 presently serves as a warehouse.

Because of the increasing demand for iron castings for locomotives and cars, the Pennsylvania Railroad began planning for the construction of a foundry complex in South Altoona and new enginehouse in East Altoona. The railroad purchased 85 acres of land in South Altoona in 1903. The South Altoona foundry complex when constructed between 1903 and 1905 consisted of a pattern shop, spring shop, storehouse, oil mixing facility, and office. Later, a machine shop was constructed there. The wheel foundry was one of the largest in the country, capable of producing 900 wheels per day. The oil mixing facility came as a result of the demand by the railroad for better quality control for oil products. Here, the Pennsylvania Railroad experts could supervise the mixing of oils, gases, and lubricants as well as test the raw products being purchased from outside companies for conformance to railroad specifications. This plant supplied petroleum products to the entire railroad system. [57]

As steel wheels replaced steel cast iron wheels, the railroad converted the iron foundry to various other shops. In 1972, the foundry became a storehouse and in recent years, Conrail remodelled the building and used it for a systemwide storehouse for parts and materials. The Pennsylvania Railroad sold the gray-iron foundry by in the 1960s to Altoona Hydrocon. Presently, the Federated-Fry Metals Company owns the foundry and has updated the equipment to produce tin and lead alloys. This same company presently owns the original machine shop which serves as a storage building. [58]

In 1904, the railroad officials constructed a 52-stall enginehouse in East Altoona and closed the two remaining machine shop area roundhouses. Later, a cab and tender shop and power plant were built on the sites of the machine shop enginehouses. [59] The Pennsylvania Railroad in 1905 began construction on "Erecting Shop No. 3" and completed work on this structure in 1907. The building contained overhead cranes and jib cranes to assist in the construction of freight cars. Railroad management declared the building surplus and sold it to the Altoona Pipe and Steel Supply Company in the mid-1960s. This company, about 1978, began using the building to repair railcars and continues this operation to the present. [60]

In 1906, the Pennsylvania Railroad began constructing all-steel passenger cars. The company authorized the construction of a 92- by 553-foot steel car shop to facilitate the production process. Today, Conrail still uses the building, known as the steel shop. [61]

By 1909, railroad management authorized the construction of a second planing mill to serve the Altoona car shop area. This structure remained as a planing mill until the early 1960s. The Pennsylvania Railroad sold this property to the Lithcote Company in 1963 which currently uses the building to clean and line tank cars. Also in 1909, a two and one-half-story brick firehouse stood at 1128 Ninth Avenue in the Altoona machine shop complex. The Pennsylvania Railroad converted the firehouse to office space in the early 1950s and in the mid-1950s sold the structure to the Altoona Pipe and Steel Company. This company continues to use the building as office space. [62]

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Last Updated: 22-Oct-2004