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The United States entry into World War I resulted in the loss of shop personnel through military recruitment and an increase in railroad traffic as troop and supply trains passed through Altoona. The congestion and confusion in the national railroad system caused the federal government to assume control of the railroads on December 28, 1917. The government controlled the railroad industry until March of 1920. [63]

The Pennsylvania Railroad began the construction of a second machine shop at Juniata in 1917. This structure, completed in 1918, served as a tank shop to repair and construct locomotive tenders. This function lasted only until 1925 when the building was refitted for heavy machine work. Then in 1952, this structure became the diesel engine shop. [64]

By 1922, various railroad shops and departments occupied fifty acres and were housed in hundreds of buildings. The work force, during this time, varied from between 15,000 to 16,000 people. [65] The Pennsylvania Railroad expanded the Juniata Works in 1924 and 1925 by construction of a fifty-stall erecting and machine shop at the east end of the existing shops along with a three-story storehouse and a small flue shop. This all was part of an effort to move the locomotive works away from the area of the Altoona machine shops around Twelfth Street. Presently, the erecting and machine shop is the center for diesel repair, the storehouse serves as offices for Con rail operations, and the flue shop functions as a warehouse. In 1924, the circular freight car shop at First Street became the locomotive finishing shop. [66]

Every year minor changes occurred to upgrade facilities and to cut the cost of operations. For example in 1924, the following changes occurred. The blacksmith shop at the Altoona car shops manufactured a jib crane to use in adjusting the height of freight and passenger cars and a heavy duty forging machine to replace one that wore out. That same year the metal yard at the Altoona car shops purchased a 15-ton locomotive crane with electromagnet to replace twelve laborers and a three-man derrick crew. The Altoona machine shops purchased three cranes and seven platform-type electric trucks to save labor costs of sixty people. The air-brake shop at the Altoona machine shops purchased a new turret lathe to increase the production of stem collar bolts and tank valve seats. The erecting and machine shop at Juniata purchased a crane and platform type electric trucks and a stock adjusting machine to save on labor costs and increase productivity. The South Altoona oil mixing plant made changes and additions to their grease mixing facilities which eliminated one laborer position and reduced the work of three other laborers. [67]

The Altoona Works in 1926 consisted of the Altoona machine shops, Altoona car shops, Juniata shops, and South Altoona foundries. During the year, roundhouse No. 3 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 locomotive, with 5,500 people working there. During a typical day, the shops completed heavy repairs on four locomotives. 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, sheet metal shop, and planing mill and 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 here. 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 people 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. [68]

In 1927, the Pennsylvania Railroad management ordered the consolidation of the locomotive tender repair work done at the Altoona machine shops and Juniata shops in a building located near the steel shop at the Altoona car shops. This resulted in the closing of the older tank shops at the Altoona car shop and Altoona machine shops. Today, the building is designated as Conrail Freight Shop No. 2 and serves as a repair facility for locomotives. [69]

In 1928 the cast iron wheel foundry closed. [70] In 1929, the old spring shop closed and a new building opened in South Altoona for the purpose of repairing spring. [71] Also that year, Works Manager Frederick W. Grimshaw proposed to close the machine and blacksmith shops at the South Altoona foundry complex and consolidate this work with the Altoona machine shops. The next year, 1930, construction was completed on a brass foundry in South Altoona. [72]


A fire broke out at the Altoona machine shops on December 27, 1931, which resulted in one and one-half million dollars worth of damage to that complex. The fire started in machine shop No. 3 and destroyed buildings between Twelfth Street and Fourteenth Street. The flames destroyed the air-brakes repair facilities and various valve repair operations. The Altoona works management transferred the people from these shops to other shop areas. [73]

The various shop complexes functions could be divided in the following manner by the end of 1931. The Altoona machine shops repaired locomotives, and fabricated parts for locomotives and cars. The Altoona car shops repaired passenger and freight cars, built new passenger cars and freight cars, repaired and built locomotive tenders, and fabricated steel parts for passenger cars, freight cars, and engine tenders. The Juniata shops repaired and built steam and electric locomotives, built and repaired scales, and fabricated parts for locomotives and cars. The South Altoona foundries manufactured gray iron castings, brass products, grease and oils, and new springs. Also the foundries repaired springs for locomotives, tenders, and railroad cars. [74]

In 1932, the Pennsylvania Railroad transferred operations at the brass foundry on Twelfth Street to South Altoona where a new electric furnace had recently been installed. The company set up a new department at the South Altoona known as the brass finishing shop. [75] In addition, Works Manager Grimshaw proposed eleven possible changes in operations at Altoona. First, install a new automatic shop in the South Altoona foundry area. This shop would use machines to manufacture metal pins, valves, studs, and sleeves. Second, consolidate all tool rooms for the Altoona works in Juniata. Third, consolidate all machine work on ferrous parts in the Juniata machine shop.

Fourth, the electric shops be transferred from the Altoona machine shop to the Altoona car shop area. Fifth, the bolt making operation be transferred to the Juniata shops. Sixth, all bolt forging operations be concentrated in the Juniata shops. Seventh, expand the Altoona machine shops wheel making operations. Eighth, transfer the valve repair operations from the Juniata shops to the Altoona machine shops. Ninth, transfer the boiler and flange work from the Altoona machine shops to the Altoona car shops and the Juniata shops. Tenth, open a new air-brake shop in the Juniata shops. Eleventh, transfer the facilities for making boiler compounds, tempering salts, and other chemical activities to the area of the South Altoona foundries. [76] The next year the manager closed the cab repair shops at the Altoona machine shops and the Juniata shops and consolidated their functions at the Altoona car shops. Also the manager closed the boiler house at the Altoona machine shops. [77]

By 1933, the Pennsylvania Railroad had developed an extensive system of reservoirs to supply water to the various shop complexes and 54 miles of distributing lines. The Blair Gap Water Supply Company, a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, supplied more than 100,000 gallons a day to the Altoona works. In addition, an eastern series of reservoirs at Tipton, Bellwood, Riggles Gap, and East Altoona with a total storage capacity of more than 4,500,000 gallons supplied between 4 and 500,000 gallons daily to the Juniata shops. A southern reservoir group included Brush Mountain, Rose Hill, and Pottsgrove with a total storage capacity of more than 200,000,000 gallons supplied the machine and car shop complex with more than 2,000,000 gallons of water per day. A western reservoir group composed of Blair Gap and Plane Nine reservoirs with a total storage capacity of more than 140,000,000 million gallons supplied the South Altoona foundries with more than 1,000,000 gallons of water per day. The total daily consumption of water for the shops was between 7 and 9,000,000 gallons of water with a total reservoir storage capacity of 803,895,000 gallons of water. On rare occasions during dry summer days, the total reservoir storage was depleted by thirty percent in one day. [78]

The growth and consolidation of the Altoona works continued into 1935 with the main thrust of this effort being to eliminate work in the Altoona machine shops area. The railroad management transferred the spring shop and foundry activities to the South Altoona foundries and the cab shop, tank shop, and hammer shop duties to the Juniata shops. These changes resulted in two old erecting buildings, machine shop No. 3, and a four-story building in the machine shop complex being torn down. [79]

By 1936, the Altoona machine shops though diminished in size, still made locomotive and car repairs. This shop complex contained an erecting shop, boiler shop, blacksmith shop, machine shop, tin shop, electric shop, mixing laboratory, and boiler plant. Also, the shop area contained a large steel cleaning vat in which locomotives could be submerged to their running boards and have their running gear and wheels thoroughly cleaned. The Juniata shops contained erecting shops, machine shops, boiler shop, blacksmith shop, air-brake shop, and heat treating department. The erecting shop contained 250-ton electric cranes and 15-ton cranes for moving the locomotives. The Altoona car shops contained a steel shop, X-29 freight car shop, original car shop building, freight car construction and repair shop, finishing shop, and passenger and car paint shop. The South Altoona foundries contained a gray iron foundry, core room, pattern shop, spring storage, boiler house, central electric general plant, and brass foundry. [80]

In 1936, the Pennsylvania Railroad management authorized the construction of an air-brake shop and welding building and began a massive modernization program. This included building new locomotives and updating passenger cars. [81] The types of passenger cars updated included coaches, coach-baggage cars, dining cars, and cafe-coaches. These updated cars began coming out of the shops in early 1937. [82]

To promote the Altoona Works in 1937, the Pennsylvania Railroad in cooperation with Railroad Stories Magazine, the New York Chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, and the National Railway Historical Society sponsored a tour of the Juniata shops. A special train left from Pennsylvania Station in New York City on Sunday, May 16, 1937, making stops at Newark, North Philadelphia, Paoli, and Harrisburg. At Harrisburg, the train met passengers which were brought by train from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. Upon arriving at Altoona, the crowd of more than 1,700 people toured the Juniata erecting shop, machine shop, blacksmith shop, car shops, locomotive test plant, and the South Altoona foundries. The tour generated a large amount of favorable publicity for the railroad. [83]

The Pennsylvania Railroad on September 1, 1938, closed the erecting shop, steel shop, tin shop, flue shop, flue mill, blacksmith shop, machine shop, boiler shop, boiler erecting shop, flange shop, hammer shop, and truck and frame shop at Altoona machine shops. The last locomotive repair completed at this facility was on July 26, 1938 with all locomotive repair operations transferred to Juniata. The Altoona Works manager transferred more than 1,200 men to the Altoona car shops and more than 300 men to the Juniata shops. The reason for this action was that the new Pennsylvania Railroad electric locomotives and steam locomotives such as the MI, II, and LI required less maintenance and less time in the shops. The locomotive repairs at the Altoona machine shops had steadily declined from 1,100 in 1927 to less than 400 in 1937. Most of the other buildings at the Twelfth Street area were used for storage with the exception of the old brass foundry. [84]

The manufacturing shop, miscellaneous shop, electric shop, power plant, automatic shop, and manufacturing laboratory remained open at the Altoona machine shop area. Late in 1938, management began planning for the abandonment of the manufacturing laboratory. The next year management transferred the manufacturing laboratory to the old machine shop in South Altoona where the facility would be combined with the oil mixing plant. [85]

The Pennsylvania Railroad in 1938 continued the modernization program begun two years earlier and ordered one thousand gondola cars, twenty electric locomotives, and a few specialty cars from the Altoona Works at a cost of $8,315,000. This resulted in increased work schedules for the Altoona labor force and management brought back laid off workers. [86]

Early in 1941, management developed plans to move the automatic shop to the old wheel foundry in South Altoona and the machine tool manufacturing department from the automatic shop to the Juniata shops. Railroad officials decided to abolish the machine tool manufacturing department though all the department functions would be transferred to the Juniata shops. This project entailed the transfer of one hundred and fifty machines which included automatic machines, turret lathes, grinding machines, milling machines, bolt threaders, engine lathes, and drill presses as well as three hundred men. The final transfer of the automatic shop and the machine tool manufacturing department occurred in 1942. [87]


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 of 1942, forty men in the Altoona Works were engaged in work directly related to the American war effort. [88] The war work included straightening armor plate for tanks, fabricating low pressure cylinders for marine engines, trimming press frames, manufacturing carriages for 40 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. [89]

In June of 1945, Altoona Works Manager Grimshaw made an evaluation of the facilities there and made the following suggestions. First, the machines in the Juniata machine shops be replaced by new equipment. Second, a new boiler plant be constructed for the Juniata Shops. Third, the electrical shop be moved from the Twelfth Street area to Juniata. Fourth, the passenger car paint shop be enlarged. Fifth, the locomotive finishing shop be enlarged. Sixth, the passenger car shop be reconstructed to provide better efficiency. Seventh, the wheel shop be enlarged to meet demand. Eighth, the tank shop be extended. Ninth, the power plant and boiler houses be replaced by modern facilities. Tenth, a new planing mill be constructed in South Altoona. Eleventh, the equipment at the South Altoona iron foundry be modernized. Twelfth, the fire suppression system in the pattern storage building be reconstructed. The management of the Pennsylvania Railroad took these suggestions under advisement, but did not act on them at the time. [90]

Late in 1945, the Pennsylvania Railroad placed in service a new freight car repair facility. In this shop, freight cars traveled down a railway to various stations where repair tasks were performed. The cars reached the shop's end repaired and ready for painting. This facility could rehabilitate and strip locomotives for painting as well as freight cars.

The Pennsylvania Railroad designated the structure as Passenger Car Shop No. 4. This designation has now been changed to Conrail Miscellaneous Shop No. 2. [91]

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Last Updated: 22-Oct-2004