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Between the late 1940s to 1957, the Pennsylvania Railroad converted from steam to diesel-electric locomotives. The new diesel-electric engines required less maintenance than the steam engines. This resulted in a number of furloughs, layoffs, and recalls of Altoona shops employees. Also this resulted in the need for less shop space and repair facilities. [92]

By 1947, the Altoona Works consisted of the Altoona car shops, Twelfth Street car shop, South Altoona foundries, and Juniata shops divided into more than fifty shops. These included locomotive shops, blacksmith shops, boiler shops, machine shop, spring shop, air-brake shop, gray iron foundry, nonferrous metal foundry, oil mixing plant, automatic machine shop, pressed steel shop, welding shop, manufacturing machine shop, and brass finishing shop along with other facilities. These shops built new equipment and made repairs on locomotives, freight, and passenger cars. Locomotive and railroad car parts were manufactured both for local needs and for shipment to other railroad repair shops. The South Altoona foundries and oil mixing plant produced all the lubricants and special oils needed on the railroad system. Before 1949, facilities for reclaiming diesel engine oil were added to the plant. The foundries produced ferrous and nonferrous castings for use on both new and repaired equipment. The total work force numbered 11,939 workers. [93] In 1949, the erecting and Machine Shop No. 2 in Juniata was renovated to service diesel engines. Also, the old tank shop at the Twelfth Street facilities became the diesel generator and traction motor repair shop. [94]

In the 1950s, the Pennsylvania Railroad began moving shop facilities away from Altoona and reducing the work force there. The company in June of 1952 issued an order that all positions in Altoona which did not support the diesel locomotive program or the car construction and repair program would be abolished. The company announced in 1953 that as of the end of December the abolition of the steam locomotive program. In 1954, a reclamation plant to salvage parts from worn out or obsolete stock was opened in Hollidaysburg. The next year the Samuel Rea Shop began operations in Hollidaysburg. This shop rebuilt, rehabilitated, and constructed freight cars. The company spent thirty-five million dollars on the construction of these facilities. The completion of these facilities resulted in the transfer of work from the Twelfth Street area shops, Altoona car shops, and South Altoona foundry to Hollidaysburg and subsequent abandonment of portions of these complexes. [95]

Despite the order by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the locomotive shops in Altoona still constructed steam locomotives for the next several years in addition to electric, gas electric, and diesel locomotives. Fabrication of parts for freight cars continued in Altoona along with oil reclamation and production of springs and bearings. Transfer of most of the car construction functions from Altoona to Hollidaysburg occurred in 1956 when the Samuel Rea shops went into full operations. [96]


In 1964, a new repair shop opened in the Juniata complex. In addition the Juniata shop adopted a disassembly and assembly line technique known as the "process line." This technique meant that the locomotive or car moved from one work position to another on a time schedule until work was completed and the product ready for testing. This process was used for locomotives requiring light repair as well as routine maintenance. [97]

On February 1, 1968 at 12:01 a.m., the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central merged to form the Penn Central Transportation Company. Railroad officials of the two systems first approached each other concerning the merger in 1957 and a formal merger application was submitted to the Interstate Commerce Commission in March of 1962. Pennsylvania Railroad officials indicated when the merger became final that the Juniata shops would be the center for intermediate locomotive repairs and the Samuel Rea shops would be the center for car repair and construction. New York Central Railroad facilities at Indianapolis, Cleveland, and East Rochester would be closed and the workers transferred to Altoona. In the mid-1970s, the plan came into effect when management moved workers from the East Rochester facility to Altoona. In addition, three hundred and fifteen employees of the Beech Grove, Indiana shops, were transferred to Altoona in 1972. [98]

In 1969, the new Penn Central completed a $6,500,000 modernization program. At that time, the Altoona Works consisted of the Juniata shops, the South Altoona shops, the Samuel Rea shops, the Altoona car shops, and reclamation plant. The Juniata shops mainly repaired diesel-electric locomotives with other facilities there worked on air brakes and wheels for passenger cars in addition to manufacturing parts for locomotives and cars. The South Altoona shops operated as a brass foundry producing nonferrous castings, springs, and bearings. The Samuel Rea shops rebuilt and constructed freight cars and performed some work on passenger cars. The Altoona car shops repaired those freight and passenger cars that did not lend themselves to the process line technique used in the Samuel Rea shops. The reclamation plant continued to serve as a salvage facility for freight cars. The workload at these facilities increased when portions of the shops operations were closed at the Columbus, Pitcairn, Enola, and Wilmington shops and those operations transferred to Altoona. [99]

During the first year of operation under the Penn Central, the Altoona Works experienced a dramatic increase in work. The number of light locomotives repaired at Juniata increased from 243 to 714. This resulted in the calling back to work of 1,400 employees and a local payroll of $30.3 million dollars. [100] On May 1, 1970, the Altoona Works, now the Penn-Central Altoona Shops received a new general manager when Joseph S. Fadale succeeded John C. White. [101]

Starting in 1969, a number of the older shop buildings in the Twelfth Street area and the Altoona car shop area were demolished or sold after their functions were transferred to Juniata or the Samuel Rea shops. In the spring of 1971, the Penn Central management announced that they planned to tear down or sell a number of structures in the Twelfth Street area including the old powerhouse, paint shop, test plant complex, and erecting and machine shop. [102] That same year the company announced that the South Altoona facilities would be rehabilitated and converted to a material distribution center. The cost of this amounted to $279,396. [103]

A series of events including inflation, poor management, and abnormally harsh weather conditions forced the new railroad to file a petition for bankruptcy on June 21, 1970. The bankruptcy resulted when the administration of Richard M. Nixon withdrew a government guarantee for a 200-million-dollar loan that the company needed to continue operations. The failure of this and other eastern and midwestern railroads resulted in congressional action. Congress passed the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 which requested the United States Railway Association to study the problem and submit a railroad reorganization plan to Congress. This group recommended that a private corporation to be known as the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) be created from major portions of the Penn Central, Erie Lackawanna, Central of New Jersey, Lehigh Valley, Lehigh and Hudson River, and Reading Railroads. The federal government would invest up to $2.1 billion dollars in Conrail securities which would be paid back from railroad revenues. Once these funds were paid back to the government, federal involvement in the corporation would end. Part of this study selected the Juniata shops as a major locomotive repair shops and the Samuel Rea shops as a car repair facilities for the new system. President Gerald R. Ford on February 5, 1975, signed the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act which implemented the study proposals. The new corporation took over operations from the existing railroads at 12:01 a.m. on April 1, 1976. [104]

The new corporation promised to spend 14.5 million dollars to update the Altoona shops. The primary responsibility of the Juniata shops remained the repairing of locomotives. In addition, the Juniata shops took on the role as the central manufacturing and warehouse responsible for rebuilding, trucks, power assemblies, and other components required by Conrail shops throughout the new system. [105] The present Juniata shops and South Altoona facilities remain an active and vital part of the Conrail system.

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Last Updated: 22-Oct-2004