Altoona was and is becoming once again – a railroad town! There are of course the big trains – from our friends at Norfolk Southern — and then there are the trains that kids can be the conductor.
You might think you’ve traveled back in time when the railroad was king here.
As railroad enthusiasts Jack Hatch recalls, “I think they had up to 20,000 people around the turn of the century working in the railroad.”
Zoom out and you’ll see this actually a model of the railroad city – built and engineered by these dedicated volunteers.
President Tim Mallon, of the Altoona Association of Model Railroaders says, “The hours are countless and innumerable, but it’s more of a labor of love, so it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t feel like you are working.”
Founded in 1949, the Altoona Association of Model Railroaders currently has about 50 members. Visit their home on 10th Avenue in Altoona most Friday nights and you’ll find them busy at play.
“Anybody can come and work on the railroad. There’s arts – looking at color and painting and scenery work, mechanical, construction. There’s a little piece of fun here for everybody.”
And these trains are high tech too.
“We’re actually right now installing a system on this particular layout that will have an interface with cell phones, ” explains Mallon.
Every engine has a little computer chip inside programmed to run faster or slower with your cell.
From the steam locomotive — with real steam, to the Conrail engine, to the large collection of railroad memorabilia from the local shops, there’s something for every railfan and modeler to “hop aboard.”
Kids are especially welcome to “come see the trains and if you show up be prepared to run a train, cause we like to share the hobby as well, ” says Mallon.