View Full Version : Altoona

08-18-2004, 11:58 AM
Is Horsehoe Bend in Altoona worth a visit, in terms of photography?

I've never been to the bend (except one time aboard The Broadway Limited late at night), but I recently saw some photos of the park and the fenced-in 'viewing area', and what I saw made me wonder if it's difficult to take pictures without some of that fence cluttering the foreground? It seems like trying different photo angles would be limited for the most part too. And the 'viewing area' looks to be kind of far from the tracks.

Is it hard to get up in them thar hills and woods surrounding the bend?

Are there lots of rules and regulations for visitors, and rangers running around telling people they can't stand where they are or do what they're doing, and issuing summonses and so on? It looks like the place is pretty formal and sanitized, ergo, less fun.

Might be better off just buying a series of post cards from the gift shop...


08-18-2004, 12:39 PM
You can get some good shots from the park at the Horseshoe Curve. However, trying to get to other locations around the curve these days is not advisable - you will get tossed or worse.

There was a time when you could walk all over the place with no problem. In fact, I actually camped out near the tracks in the 70's. Here's the evidence....http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=14871

You can still get to the west end of the tunnels at Gallitzin and around the tracks at Cresson - both worthwhile locations.


08-18-2004, 01:33 PM
To me, that photo makes you a totally legendary railfan! Nobody hassled you? Radical camping spot, dude! I can't believe they didn't include plans for trackside camping when they decided to make a formal park!

Being born in 1960, I sometimes feel I missed all the best stuff, RR-wise. Oh well. Maybe in the next life I'll get reincarnated on a planet where it's still ten years before the end of steam.

Or is it true what they say, that "these <u>are</u> the good ole' days?" I mean, cellphones and MRI's and PC's could never have preceded diesel engines, could they? I don't even have a cellphone at present, but I have in the past. I think much of today's gadgetry is nothing sort of amazing, and I'm glad I live in this period of time in that regard. Remote control air conditioners are a bit over the top, I must say. I think I turn my a/c on in mid-June and leave it running until after Labor Day. Why a remote-controlled air conditioner might be needed is beyond me! Do people really fool with their a/c's that often? Not anywhere near as often as a TV set, I should think! I'm okay with TV remotes, yes sir!

And while I'm on the subject of engines, what's the correct term: Engine or Locomotive? Seriously! And also, where can I find a definitive list of reporting marks? With over 350 pics from the NYC area on the Web now, I'd like to know if Metro-North is 'MNCW' or 'MNCR', and if Amtrak is 'ATK' or 'AMTK'!

I hope I don't have to change 'em all! They tell me you can't save your butt and your face at the same time, so never assume.

I'm off to the dentist's office now. Novocaine is on the agenda for today. I'll mumble to you later!


08-18-2004, 02:19 PM
Yes, it is very worth the visit. Some locations at the Curve are tricky (mainly because of the fence and the angle you're at to the train) so getting broadside shots is about the only option --



Recently, they cut a lot of brush around one section of the Curve, making it possible to get some decent shots --


Also, the parking lot has a good vantage point as well. I don't recommend venturing out into the hills unless you have permission from the railroad. Traffic is busiest in the afternoon (around 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.) but lighting seems best in the morning, although from around 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. lighting is decent. The viewing area is not too far from the tracks. I estimate it was a good 55 feet. There are no rangers running around like you say. Its not like that there. I don't know what you mean by less fun but when two trains meet at the Curve, its pretty spectacular.

08-18-2004, 03:21 PM
Quote: "And while I'm on the subject of engines, what's the correct term: Engine or Locomtive? Seriously! "

Well...they are both correct terms, just depends on what you are talking about. The ENGINE is the thing inside the LOCOMOTIVE. The LOCOMOTIVE is the whole darn contraption--the wheels, cab, dynamic brakes, the engine. So technically, if are talking about the whole thing, it's a locomotive, if you are talking about the thing inside, it's the engine...kinda like there's an engine INSIDE your car. :lol:

Hope that helps!

08-19-2004, 03:17 AM
Thanks for clarifying the engine/locomotive question. I am wondering why the answer wasn't obvious to me, but your car metaphor made it clear. I am actually ashamed now for asking such a double dumbo question. Sheesh! Of course! I guess because I see others using inconsistent terminology and reporting marks and such I became more confused than normal.

Thank you also for the info about the bend. I really like the third picture you offered. You caught that locomotive just before its undercarriage reached the shrubs at the left of the photo. The shrubs would have definitely ruined the image. Can't they get rid of them? I guess none of the three were parking lot pics. I liked the second photo too. The first one, the broadside shot, is remarkably well-focused and colorful, but I just don't like that angle, not that there is anything wrong with it.

When I say less fun, I mean lots of rules and regulations designed to tether a visitor in the corral, so to speak. Who likes to be restricted?

But here's a question: Were you using a monster zoom lens?


08-19-2004, 02:04 PM
The shrubs would have definitely ruined the image. Can't they get rid of them?

Maybe trim them but they act as a barrier so no one gets too close to the steep hillside.

When I say less fun, I mean lots of rules and regulations designed to tether a visitor in the corral, so to speak. Who likes to be restricted?

No, its not like that there. You are pretty free to roam wherever you want. :)

But here's a question: Were you using a monster zoom lens?

No, not at all. I was at 50mm for all of those. Another good vantage point is from the stairs. From the last couple sets of stairs you can get a good shot of the clearing.

08-22-2004, 11:57 PM
Back in the day, the first thing I used to do was jump the fence. I have walked the entire Curve from the east end to "MG" tower to the west. That is definitely not recommended today. However, on my last visit, I was content to stay behind the fence. There are enough angles in the park to provide variety in your pictures. And when you tire of shooting catfish, just take in the sights and sounds of the machinery working to the limits of its design. In addition, the park has a radio so you can hear what's coming. (Not to mention restrooms!) Gallitzin also has a park and a bridge you can shoot from, and Cresson is another excellent location. Downtown Altoona offers the Railroaders Memorial Museum, definitely worth a visit, and some more bridges to shoot from. The entire area felt safe. And it is probably the most fan friendly area I have ever been. I'm ready go go back just thinking about it!
P.S. I was born in 1958, and I used to think I was born too late, having missed shooting PRR. But I now treasure my pictures of Penn Central SD45's and Alco Centuries on the Curve and GG1's and E44's in my hometown as much as older fans treasure their steam pictures.

11-02-2004, 08:26 AM
You can't fault anyone on a trip to the Curve for a visit. There are some good locations on the West Slope of the hill.

Sun angles have changed drastically into the fall. Southfork is a very good place to be for trains in both directions.

The Rat

11-02-2004, 03:34 PM
At the park and the museum shop you can get a reprint of the Railpace artice about the area. Use that publication to find the very best photo locations after you have seen the curve.

You can also go down to the B&O horseshoe at Mance, PA. You can still walk around the place, the only problem is not many daylight trains, but at least there are very few catfish, and you can have a UP SD90MAC leader :)