A bird's-eye-view of the immense Pennsylvania Railroad Shops in Altoona, PA, Fowler & Moyer, 1895.
Credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division
In the late 1840s the Pennsylvania Railroad decided to build its major locomotive and car shops on the site of an uninhabited swamp it named Altoona. Located some 116 miles east of Pittsburgh on the eastern slope of the Alleghenys and blessed with abundant supplies of timber and water, Altoona quickly became a major rail center. By the 1880s, the PRR employed more than 16,000 in Altoona and operated more than 50 acres of buildings. While Philadelphia represented the brains of the railroad, Altoona stood for its muscle and skill.