GALLITZIN, CAMBRIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It takes a few hours to get from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. But back in the 1800s, it was a days-long ordeal using mainly canals, except for the portion over the Allegheny Mountains between Hollidaysburg and Johnstown. That required a railroad system to haul up the inclines.

This centuries-old railroad system placed in the Allegheny Mountains was a solution, pioneers used to hike goods and people from Hollidaysburg to Johnstown.

“We have a wide variety of exhibits that talk about the Allegheny Portage Railroad itself but also the Pennsylvania main line canal, which is the Allegheny portage railroad was part of. It talks about building the railroad, the technology that was used, the different boats that were used,” explained Elizabeth Shope, Park Ranger at Allegheny Portage Railroad Historical Site.

All that information can be seen in the visitor center and some of the first steps into the center have a major surprise.

“The first thing that they see is our replica of a canal boat and that catches their eye when they first come in and they’ll be able to get into the canal boat and get a feel for what it would’ve been like to travel on the Pennsylvania main line canal,” Shope added.

But a quarter mile down their boardwalk;

“We are standing on our observation desk, so visitors have the opportunity to look down incline plane number six and up at the engine house which is behind me,” Shope said.

“The Allegheny Portage Railroad used 11 levels with 10 incline planes because locomotives didn’t have enough power to go up the mountains unaided, they used a stationary engine in each engine house building,” Shope explained.

And inside folks can see the ropes used to haul the engine and replicas of the machinery. Which peaked travelers’ fascinations back in the day.

“This was a faster new way to travel through Pennsylvania and I think for people living in this area or traveling during that time period, it would’ve been mind-blowing,” Shope added.

But just around the building is where folks gathered to socialize.

“We are standing at the lemon house tavern. This tavern was built by sam and jean lemon in the early 1830s and this was a welcome site to travelers, weary, tired travelers,” Shope said.

The lemon house features multiple rooms where travelers wait for their trains to go through the inclined plane and eat meals.

“Traveling on the Allegheny Portage Railroad would be a mix of apprehension and excitement so taverns were a nice place to share stories with others,” Shope explained.

Join us for another Destination PA on Thursday at 6:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.