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Altoona Railway Museum Club: History of the Horseshoe Curve Chapter, National Railway Historical Society


History of the Horseshoe Curve Chapter, NRHS,

and the origins of

the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum

Updated: March 05, 2017



The Horseshoe Curve Chapter, National Railway Historical Society, is a tax exempt, non-profit organization which engages in projects to preserve and maintain historical equipment and information relating to the rail transportation industry, particularly as it applies to the Blair County, PA area.

The Horseshoe Curve Chapter, had its beginnings at the time the Pennsylvania Railroad ceased to exist & when many of the PRR’s historical sites in the Altoona Area were being dismantled. Although many local facilities were lost, the Horseshoe Curve Chapter, of the NRHS, has always strived to preserve the heritage of our fore bearers who settled here. We are also proud to have played an instrumental role in the local heritage awareness and to help found and organize the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum as well as acquire/fund major Museum acquisitions.

The Chapter owns and operates rail passenger equipment as well as restores rolling stock. We support all preservation projects of the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum. A periodic newsletter, an annual chapter picnic, and other special events are regular activities



The Horseshoe Curve Chapter, National Railway Historical Society, had its origins in 1965 as the Altoona Railway Museum Club. This was an informal organization formed through the offices of the Blair County Tourist and Convention Bureau (with the assistance Mr. George Kelchner) following Altoona's loss in being designated the site for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's new railroad museum. The Altoona Railway Museum club, initially a nucleus of approximately a half-dozen people, was formed to promote an awareness of Altoona's rich railroad heritage and to seek ways and means to develop a railroad museum for the greater Altoona area. Subsequently, the group became aware of an organization known as the National Railway Historical Society, and applied for a charter. This Charter was granted and the Horseshoe Curve Chapter was officially recognized effective May 11, 1968.

Founding Officers of the Horseshoe Curve Chapter, NRHS, were: President: David Seidel; Vice-President: Ralph M. Gundel; Secretary-Treasurer: Mary Jo Wahl; National Director: H. Wayne Burket. (Mr. Seidel and Ms. Wahl are the only two members with continuous uninterrupted membership.)

A significant milestone in the history of the Horseshoe Curve Chapter occurred in January - February 1968 when Ray and Elizabeth Garvin moved to Altoona from Bradford, PA. Mr. Garvin had assumed the post of Director , Blair County Tourist & Convention Bureau following the relocation of Mr. Kelchner. Mr. & Mrs. Garvin joined the Horseshoe Curve Chapter. They were both attentive to the Chapter's efforts to promote & preserve vestiges of Altoona's railroad heritage with the future goal of seeing a railroad museum established for the area.

Subsequently, under Ray Garvin's leadership in the Chapter, (as well as his initial post with the Blair Tourist & Convention Bureau, and successive position as Director of Marketing with the First National Bank, Altoona and related community contacts), the Railroaders Memorial Museum was officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation in September, 1972, becoming a spin-off of the Horseshoe Curve Chapter, NRHS, and thereafter, a separate entity.

Joseph F. Wahl built models for the Blair County Tourist and Convention Bureau's tourist shows. The first was the Penn Central RR Caboose, constructed out of wood, cardboard, and Styrofoam with lighted windows of color transparencies of popular Blair County Tourist attractions.  This caboose was easily disassembled and transported to tourist promotion shows. Completed in February 1970 (see markings on caboose picture) it was first exhibited at Cleveland in March of that year.  Two years later,  Joe completed a second project for the Blair County Tourist and Convention Bureau - a model of Baker Mansion with similar lighted windows containing transparencies of popular attractions in Blair County.

The Horseshoe Curve Chapter's original goals continued, as it does to present day, to promote Altoona's rich railroad heritage. This includes the continued development and support of the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum. The initial Board of Directors of the Railroaders Memorial Museum was approximately one-fourth represented by members of Horseshoe Curve Chapter, NRHS and continues to have Chapter representation as the 1990's conclude.

Although the Railroaders Memorial Museum was incorporated on paper September 1972, a facility (new) did not actually open until September 1980. With that opening, the Horseshoe Curve Chapter has strived to make significant contributions to the museum's development. Some contributions were:

  • Raising $4000.00 to pay the remaining purchase price for the acquisition of GG-1 # 4913 (Altoona Works 1942); the first $1,000.00 was a gift of Andrea Vibbert, of Avenel, NJ. She also did the leg work to locate the unit.
  • Raising $5000. 00 to sandblast the black Amtrak GG-1 and repaint to 5-stripe PRR Tuscan red.
  • Purchasing of the original Charter for the Altoona Mechanic's Library (PRR) at the Penn Central auction of PRR memorabilia in Philadelphia. It was donated to the Railroaders Memorial Museum.


  • The purchase and restoration of ex- Erie Lacawanna MU coaches (Initially used in K-4 # 1361 excursion service and other communities excursions in Blair County).
  • The restoration of the ex-PRR office car DUQUESNE (on going),
  • The production of a video history of the Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway, Altoona, PA.
  • The Horseshoe Curve Chapter, National Railway Historical Society, celebrated 30 years of service to the Altoona area on May 16, 1998 with an open house and an evening dinner at the Eldolyn Terrace. During the Open House, a slide show on the PRR was presented by Charles Horan of the PRR Technical & Historical Society. Exhibits of railroad memorabilia and electric train collections by chapter members were provided as were the outstanding art of local railroad artists Joe Servello and Fred R. Connacher.
  • On December 29, 1998, the Horseshoe Curve officially placed its first web page on-line. It was created and designed by Christopher Behe. Not only did the web page provide current information on important Chapter information, provide a mechanism to raise funds, solicit membership, and advertise activities, it discussed recent news from the Altoona Area, the Railroaders Memorial Museum, the PRR K-4s #1361 project, and provided a place for members to show off their photography skills. (article by David Seidel)
  • The Horseshoe Curve Chapter celebrated its 40th anniversary of fostering railroad heritage for the greater Altoona area. An anniversary banquet was held May 17 at the Geeseytown Fire Hall.
  • Recent projects have included the operation of excursions on the Everett Railroad, restoration of historic railcars, particularly a Pennsylvania Railroad Class B-60B Baggage, a Railway Express Agency Boxcar, and a 1940 Chevrolet Railway Express Agency delivery truck; assistance on restoration and installation of the turntable at the Railroaders Museum, general maintenance on the Museum railroad cars and staffing Railfest events, particularly the Railfest Limited excursion train.

See the memorable moments from our past!




NRHS and its logo are trademarks of the National Railway Historical Society
Photos are by Chris Behe unless otherwise noted.