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Altoona Railway Museum Club: Under the Wire

 

 

 

 

Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway Company

"On July 4, 1882, the first public transportation system for the city of Altoona began operation. Starting with $40,000 in company capital, the "City Passenger Railway Company of Altoona, PA" opened business with 18 horse cars. The company operated horse cars from a car barn and stable at First Street down Chestnut Avenue and Eleventh Avenue, across from the 17th Street Bridge, and up Eighth Avenue to Seventh Street, a 3.5 mile trip requiring 72 minutes. Due to the expense of the horses' feed and general care, the mode of power was switched to electric in 1891. In 1892 the Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway Company was developed with 18 electric cars. The advent of electric cars allowed for the development of suburban property. Passengers no longer needed to live within walking distance of their jobs.

During this period, the company began a pattern of sustained growth that would continue for approximately 40 years. In 1893, the service was expanded to Hollidaysburg. The following year, service was extended to Bellwood, expanding the total area to nearly 20 miles. The electric railway company developed Lakemont Park and began its operation in 1894. By 1894 smaller companies had developed to provide services in Hollidaysburg, Bellwood, and Tyrone. At that time, the average motormen and conductors earned about 12.5 cents an hour. With construction of a route along Sixth Avenue to 58th Street in the Eldorado neighborhood in 1906, the Altoona trolley system was completed. The line comprised nearly 54 miles of track, mostly single-tracked with passing sidings but with double track on the main route of travel of Hollidaysburg through Altoona's Central Business District and on to Juniata. Much of this route was on private right-of-way with both tracks on the same side of the road. By 1907, several of the smaller companies merged together. The "other railroad," as they were nicknamed, had a total of 91 cars. Within 10 years, demand for service had grown to the point that the service was making customer stops every five minutes from 5:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. As ridership increased, so did the number of employees, cars, and buildings. Most of the property was located along Sixth Avenue in Altoona between the former Country Garden Market and Roaring River Mills. By 1918 the operation spanned nearly 55 miles, operated 105 motor cars and another 14 trailer cars. The growth of the company had an influence on the development of the city of Altoona. Altoona Suburban Company, Inc. promoted their property in the suburbs. Due to the availability of street car service, the city of Altoona was able to establish and enlarge the residential areas around Logan Boulevard, Mansion Park, and Plank Road.

In June of 1923, the Logan Valley Electric Railway Company incorporated to become the Logan Valley Bus Company. One month later the first bus ran on the pleasant Valley Route. The fare for a railway car was seven cents while the fee for the bus was ten cents. During this period, employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad were the company's major customers. Hundreds of employees arriving for work would depart from the buses while railroad workers completing their shift would crowd onto the buses and head home. Because the PRR shops worked around the clock, the street railway provided all-night service; once an hour to Hollidaysburg, once an hour on an Eldorado-East Juniata route that only ran at night, and once every 90 minutes to Tyrone. There was another special owl car designated "City Night Car via Juniata" that ran every 40 minutes. By the 1930's, several factors, including the advancement of the automobile and bus, severely impacted the company. By 1934, the number of street cars decreased to 67. In 1937, the company lost the Bellwood route when a flood destroyed a bridge on that line.

The company did make a strong comeback in the early 1940s due to the outbreak of World War II. Gas rationing plus the heavy wartime demands on the Pennsylvania Railroad's construction and repair plant brought unprecedented traffic and property to the Altoona & Logan Valley. In 1943, the few hundred shareholders received a dividend of $5 per share, the largest ever paid by the company. In 1946, more than 15 million passengers were carried, and in 1947 figures were slightly higher. However, by the late 1940s, ridership again declined as automobiles and gasoline became plentiful. By 1950, the coverage area had decreased to about 25 miles. After 63 years of service, the Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway Company's last trolley run occurred on August 7, 1954. In December of 1956, the Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway announced that it had filed with the Public Utilities Commission to terminate bus service and cease operation on March 31, 1957 due to ongoing operating losses.

In order to protect public interest, on May 27, 1958, the city of Altoona and Logan Township voted to create the first public transportation authority in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Transportation & Motor Buses for Public Use Authority. This new authority took over the public bus operation from Logan Valley on November 1, 1959. From 1958 through 1977, the authority was generally known as the Altoona & Logan Valley Bus Authority. In 1977 the Bus Authority adopted the business name of AMTRAN (for Altoona Metro Transit)." AMTRAN celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2008. For more information, see the "History of AMTRAN."

 

History of the Altoona and Logan Valley Electric Railway

"Founded by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1850, Altoona grew to be an important railroad and manufacturing center in the Allegheny Mountains of' Pennsylvania. Horse drawn street railway service began in Altoona on July 4, 1882. The first electric operated streetcar was put into service on July 4, 1891 on a 3.25 mile route. By 1894 the Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway Company and its affiliate the City Passenger Railway Company operated 12 miles of' track in the city of Altoona. In addition, a 6.6 mile trolley:. line was operated from the public square in Hollidaysburg to the 12th street bridge in Altoona. A 6 mile line was under construction from Altoona through Juniata and Blair Furnace to Be1lwood. During 1894, the Altoona & Logan Valley Railway. operated 15 cars, and the City Passenger Railway operated 19 cars. The cars were mounted on Brill # 21 trucks and operated on a track gauge of' 5 ft. 2 inches. The City Passenger Railway established and developed Lakemont Park during 1894 to increase business for the streetcars. The trolley line and park were important factors in the development of South Altoona, Lakemont Terrace, and South Lakemont.

On August 5, 1903 the Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway Company, City Passenger Railway Company of Altoona and Tyrone Electric Railway Company were merged into the Altoona & Logan Valley Company.  By 1910 the company had 51 miles of' track and operated 77 tro3~ey cars, 7 trailer cars, 8 work cars, 1 snow plow, 3 sweepers, and 12 miscellaneous cars.

Between 1925 and 1928, the Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway spent more than $1,000,000 for new track and equipment and an additional $65O,000 for maintenance of track and equipment. The system had reached its peak mileage of 56 miles by 1928.

In reconstructing track in paved streets the company had 2 methods. Where streetcars could be diverted to another route during reconstruct ion, steel ties were used. Where it was impossible to reroute the cars, the track was laid on treated pine ties. The wood ties were 6 inches x 8 inches x 7 ft. 3 inches long. Stone ballast was tamped and rammed under and around the ties. Then a 6 to 7 inch layer on concrete was poured:. for a paving base. A 1/2 inch layer of sand was spread over the concrete surface, and then 3 inch thick paving bricks were laid. The modernization program also resulted in the purchase of 13 steel body, light weight, double truck safety cars and 3 Birney safety cars to give better service and meet automobile competition.

During August, 1929, the Osgood Bradley Car Company delivered 5 master unit type cars to the Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway. These cars were almost identical to 10 cars built for Scranton Railway of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The 5 Altoona cars numbered 70 - 74 were one man, double end, double truck cars seating 54 passengers. Car specifications were as follows: weight 34,000 lbs., over all length 42 ft. 6 inches, over all width 8 ft., height-rail to trolley base 11 ft. 621 inches, control- Safety Car Type K 75, all steel body, National Pneumatic folding doors, Westinghouse 510 A motors, "cletan" leather seats, Electric Materials Company trolley wheels, and Osgood Bradley # 5-66 trucks.  These cars featured wide vision plate glass widows, upholstered composition leather seats with deep spring cushions and individual form fitting backs. This was the final order for new cars placed by the company.

With the automobile cutting into passenger riding, lines were converted to bus operation. After the Third Avenue and Eighth Avenue car lines in Altoona were converted to bus operation on July 1, 1950, there were only 2 lines left: Hollidaysburg and Juniata-Eldorado.

On Saturday August 7, 1954 the last streetcar runs were made. At 1:15 PM, 5 trolleys decorated with banners proclaiming the end of 63 years of electric trolley service, left downtown Altoona with about 500 farewell riders aboard. The final run was made to Juniata and back through downtown Altoona to Eldorado. Returning to 5th Avenue and Logan Boulevard, the cars made the final run on the Hollidaysburg line. At 3:30 PM the cars arrived at Hollidaysburg and after a ten minute stop headed back for Altoona where the passengers bade farewell to the cars which returned to the car barn. Undoubtedly many Altoona people will be able to recall fond memories of riding the open park cars to and from Lakemont Park. Although Lakemont Park is served by a modern highway today, the passing of the trolley car meant that the transit line lost its identity. Not many people take the bus to Lakemont Park Today."   (from Viewing Pennsylvania Trolleys, copyright 1971, by Kenneth C. Springirth, Erie, Pa., 16511; re-printed from a 1986 edition of the "Coal Bucket")

Post Script: One of the treasures of the Horseshoe Curve Chapter is a black and white film make by Howard Wright of the last run of Altoona's streetcars aid will be one of the first converted into videotape. your editor rode the last run of the trolley as reported in the article above, and yes, I found myself in the crowd waiting to board the trolleys, when we previewed the film. 1985 was another milestone year with the passing of Lakemont Park as we knew it.  The park is now under private development as Boyertown USA and will open a new era with Phase I, Memorial Day, 1986.

 (by David Seidel; re-printed from a 1986 edition of the "Coal Bucket")

 

History of Lakemont Park

"Opened in 1894 as a trolley park, Lakemont Park has overcome many obstacles to become the 8th oldest amusement park in the United States. One of Lakemont's most prized possessions is the world's oldest roller coaster, Leap-the-Dips. Built at the park in 1902 by the E. Joy Morris Company, the historic wooden roller coaster was restored and reopened on memorial Day 1999. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1996." Lakemont Park & Island WaterPark

 

For further information, see "Lakemont Park 8th Oldest Amusement Park in U.S." by Pennsylvania Mountains of Attractions.

 

  Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway

Posted by: kirkleidyassociates
Altoona amusement park home to world's oldest rollercoaster
"Published on Aug 21, 2014 By: WJAC Web Staff: ALTOONA, Pa. -- The world's oldest rollercoaster is tucked into an amusement park in Blair County, and after years of sitting idle, has been restored and back to thrilling park goers. Built in 1902 at Lakemont Park in Altoona, Leap the Dips is a National Historic Landmark and continues to need employees to operate the rollercoaster by hand. The rollercoaster is 41 feet high, with the steepest drop at 9 feet. Top speed for the ride is 10 miles per hour, but many of those who come to ride the rollercoaster do so because of its history. Park officials said people from all 50 state and other countries, even those just passing through on area highways, stop to take a ride on a piece of American history. Leap the Dips closed in the mid-1980s and didn't run again for more than a decade. It was fully restored and reopened in near-original form in 1999. Operators still have to push the coaster cars from the station to the chain lift. It takes 21 seconds to get to the top and the ride lasts for just 1 minute.".
Posted by: WJACTV Johnstown
Lakemont Park
Posted by: kirkleidyassociates

 

The 1914 Brill Cars, #31-35 Series

We will look at five Logan Valley cars which arrived in Altoona in February, 1920. Before ever riding the rails in Altoona, they ran elsewhere in Pennsylvania and also in another state. They are the 1914 Brill cars of the number 31-35 series and they began their life on the Trenton, Bristol and Philadelphia Street Railway.

The Trenton, Bristol and Philadelphia (T,B & P) began when, in January 1896, Colonel Edward Morrell chartered the Philadelphia and Bristol Passenger Railway Company to build a line from the Philadelphia city limits to Bristol, Pennsylvania - about a 12-mile route. There were many disputes over right-of-way, etc., but service finally began in April 1897 over parts of the route, using single truck Brill cars.

In July 1900, Colonel Morrell sold the company to a Boston syndicate which changed the name to Philadelphia and New Jersey Street Railway Company and planned to extend the line from Bristol to Trenton, New Jersey. A year later, the death of the major stockholder resulted in the trolley line being resold to a Baltimore group. By July 1902, the line reached Morrisville, about nine miles north of Bristol. Finally, on May 11, 1905, the first car reached Trenton.

The company was reorganized in 1909 as the Trenton, Bristol and Philadelphia Street Railway once more, and began making improvements to its line and cars. From 1911 to 1914, all the older single truck cars were replaced with new or used larger, double truck cars. Car numbers 31-35 were built by J.G. Brill and delivered in May 1914 as order number 19399. They were 4~foot, all-steel cars of the most "modern" design. Really, they were just steel instead of wood, which had been the practice in building up until then.

During World War 1, a shipyard was built northeast of Bristol and the line was swamped with wartime traffic. The cars were used hard but by 1919, the Ridership was down and the large cars were no longer needed. In February 1920, six new single truck Brill cars were delivered and the larger double truck cars were sold.

Logan Valley purchased the five 1914 Brill cars and brought them to Altoona. Since they were broad gauge like Altoona system cars, they were able to be put right into service. Oddly, these cars were never numbered into the Logan Valley roster but retained their original 31-35 numbers of the T,B & P. Logan Valley paid $6,710 apiece for the cars, which really was not much of a bargain for six-year old cars, but it was several thousand dollars less than what new cars would have cost.

The cars ran Altoona's main routes for about nine years, then were relegated to tripper and PRR shop line work during the 1930s (five new cars were delivered to Logan Valley in 1929). With the advent of World War II, the cars were pressed into hard service - once again hauling many passengers to work - not to a shipyard as before, but to the railroad shops and other businesses in Altoona.  Most Logan Valley cars received new paint during the 1 940s to make them look new, even if they were worn out underneath.

Before the war, Logan Valley had begun to replace trolleys with buses, and following WWII after much hard use and deferred maintenance programs, the trolley car era in Altoona was nearing the end. When the first diesel buses arrived in 1947, numbers 31-35 were semi-retired. By 1950, there were enough GM buses in Altoona that 31-35 were considered surplus. They were officially retired on September 25, 1950, removed from the roster, and parked outside the car barn in the yard area. That autumn, the cars met the same fate that awaited all of Altoona's trolleys - the scrapper's torch. It was a rather sad ending for veterans of two world wars.  (contributed by member Leonard Alwine; originally published in the 1996, Volume 28, No. 2, "Coal Bucket") 

 

 

From the files of the Altoona Mirror, April 9, 1925:

"The Pennsylvania Department of Highways was studying the construction of a 6-mile highway called Logan Valley Road, from Altoona to Hollidaysburg, along the existing Logan Valley trolley tracks". Note: This wasn't accomplished until 1955 or 1956 following cessation of Altoona and Logan Valley operations in August 1954. The road was named Logan Boulevard; a 4 lane "boulevard" from 6th Avenue within Altoona City limits to Hollidaysburg borough, the county seat, with a curbed grass median. The median was initially planted with Japanese Cherry trees for most of the distance which never did well, probably due to the use of highway-melt solutions in the winter months. Another species has now been attempted.

Also from April 9, 1925: "The Altoona and Logan Valley Electric Railway Co. was purchased by E. E. Fitkin and Co., New York, which said that $200,000 in improvements would be made immediately."

 

 

Recollections

Mon, 21 Aug 2000 
To: "Dave Seidel"
From: Philip Margush
Subject: Re: Fairview Trolley

Since my parents only moved to Llyswen in 1954, Franklin Lamca had already by then "owned" both the South Altoona and the Baker Mansion. He was just over the peak of the hill from Baker School and so could operate in both blue collar and white collar modes. He was a keen childhood chum, wasn't afraid to get into a full blown fist fight over principle, could catch and roast a rabbit in the wild; while at a different moment present himself as a respectable and polite young man to any parent suspicious of his autonomy. Frank already new the ropes so to speak of the neighborhood by the fourth grade -- I was only a newcomer just adapting my limited street skill from 6th Ave and 5th Street and trying to get up to speed in this menagerie. I remembered the trolleys on Logan Boulevard when we used to visit Bro. (Elder/pastor) Long between 49 and 54. There was lots of activity back and forth upon the weed grass of the Logan Boulevard center railway. But when we to my delight all of a sudden moved out there in the summer of 54, alas, it was just in time to see the "last car". Of course up until then you thought the trolleys immortal not realizing indeed how very fragile. 

Frank had already been exploring the area of the trolley bridge between 6th Avenue and the railroad, but Hershey and I, and Dave my older brother by two years, only examined this section perhaps 1954-57. By that time the cars had stopped but the bridge and the danger sign was there, and it was still forboding to cross over. We became familiar with the hobo camps and the bums that cooked a stew at a small clearing aside the PRR roadbed. There were old abandoned buildings back there with huge prehistoric trucks in them. Some were chain-drive and fascinating with respect to their uncommon shapes and drab features. There was a sweet aroma of old crankcase oil, mildew from old leather seats, lots of small parts and gadgets a laying around -- endless novelty for aspiring motor boys. You could find those after market turn signal control fixtures with the two tiny lights in them and the brown lever -- the one that the dump truck driver never remembered to return to center after signaling his turn. In those days the turn signals were on more than they were off and their only relevance was when you saw them momentarily go off and then back on again perhaps for the opposite direction this time. I think all the Logan Valley busses had this steering wheel post attachment. In those days and prior there were families living in the old passenger cars at Logan Boulevard and 6th Avenue. The dirt road going back to the railroad passed parallel to a small enclave of shacks and sheds and old cars with chain hoists attached to their motors from tree limbs. 

Who these people were who lived in the passenger car community was unknown, but if you messed around in there you were sure to find out. A fascinating feature of the trolley and bus was the transfer. It was like a free ticket which you could ask for even if you didn't intend to use it. It kind of made you feel important, like a world traveler or something, like someone of extended passage who went beyond customary boundaries. It was fun to either alone or with your buddies request a transfer. Along with that the names in the marquee were fascinating, especially at night when a bus would display "Garage". Wouldn't it be fun to get off at the "Garage" one time or take the trolley all the way to the "Car Barn"? Does anybody have a list of the routes and destinations which the operator or motorman could crank into the window? I remember when our church purchased an old stick shift Logan Valley bus, we were constantly messing with the marquee much to being yelled at by Art Ross who was the chief driver. "Youins keep your hands off of that crank!" he would yell. Sometimes it would say "Chartered" other times "Special" and if we boys got into it it would say: "Fairview" (wherever that was) or 58th Street (just as mystical). 

Regards, Phil

 

 

1954 Chartered Railfan Trip

Railfan tour of the Altoona & Logan Valley Electric Railway with Osgood Bradley car # 70. Chartered fan trip of the Lehigh Valley Chapter, NRHS on July 25, 1954; arranged by Mr. Gerhard Salomon, presently 2nd VP, Lehigh Valley Chapter NRHS who provided the identifying information on this photograph. The trip also utilized A&LVERY Car # 51.

Kneeling, left to right: Thomas Ruddell, Richard Pearson, Larry Fisher, Andrew Maginnis, Gerard Deily, Kenneth Bogert, Walter Ensley, unknown, Lloyd Allen, Ernest Kovacs, Elwood McEllroy.

Standing from left to right: Motorman-name unknown, Charles Kleivman, unknown, Albert Remaley (in front), unknown, (behind) unknown, Charles Houser, Charles Houser's son, Randolph Kulp, unknown, unknown, William Coe, unknown, Edward Miller, Woodrow Eckert, Alma Eckert, unknown, unknown, Irene Kovacs, Elaine McEllroy, unknown, unknown, (two fellows behind) unknown, Margaret McEllroy, unknown, Dolores Rautter (later Dolores Salomon) Gary Dillon, Emma Salomon, Gerhard Salomon, George Basch.   (The Motorman's name is WILBUR LIBOLD per info received from his grandson, Bob Blair, who lives in Kentucky. )

Particular thanks to Mr. Salomon for furnishing this information on a photograph (purchased at a train meet in Allentown two years prior by David Seidel). 

 

Additional Information may be found at the following locations:

Many editions of the Horseshoe Curve Chapter, NHRS, Coal Bucket contain detailed information on the A&LVERY.

Also see: AMCAP - Logan Valley Bus Company

 

For a personal / historical perspective, visit "Altoona Street Cars" by Phil Margush