Electrification of PRR Altoona Yard?

1089 views
14 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 1,032 posts
Electrification of PRR Altoona Yard?
Posted by CandOforprogress2 on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 12:18 PM

I saw some old poles that looked liked that had Cat. on them at one time in the Yard. Was this just used to move around GG1s around the shops or did they use them for actual switching dutys?

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 10,130 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, September 21, 2017 6:58 AM

Altoona was never electrified.  Altoona is appreciably west of Harrisburg so any electrification would have been isolated from the rest of the system.  Looks can be deceiving.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    May, 2012
  • 3,057 posts
Posted by rcdrye on Thursday, September 21, 2017 9:02 PM

Most likely for lighting.

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 3,890 posts
Posted by Overmod on Friday, September 22, 2017 1:22 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH
Altoona was never electrified.

Now, thereupon hang some interesting tales.

"Altoona" was part of the Next Big Thing the PRR was going to build after doing the Low Grade, and all the reports of this that I've seen did not indicate it would be 'islanded'; in fact, the main point of electrifying as far as Harrisburg was to optimize electrification west of there as far as Pittsburgh.  This is the service the DD2s were specifically intended to work, and a very elaborate plan was developed during WWII to execute the electrification, which included a 9000+ foot tunnel in the most useful spot, and a couple of enlarged electric-locomotive designs also using the 428A motors (one a "GG2" and another involving four-axle articulated frames and semipermanent pairing, for pushing and perhaps snapping).

As has been covered from a variety of angles, several things canceled any need for this in the early postwar years, F units chief among them.  That does not mean that studies for electrification in the Altoona area stopped; there have been proposals since then (usually when fuel supply gets tight or fuel costs start skyrocketing again) to electrify only the severe grade portions and use something that works with diesel-electric power to provide assistance there.  The Conrail 'dual-mode-lite' developments in the early '80s were reasonable examples of this, as are putting high-voltage AC equipment on some road slugs that can be cheaply cabled to other road slugs (and perhaps even to slug mothers with idling engines).

If you get by the area again, see if you can get some pix of the area and structures you described.  That would go a long way toward identifying what they are.  I am presuming that what you saw was a light, M-shaped 'truss' between two pole or I-beam uprights, like the Gibbs and Hill construction in the Philadelphia to New York area.

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 1,749 posts
Posted by Miningman on Friday, September 22, 2017 7:08 PM

Great to see Overmod is back. 

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 1,032 posts
Posted by CandOforprogress2 on Saturday, September 23, 2017 10:50 AM

DD1s?

  • Member since
    September, 2011
  • 3,232 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, September 23, 2017 7:43 PM

I understand a number of electric locos were built at the Juniata/Altoona shops, so some cat for testing would have been in order.

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • 522 posts
Posted by JPS1 on Sunday, September 24, 2017 9:41 AM

MidlandMike

I understand a number of electric locos were built at the Juniata/Altoona shops, so some cat for testing would have been in order. 

Altoona works built 124 of the 139 GG1s acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad.  They were built between 1934 and 1943. 
 
The PRR had a test track for electric locomotives at Claymont, Delaware.  I suspect the completed locomotives were towed to Claymont where they were road tested.  As far as I know there never were any test tracks in Altoona to test electric locomotives.
 
Altoona had a test plant near 17th Street.  It is possible that some of the GG1s were tested there.  The Altoona Test Plant had what a layman would call a treadmill to test locomotives in place.

Without pictures it is impossible to know what poles are being referred to.  Prior to WWII the Altoona and Logan Valley Electric Railway had a line that ran from Altoona to Bellwood.  I believe it skirted the east side of the PRR’s mainline.  It is remotely possible that the poles being referred to are from that system. 

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    February, 2005
  • 1,657 posts
Posted by timz on Sunday, September 24, 2017 3:26 PM

JPS1
The Altoona Test Plant had what a layman would call a treadmill to test locomotives in place.

Anyone seen a PRR test plant report on any locomotive with 12 drivers?

I'm guessing PRR wouldn't bother putting an FF1 or GG1 on the test plant in any case. Not much to learn from such a test.

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 3,890 posts
Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 7:43 PM

CandOforprogress2
DD1s?

No, DD2.  See PRR 5800, circa 1938, 2-B+B-2 wheel arrangement, with the "better" GE 428A twin motors.

These were the real "electric T1s" (and might have shared some similar issues in running performance with much higher hp through two fewer driver pairs).  The wartime GG1s and the collapse of electrification on new route-miles (as things turned out) meant no point in spending more for a 'new' class.  We can get a good idea, though, what the carbodies of the larger proposed versions from 1943 would be ... this same 'house style' carried over to the V1 production design in 1944.

Personally I still prefer the look and proportions of the GG1s.

 

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 7,096 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 7:48 PM

I'm with you on that, the look of the GG1 is absolutely timeless! 

Besides, how can anyone NOT like the look of something that looks like it was popped out of a Jell-O mold?

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 1,749 posts
Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 11:48 PM

Yeah they got it right with the GG1 EXCEPT,,,the horn. Terrible.

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 7,096 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Thursday, September 28, 2017 7:04 AM

Miningman

Yeah they got it right with the GG1 EXCEPT,,,the horn. Terrible.

 

Well, they were still learning.  Maybe a compressed air-powered whistle?

Nah, Hancock tried that later, not loud enough.

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 10,130 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, September 28, 2017 7:04 AM

As long as we're discussing the stillborn Harrisburg-Pittsburgh electrification, weren't the L5paw (pantograph instead of 3rd rail) and the FF1 designed with this route in mind?

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 3,890 posts
Posted by Overmod on Thursday, September 28, 2017 1:22 PM

Miningman
Yeah they got it right with the GG1 EXCEPT ... the horn. Terrible.

I have a different opinion.  The GG1 is one of the few locomotives that made that 220Hz an authoritative blast and not a haaaamp or cow bleat.  (Listen to the Little Junior Parker cover of ‘Mystery Train’ for the saxophone rendition of the brief period when these were the voice of modernity!)

Not saying it wouldn't have been better with a proper 5-chime chord, of course (and those were planned for the -20mph rebuilds) -but you would NOT want to substitute the blow-overtone-into-a-bottle sound of what was foisted on earlier PRR electrics.

Yes, I think Liz would have done well in pushing over the hill, rather than just the grade around Thorndale that was, if I recall correctly, the later haunt of the very different FF2s.  The L5, on the other hand, was at its wits' end on the "mountain grade" under the North River and its AC adaptation (incredible rigid wheelbase, colossal polar moment of inertia guided by pathetic little Bissels, and utterly misguided 80" drivers) was as worthless a prototype for any serious mountain service as you could find - let alone a magic bullet for snapping passenger trains.

In my opinion, nothing PRR did after the DD1 in electric locomotive design made much sense, and part of it seemed to involve analogies to steam power right up to the (essentially cribbed from New Haven) GG1.  The P5 was like a bidirectional K, the whole spectrum of Os a 'homage' to the legacy of 7002 and the Lindbergh engine, and the L6 ... well, it was an electric lollipop.  I won't go into the R1 even though I normally love 4-8-4s...

The rot continued with the DD2s as built, showing in part that the right lessons of the GG1 design hadn't quite been learned by 1938 as the plans to push west from Harrisburg to the 'other' first best use of railroad electrification were being made.  Perhaps there was overcompensation in the 1943 power spec ... but it does have to be said that back-to-back pushers with 16 428As (that's 32 armatures!) would have been interesting to see and hear...

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy

Search the Community