Larry Reynolds' PRR Altoona Area

About the Model Railroad


Featured in the December 2005 Issue of RailModel Journal


    The Altoona Area of the Pennsylvania Railroad is an HO gauge operating railroad housed in a 27' x 43' basement. The area modeled is from Huntingdon, PA to Tunnelhill, PA with staging at Enola/Harrisburg, the Bald Eagle Branch and Gallitzin.  The Bald Eagle Branch staging uses reverted loops that are convenient for turning east end trains during re-staging.  There are seven staging tracks at Enola, three at Harrisburg and four at the Bald Eagle Branch, resulting in a total of fourteen east end staging tracks.  The west end staging consists of a total of twelve tracks in a multi-level loop.  The mostly four track mainline is 330 feet long, with a reduction to three tracks at Tipton. The highlights of the layout are the Altoona facilities and the helper operations up the East Slope.  About 100 feet of the main line is dedicated to the 1.5% grade ascending the hill. Centipedes, I1sa's, and F-3’s are used as snappers to accomplish this feat.

     Currently there are over 160 locomotives on the roster; fifty-three are steam, accounting for almost every major class that the Penn used during the modeled era.  There are also some foreign locos like a Reading T1 and an AT&SF “Texan”.  There are over 675 freight cars and 75 passenger cars.  All of the locos and cars are categorized with cards and waybills developed by Ray Fisher.  Ray Fisher also developed the schedule, Dispatcher’s and Yardmaster’s work sheets, crew call sheets and all of the paperwork necessary to keep the railroad functioning smoothly.  Without Ray the railroad would crumble.

     Operating sessions on the railroad are held once a month (typically on the fourth Saturday).  A typical operating session consists of fifteen to twenty operators and lasts about four hours.  Currently, thirty-six trains fill the schedule.  The operating schedule calls for five locals, six passenger trains and twenty-five symbol freights.  Most of the symbol freights stop at Altoona for work, some requiring a motive power change.  Altoona is a very active place during a session, keeping a Yardmaster, two yard crews and the East Altoona Enginehouse Foreman very busy.  There is also a secondary yard at Tyrone that sees action.  The operation is controlled by 2 dispatchers, Alto and Gray.  A separate operator controlling all movements in and out of the active railroad at AR/Hunt/Park.  All of these jobs are mind frying, requiring the utmost concentration and skill.

    Of the active crew members, seven have operating railroads that are regularly attended by various Altoona Area members.  These railroads are: Jeff Warner’s PRR/RDG/WM South Central Region, Gale Smith’s Lehigh Valley Railroad, Jim Dalberg’s New Jersey Northern, Steve Mallery’s PRR Buffalo Line, Jim Hertzog’s Reading Railroad Shamokin Division, Nick Kulp’s Cornwall Railroad and Paul Backenstose’s Western Maryland.  This keeps us all pretty busy!   


Era: Early 1950's
Scale: HO
Layout Style: Linear walkaround
Size: 43' by 27'
Benchwork: Modified L girder
Roadbed: N scale cork
Track: Atlas Code 100, Middle Division area; Atlas Code 83, Pittsburgh Division area
Turnouts: #6 and #8
Minimum Radius: 38" mainline
Control:  Digitrax radio DCC

 Track Plan

Click on plan for a larger version.