The Allegheny Portage Railroad (APRR) is one of the earliest marvels of civil engineering in the U.S. Completed in March 1834, it was the Commonwealth’s solution to the “problem” of the Allegheny Mountains in its quest to move people and goods between the Eastern cities and western frontier via the Main Line of Public Works. To surmount the Alleghenies, engineers built a series of ten inclines, five ascending and five descending, from the Hollidaysburg Canal Basin on the eastern slope to the Johnstown Canal Basin on the west. Stationary steam engines at the top of each incline pulled rail cars carrying canal boats up and over the mountains with ropes. From 1834-1854 the APRR served as an essential—if terrifying—feature the main thoroughfare from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and back.
"Occasionally the rails are laid upon the extreme verge of the giddy precipice and looking down from the carriage window, the traveler gazes sheer down without a stone or scrap of fence between into the mountain depths below."
— Charles Dickens, on traveling the APRR in the early 1840s
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (ALPO) is located in Gallitzin, PA at the summit of the Allegheny Mountains. In addition to preserving the history of the portage railroad, ALPO has been designated a Network to Freedom Site. Evidence suggests a clear connection between the Main Line Canal/APRR transportation system and the Underground Railroad (UGRR) during the high point of its activity.