Railfanning 5-13-18: Alto Tower

A pair of SD40E helper engines drift past Alto Tower in Altoona, PA, heading back up the mountain to assist another train down the slope.

My morning on May 13th was expected to be a tad bittersweet. As stated in my previous post, the plan for the day had been to chase the now-cancelled PRR E Unit excursion. I was already considering just heading back to Tyrone to perfect some of the angles I shot on my first day, but then I got some interesting news: privately owned Pennsylvania-railroad painted car "Colonial Crafts" (and it's new sibling, Boston and Maine "Salisbury Beach") were heading east on Amtrak's Pennsylvanian. I knew this would afford me a chance at redemption; a rare opportunity to photograph a PRR car in PRR territory! So, I parked in downtown Altoona and made my way to the bridge overlooking Alto Tower, one of the remaining PRR "Cabins" left along the Pittsburgh line.

I didn't have to wait long for a train to show up; a westbound oil train soon rolled through, heading back over the mountains for another load. As its FRED disappeared into the fog, an eastbound manifest headlight appeared like clockwork, slowly rolling off the foot of the slope, crossing over to the center track. It was about this time that the rain started back up, and HARD. After snapping an image of the SD70MAC leader, I retreated to the relative dry underneath the road overpass. I spent the next 45 minutes watching trains roll by, constantly checking my phone for updates on the slightly delayed Amtrak. Although being effectively stuck under the bridge wasn't ideal, it was still a great front-row seat to the action of the Pittsburgh Line:

Finally, about 40 minutes behind schedule, I got what was probably the highlight catch of the weekend:

ex-PRR "Colonial Crafts" passes by ex-PRR Alto Tower on ex-PRR rails in an ex-PRR town.

I shot no video during this time, thanks to the rain. Once I had this shot, I opted to return to Tyrone to continue working the angles I had photographed the previous day. But first, a magical moment: as I returned to my vehicle, I saw a local freight heading for the branch line that curves off to the left in the above pictures. While it trundled through town, both a westbound coal train and an eastbound intermodal appeared. I had no decent camera angle, so I opted to just watch as three trains passed in front of me simultaneously. Certainly a highlight of the trip!

Please be sure to check out my two other blogs from this trip: Tyrone Day 1, and Tyrone Day 2. As always, thanks for reading!