Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site | VISITOR CENTER

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

OPERATING HOURS

The Summit Level Visitor Center at Allegheny Railroad National Historic Site is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM, except when closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

AMENITIES

  • Ranger-staffed information desk where you can pick up a park brochure and trail map
  • Museum
  • Park film
  • Book and souvenir store
  • Restrooms

I always recommend starting your exploration of any park at the Visitor Center, but this time it is a “must.” The concept of a “portage railroad” is hard to grasp, for most people will be thinking of a traditional railroad. In order to fully envision how it worked, maps, models, photos, and even video are needed to explain the process. You get all of this at the Visitor Center.

Information desk and exhibits at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

Information desk and exhibits at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

PARK FILM

A 20-minute documentary about the Allegheny Portage Railroad is shown on request in the Visitor Center auditorium. As long as nobody is currently watching it, the Ranger will start it for you without a wait. It is one of the best park films I have seen when it comes to explaining the history of the park. You will learn how the canal system worked, including how boats transferred from level to level via locks, and how the portage railroad worked. The film is suitable for all ages.

MUSEUM

After the film, it is imperative to spend time in the park’s museum. There are information panels on all aspects of the railroad, plus maps and models. There is even a steam engine on display. In the early days of the railroad, once a rail car reached the top of an incline it was pulled by horses to the next incline. However, within ten years the horses had been replaced by steam engine locomotives like the one on display.

Early steam locomotive that eventually replaced horses on the levels between inclines is on display at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

Early steam locomotive that eventually replaced horses on the levels between inclines is on display at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

Model of sectional canal boats used to transport people and cargo on display at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

Model of sectional canal boats used to transport people and cargo on display at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

Illustration of a typical engine house used on the Allegheny Portage Railroad

Illustration of a typical engine house used on the Allegheny Portage Railroad

Exhibits area at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

Exhibits area at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

SCHEDULING YOUR TIME

It took me about 45 minutes to read all of the information in the exhibit area, but much of what I read led to more questions, and I spent another 15 minutes talking with the park Ranger on duty. Factoring in the park film, plan to spend 1 to 1.5 hours at the Visitor Center if you really want to grasp the concept of the Allegheny Portage Railroad.

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Last updated on September 12, 2023
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