Archive for November 2017

Keeping the Water On at Horseshoe Curve

Back in the days of steam power, hard working boilers needed a constant and ready supply of water. Water tanks were located along the right of way where the railroad determined they would be needed and convenient. One such water tank was actually located on Horseshoe Curve, adjacent to the long-gone Kittanning Point station on the east end of the curve. That tank is just one component of a large system that fed water to thirsty locomotives climbing the East Slope. However, the tank itself needed a steady supply of water and it was delivered from a holding reservoir that I recently visited.

Gravity is the most efficient way to move water and the Pennsylvania Railroad built a dam and reservoir system on the east slope of the Alleghany Ridge to supply tanks on that side of the mountain. A dam was constructed near the Portage Railroad Historical site which diverted water to a holding reservoir near where the present MG Tower stands, a distance of about 5 miles. This reservoir is located about 150 yards off the roadbed and was built around 1906. From it, water flowed down grade about 2 miles into the tank at Kittanning Point.

On the east end of Horseshoe Curve stood a coaling and water station for servicing locomotives heading both directions on the mountain. The water spouts split both sets of tracks and can be turned to serve either. The overhead structure with what appears to be water spouts are actually coal chutes. In the distance is the Kittanning Point Station built to allow tourists to visit Horseshoe Curve. Photo from the collection of William “Bill” E. Burket

PRR Kittanning Point Holding Reservoir Drawing (1906)