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2017 Pennsylvania Calendar and Book Buying Options

8.20.2017

West Newton Bridge, West Newton, PA, Westmoreland County

The West Newton Bridge is a stunning iron truss bridge crossing the Youghiogheny River. This town, a town along the Great Allegheny Passage Rail Trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. is a cool town that reminds you of a small mountain town. The bridge carries state Route 136 and survived the removal of many other similar bridges, including the similar recent removal of the nearby century old Donora-Webster Bridge.
West Newton Bridge - Built in 1907 and rehabilitated in 1984, located in West Newton, PA, Westmoreland County
The simple star adornment at the end is a pretty neat decoration. 
Each truss is approximately 160 feet long and this bridge creates a beautiful entry into this small town, and a stunning centerpiece. As this type of bridge continues to dwindle, I hope that the state continues to preserve this beauty.

8.13.2017

Exploring Nature & History Around PGH's Schenley Park

Today we explore Junction Hollow and lower Schenley Park in the area of Panther Hollow Lake. This nondescript area is the junction of some of Pittsburgh's most prestigious centers of learning, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. The hollow is home to a small neighborhood, the P&W Subdivision Rail Line, and the Bellefield Boiler Plant, a building that sends heating and cooling to many buildings of the surrounding institutions. The boiler plant gained fame on its own in Michael Chabon's novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, where the plant is known as the "Cloud Factory," for the great amount of steam that it emits during the winter months. For this article, Brit opted to use my camera, so these are all her photos.

Some context to the location of the spot, at the quiet nexus of the University of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Library and Museums, and Carnegie Mellon University. This is the first time we stopped in this spot, and it is pretty neat to see.
"Time to move!"

"It's time for me to fly!"
Now we head over to Schenley Park Panther Hollow Lake. This pond is fed by Phipps Run and Panther Hollow Run, and it is almost unrecognizable from what it was a few years ago. The pond gets easily choked up with tree limbs, sediment, and more, from storm runoff. In the last few years, a basin was erected at the head of the pond, just beyond its walls, which catches the runoff junk, and leaves the pond in decent shape as a wetland habitat, complete with lilly pads, cattails, and more. It is a quiet respite from the city down here. Mature woodlands surround the area of Panther Hollow Lake, along with connections to the trail networks located throughout the park.
Chipmunks are funny to watch
The forests throughout Schenley Park are impressive. One cannot help but look up and be amazed by the beauty. Of the four major Pittsburgh City Parks, Schenley, Frick, Highland, and Riverview, 373,000 trees were counted in 2010. 
Look for a minute and you will see a blue dragonfly hovering over the one leaf.
Panther Hollow Bridge showing through the trees. This impressive bridge dates back to 1897 and its main span measures in at 360 feet, with a complete bridge length at 620 feet. It is a near twin to the nearby Schenley Bridge.

A rabbit hanging out in the grass near the gutter that protects Panther Hollow Lake from storm runoff junk. 
A good bit of the infrastructure throughout the park dates back to the Great Depression New Deal programs that were instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt. More than a dozen of these bridges were constructed throughout the park, making this place a favorite for hikers, runners, and people just looking to take a walk to get away from it all. To think that this infrastructure is still thriving and functional, nearly 80 years after they were built to employ people that were struggling during the Great Depression, is incredible. 
    

I am not one for selfies, or to have photos taken of me, so it is funny seeing the way I look when I am exploring.

    
Some beautiful wildflowers in bloom.
The little stream had lots of little frogs jumping around in it.
Here is the Tufa Bridge. It dates back to 1908 and was built using tufa, a white, porous, cryptocrystalline calcium carbonate, which is formed as piled-up mineral deposits formed beneath the water's surface (thanks PGH Bridges) and it is really beautiful. If you look closely at the stone, you can see tiny coral like tubes and straws and nodules.

More frogs!

Heading back to Panther Hollow Lake
This shot shows quite a bit of wetland vegetation, the most obvious signs of how the work to stabilize the habitat of the pond is paying off. 
Schenley Park, and the area around it, are a ton of fun to explore and we highly recommend it. Exploring Schenley Park is a quintessential part of being a Pittsburgher, and one of the easiest ways to connect with nature and history within the city. Be sure to check out!

8.09.2017

Gallitzin Tunnels: Stunning Rail Overlook Near Altoona's Horseshoe Curve

It is obligatory to stop by the Gallitzin Tunnels on any ride through the Altoona area. 
The Tunnels Park and Museum has a superb view of the tunnels, along with a fully restored 1942 Pennsylvania Railroad Caboose.
We have covered this tunnel once before in an article that covers more of the technical specs and things to do in this location. This and the region's numerous curves, including Horseshoe Curve, are the crowning achievements of the Pennsylvania Railroad in traversing one of the most difficult infrastructure challenges of the day. Here, the railroad crossed the Alleghenies and getting passengers and products to and from the major markets of the midwest to the northeast and the east coast. 
The Allegheny Tunnel, pictured here and referred to as the Gallitzin Tunnel, is near the pinnacle of the Continental Divide, the division line in which water flows either into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed via the Susquehanna River, or into the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi, Ohio, and Monongahela Rivers. 
These tunnels are some of the best to check out because they receive a large amount of rail traffic, since the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line is still used as a main corridor by the Norfolk Southern Railroad. It gets daily Amtrak passenger service via the Pennsylvanian twice a day as it passes through on its journey between Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York. The New Portage Tunnel is located right down the road from this location, in which a segment of the main line splits off and eventually rejoins. 
There IS a light at the end of the tunnel!
A Norfolk Southern freight train carrying shipping containers.
Notice the double stacked containers. The tunnel was widened and raised in the early 90s for Contrail service in order to meet the modern demands of freight service.
Due to the steep grade, at this point the heavy freight trains are moving pretty slowly, allowing for some neat observation. You are sure to catch dozens of trains if you stay in this location and rail spot. There are so many angles to catch too, including down here at rail level, up atop a bridge that crosses a few hundred feet down from the tunnel, and on a hillside, making this a fine place to watch and photograph trains.

8.03.2017

The Awe-Inspiring Kinzua Bridge

The size and magnitude of Kinzua Bridge is incredible. We have taken looks at the bridge in the fall, and in the winter/early spring. Today we take a look at it in the summer. Seeing this bridge in throughout different seasons, weather conditions, and times of the day, make it look vastly different. For more in depth coverage, in addition to views from a misty day in late winter/early spring, check out this article
This was our first visit with the brand new visitors center completed and it really puts context into the bridge and the industrial age that necessitated and ushered in construction of the bridge. The interpretive centers that Pennsylvania State Parks are adding, namely this, Ohiopyle's, and Sinnemohoning's, add so much important educational context. This museum completes the experience and disseminates information that was not readily available at the site before. As someone who is into history, I am naturally drawn to researching this sort of information, but this bridge opens up that information to everyone that visits this spectacular place. They really went out of their way to create an excellent display center that adds critical context to this huge and historic landmark.
One of my favorite aspects of the museum is that they show the workers that sacrificed themselves and made this bridge possible. This aspect is often glossed over, and seeing an ode to the value of labor to our society is so important. 

Some context on the size of the bridge when compared to Lady Liberty. 
One of my favorite displays is of the stereo cards that work to show a time lapse of the history of the bridge.
Some gear that the bridge builders used.
A look out at the bridge from the museum.
There is a model of the original Kinzua Bridge from 1882, prior to reconstruction to handle heavier weight in 1900. The original bridge was built by the Phoenix Iron Works, which was once based in Chester County's Phoenixville.
More neat displays
Now out to the spectacular main attraction, the Kinzua Bridge. The middle section of the bridge was ripped out by an F3 Tornado with winds that approached 100 MPH. 
Even with the bridge not complete, a view from the beginning of it makes it look as if the track goes forever.

The lush Kinzua Gorge
The portion of the bridge that collapsed, remains undisturbed on the floor of the gorge, as a testament to the power of nature.
Looking down one of the giant support towers between rail ties, roughly 200 feet to the gorge floor.
Looking down through the glass skywalk at the end of the bridge.
A view of the twisted support towers from the end of the bridge.
Seeing the power of nature is incredible 
We are fortunate that this much of the bridge remained after that serious storm.
Looking back towards the remaining portion of the bridge.
The scale of everything is so massive and awe-inspiring.


We had a great time!
The current rail line, bypassing the span.
Be sure to check out Kinzua Bridge State Park!

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