Purchases of our 2024 PA Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book

2024 PA Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Purchase Options


Cassandra Overlook: World-Class Railroad Overlook in Cambria County

The Cassandra Overlook is a place that is renowned in railfan circles, providing a stunning overlook of a straight-away section of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line. We have traveled up and down the mainline, and this location sticks out as being one of the few true purely straight right-of-ways that are open to view throughout the entire old PRR Main Line/Norfolk Southern Pittsburgh Line. This provides some highly sought after sight lines and should be a stop for anyone who is into rail fanning, or simply in the area that has visited Horseshoe Curve, the Galitzin Tunnels, and the myriad of other rail fanning opportunities in the area. This spot is located in Cambria County, halfway between Altoona and Johnstown. 
The straightaway shows just over a mile of straight track. On our last visit we relaxed with some folding chairs for about two hours, soaking in some sun and taking in the endless parade of trains. In the time we were there, probably a dozen other people showed up, from places as far as North Carolina and New York. This is a highly sought after spot for rail fans, and rightfully so. With the straightaway views of over a mile on one side, and a slight curve on the other, this is an exciting place to sightsee.
Heading in both directions, you see the trains with multiple locomotives as they ascend and descend the challenging grades up and down the Alleghenies. You will often see multiple helper locomotives heading back and forth to join with approaching freight trains getting ready to make the climb.
On the other side of this old bridge, we can see the curve heading out of this straightaway. It is extra exciting to see a second train approach from the other direction.
Here you can see the dipping in and out of the clouds, which provides dramatic views as you look out over the mile of track.

An eastbound train transporting cars from somewhere in the midwest.

A lone helper locomotive 

A view of the bridge. It was built as a single lane automobile bridge, but was closed to traffic back in 1936. Since then, the bridge has attracted people who want to check out the breathtaking views from this spot.

A view from a chillier day.
A picnic area is located at the overlook, along with this old bridge, which is an absolutely excellent place to watch the trains. You can tune into the dispatch radio and find out what action is coming next. Be sure to check out this awesome spot. It is located a short distance from other awesome rail spots, including the famous Horseshoe CurveGallitzin TunnelsBennington CurveJohnstown, and more.


Brownsville: First Metal Arch Bridge in the US and a Borough on the Rise

The last time we were to Brownsville was a number of years ago. At that point it looked like a post-apocalyptic ghost town. When the industry fled the area, so did many of the people, leaving all of the giant business buildings decrepit and collapsing. We went back to the borough recently and were pretty shocked at the transformation progress. While there is still lots of work to be done, many of the buildings that were beyond repair have been demolished, opening up green space, and the salvageable buildings are either being used for nice grassroots businesses, or in the process of getting reused. A town square has opened up, with green space and a amphitheater for performances, right in front of the town's greatest contribution to the country and possibly the world, the proof of viability of using iron in bridge building.
The first building we will look at is the Union Station. While this building remains in limbo, my hopes are that this building gets rehabilitated into something beneficial for the community. 

The bridge still has some obstruction from overgrowth and some old foundations, but until recently, the bridge was largely surrounded with a number of abandoned buildings. These have since been demolished, and soon all of their foundations will be taken out, opening up views of this historic bridge once again. 

Many of the surviving buildings are in the process of being restored. 

This nicely manicured spot was home to decrepit buildings that have been torn down and replaced with a nice parklet, complete with an amphitheater and gardens, with the historic bridge located next door.
The bridge was widened at some point, and this pony truss section was added, being old enough to be considered historic as well.
Here is the iron arch construction that makes this bridge so meaningful. The bridge was built by the Army Corps of Engineers and intended to see the viability in creating iron bridges. With this bridge dating back to 1839, it was really ahead of its time.
The adjacent concrete arch rail bridge is pretty impressive to me as well, in addition to the bridge crossing the Mon River. At one point, Brownsville was actually larger than Pittsburgh and it was a major boatbuilding center, with more than 700 steamers being built in Brownsville and Bridgeport. 
A look towards the impressive concrete arch bridge that carries the railroad.
The foundation of a building that once obstructed Dunlap's Creek Bridge. I am not sure if there are plans to remove the foundation.
An old Monongahela Railway caboose sitting at the old rail yard for that line in South Brownsville/Bridgeport. Judging by this photo from 1992, when the caboose was painted in the Mon Railway Colors it appears that this is what paint looks like after it has been sitting for this long.

A beautiful mural

The downtown area has some really charming buildings, including the WPA era Post Office, and the Library.
Brownsville is a borough on the rise. The work they have done to open up viewing access to the historic Dunlap's Creek Bridge, and the overall downtown area, is extremely impressive. It is really a night and day difference in this place from just a few years ago. We definitely recommend checking it out if you are in the area. 


A Spring Visit to Waldameer Amusement Park and Presque Isle State Park, Erie, PA

Spring means rebirth, and visiting Waldameer Amusement Park and Presque Isle State Park in Erie are awesome things to do. This past Saturday was opening day for Waldameer Amusement Park's 2018 season. At Presque Isle State Park, you can see the leaves starting to pop out, and lots of young wildlife just beginning their lives.
A weeping cherry tree and Waldameer's Ferris Wheel
 Ravine Flyer II celebrates its tenth season this year. This fantastic ride is one of the top wooden roller coasters in the world. For more information on our visit to the park, check out our trip report on our other page. 

What visit to Erie is complete without at least one stop at Sara's in Erie. Their burgers, hot dogs, shakes, ice cream, and more, are absolutely fantastic. 
Regardless of the weather or the season, visiting Presque Isle State Park is always one of our favorite places to explore. We try to get to this state park at least once a season, to see the beautiful scenes, wildlife, and more. This state park is like heaven to us.
 Coming in for a landing!
 There were many Canadian Geese wandering with their young.  
 What kind of bird is this? It was pecking away at the bloom of a sumac tree.
 More geese with their young. 
 Sunning turtles!
 The dipping sun, shining through the clouds. 

As always, we had a glorious time visiting Presque Isle State Park and Waldameer Amusement Park. If you have not done so, or have not visited lately, you should definitely get back there. This place is truly beautiful and well worth venturing to as often as possible. 

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