The 120 year old Master Mechanics Building, now the Railroaders
Memorial Museum is still very popular with former spirits dressed
in flannel shirts and work pants, plus other unseen former workers.
Other spirits may have a connection with the railroad’s infirmary
or police station that were also here.
A spirit of a vagrant or two may be residing as well.
A male spirit, who calls himself Frank, goes about his business
and may be joking around in the gift shop.
The museum takes its mission very earnestly. OUR MISSION: REMEMBERING, PRESERVING, & EDUCATING.”To maintain the historical, technical, and cultural fabric of Central Pennsylvania railroaders, of all eras, and the communities they built.”
The 1998 Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum is dedicated to all the railroaders who worked in teams to keep the steam trains running for the Central Pacific Railroad.
Making its home in the renovated 1882 Master Mechanics building, its rectangular brick structure has four stories, offering plenty to see and ponder on three of the floors for train enthusiasts, as well as being a meaningful tribute to all the railroaders. Actual vintage steam locomotives are on display in the outside yard, in the round-house and inside as well.
As the visitor enters, the train engine sitting right at the entrance near the ticket office and gift shop, is something you don’t see every day and gets the visitor in the mood to appreciate the exhibits found here. To further pump up interest, a movie theater to the right shows a film about the overall story of the Central Pacific Railroad’s Altoona Works and its railroaders through the eras.
Three floors are full of many interactive exhibits for the whole family. In various sections there are creative films to go along with these exhibits that explain all about the care, repair, and manufacturing of engines, and the experiments and research accomplished at Altoona Works.
All of the creative minds in the various Altoona work shops came together to improve the performance of the locomotives, keeping them in good working order. Besides the sections about the trains, there is a section about life in Altoona with interactive portrayals of personal stories of people who lived and worked there during the boom years.
Each section showcases the tools, trains, machines, clothing, and photos of the different work teams, bringing a third dimension to the topic covered. Several in-progress steam engine restoration projects, such as the Pennsylvania Railroad 1361, and the GP9 Diesel-electric locomotive, can be seen among the displays. The museum has the goal of restoring 1361 “to its early 1950s appearance,”when it was being used as a commuter train. The ultimate goal is to get it running once again, becoming a “roving, immersive experience.” (Both quotes taken from www.railroadcity.org.)
On the fourth floor are the Railroaders Heritage administrative offices, and probably meeting rooms as well.
Children have their own room to explore with hands-on activities sure to pique the interest of the younger generation, which includes trains that they can play with, of course.
The museum’s outside grounds is the place to go to peruse the rolling stock of locomotives and their cars showcased in the courtyard, in the restored Henry Bennett Memorial Roundhouse, and turntable.
The idea to create an Altoona railroad museum was first introduced in 1938 by a letter published in the Altoona Mirror that suggested that the city could develop a lucrative tourism industry. They could include a “community railroad museum based on the town’s long history with the train industry.
After all, the train industry was the main instigator for growth and prosperity in Altoona. The Central Pacific Railroad completed their track through the Allegheny mountains to Altoona, bringing investment and a flood of jobs to the city. They established The Altoona Works, the place that was grand central for the care and development of the new wonder in transportation, the steam engine locomotive.
This seventeen acre steam train facility had it all. The Central Pacific Railroad began building the shop facilities in 1842 at this Altoona campus. Eventually, when more room was needed, shop facilities popped up all over Altoona.
While the railroad museum was enthusiastically embraced by the Altoona community, World War 2 broke out, shifting the attention to that five year event. It was put on the back burner until 1959 when the local Chamber of Congress, eager to start a tourism industry, proposed to create the Pennsyland Railroad Museum. First step was to acquire a rolling stock of trains, and send representatives from the Tourism Board to compete against Lancaster County’s Strasburg Railroad for 28 decommissioned trains and pieces.
The Pennsylvania General Assembly got into the discussion by chartering the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, but it didn’t choose a location at first. In 1965, the Assembly chose Strasburg to be the site, and they got twenty-eight steam locomotives and passenger cars!
Altoona didn’t give up. Patience is a virtue and has its own reward. Going forward, they formed the Altoona Railway Museum Club and were awarded a charter by the National Railway Historical Society as the Horseshoe Curve Chapter. They began to fundraise for the museum by putting railroad artifacts on display to spur donations. The next step was toincorperate their Railroaders Memorial Museum in 1972, giving them more freedom to raise funds and collect more artifacts.
Three years later, in 1975, they purchased steel tycoon Charles Schwab’s private car, The Loretto. In that same year, the former Altoona Works’ seventeen acres were back on the real estate market, under the control of the Altoona Redevelopment Agency who had purchased them from the PennCentral Transportation Company.
The land was sold to a shopping center developer, on the condition that they donate five acres and 50,000 dollars for the building and construction of the Railroaders Memorial Museum. The museum became the owners of the five acres of land in 1978. Ground-breaking ceremonies happened in 1979. Though not complete, it opened to the public on September 21, 1980.
By 1990, the museum was out-growing their building, and wanted to move into the old 1882 structure near them, the Master Mechanics Building, that could be renovated to be the new museum.
This renovated building became home to the Altoona Railroader’s Memorial Museum in 1998, and was one of the first buildings constructed, starting out with the name, Master Mechanics Building. It housed the railroad’s Testing Department, made up of physical and chemical laboratories, which established company-wide standards for construction and maintenance. Just four years later, a third story was added. In 1906, a fourth floor was needed. By 1914, still more space was needed, so a new building was built just for this department.
The Pennsylvania Railroad’s administrative offices were the next group to move into this building, along with the Railroad Police headquarters and the infirmary/hospital. After moving out years later, Conrail’s medical offices and hospital were the next tenants. They moved out in 1984.
Since 1998, the museum has grown in rolling stock, inspiring interactive exhibits that remember the railroaders and teach about the railroad era and its history in Altoona, a very fitting tribute!
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
When people who love what they do for a living die unexpectedly, sometimes on the job, they often try to continue doing what they so enjoyed best as a spirit.
Brewery Arts Center, NV (The spirit of a dedicated Masonic maintenance officer continues to fulfill his duties).
USS Hornet: Sea, Air and Space Museum, CA (Spirits of servicemen who died while serving during the second world war, have stuck around and found new assignments for themselves to help the living museum workers and their programs).
Stanley Hotel, CO (The spirit of a dedicated housekeeper is still working here, picking one room to take care of, and helping guests put away their clothes, even acting as a chaperone for unmarried couples).
Altoona’s Railroader’s Museum, PA (Each of its four floors has its own spirits from the railroad days who have attachments. Some worked in the 4th floor offices, some worked in the police department, others worked in the testing area and some worked in the hospital. Some patients died there as well).
Spirits can be attached to items such as pictures, vehicles, and tools that are on display in museums of all kinds.
Manassas National Battlefield Park Visitor Center, VA (Spirits of soldiers like to peruse the artifacts from the two Civil War battles that took place on this land).
Custer House, ND (The spirits of the Custer family love to be with their old belongings and family pictures presented in this house museum).
Dayton Air Force Museum, MD (Spirits of airmen are still attached to the items and planes on display).
Altoona Railroader’s Museum, PA (Spirits of the men who worked here and maybe died on the job were drawn back into the museum to enjoy their memories while looking at all the artifacts, items and pictures of their lives on the job. Frank was badly burned by steam in a boiler accident, and died in the hospital in the museum building).
Murder victims can be stuck reliving the horror of their last day as a living person, and their final horrific hours.
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast, MA (The spirit of Mr. Bordon is stuck reliving his brutal death via hatchet, perhaps at the hands of his daughter, Lizzie).
McRaven House, MS (The spirit of John Babb is stuck reliving his last day where’s own actions led to betrayal and a painful end at the hands of Union soldiers).
Altoona Railroader’s Museum, PA (One woman was raped and killed nearby and a secretary from the fourth floor suffered the same fate. Their spirits relive their last days and brutal end; and hide from their attacker inside the museum).
People who die near a building, sometimes decide to go into it, especially if the space is inviting for some reason.
Cuppa Coffee and More, CA (A spirit known as Tom played one too many jokes on a person with no sense of humor, and was shot dead in the street right in front of the building).
Ashley’s of Rockledge, FL (Children who died in the road in front, and on the train tracks behind, have moved inside this building as spirits).
Coyote Ugly Saloon, FL (A Mafia gangster was gunned down right in front of this saloon. He has moved in to be the spectral manager in his rough way).
The Spirit of railroader Frank
The spirit of Frank always dresses in white, is short in stature, has dark hair, likes to tease, and loves attention.
He is still a fun-loving soul with a sense of humor, making the best of it, enjoying the museum and entertaining himself by interacting with the living!
The museum found out who he was when he was identified in a 1920 group photo hanging on the wall in the museum depicting the boiler worker crew.
When the Finance Director opened the fourth floor elevator to go down to the first floor, the see-through apparition of Frank was standing in the back of the elevator, facing the wall. He turned from his ghostly waist and looked over his shoulder and smiled at him before he disappeared.
Frank has been spotted by many people on the train on display by the ticket office and the gift shop.
A gift shop employee once saw him climb over the train.
Voluntarily, Frank will speak to paranormal investigators via EVP’s. He has told them how he died, being badly burned by steam in a boiler accident.
The Spirit of a Small Girl
She must of died in the hospital or nearby.
She likes to play with the items in the gift shop, but has never learned to put things away when finished.
When volunteers come in the morning to open the store, they find items on the floor and sometimes stacked in a pile, like a small child would do.
The disembodied voice of a little girl has been heard by the living who come in contact with her.
The Spirits of Engineers
They may be spirits, but they still come to work in the testing lab, being so dedicated to their work.
They dress appropriately, and appear in a very life-like, solid form.
When the museum opened up again, the director held an orientation meeting for the volunteers in the conference room. Right before he was about to start, he saw two men who were studying what was going on from the hallway.
Thinking that they were lost volunteers looking for the meeting room, he approached them, but they melted into the air as they reached the Testing Lab Section, much to his surprise.
The Spirits of Railroaders
Many spirits of former railroad employees like to peruse the artifacts, pictures, and items on display that tell the story of the people who worked together to keep the steam locomotives running in good shape.
They may like to sit in the museum theatre and enjoy the film about them.
The big group pictures are very popular to the spirits.
Some love big band music and will play it in the museum’s bar, called Kelly’s Bar.
Three Spirits Who Hide
The spirit of a boy, when he is not playing in the Children’s Room, hides with the two female spirits who were violated and murdered, probably by the same rapist and killer. He feels safe with them.
The female spirits are still reliving their awful deaths, perhaps not knowing that they have died.
The spirit of the boy led a medium to where the three spirits hide together. One of the spirit women asked the medium for some new nylons because her’s were destroyed by the attack on her.
The paranormal experiences stated above have long been reported by visitors, volunteers, administrative staff, and construction workers.
The Ghost Research Foundation, a paranormal group, has caught hard evidence that back up the many personal experiences reported.
In the Kelly Bar on-site, they heard and recorded the big band music that was being played by spectral residents.
Yes Indeed! Hard evidence as well as many personal experiences prove that the spirits here are enjoying the museum, except the two murder victims who are stuck in the last day of their lives, and the boy who becomes afraid by himself. A medium should help them go to the other side so they will have peace and love.
1200 9th Ave
Altoona, PA 16602
The Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum is located on five acres of the original 17 acre Central Pacific Altoona Works, once the world’s largest campus of railroad shop facilities.
- Ghosts In the Museum, Strange Tales of the Haunted Altoona Railroader’s Memorial Museum, by Patty A. Wilson & Scott Crownover, Historical Tracks Publishing LLC, 2008