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Amtrak has 17 tunnels consisting of 29.7 miles of track and 1,186 bridges consisting of 42.5 miles of track.

Even-numbered trains travel north and east. Odd-numbered trains travel south and west. Among the exceptions are Amtrak's Pacific Surfliners, which use the opposite numbering system inherited from the Santa Fe Railway, and some Empire Service trains.

A Summer Trip through Southern Pennsylvania

Riding the Pennsylvanian from Philadelphia to Greensburg

by Daniel Beckham

Clearwater, Florida

What better way to celebrate graduation than with a relaxing visit with family? And what better way to transition from the hectic pace of finals and term papers to the tranquility of the Pennsylvania countryside than with a scenic trip aboard the Pennsylvanian?

After finishing my final classes this summer, I figured I could do with some rest and relaxation at my sister's and brother-in-law's house in the hills northeast of Pittsburgh — along with a little whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. So, I boarded the thruway motorcoach from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Orlando, and caught the Silver Meteor for Philadelphia. As always, riding the Meteor was a fun experience as it slipped through the Florida scrub into the southern Georgia twilight before emerging in the early morning hustle and bustle of the Northeast. But the main event this time was the trip aboard the Pennsylvanian from Philadelphia to Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

If you've never experienced the southern Pennsylvania countryside by train, you really must make it a point to treat yourself. During the summer months, the Pennsylvanian makes its run between New York and Pittsburgh entirely during daylight hours, and offers some of the most compelling and varied scenery in that part of the country — from quaint houses and Amish farmland to the breathtaking views high above the Susquehanna River outside Harrisburg. This rural route is anything but plain, passing through picturesque towns and beautiful mountains, and along the banks of pristine rivers.


As the train departed Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, one of the crown jewels of America's grand passenger train terminals, we made our way westward toward what I heard a boarding agent once describe as "fresh air and clean living." Outside, the weather was mild and people were taking full advantage of it, playing and exercising outdoors and tossing a wave at us as we passed. In Harrisburg, a young Pittsburgh-bound family boarded and sat near me. It was their first trip by train, and both the kids and Mom and Dad were equally excited to go through the tunnels and see the long freight trains pulling by.

In Altoona, I noticed a large collection of former Pennsylvania Railroad equipment at the Railroaders Memorial Museum across from the station, including some coaches and locomotives. I thought it was cool to see these venerable pieces of rolling stock, some of which undoubtedly once plied the PRR's famous "broad way" — the very route the Pennsylvanian now follows. Of course, the pièce de résistance arrived minutes later as we climbed into the mountains and came through Horseshoe Curve, a marvel of railroad engineering and a sight not to be missed — whether through the windows of the Pennsylvanian or from the observation area of the park located in the curve of the tracks.

Finally, we pulled into Greensburg's picture-perfect station, now fully restored and home to a brewery and grill. Relaxed and inspired from my trip, I bid farewell to my streamlined chariot and waved hello to my waiting sister and brother-in-law. The Pennsylvanian's engine sounded its horn and headed into the waning summer light toward its final stop in Pittsburgh, while we began our long weekend of relaxing, hiking and rafting.