Lafayete Steam Locomotive

It was a Tuesday, but oddly enough, I was not working. About two weeks ago, my mother-in-law bought a brand new Chevrolet Malibu. She asked us if we'd like her old car, a Chevrolet Impala. It was the last car my husband's dad bought for himself in 2010 before he died later that year. For that reason, the car had some sentimental value; and who wouldn't take a free car? So we said Yes!

So on this day, my husband and I drove down to Ebensburg to pick it up at the car dealership there. (Those who are curious may see the car in the Extras.) We put the car in his name, and so now he has two cars and I have two. Yes, we are a four-car family, but two of those cars are quite old!

On the drive down, we stopped at the Allegheny Portage Railroad summit visitor center. We had been there once before (see the photo in the Extras of this prior shot), but I don't think the buildings with the displays were open. There were on this day, so we went right on in.

The photo above is a Lafayette Steam Locomotive. It was manufactured by the Norris Locomotive Works, which was the dominant American locomotive company during the years 1832 to 1866. I thought it was pretty cute. It looked to me like a large version of a child's toy!

The Allegheny Portage Railroad (APR) was important to the development of America in that it opened up the Alleghenies to migration (and travel and commerce) westward. The process involved a series of canals, barges, inclines, and railroads. For its time, it was considered a marvel of ingenuity.

My husband picked up a little handout at the visitor center that talked about the APR's role in the Underground Railroad, the road north to freedom taken by escaped slaves. I was so excited I had to look it up online. (To learn more, go to this page and click on the link to the APR and the Underground Railroad.)

Here is what the little handout says: "The Allegheny Portage Railroad was used by people escaping slavery. In 1855, Jacob Green, a freedom seeker from Virginia, was spotted on the Railroad by slave catcher James Parsons, Jr. Parsons attempted to capture Green but was instead arrested on kidnapping charges." Now, is that cool or WHAT!?

An interesting historical tidbit: back in the 1800s, many pillows were filled with straw, wood shavings, or leaves. When it became cheaply available to ship feathers on the canal, suddenly many more people had soft feathers in their pillows and got a better night's sleep. According to a display I saw on site, "Over 580,000 pounds of feathers were shipped eastward from Pittsburgh on the canal in 1844."

From there, we went to the dealership and my husband paid all the related title and tag fees so we could transfer the car. Then he got in his car and I strapped myself into the Impala and took off, not unlike The Transporter in the movies. (Rule number one: The deal is the deal!)

We had a visit with my mother-in-law and a fine meal at Rizzo's of Windber, a belated family celebration of my husband's birthday that occurred a little more than a week ago. Did I ever mention that Rizzo's has the best antipasto I know of anywhere?

And then we made our way home, through the backroads of Cambria County, Altoona, and Tyrone. I am happy to report that the car was a pleasure to drive, and powerful, and comfortable, and the controls were pretty easy to figure out, even for a novice. And then: we arrived safely home, hooray!

The soundtrack for the image of the steam locomotive, which helped open up the Alleghenies to travel and commerce and westward expansion, is Johnny Cash, with I've Been Everywhere.

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