Mo & Terry Smedley


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Appalachian Autumn (2008) Tour

We'll be traveling to Pittsburgh on October 11 to join up with Rail Travel Center's "Appalachian Autumn" tour through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia.  We're flying into Pittsburgh to join the tour, but will be returning home from Washington D.C. on Amtrak.   Our tour guides are Carl and Barbara Whitehouse, who also led our trip to Northern Ontario in 2006.

The official tour itinerary can be found here. 

As time (and Internet connections) permit, I'll post photographs and notes about our trip on this page.

We're now on our way home by train via Washington, Chicago, and Portland, so the Alexandria updates are the end of our travel blog until we return. 

(Final Updates) Part 12:  Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

Part 11:  Pamplin Historic Park, Alexandria

Part 10:  Monticello, Ash Lawn, Poplar Forest, Appomattox

Part 9:  Staunton, Virginia, Frontier Culture Museum, Blue Ridge Parkway

Part 8:  "Tygard Flyer", Snowshoe

Part 7:  Durbin, West Virginia - Durbin Rocket & Cheat Mountain Salamander - Climax locomotive!!!

Part 6:  Cass Scenic Railroad, West Virginia (Shay locomotives!!)

Part 5: Cumberland, Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, Frostburg

Part 4:  Cumberland, MD, Potomac Eagle excursion train

Part 3:  Johnstown, Bedford

Part 2: Horseshoe Curve, Altoona, Allegheny Portage Railroad

Part 1:  Pittsburgh

We had an uneventful flight trip into Pittsburgh, arriving at our hotel (the Sheraton at Station Square) a little before 9PM. 

Fun air travel story:  We arrived into Chicago O'Hare on gate B14.  O'Hare has at least four concourses, and forty or so gates in each.  You can never be sure how far you'll have to scoot to get to a connecting flight.  United saves some money by no longer having gate agents to help direct incoming passengers to connecting flights, so we walked about halfway down the B concourse to the nearest departure displays to find out which one of the concourses and gates we needed to get to for  our flight to Pittsburgh.  There we learned that it would depart from B14 - on the same plane we had come in on.

Dinner late Saturday at Houlihan's at Station Square, where Mo enjoyed a three-martini flight (small samples) that included a chocolate, cosmo, and blue moon.   I had raspberry lemonade (no martini).

Sunday was spent touring Pittsburgh on a trolley tour.  Dinner Sunday night was at the Grand Concourse restaurant, in the wonderfully restored passenger station of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad.

Monday it's an early ride on Amtrak to Altoona, through the famous Horseshoe Curve.

The Duquesne (pronounced dukane) incline lifts us up the hill for nice views of the city.  Historically, there were many of these inclined railways heading up the side of the hill which was extensively mined for coal.   Our Pittsburgh tour guide points out the origin of the Ohio River - where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers converge in Pittsburgh. Downtown Pittsburgh has enjoyed a renaissance in its post-industrial era.  There are seven universities in the city, a large research community, and several top-ranked teaching hospitals.  The city has undergone a remarkable transition from blue collar to white collar work force.
Fountains in the city display pink color to commemorate October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Just interesting, Part I. Pittsburgh is nuts about its sports teams - there is ample evidence of this everywhere we went.  This is the backside of the scoreboard in the Heinz arena where the Steelers play.  If you look carefully at the top right and left of the scoreboard, you'll see two motorized panels.  On the front of these panels, there is an image of a Heinz ketchup bottle (you can see the outline at the bottom of the panel if you look very carefully).  When the Steelers score, these panels rotate and dump "ketchup" (red and white colored paper streamers). The Union Square tourist area sports this relic from Pittsburgh's past steel industry.  I'd call it a Bessemer Furnace....
....which seems to be consistent with the name of this square (Bessemer Court, and you can see the furnace in the background).... ....but this sign calls it a Clinton Furnace. Just interesting, Part II. The beautiful waterfront on the Monongahela River.  Our hotel (the Sheraton) is the tall building on the right of this picture.
The PPG (Pittsburgh Plate Glass) tower is the unmistakable centerpiece of the downtown skyline. Another inclined railway heads up the hill behind the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie rail terminal.  The lower floor of this building houses the Grand Concourse restaurant, where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner. Our Pittsburgh tour guide claimed that Pittsburgh had some 970 bridges.  This sign documents the bridge leading to our hotel.  Roebling wire rope was around for a long time - maybe it is still an active brand? Mo found a vending machine.
Pittsburgh delights in its sports teams and its industrial history.  Even the artwork in the lobby of the Sheraton is decidedly industrial.  This glass sculpture is titled "U Bolt".  You can see the PPG tower through the windows of the Sheraton. Another view of Pittsburgh from the hill. Mo and me with Pittsburgh in the middle.  
Our tour group overlooking Pittsburgh. Pitt's (University of Pittsburgh) Cathedral of Learning.  This is an open study area in the lower floor of this 42 story Gothic structure.  Nothing like this at Western! "Nationality Classrooms" celebrate 27 different nationalities with a presence at the University.  Our group is listening to information about Pitt in the English Room.  This is the Heinz Chapel at Pitt.  We were not permitted to take photographs inside because there was an event taking place.  The stained glass windows lining both sides of the chapel are 73 feet tall.  The pipe organ has 4,272 pipes, all hidden from public view at the request of Anna Margaretta Heinz for whom the chapel was built.
Just interesting, Part III.  Might be as good as the Lee Jeans billboard in NZ (click here to see that photo). The magnificently restored interior of the P&LE RR terminal, now housing the Grand Concourse restaurant. The stained glass ceiling was painstakingly restored after being covered for several decades by a solid roof. We enjoyed live piano music during dinner.
I suppose this allowed traveling ladies to escape the cigar smoke of the men's waiting room.  (This natural-light handheld interior shot is blurred.) As the sun sets, the PPG tower reflects the changing colors of the sky. I was impressed by the size of the United Steelworkers Tower in Pittsburgh.  I can only assume that most of the floors must now be rented out to others - there's precious little domestic steel industry left in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.