Saturday, October 8, 2016

Altoona Immersion Excursion Day 2

The rain did not dampen the spirits of those gathered to shepherd me around Altoona and Hollidaysburg today on Day 2 of my 3 Day Immersion Excursion-  it poured, alright-  but it was a good excuse to try out my new purple umbrella that I received as a gift from the Diocese of Michigan when I was with the House of Bishops a couple of weeks ago.

We had a ball, in spite of the rain.

The first stop of the day was the Railroad Museum in Altoona, just a block from St. Luke’s.   This museum does an incredible job of telling the story of the railroad industry in the city of Altoona through film clips, artifacts, dioramas, and  clever displays.  The Rev. Chris Pyles pointed out a hygiene tool on display that looked a little bit like a tiny button hook- it was an implement for plucking coal cinders from one’s eyes -  apparently a sign of the prosperity of the time was that the city was covered in a sooty film... including errant bits of cinder that would sometimes end up in one’s eyes.  Eww.  The Rev. Gene Tucker of St. John’s Huntingdon was our chief docent-  he is a railroad aficionado and gave us a tour to beat the band.  I have never learned so much in two hours.
I learned about the building of the city around the RR industry, the role of the RR in transcontinental trade, the hard working immigrant populations who came specifically to build the RR, the need for intense and ongoing maintenance of the rails, the inherent danger in early RR travel, and the modernization of the RR business...  here are a few pictures from the museum and the Roundhouse.

these are the 250 Irishmen who built the Horseshoe Curve

a “Cabin Car,” Pennsylvania RR for “caboose"
The next stop was at the Horse Shoe curve, an engineering feat worth the 5 mile drive out of town to witness in person.  Built in the late 1800s by 250 Irishmen using picks, black powder, horses and skids, the Horseshoe Curve was a solution to the “how to get RRs over the mountain” that included changing the natural contour of the land (the workers filled a hollow and sheared off the face of the mountain) and laying four parallel tracks in a narrow ribbon that snakes around a U-shape so that , in the case of really long trains, you can see the tail of the train from the front car (if that makes any sense...) This is worth going to see.  Take my word for it.  Even if you are not a RR fan.  
There’s a small welcome center at the bottom of the curve and a short funicular ride up the side of the hill to reach the spot in the center of the horseshoe where you can stand and watch the trains go by, about 40 feet away.  (The engineers even blow their whistles, open their windows and wave.)  In the hour that we were there, we saw 3 trains and a couple of “helpers” (tandem engines used to push the long trains) go by.

The funicular to the top of the Curve

view from the top

train coming around the bend!

Following our RR  morning, we had a great lunch at the Creperie in Hollidaysburg (I had a Roast Beef, caramelized onion and horseradish crepe!) and then The Rev. Jeanne Jacobson  and Nannette Anslinger (from Trinity, Tyrone) and I had a short walking tour of the town including stop at the 321 Gallery where John Skrabalak (also of Trinty, Tyrone) has 3 pieces (acrylics, abstracts) hanging in the current show.  The tour also included the US Hotel Tavern , the canal park and a drive-by of the church where I’ll be celebrating and preaching tomorrow (Holy Trinity).

Two more stops before dinner:  The Monastery Gardens outside of town and the American Rescue Food bank and distribution center.

The Monastery Gardens are.. community garden plots on the property of a Franciscan monastery in town.. and Holy Trinity has both a cutting garden and a potato patch on site.  The cutting garden is for any church who wants to access it for altar flowers or flowers for visitations.. and the potatoes are to donate to the ongoing fresh produce harvesting and cleaning and packing effort that takes place in a nearby building, providing fresh vegetables to areas food banks and nursing homes.  
We met two enthusiastic parishioners who have leaped into this project and learned plenty about gardening in this past year.  I applaud their sense of adventure and willingness to learn new things!

The American Rescue Food Bank and Distribution center was exciting to visit---  this organization is its own 501c-3 but also a worshipping faith community that is part of  a nation-wide effort.  The Hollidaysburg “branch” of the American Rescue group focuses on gathering and distributing clothes, household items, pet food, and food to people in need from Blair County.  Parishioners - and clergy- from Holy Trinity are among the volunteers who work at American Rescue under the direction of Deborah and Victor LaValla, co-pastors.  In September, 170 families were served by American Rescue.  

The end of the day included a Vestry and Spouses dinner in a beautiful ridge-top home overlooking the valley and the town of Hollidaysburg, some good conversation about adult formation, the future of God’s Church and how to continue to be an inspiring, prayerful, mission-oriented presence in the community.

Time for bed.
There’s an early wake up call and a service of Confirmation and Reception tomorrow at 9 AM.

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