As a town created to serve the railroad, the tracks formed the backbone of the Altoona community. During the Civil War, the demand for locomotives to transport troops and supplies, stimulated the city’s growth and from 1860 to 1870, the population more than tripled.
By the later years of the war, Altoona was known as a valuable city for the North. It was considered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee, as a target during the Army of Northern Virginia’s 1863 entry into Pennsylvania, before being repelled at the Battle of Gettysburg.
By the end of the 19th century, the Altoona rail yard and shop complex was one of the largest railroad repair and construction facilities in the world, and widely admired for its efficiency and scale of production.