The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 2, 2013

Take a bus tour through Johnstown's history of industry

— Johnstown Area Heritage Association and the National Park Service are once again partnering to offer a popular bus tour.

The Industrial Heritage Bus Tour will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 16 beginning at Heritage Discovery Center, 201 Sixth Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

The tour was first offered in July, hosted by costumed interpreters and giving visitors a more complete understanding of the area’s industrial history from the early 19th century through the 1940s.

Space is limited, and pre-payment is required to hold reservations.

The registration deadline is Oct. 21.

“The first tour sold out in less than a day, and we had a big waiting list, so we’re very pleased to be able to offer it again this fall,” said Kaytlin Sumner, JAHA curator. “The tour gives a wonderful overview of Johnstown’s contribution to industrial history, including sites like the Blacksmith Shop, which isn’t normally open to the public.”

The day will begin with a check-in at the discovery center gift shop at 9:30 a.m.

The first stop will be at 10 a.m. in the discovery center’s Mystery of Steel Theatre, where participants will receive a brief introduction from tour facilitators and then watch the “Mystery of Steel” film.

The film explains Johnstown’s importance in the early steel industry, including the development of the Kelly converter and Bessemer steel production process.

It also features modern footage of Johnstown’s steel mills, shot by Charles Guggenheim just a few weeks before the mills were closed.

The bus will depart at 10:30 a.m. and arrive at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site by 11:15.

National Park Service Ranger Gregory Zaborowski will give a tour of the site, including the Lemon House, and present a program discussing the building of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal System and the Allegheny Portage Railroad.

“The history of this area is largely formed by our industrial heritage,” said Megan O’Malley, chief of interpretation for the historic site. “You can’t explore or study history without addressing how industry has shaped and defined this region. This is why a tour like this, that links industrial heritage sites, is so important.”

The bus will arrive at 12:15 p.m. at the Gallitzin Tunnels, where a costumed interpreter will give an interpretive presentation about the Nazi sabotage plot of the Pennsylvania Railroad, based on the research and writing of Dennis McIlnay.

The tour will stop for lunch at 1 p.m. at Cresson Springs Family Restaurant.

Lunch is not included in the tour price, so participants will order from the menu.

Retired National Park Service Ranger Mary Ann Davis will give a presentation through the eyes of Mrs. Andrew Carnegie and will discuss the Carnegies and the Cresson Springs Resort.

The last stop of the tour will be at 3 at the Cambria Iron Company Blacksmith Shop in Johnstown.

JAHA president Richard Burkert will give a presentation.

The Blacksmith Shop was built in 1865 and is not normally open to the public.

It is part of the Cambria Iron & Steel National Historic Landmark and is one of the nation’s oldest industrial buildings.

The tour will end at 4:30 when guests arrive back at the discovery center.

Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at

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