Kelchner contributed to local rail history

A recent obituary in the Altoona Mirror noted the passing of George Kelchner Jr.

A little-known fact is his contribution to Altoona’s history.

Back around 1965, Kelchner headed the Blair County Tourist & Convention Bureau. This was at a time when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania announced selection of Lancaster County for the then-proposed Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

This announcement eliminated Altoona and other cities from further consideration.

Shortly thereafter, Kelchner placed a small notice in the Altoona Mirror suggesting persons having an interest in exploring how a railroad museum could be developed for Altoona were invited to attend a meeting at the Blair County Tourist & Convention Bureau.

As a result, about six people showed up, including myself, and the rest is history.

The group of six loosely organized into the Altoona Railway Museum Club under the umbrella of Blair County Tourist & Convention Bureau and gradually became a think-tank on how best to proceed.

Gaining community support by illustrating the importance of such a concept for Altoona’s contribution to the railroad industry was significant.

By 1967, Kelchner was preparing to leave the tourist bureau. His replacement was Raymond G. Garvin, an insurance executive from Bradford.

The Altoona Railway Museum Club also decided to enhance those early organizational efforts by affiliating with a national group know as the National Railway Historical Society, resulting in the formation of the Horseshoe Curve Chapter effective May 11, 1968.

While this was in progress, Garvin arrived in Altoona to assume his new post as head of the Blair County Tourist & Convention Bureau.

Garvin saw the merits of establishing a museum in Altoona and provided the leadership to see the project through to fruition. However, none of this would have happened had it not been for Kelchner’s initial efforts to assemble interested persons for such a project.

Kelchner continued throughout his life to be a strong supporter for Altoona.

David W. Seidel