Tag Archives: Antrim

Irish labor built Pennsylvania’s famous Horseshoe Curve

ALTOONA~As the Great Famine began to ease in the early 1850s, about 450 Irishmen began working on an extraordinary engineering project in south-central Pennsylvania. Their accomplishment remains in place today as a vital segment of the American economy.

Working with only picks, shovels and some explosives–but no machinery–the men shaved the face of adjoining mountains to fill in two ravines and lay the grade for a railroad line. They built the Horseshoe Curve for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

A display at this National Historical Landmark, about 10 miles west of Altoona, offers only a few details about the men. They are said to have been recruited for the job because they were “former mine workers,” mostly from counties Cork, Mayo and Antrim. Keep in mind this project was completed 20 years before the Molly Maguire unrest began in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region, some 200 miles to the northeast.

The 2,375-foot curve, which opened to freight and passenger traffic in February 1854, reduced the trip between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia from 20 days by wagon to about 15 hours by train. It remains part of the nation’s critical east-west rail corridor.

A westbound freight train climbs the grade through a light rain in this July 2017 image. Below, trees obscure the entrance of the road tunnel.


Brexit creates British rush on Irish passports

How’s this for a post-Brexit eye roll:

IrishPassport.jpg (187×240)Northern Ireland politician Ian Paisley Jr., son of the late unionist firebrand Dr. Ian Paisley, is advising his constituents to apply for a passport from the Republic of Ireland following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

“My advice is if you are entitled to second passport then take one,” Paisley tweeted the day after the referendum vote. “I sign off lots of applications for constituents.”

Paisley, a British MP from North Antrim, opposed the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, though his father became first minister of the power-sharing government it created. Now, Junior–who campaigned for Brexit–opposes calls by Irish republicans to politically reunite the island of Ireland and remain in the EU.

An Irish passport confers the holder with travel and work privileges within the 27-nation EU, which the UK has now voted to leave. People born in any of Ireland’s 32 counties, north or south, or those with a parent or grandparent born on the island, are eligible to apply for a passport from the Republic.

“An unnecessary surge in applications for Irish passports will place significant pressure on the system and on turnaround times and is likely to impact those with a genuine need for passports to facilitate imminent travel plans,” Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said in statement. The ministry issued an updated FAQ on Irish citizenship, passports and residency requirements.

The post-Brexit rush on Irish passports follows a 14 percent increase in applications by U.S. citizens since last summer, which some news accounts have attributed to Donald Trump’s hold on the GOP presidential nomination.

Glad I claimed my Irish citizenship and passport 19 years ago.