Borough of Portage in Cambria County PA

Portage, Pa (1)Portage, PA is located at the intersection of State Routes 53 and 164 in the area between Summerhill and Lilly in Cambria County PA. Formerly a borough, Portage is now a home rule municipality following a no confidence vote by Portage residents at the primary election of Tuesday, May 11, 1994. The new form of government took effect in Portage the first Monday of January 1996.

Portage was incorporated as a borough of Cambria County on October 7, 1890. The official name of Portage remains “Portage Borough” even following the adoption of the home rule charter in 1994. Portage Borough offices are located at 721 Main St.
The population of Portage, PA according to the 2010 US Census was 2617.

Portage draws its name from the definition of "Portage", which means: to transport overland between bodies of water. Portage was established by a necessity to connect Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for commerce purposes in the 1800’s. Canals had been built from Philadelphia to Hollidaysburg via the Schuylkill, Susquehanna and Juniata rivers and from Johnstown to Pittsburgh by way of the Conemaugh, Kiskiminetas and Allegheny Rivers. The Allegheny Ridge area around Portage prevented canal traffic resulting in the need for an alternate system.

The Allegheny “Portage” Railroad would be built from 1831 – 1834, involving a 36 mile long route through the Allegheny Mountains. The Allegheny Portage Railroad contained ten planes, each with a stationary engine at the crest; a stone viaduct across the Little Conemaugh River; a 900 foot long tunnel; a skew-arch bridge of the tow spans, among several other minor bridges; and 11 levels. The portage would involve a 1,400 foot rise in elevation from the east and nearly 1,200 feet from the west. Completion of the Allegheny Portage Railroad allowed for connection of the canals and provided transportation statewide in 6 days, as opposed to 22 days prior to its completion.

Portage, Pa (11)


In the late 1800’s coal mining would become a main industry for Portage and much of its surrounding areas. Nearly 60 different coal mines, including:shaft, longwall, slope, drift, and room and pillar mining operations have operated in the Portage Area since then. One such coal mine, the Sonman Mine was the site of one of the deadliest coal mining accidents in American History. The Sonman Mine Explosion on July 15, 1940 killed sixty-three miners. A memorial to those miners now stands in the Crichton-McCormick Park in Portage. The Portage Station Museum, located at 400 Lee St in Portage also offers information regarding this disaster, along with coal mine and railroad artifacts from the Allegheny Portage Railroad.

Portage Fire Department3



The Portage area is served by the Portage Volunteer Fire Company, chartered in November of 1906. The Portage Fire Department is located at 721 Main St in Portage, PA. In January of 2012 Portage Main Street was the scene of a major fire outbreak, involving several buildings and battled by numerous Fire Companies.





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External Links for Portage, PA:
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