Completed in 1833, the Staple Bend Tunnel was the first railroad tunnel, and the third tunnel of any kind, in the United States. Located about four miles east of Johnstown, PA, the tunnel is part of the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, run by the National Park Service.

The Allegheny Portage Railroad, which operated between 1834 and 1852, was considered a technological wonder in its day, employing a series of inclined planes to cross the Allegheny Mountains. This railroad played a critical role in opening the interior of the United States to trade and settlement.

At 20 feet in height and width and over 901 feet long, the Staple Bend Tunnel featured grand entranceways, designed in Egyptian Revival style with a low relief lintel supported by Doric pilasters on each side, which once served to impress travelers. Many years of disuse and vandalism had left the tunnel in disrepair, until the National Park Service oversaw its restoration in 2000-2001.

Graciano Corporation was instrumental in bringing the tunnel a second life, as part of the Main Line, a biking/walking trail that will one day run from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg.

Following strict Historic Landmark guidelines, Graciano restored both portals by cleaning, patching with Jahn repair mortar, resetting displaced stone, and installing Dutchman to the cap stone. They also rebuilt dry-laid retaining walls, which were salvaged from the existing walls and built a new sandstone retaining wall on the east portal. And they restored the arched sandstone liners at each portal. Interior improvements included resetting of stone, as well as grout injection into mortar joints of the stone liner.

Keith Newlin of the National Park Service was project manager in the renovation of the Stable Bend Tunnel.


According to Newlin, “Graciano brought the necessary expertise to repair and restore the portals, retaining walls and tunnel liner. They did an excellent job in preserving this Historic Landmark.”

Project Details

Name: Staple Bend Tunnel
Completion Date: 3/2/2002
Owner: National Park Service
Architect: Alan M. Hantman, AIA


Project Included

  • Water Control Injections
  • Water Cleaning
  • Unit Stone Replacement
  • Stonework
  • Stone Facade Pinning
  • Sealants
  • Repointing Masonry
  • Pressure Washing
  • Parapet & Coping Reconstruction
  • Masonry Surface Rehabilitation
  • Masonry Cleaning

Glossary Terms

WaterproofingIt’s important to waterproof concrete structures to keep moisture out of the facility and to protect the structural components of concrete and imbedded reinforcing steel. If the integrity of the concrete is maintained, it can remain waterproof. Polyurethane is considered one of the best waterproofing materials. It can be applied seamlessly and penetrates the surface deeply and evenly. The polyurethane membrane will fill in even the finest cracks in concrete, reducing its water absorbency capacity. Many types of waterproofing systems can be used depending on your home’s structure Urethane Foam or Epoxy InjectionUrethane Foam or epoxy injection is a cost-effective and permanent way to stabilize and seal cracked or compromised masonry surfaces. Depending on the size of the crack, urethane foam or epoxy is injected into the void and allowed to cure. Once hardened, these materials help form a stable subsurface to support masonry restoration operations. Tuck PointingTuck pointing entails removing loose or cracked mortar from brickwork or stone installations and replacing its new mortar to ensure structural integrity and to seal out damaging water and moisture. Mortar for tuck pointing must be carefully selected to ensure that its color and texture of the new mortar closely matches the existing material that was not compromised and did not need to be removed. Terra Cotta Replacement and RepairTerra cotta is a building material that is cast from clay and then glazed. Terra cotta components add great color and detail to a building, but are also highly susceptible to cracking and damage from impacts or freeze and thaw cycles. In many cases, damaged terra cotta sections must be removed and replaced with new materials to prevent water infiltration and structural damage. Replacement components must be created to replicate the design of the original piece, as well as the coloration that is acquired as the surrounding pieces age. Frequently, it is necessary to repair and stabilize the structural underpinnings that support a terra cotta installation, as corroded pins or structural supports can cause further damage as time passes. In cases where a terra cotta component has sustained minor damage, it is often possible to perform repairs on the piece without removing the compromised element from its installation. Masonry RestorationMasonry restoration involves the repair of existing masonry materials or the complete replacement of damaged materials with new or reclaimed bricks or stones. Color and texture matching are key considerations in masonry restoration, as an accurate match can make areas of restored stone or brick blend in seamlessly with existing materials. To achieve an accurate color and texture match, it is frequently necessary to return to the original brick manufacturer for replacements, or to the original stone quarry where material for the existing stone components was cut. Masonry CleaningMasonry cleaning entails the removal of dirt, debris, paint, and graffiti from various surfaces of masonry structures. Commonly used masonry cleaning techniques include high and low – pressure washing and chemical cleaning. Regardless of the method used, special care is taken to avoid over cleaning – and possibly damaging – aging masonry surfaces. GroutingGrouting is used to seal the spaces between masonry installations such as tile or terra cotta. Grout may be colored to blend with the masonry materials, or can be used to create contrast within the masonry design. Grout is typically applied by hand by filling the joints with material and then troweling it out over the adjoining tile or terra cotta. Once the grout has set, a craftsman returns to the area that was grouted and removes any excess material from the face of the installation. As grout is frequently porous, it must be sealed once it is completely dry to protect it from dirt infiltration. EIFS CleaningExterior Insulation and Finish Systems cleaning, also known as EIFS cleaning, involves removing dirt and grime from the exterior surfaces of structures clad in Dryvit or other types of stucco–like materials. To avoid damaging the thin exterior skin of these structures, mild cleaning agents and low–pressure water is most frequently used to dislodge surface dirt. Manual cleaning is also used to remove dirt in hard–to–reach areas or intricate detail. CaulkingCaulking is used to seal gaps between masonry surfaces, such as brick or stone, and other architectural elements, including window and door frames, decorative hardware or lighting fixtures. Caulking is most often applied with a gun, and is available in butyl, latex or customized formulations. The color of caulk is selected to match the surfaces surrounding the application site. When applied, the caulking gun is inserted in the gap to be filled. Caulking material is then injected into the void to seal the opening. Abrasive CleaningHeavily soiled masonry surfaces may require abrasive cleaning to effectively remove deposits of grime, paint or graffiti. Abrasive cleaning typically involves high–pressure application of sand or another type of inert, abrasive material directly to the masonry surface. When the abrasive cleaning has been completed, the masonry surface is frequently rinsed with low-pressure water to remove any remaining dirt or cleaning materials.