Skip to main content

Tunkhannock Viaduct

No matter who you are, or when it was, the first time you see the 100 year old Tunkhannock Viaduct, you are completely amazed.  The reinforced concrete arch bridge - which towers 240 feet over the Tunkhannock Creek and town of Nicholson below - magnificently rises over the valley, but at the same time carries an artistic grace from an era gone by.

The 2,375 foot long bridge was the key part of a 39.6 mile relocation of the then Delaware, Lackawanna, & Western Railroad.  Construction of the viaduct began in May of 1912.  Concrete for the structure would be first poured in January of 1913.  The bridge - which consists of ten 180 foot arches and two 100' partially filled abutment arches - was dedicated on November 6, 1915.  The bridge piers were sunk to bedrock, which in some cases was as much as 138 feet below ground.  To build the viaduct, it took 1,140 tons of steel and 167,000 cubic tons of concrete. (1)
 
The bridge - which at the time was described by some as "The Eighth Wonder of the World" - greatly improved rail travel in the area.  Passenger rail times were reduced by 20 minutes while freight trains saw more than hour taken off their time schedules.  The entire relocation, known as the Clarks Summit - Halstead Cutoff, trimmed off 3.6 miles on the DL&W's Hoboken to Buffalo line, eliminated seven circles of curves, reduced the maximum curve from six degrees to three, lowered the eastbound ruling grade from 1.23 percent to 0.68 percent, and also eliminated numerous at-grade crossings. (2)
 
One of the biggest compliments about the viaduct came from the author, Theodore Dreiser, in his book Hoosier Holiday.  He wrote, "a thing colossal and impressive - those arches! How really beautiful they were. How symmetrically planned! And the smaller arches above, how delicate and lightsomely graceful! It is odd to stand in the presence of so great a thing in the making and realize that you are looking at one of the true wonders of the world." (3)
 
Today, trains that are part of the Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern ride over the viaduct.  It is still a vital part of the northeast rail system.  The town of Nicholson holds a bridge day every year in September to celebrate the bridge.

Heading north on US 11, the Tunkhannock Viaduct comes into view.  On the south end of the viaduct, there is a small park off of US 11 which provides for great views of the Tunkhannock Viaduct.


A closer view of the concrete arches on the viaduct's north end.
 
The Tunkhannock Viaduct towers over the US 11 highway bridge.

Closer detail of one of the twelve viaduct arches.

The intricate detail of the bridge has withstood over 100 years of wear and tear.

 
One of the arches proclaims 'Lackawanna RR'.

Sources & Links:

  • (1) American Society of Civil Engineers. "Tunkhannock Viaduct." http://www.asce.org/history/brdg_thannock.swf (March 31, 2007)
  • (2) Tomaine, Bob. "Title Unknown." Susquehanna Life. (March 31, 2007)
  • (3) JMF Computer Services. "Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct." http://www.northeastpennsylvania.com/NicholsonViaduct.htm (April 1, 2007)
  • Comments

    Popular posts from this blog

    Roebling Aqueduct

    In a quiet and often overlooked corner of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the country's oldest surviving suspension bridge crosses the Delaware River into New York.  The Delaware Aqueduct, designed and built by famed engineer John A. Roebling, has withstood a very colorful history from being an important piece in the region's transportation, to uncertainty during the growth of rail, nearly eight decades of neglect and poor management as a private toll bridge, to finally being restored by the National Park Service and in use as an automobile bridge today.

    Construction and Canal Era (1847-1898):
    During the 1840's, the Delaware & Hudson Canal was looking at ways to speed up service along its route.  One of the major bottlenecks was where the canal reached the Delaware River.  Since it began operation in 1828, the D&H used a rope ferry to pull traffic along to Canal across the Delaware.  The conflicting traffic of vessels going down the Delaware to Trenton or Philadelphia and…

    Quemahoning Tunnel

    The Quemahoning Tunnel may have never been built by the Pennsylvanina Turnpike Commission, but it still has a history unto itself.  Originally planned to carry rail along the South Penn Railway, the tunnel never would not see any trains until 1909 when a small line named the Pittsburgh, Westmoreland & Somerset began utilizing it.  The use was brief and by the end of 1916 the PW&S was no longer in operation and abandoned the facility.  Twenty-some years later, the newly formed Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission considered using the abandoned tunnel, in fact it was shown on some original plans.  However, the PTC decided against using it, and the tunnel remained empty.

    The eastern portal of the Quemahoning Tunnel is easily accessible from the PA Turnpike.  The portal is located at mile 106.3 along the westbound roadway.  The tunnel is one of the many "What Could Have Been's?" of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Below, Bill Symons shares photos taken in late Fall of 1986 of …

    The National Road - Maryland - Jug Bridge Memorial Park

    For over 130 years, from 1808 to 1942, a very unique stone arch bridge carried everything from horse and buggy, Civil War troops, and finally automobiles over the Monocacy River just east of Frederick.  The bridge's most unique feature, and what would give the bridge its name, was the jug shaped stone demijohn on the east banks of the Monocacy.  The bridge was built in 1808 during the construction of the Baltimore-Frederick Turnpike - a precursor to the National Road and eventually US 40.   In 1824, the Marquis de LaFayette was greeted by Fredericktonians at the bridge upon his return to the area.  The Jug Bridge would see action in the Civil War during the Battle of Monocacy in July 1864.  At the time of battle, the bridge was under Union control and was attacked by Confederate troops hoping to move closer to Washington as a way to divert some of Ulysses S. Grant's troops from the Petersburg campaign. (1)

    The bridge 425 foot long bridge consisted of four 65 foot stone arch s…