Tunkhannock Viaduct

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Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct
A Steamtown National Historic Site excursion train crosses Tunkhannock Viaduct.
Coordinates 41°37′20″N 75°46′38″W / 41.6222°N 75.7773°W / 41.6222; -75.7773Coordinates: 41°37′20″N 75°46′38″W / 41.6222°N 75.7773°W / 41.6222; -75.7773
Carriesrailroad traffic
CrossesTunkhannock Creek
LocaleNicholson, Pennsylvania, USA
DesignDeck arch bridge
Total length2,375 feet (723.9 m)
Longest span180 feet (54.9 m) each span
No. of spans10 (11 piers)
Clearance below240 feet (73.2 m)
Rail characteristics
No. of tracks2
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Structure gaugeAAR for the width only
overhead open or clear
DesignerAbraham Burton Cohen
Construction startMay 1912
OpenedNovember 6, 1915
Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct
Tunkhannock Viaduct is located in Pennsylvania
Tunkhannock Viaduct
Location in Pennsylvania
Coordinates41°37′20″N 75°46′38″W / 41.6222°N 75.7773°W / 41.6222; -75.7773Coordinates: 41°37′20″N 75°46′38″W / 41.6222°N 75.7773°W / 41.6222; -75.7773
Area3 acres (1.2 ha)
NRHP reference #77001203[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPApril 11, 1977
Designated PHMCSeptember 16, 1995[2]

Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct (also known as the Nicholson Bridge and the Tunkhannock Viaduct) is a concrete deck arch bridge on the Norfolk Southern Railway Sunbury Line and on the Nicholson Cutoff rail segment of the Sunbury Line that spans Tunkhannock Creek in Nicholson, Pennsylvania, in the United States. Measuring 2,375 feet (724 m) long and towering 240 feet (73.15 m) when measured from the creek bed (300 feet (91.44 m) from bedrock), it was the largest concrete structure in the world when completed in 1915[3] and still merited "the title of largest concrete bridge in America, if not the world" 50 years later.[4]

Built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W), the bridge is owned today by Norfolk Southern Railway and is used daily for regular through freight service.[5]

The DL&W built the viaduct as part of its 39.6-mile (63.7 km) Nicholson Cutoff, which replaced a winding and hilly section of the route between Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Binghamton, New York, saving 3.6 miles (5.8 km), 21 minutes of passenger train time, and one hour of freight train time. The bridge was designed by the DL&W's Abraham Burton Cohen;[6] other key DL&W staff were G. J. Ray, chief engineer; F. L. Wheaton, engineer of construction; and C. W. Simpson, resident engineer in charge of the construction. The contractor was Flickwir & Bush, including general manager F. M. Talbot and superintendent W. C. Ritner.[7]


Construction on the bridge began in May 1912 by excavating all 11 bridge piers to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet (42 m) below ground. In total, excavation for the viaduct removed 13,318,000 cubic yards (10,182,000 m3) of material, more than half of that rock.

Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. At mid-construction, 80,000 cubic yards (61,000 m3) of concrete had gone into its substructures, and it was estimated that construction would require 169,000 cubic yards (129,000 m3) of concrete and 1,140 short tons (1,030 t; 1,020 long tons) of steel.[8] The steel estimate proved accurate; the bridge ultimately used a bit less concrete than expected: 167,000 cubic yards (128,000 m3),[7] making the total weight approximately 670,000,000 pounds (300,000,000 kg).

The bridge was dedicated on November 6, 1915, along with the opening of the Nicholson Cutoff.[9][10]

Construction photos along with a short history of the bridge were published by the Nicholson Area Library in a brochure in 1976.[11] It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 11, 1977.[1]

Since 1990,[12] the local community has celebrated the building of the bridge on the second Sunday of September with "Nicholson Bridge Day", a street fair, parade, and other activities.[13] The 100th-anniversary celebration was held in September 2015.[14]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ "PHMC Historical Markers". Historical Marker Database. Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
  3. ^ Jackson, Donald C.; Yearby, Jean P. (1968). "Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, Tunkhannock Viaduct, Nicholson, Wyoming County, PA". Historic American Engineering Record. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. p. 1. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  4. ^ Norfolk Southern completes acquisition of Delaware & Hudson South Line, PRNewswire, September 18, 2015
  5. ^ "The Nicholson Bridge".
  6. ^ a b Simpson, C. W. (March 1916). "Construction Methods on Viaducts Of The Lackawanna Railroad Over Tunkhannock and Martins Creeks". Water and Sewage Works. Indianapolis, Indiana: Engineering Publishing Company. 50-51: 94–98. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  7. ^ "Progress of Tunkhannock Viaduct Construction on D., L. & W. Relocation". Engineering Record. 68 (22): 594. November 29, 1913.
  8. ^ "Northeast Pennsylvania, Nicholson Viaduct".
  9. ^ "Nicholson Bridge / Tunkhannock (Creek) Viaduct - Nicholson Heritage Association". Nicholson Heritage Association.
  10. ^ "The Bridge Was Built," Nicholson Area Library, 1976.
  11. ^ Baker, Robert L. (September 7, 2011). "100 years in the making". Wyoming County Press Examiner. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  12. ^ "Nicholson Bridge Day".
  13. ^ Baker, Robert (September 14, 2015). "Street fair concludes Nicholson Bridge's Centennial fest". The Scranton Times-Tribune. Retrieved 3 February 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Plowden, David (2002). Bridges: The Spans of North America. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.
  • Taber, Thomas Townsend; Taber, Thomas Townsend III (1980). The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in the Twentieth Century. 1. Muncy, PA: Privately printed. ISBN 0-9603398-2-5.
  • "Tunkhannock Viaduct". ASCE History and Heritage of Civil Engineering. Retrieved 18 January 2016.

External links[edit]