Skip to main content

American Ribblehead: The Starrucca Viaduct - Lanesboro, PA


Nestled in the scenic hills of northeast Pennsylvania, the Starrucca Viaduct is a 19th Century railroad bridge known for its historic design and its impressive longevity. Opened in 1848, it was known as the world's largest stone-arch railroad viaduct as it carried traffic along the original New York & Erie Railroad. It has been suggested that this bridge was the first in America to utilize structural concrete in its construction, the material being utilized for the bridge’s foundations. In the mid-1800s, concrete was still an unknown quantity as a material and it was still considered to be experimental in nature at the time, making its use at this location a daring yet critical first step in the material’s evolution into a building block that modern construction could never be without.

This bridge’s size and design anticipated the construction of a more-famous stone arch railroad bridge built about 25 years later in England. The Ribblehead Viaduct in North Yorkshire, England is one of the most popular historic bridges for enthusiasts alike and its own proportions were likely inspired at least in part by its American counterpart here in Pennsylvania. As a result, the Starrucca Viaduct is sometimes known as the “American Ribblehead”, as it comes the closest to resembling its English rival in size and form. As for this structure, it spans the wide Starrucca Creek Valley, requiring a span of about a thousand feet in length. The whole structure above ground was build of locally-quarried ashlar bluestone and the entire project was put together in about one year – an impressive timeline for a structure of its kind. It measures 1,040 ft in length, stands (on average) about 100 ft tall, and consists of seventeen arch spans each measuring 50 ft long. While build wide enough for a dual-track deck layout, it has spent most of its life as a single-track crossing that has been structurally reinforced and upgraded in a subtle manner over the years.

Above: A few ground-level views of the Viaduct, including a couple historic markers nearby

The Viaduct remains in active use today (owned by the Delaware-Otsego Corporation and operated by the New York, Susquehanna, & Western Railway on its Port Jervis to Binghamton service), more than 150 years after its construction, making it one of the oldest active railroad bridges in the nation. The American Society of Civil Engineers recognizes the historic significance of its design & construction with its designation as a National Civil Engineering Landmark, in addition to its place on the National Register of Historic Places.

Most people have no problem taking in the sight of this structure from ground level, but back in mid-2020 I had the opportunity to go one step further and see what it looks like from the air; this was a great location for a quick workout session with my quadcopter drone – the perspectives you get from the air add a whole new dimension to our understanding of this bridge’s proportions and its place within the scenic surrounding valley. If you’re ever in the area, or “just passing through” (as my podcasting alter ego would say), this one is worth stopping by to check out – it’s a rare American example of the stone arch design taken to greater lengths. It can be reached from Interstate 81 by taking Exit 230 and following PA 171 about 10 miles east, passing through the village of Susquehanna (along the river of same name) in the process. Who knows, if you end up visiting, maybe you’ll run in to me – I hope to come back here at some point to add to my portfolio at this location…


Above: Various aerial views of the Viaduct courtesy of my quadcopter drone. If you do bring a drone here, please be safe and fly responsibly!

How to Get There:

More information from ASCE website

More information from Pennsylvania Center for the Book website


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 38

California State Route 38 is a fifty-nine-mile State Highway located entirety in San Bernardino County and a component of the Rim of the World Highway.  California State Route 38 begins at California State Route 18 at Bear Valley Dam of the San Bernardino Mountains and follows an easterly course on the north shore of Big Bear Lake.  California State Route 38 briefly multiplexes California State Route 18 near Baldwin Lake and branches east towards the 8,443-foot-high Onyx Summit.  From Onyx Summit the routing of California State Route 38 reverses course following a largely westward path through the San Bernardino Mountains towards a terminus at Interstate 10 in Redlands.   Pictured as the blog cover is California State Route 38 at Onyx Summit the day it opened to traffic on August 12th, 1961.   Part 1; the history of California State Route 38 California State Route 38 (CA 38) is generally considered to be the back way through the San Bernardino Mountains to Big Bear Lake of Bear Valley

The original alignment of California State Route 33 in Firebaugh

Firebaugh is a city located on the San Joaquin River of western Fresno County.  Firebaugh is one of the oldest American communities in San Joaquin Valley having been settled as the location of Firebaugh's Ferry in 1854.  Traditionally Firebaugh has been served by California State Route 33 which was one of the original Sign State Routes announced during August 1934.  In modern times California State Route 33 is aligned through Firebaugh on N Street.  Originally California State Route 33 headed southbound passed through Firebaugh via; N Street, 8th Street, O Street, 12th Street, Nees Avenue and Washoe Avenue.  The blog cover depicts early California State Route 33 near Firebaugh crossing over a one-lane canal bridge.  The image below is from the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Fresno County which depicts the original alignment of California State Route 33 in Firebaugh. Part 1; the history of California State Route 33 in Firebaugh The community of Firebaugh is named in honor of Andr

Driving the Watkins Glen Historic Road Course - New York

  Situated at the south end of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, Watkins Glen is well known for wineries along Seneca Lake and waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park . But one thing that gives the town much renown is its connection to the world of auto racing. The raceway at Watkins Glen Internationa l holds a number of big races every year, such as Six Hours at the Glen and the NASCAR Cup Series . The history of auto racing at Watkins Glen starts during the 1940s when the race followed a course on local roads and also through the streets of downtown Watkins Glen. It's a course that you can follow today, preferably at a more moderate speed than the auto racers of yore raced at. Let's explore the history of the original course, how it came to by and why it is no more. Organized races through the village of Watkins Glen and surrounding roads were first proposed and started by Cameron R. Argetsinger in 1948, marking the beginning of post-war sports car