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

Yes, the color of your nearby fire hydrant matters...

...and here's why. You will find White, Red, Yellow and Violet colored fire hydrants pretty much everywhere.  But there's a reason for this - and it's because of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).  This association has issued guidelines for color coding standards for fire hydrants.  These color codes from the body of the hydrant, top of the hydrant, and in some municipalities the outlet caps are designed to allow fire fighters to know what type of system, water flow rate (Gallons Per Minute or GPM), and level of water pressure.  This guideline is known as NFPA 291 and is intended to be used universally throughout the United States. The NFPA guidelines are specific to the body and the top cap of the hydrant.  If a hydrant is WHITE or YELLOW - it means that it is connected to a public/municipal water system.  If a hydrant is RED - the hydrant is connected to a private system, typically a well.  These are most common in rural or unincorporated areas

Phase 1 of the California State Route 132 West Expressway (in the making since 1947)

On September 15, 2022, the Phase 1 of the California State Route 132 West Expressway opened in the city of Modesto from California State Route 99 west to North Dakota Avenue.  Phase 1 of the California State Route 132 West Expressway was built upon a corridor which was tentatively to designated to become the branching point for Interstate 5W in the 1947 concept of the Interstate Highway System.  The present California State Route 132 West Expressway corridor was adopted by the California Highway Commission on June 20, 1956.  Despite almost being rescinded during the 1970s the concept of the California State Route 132 West Expressway corridor lingered on for over half a century and became likely the oldest undeveloped right-of-way owned by California Transportation Commission.  Pictured above is the planned California State Route 132 freeway west of US Route 99 in Modesto as featured in the May/June 1962 California Highways & Public Works.   The history of the California State Route

Aptos Creek Road to the Loma Prieta ghost town site

Aptos Creek Road is a roadway in Santa Cruz County, California which connects the community of Aptos north to The Forest of Nisene Marks State Parks.  Aptos Creek Road north of Aptos is largely unpaved and is where the town site of Loma Prieta can be located.  Loma Prieta was a sawmill community which operated from 1883-1923 and reached a peak population of approximately three hundred.  Loma Prieta included a railroad which is now occupied by Aptos Creek Road along with a spur to Bridge Creek which now the Loma Prieta Grade Trail.  The site of the Loma Prieta Mill and company town burned in 1942.   Part 1; the history of Aptos Creek Road and the Loma Prieta town site Modern Aptos traces its origin to Mexican Rancho Aptos.  Rancho Aptos was granted by the Mexican Government in 1833 Rafael Castro.  Rancho Aptos took its name from Aptos Creek which coursed through from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Monterey Bay.  Castro initially used Rancho Aptos to raise cattle for their hides.  Following