A Bridge to the Past

Landmark Along the D & H Rail Trail

People know about the Nicholson Bridge (Tunkhannock Viaduct) but how many know of the Starrucca Viaduct? Made of bluestone, it’s one of the oldest bridges in Northeast PA.

The New York and Erie Railroad built the Starrucca Viaduct in Susquehanna County between 1847 and 1848 at a cost of $335,000. At the time, it was one of the most expensive railroad bridges ever built. The New York and Erie was the first railroad to connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. The line ran 483 miles from Piermont on the Hudson River to Dunkirk on the shores of Lake Erie. The railroad was supposed to remain in New York state, but because of the terrain it had to cross into Pennsylvania twice.

The bridge was built almost entirely from locally quarried Pennsylvania Bluestone that varied in thickness from nine to 18 inches. The bridge has 17 arches and stretches across a quarter mile valley within sight of the Susquehanna River. It is the oldest stone arched bridge in PA and one of the oldest in the United States. Julius W. Adams designed the structure. Adams’ brother-in-law, James Pugh Kirkwood, directed the construction. About 800 men (mostly Irish immigrants) provided the labor. They were paid about $1 day in wages.

The Starrucca Viaduct is on the National Registry of Historical Places and is considered a civil engineering landmark. The D and H Rail-Trail, a recreational path for non-motorized users, passes under the bridge. An interpretive sign was unveiled on the trail late last year at Luciana Park in Lanesboro. Commemorative Bluestone pavers were sold to create a patio beneath the sign. “The Endless Mountain Stone Company donated bluestone pavers, which were sold to raise funds for the sign and patio installation,” explains Lynn Conrad  of the Rail-Trail Council of NEPA. “Donors purchased the stones in various sizes and cost from $100 to $500.” The sign was purchased through a grant from the Endless Mountain Heritage Region.

“This area (of Pennsylvania) has the most Bluestone quarries and since the Starrucca Viaduct was built of Bluestone it is fitting the sign was dedicated to the late William Young a renowned railroad historian who wrote the ‘Bridge of Stone’ as well as the story of the ‘Nicholson Viaduct,’” said Conrad. Visit www.nepa-rail-trails.org  –Linda Scott