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6.10.2015

Kinzua Bridge State Park and Elk Country

The Kinzua Bridge/Viaduct is a sight to see. In 1900 this bridge was built and measured in at 2,052 feet, 301 feet tall, and 6,715,000 tons. The previous bridge was built in 1881 shared the same statistics, except it was half the weight and engineered for much lighter trains. The railroad technology in that time period advanced so quickly that the old bridge was quickly rendered obsolete. Roughly 150 men worked ten hour shifts and completed the new bridge in 105 days. Freight traffic ceased on the bridge in 1959. A salvage company was summoned to take down the bridge, but saw great value in it and petitioned then Governor William Scranton commissioned the creation of Kinzua Bridge State Park. The state park was opened in 1970 and the bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks. Beginning in 1987, the bridge was opened up to scenic train excursions. Train and pedestrian traffic was cut off in 2002 when inspections uncovered areas of the Elmira Bridge Company Trestle bridge supports that were rusted through. A restoration company was brought in to shore up the bridge, and was mid way through the project, when an F1 Tornado ripped through the area in July 2003 and ripped down 11 of the 20 piers of the then fourth tallest railroad bridge ever built. Here is the view of the bridge as it currently stands.
Looking down one of the bridge piers. An awesome piece of engineering. There has never been a shortage of sightseeing at this bridge. Even in the early twentieth century there was a rumor that a major robber had deposited loot near the bridge and people would go sightsee at the bridge, and search for the treasure, similar to what people have done more recently with the legend of D.B. Cooper. 
On the very end of the largest portion of the bridge is a skywalk, where you can walk on glass and look down at the valley floor, 225 feet below. 
You can see the wind damage on the trees below in this normally high winded area.
The main reason the bridge ended up collapsing was due to the tornado lifting the supports off of their footers thanks to severely rusted bolts. Most of the piers fell and only got damage from falling on the ground as opposed to getting damaged by the tornado itself, a testament to the strength of the trusses. 
This is one of the best places in the state for sightseeing. The landscape is stunning, and the nearby Elk Country is pretty amazing. All of this is located on the historic Route 6 corridor, making it an excellent area to plan a fun weekend around. 
Here is the location of the bridge. Definitely check it out! Add it to your bucket list!

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