Purchases of our 2024 PA Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book

2024 PA Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Purchase Options


Highland Park Dam Overlook Park, Highland Park Bridge & Brilliant Branch Bridge: Allegheny River

The Highland Park Dam Overlook in Pittsburgh gives of a view of one of the lock and dams that allows the Allegheny River to be navigable by boats. It also gives a view of two neat bridges that have been critical to the infrastructure of the city, the Highland Park Bridge, and the Brilliant Branch Railroad Bridge. The Highland Park Bridge's completion dates back to 1939 and it is the key road bridge link that takes people out of Pittsburgh city limits to the north and northwest. 

The Brilliant Branch Railroad Bridge, dating back to 1904, is seldom used these days, and I believe its days of handling rail traffic are over, for it is set to carry a rail trail across the river. When the Pennsylvania Railroad was chock full of passenger rail traffic, the Brilliant Branch was used to bypass the heavy rail traffic of the Main Line within Pittsburgh and it carried trains over to the Conemaugh Line, which in itself was also a mostly freight bypass of the Main Line. The Conemaugh Line still sees heavy use to this day. The Brilliant Line was created to join the two lines and provide an additional relief valve, but was not particularly useful once passenger service dwindled in the 50s and 60s. The most stunning part of this line can be seen in a large stone arch rail bridge just up the road on Washington Blvd. Most recently, the bridge has seen occasional local traffic from the Allegheny Valley Railroad freight line, though the line had sat abandoned since 1976 when Conrail let the line go. The AVRR started using the line in 2003, though its primary customer that it serviced, using the bridge, has since gone out of business. It has occasionally been used as a detour while other rail bridges were being repaired. The line has sat mostly unused, aside from the wye at the end of the Brilliant Branch, at its junction with the old main line, where the daily Amtrak Pennsylvanian turns around when it terminates in Pittsburgh in the evening. The train turns around using the wye so that it is facing eastward on its daily journey to Philadelphia and New York City. In 2022, the Brilliant line was sold to a local group which is going to convert the line into a bike and pedestrian trail, which should be a phenomenal boost to transportation and quality of life for communities on both sides of the river. 


Saxonburg: John A Roebling & the Historic Butler County Borough that Changed the World

Saxonburg Borough is a relatively small borough, but it celebrates its history extremely well. It was founded by Friedrich and John Roebling, brothers who emigrated from Germany to seek freedom from oppression in Germany. They founded Saxonburg as a farming community, and once they were settled in, John returned to his core passion of engineering. In Saxonburg, John A. Roebling created the innovation of wire rope, a technology that made the creation of easier to build and stronger bridges. Roebling would go on to create a series of critical bridges, for which Pittsburgh was the testing ground for the technology, and the pinnacle of his projects was the Brooklyn Bridge, the first bridge to successfully cross the East River and connect the then twin cities of New York City and Brooklyn.
© Joshua Haviv/Shutterstock
The Brooklyn Bridge eventually led to the two cities to becoming one (at this point, the separate city of Brooklyn was 4th in population in the country, just after New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia. For years it was the bridge was tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere, and the longest suspension bridge in the world. The technology that Roebling came up with is still utilized in cable suspension bridges to this day, not to mention funiculars, cable cars, and basically anything else that requires thick cable. 

Aside from the Brooklyn Bridge, Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct (the oldest remaining suspension bridge) between PA and NY, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge across the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, KY, and the Ojuela Bridge in Mexico, and the "Shaky Bridge" in Trenton are the four other existing Roebling spans aside from the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Saxonburg Museum by the local historical society has a whole bunch of industrial history preserved, including original transmitter equipment from the original KDKA, the first commercial radio broadcaster in the world.

The Roebling House aka the Roebling Shop. The first place of manufacture of wire rope by John A Roebling. 

The museum has a mini scale replica of the Brooklyn Bridge. A nice and cute touch that often makes roadside oddity lists.

The site also has a nice picnic area and gathering place, which is something that I believe every town should have. 

Overall, we definitely recommend stopping and checking out Saxonburg if you are passing through. The technological contributions of the area are much greater than the size of the borough. The innovation that came out of this town has enabled the country to grow into what it has. All because of the opportunity our nation gave to two brothers that were looking to escape oppression. John A. Roebling's story is an American story that represents the very best of what America is capable of offering, as both a refuge and a place for people to come for opportunity and realize their fullest potential. 



Logan Mills Covered Bridge and Mill: Last Remaining Covered Bridge in Clinton County

Logan Mills Covered Bridge is a relatively small, but pretty span that retains its agricultural character around it. The farms around it are still extant, and there is even a large mill that still remains adjacent to it. Many covered bridges retain their names from when they served mills, but the mills are often long gone. That is not the case with Logan Mills Covered Bridge. 

It is a cool place to check out if you happen to be in the area. The bridge is the last remaining covered bridge within Clinton County. It measures in at 55 feet long and utilizes Queen post truss construction. It dates back to 1874 and crosses Fishing Creek. It is extremely beautiful. 

 Definitely worth checking out if you are in the area. The coordinates are:

41.005556, -77.386389


Pine Ridge Park: A Scenic Nature Spot in Indiana County

For a county of its size, Indiana County has a wonderful county parks system. It rivals that of counties that are much larger. Lots of space for the public health and economic benefits that public parks provide. Most of the tracts came from old and abandoned industrial tracts, such as through coal companies and railroads. They redeveloped many of these large properties into places for the benefit of the public good. 
Pine Ridge Park, near Blairsville, is a fine example of this. The land was largely owned by the R&P coal company. The rocky lands did not lend themselves well to farming or any other kind of development, and they had largely been forested over the time of ownership through the coal companies. 

635 acres of land, bisected by Route 22, some pipelines, and some power lines, offer a place for respite. Trails to hike, a nice little pond to relax and fish at, and there is even a pretty lodge on the lake as well. Most of the Indiana County Parks were developed into their current state in the 60s, and Penn State students designed park facilities. 

The centerpiece of Pine Ridge Park is a beautiful lodge on a small pond. It looks so beautiful and really makes for a beautiful spot to relax. The creek runs through the lands as well and there are many picnic pavilions built along it. This county park contends with the state parks in its beauty and quality. 

Pine Ridge Park is located about 3 miles east of Blairsville on Route 22, at the top of a large ridge. You can't miss the signs when you are on Route 22. Definitely a great spot to do some picnicking or to even stretch out for some rest if you are traversing Route 22. 

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