Starrucca Viaduct - The Bridge of Stone

Starrucca Viaduct - The Bridge of Stone (HM1YXR)

Location: Susquehanna, PA 18847 Susquehanna County
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Country: United States of America
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N 41° 57.928', W 75° 34.993'

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[Marker Panel 1]
Starrucca Viaduct
Constructed 1847-1848

Elevation - 1000 feet above sea level
Length - 1040 feet
Height - 100 feet
Width of Deck - 26 feet
Number of Arches - 17
Depth of Pier Footings - 6 to 9 feet
Historical Civil Engineering Landmark, 1973
American Society of Civil Engineers
National Registry of Historic Places, 1975
Pennsylvania Historical & Museums Commission

The Starrucca Viaduct was built by the Erie Railroad in 1847-48. The New York and Erie was the first railroad to connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. It was to stretch 483 miles from Piermont on the Hudson River to Dunkirk on the shores of Lake Erie. Construction began in 1835 at nearby Deposit, NY and later at various other points along the line. According to its charter, the railroad was to remain in NY State entirely, but it was necessary to cross into Pennsylvania to avoid difficult terrain.
Some 800 men, mostly Irish immigrants, furnished the muscle for the stone masonry work. They resided in a 'city of tents' and received about one dollar a day in wages. Work was completed in November 1848 and the track was laid by the end of the month.
The Starrucca Viaduct was constructed in record time under
the direction of James Pugh Kirkwood, brother-in-law of bridge designer Julius W. Adams. Since the railroad charter was to expire in 1848, he was given the go ahead to build the viaduct no matter what the cost. It turned out to be the largest and most expensive stone arch bridge built in America whose cost at the time was estimated at $316,770.
On December 9, 1848 the first engine crossed Starrucca Viaduct. It was New York and Erie's 15 ton 4-4-0 locomotive named "Orange" built by Norris Locomotive Works of Philadelphia.
Falsework is the wooden timber frames that are built between each pier to support the stone arches as they are being constructed. Typically falsework is built one at a time then disassembled and moved on to the next arch. However, with a deadline looming, all 17 arches had its own set of falsework, using a half million feet of cored and hewn timbers. Look up at the base of the arches to see the protruding perch blocks that the falsework rested upon.
Wrought-iron T-rails for the broad gauge Erie Railroad were manufactured at the new Lackawanna Iron Works, 40 miles to the south. This was the first large order for T-rails in the country and a contract which marked the industrial birth of the City of Scranton.
This D&H railroad depot was built late in 1871 by the Lackawanna & Susquehanna (a railroad owned by the D&H). The
L&S connected to Erie's Jefferson Division at Jefferson Junction (about one mile south of the viaduct) and with the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad (to the north) at Nineveh, NY. This enabled the D&H to ship coal directly to Albany, NY. This depot was removed around 1945.
It was built almost entirely from locally quarried, random Pennsylvania Bluestone that varied in thickness from 9 to 18 inches. A makeshift railroad hauled the stone from the quarry, four miles up the Starrucca Creek at Stevens Point, to the construction site. Wagons transported some stone from another neighboring quarry as well.
It was one of the first major bridge structures to use Rosendale Cement from a large deposit of limestone found during excavation of the D&H Canal in 1825. The piers of the viaduct and mortar between the stone used this natural cement. The pier footings, dug 6 to 9 feet deep into the valley floor, were poured concrete. It was also used for the base of the Statue of Liberty (1884-86) and the piers of the Brooklyn Bridge (1870-72).
Brick for supporting arches within the hollow spandrels was made on site from clay found nearby—probably at Brandt where a thick deposit of lacustrine clay was used for brick making 30 years.
Hosea Benson's recollections of the construction were published in the Montrose Independent: "It was winter and bitter cold. I always
imagined the company was afraid of fire why they would not last until spring. If this falsework took fire it would destroy the bridge...."
Hosea's father "had a pair of deer skin breeches made barn door style. They were impervious to the wind and cold."
Ralph Stone (1932) describes the viaduct in his Building Stones of Pennsylvania? "The high arch stone viaduct of the Erie Railroad at Lanesboro is built of Catskill bluestone which has a weathered to greenish gray to rust color. The stone was quarried at Stevens Point and dressed to joint-face and rock-face random ashlar. The blocks are all sizes.... They are all sound and it looks like as if it would stand for centuries."
[Marker Panel 2]
50 Years Before and After the Starrucca Viaduct

[Viaduct built between the Battle of the Alamo 1836 and 12th President of US Zachary Taylor 1849-1850]
The entire Erie Railroad from Piermont to Dunkirk was opened in May of 1851 with an inspection trip for dignitaries U.S. President Millard Fillmore and Secretary of State Daniel Webster. Secretary Webster is said to have insisted on traveling in a rocking chair placed on a flat car so that he could see all.
Jasper Francis Cropsey, a landscape artist of the Hudson River School, painted the Starrucca Viaduct in 1865. It is currently housed in the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio (oil on canvas,
22-3/8 x 36-3/8). Throughout history, the Starrucca Viaduct has made its way into Appleton's Journal of Literature and Art, New York's The Independent, various newspapers, and many books of bridge and railroad history.
Delaware and Hudson's Class J 4-6-6-4 Challenger 1524 blasts southward on April 20, 1952 with Wilkes-Barre bound train RW-6.
[Circa 1960 map showing intersection of the Erie and D&H at Starrucca Viaduct]
NYS&W train in the winter of 1988.
For the U.S. Bicentennial, the Erie Lackawanna and the D&H staged a photo opportunity of red, white and blue on March 20, 1976.
Conrail (Consolidated Rail Corporation of America) took over from Erie Lackawanna on what is called "Conveyance Day," April 1, 1976.
The line is currently owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad and leased to Central NY Railroad with New York, Susquehanna, and Western Railway trains operating over it. The viaduct is still in continuous use today.
This sign is dedicated to the late William S. Young, a renowned railroad historian and author of Starrucca: the Bridge of Stone.
Book is available at
Placed ByRail-Trails Council of NEPA, Endless Mountains Heritage Region, and Other Donors
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, June 15th, 2017 at 9:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18T E 451673 N 4646106
Decimal Degrees41.96546667, -75.58321667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 41° 57.928', W 75° 34.993'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds41° 57' 55.68" N, 75° 34' 59.58" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)570
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near Depot St, Susquehanna PA 18847, US
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