Built nearly a century apart, both the Starrucca Viaduct and the
Martin's Creek Viaduct in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania stand as
brilliant markers in the civil engineering history and as bridges to
the future of the railroad industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
In 1847 the clock was running for project engineers in charge of
design and construction of a section of the New York and Erie
Railroad between the Hudson River Valley and Lake Erie. The
railroad had to reach Binghamton, NY by December 31, 1848 and a
quarter mile wide valley outside of Lanesboro, Susquehanna County,
Pennsylvania had to be crossed. To do so, civil engineers Julius
Adams and James Kirkwood designed and built the Starrucca Viaduct, a
1,040 foot structure comprised of 17 arches averaging 100 feet in
height. The viaduct was constructed of Pennsylvania Bluestone, a
local dimension stone quarried nearby. With a price estimated at
$325,000, the bridge was one of the largest, costliest stone arch
railroad bridges built in America. Yet the very material that made
it so costly to build, has given the Starrucca Viaduct durability.
When contemporary wooden railroad bridges failed to stand up under
modern, heavier loads, the stone frame of the Starrucca Viaduct has
stood the test of time. The bridge’s designers also made the deck
wide enough to accommodate two tracks by today’s standards. Both
Norfolk Southern and New York, Susquehanna and Western freight
trains still rumble across this designated Landmark of Civil
Engineering, through the Tri-Boro area of Susquehanna Depot,
Lanesboro, and Oakland, passing a former locomotive refueling
station, which is now a 36 acre designated Keystone Opportunity
Zone property, poised for development as an industrial or
Further southeast in Harford Township outside the village of
Kingsley, construction on the Martin’s Creek Viaduct began in 1912
and was completed in the Fall of 1914, a year ahead of schedule.
The construction of the viaduct was part of a modernization of the
Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western line from Clark Summit to
Hallstead. Known as the Clarks Summit-Hallstead Cut-off, the 39.6
mile project shorted the distance between Clarks Summit and
Hallstead by 3.6 miles, reduced the grade and produced a remarkably
straight route that would save a freight train as much as an hour
and a passenger train at least ten minutes. It cost the railroad 12
million dollars to complete.
“The project was built with very advanced standards for its time –
and it’s still a first class piece of railroad. The real
improvement was in the grades and curves,” comments railroad
historian William S. Young, who is writing a book on the
construction of the Lackawanna Cutoff. “At the time, Portland
cement was a new material; and reinforced concrete a newer
concept.” Young adds that the use of the reinforced concrete arch
in railroad bridge construction began about 1900 and ended by 1930
when engineering advances ushered in new techniques. “Concrete is
being used today in different ways – for example, pre-cast,
pre-stressed girders are being used on a new highway bridge under
construction between Hallstead and Great Bend over the Susquehanna
The Martin’s Creek Viaduct is 1600 feet long and has 150 foot high
arches and is often mistaken for the much larger Tunkhannock Creek
Viaduct, which is located about nine miles south of Martin’s Creek
along Route 11 in Wyoming County. The Tunkhannock Creek viaduct
was part of the same railroad improvement project and at 2,375 feet
long with 240’ high arches, it is considered the largest concrete
structure of its kind in the world.
Soldiers guarded the Martin’s Creek Viaduct during World War I.
Trains stopped at the nearby Kingsley station and further north on
the line in New Milford and at a newly constructed station in
Hallstead, which is now Station Square, a commercial business
property available for lease. The viaduct was an important part of
the “Route of Phoebe Snow”, the famous “Maid in White” advertising
campaign of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad from 1900
to 1960. Phoebe Snow advertisements declared she could travel the
entire line from Hoboken to Buffalo and arrive with her white dress
pristine because prior to the diesel age the railroad’s passenger
engines used only clean burning anthracite coal. With the advent of
diesel after World War II, a passenger train bearing the name
“Phoebe Snow” was introduced. “That train was removed in 1966,”
recalls William Young.
Today the return of passenger service to New York and New Jersey
environs is under development in nearby Scranton, Lackawanna County,
PA. Studies that examine expanding the service through Susquehanna
County, PA north to Binghamton, NY are also underway.
Both the Starrucca and Martin’s Creek Viaduct are easily accessible
to visitors traveling on Interstate 81. The Starrucca Viaduct is
located about 10 miles from exit I-81 exit 230 (Great Bend, PA) on
SR 171 in Lanesboro, Susquehanna County. The Martin’s Creek Viaduct
is located south of Kingsley PA off Route 11. Take SR 106 west at
the I-81, Exit 211(Lenox, PA) to reach Route 11.
Starrucca: Bridge of Stone by William S. Young is available from
the Susquehanna County Historical Society for $5.00 plus tax and
shipping. Visit their website,
or telephone (570) 278-1881 for more information.
Contact the Susquehanna County Department of Economic Development by
email at firstname.lastname@example.org or
by calling (570) 278-4600, ext. 558.