Pennsylvania - Kinzua Bridge

Kinzua Bridge State Park

This plaque tells a very little bit of the story. This striking viaduct saw regular freight traffic until 1959, at which point the gears started turning to preserve the unique structure as part of a park. The park opened in 1970, and a tourist railroad (the Knox and Kane) started running in 1987. That railroad closed in 2002 in order to rebuild the rusting structure before it fell over. That move proved to be fortuitous, because the very next year, and shortly after restoration had begun, a tornado chanced upon the Kinzua Creek valley and fulfilled the prophecies of the engineers who deemed the bridge unsound. Now, the state park commemorates something very different than its original purpose.

Here is an overview of the remaining bridge and the devastation wrought upon the valley. It has only been five years, so trees have yet to regrow all the way up the valley. Pennsylvania made the decision to leave the gigantic iron support trusses on the valley floor rather than attempt to remove them. They say it's to preserve the enormity of the event, but I say it's because it would cost a lot of money with nothing to gain.

These wooden platforms constituted a train stop on the Knox and Kane RR when it was running. Now the tracks are falling into the disrepair and the platforms are going with them.

This object houses the text of the Kinzua Bridge exhibit. What strikes me is that it does not resemble any part of the Kinzua Bridge, even the original 1882 structure. So where did this come from?

Looking north across the bridge. I think the last photo looks like it was painted in the early 20th century.

The left (west) side of the bridge, which is where all of the towers were blown off of their supports.

The ferocity of the wind twisted the metal into grotesque shapes as it pried the beams one at a time from their tenuous supports.

From an observation area near the mysterious exhibit tower I get a much clearer view of the bridge supports and the carnage. The towers closest to the far (north) side still have some of the track structure with them, as if they tried until the very end to do their job and keep the bridge upright.

Rustic detail of one of the near-side towers that is still standing.

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