Kinzua Viaduct at Mount Jewett
By Stephen F. Miller Jr.


When the Kinzua Viaduct was completed in 1882, it was claimed as the world's highest and longest railroad bridge at 301 feet tall and 2053 feet long and was built of iron and weighed 3,105,000 pounds. It was constructed as an alternative to laying and additional eight miles of track over rough terrain along the line leading to McKean County's coal, timber, and oil lands.

In 1900, it became necessary to rebuild the viaduct in order to carry heavier trains. The job was completed in 105 days by approximately 150 men. The new steel viaduct has the same measurements, but now weights 6,715,000 pounds.

In 1963, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania established a 316 acre State Park around the Kinzua Viaduct. In 1977, the viaduct was placed on National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and in 1982, it was designated a National Historical Civil Engineering Landmark.

Regular train service ended on on June 21, 1959, however an excursion railroad, the Knox & Kane, formed in 1986, began tours through the Allegheny National Forest and over the bridge. The bridge was closed to both pedestrian and train traffic in the summer of 2002 after concerns for the structural integrity of the bridge.  

In February 2003, the Pennsylvania DCNR and contractors began restoration of the historic bridge, however on July 21, 2003 strong winds destroyed 11 of the 20 support towers on the bridge (see press release).

The bridge and park are currently closed in order to assess the damage.



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