Nicholson Ramps Up for 100th Anniversary of Railroad Bridge

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Nicholson Bridge logo

The logo (above) by George Penyak of Scranton was chosen as the winner by the Nicholson Heritage Association to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the railroad bridge over Nicholson. The wintry photo of the bridge at top was taken by Martha Rose and posted on the Nicholson Bridge page on Facebook. 

The Tunkhannock Viaduct was a marvel of the modern world when it was completed in 1915. A century later, it remains the world’s largest reinforced concrete railroad bridge, spanning not just Tunkhannock creek hundreds of feet below, but the entire valley containing the borough of Nicholson in eastern Wyoming County.

Borough officials and members of several groups vested in retaining Nicholson’s heritage and celebrating the history of the grand old bridge are hoping to draw thousands of people to the small rural town from Friday to Sunday, Sept. 11 to 13 for an activity-packed weekend that will feature a parade, historical exhibits, and walking tours. The weekend will culminate with what organizers expect to be Nicholson’s biggest Bridge Day ever.

We are excited to celebrate our Bridge’s 100th anniversary and look forward to working with our neighbors, area historical groups, and the railroad community to ensure this milestone celebration is unforgettable,” said Nicholson Heritage Association Chair Marion Sweet.

We will work together as a community to celebrate this important event, and local businesses are geared up for the celebratory weekend,” Lisa Mihalina, Nicholson Business & Professional Association President, concurred.

Built by the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad (DL&W), construction on the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct began in 1912, and it was completed, dedicated, and put into service in November 1915. The engineering marvel was part of a larger project called the Clarks Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, built to shorten the DL&W main rail line from Scranton to Binghamton, NY, by 3.6 miles, lessen the steep grades, and straighten the rail line.

The entire Cut-off, sometimes referred to as the Pennsylvania or Nicholson Cut-off, was built with two sets of tracks to allow for trains going north and south at the same time. This shortened route cost approximately $12-million ($280,575,445 in today’s economy) but saved considerable travel time between the two cities. The Nicholson Bridge itself cost $1,735,000 to build, which would be $40,566,533 in 2014.

In 1975, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) designated the Tunkhannock Viaduct as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark due to its significant contribution to the development of the United States and to the profession of civil engineering. On April 11, 1977, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its national architectural, engineering, and transportation significance.

Additionally, the viaduct was documented by the Historic American Engineering Record, which was established in 1969 by an agreement by the National Park Service, the ASCE, and the Library of Congress to document historic sites and structures related to engineering and industry.

Two grants from the Wyoming County Room Tax Fund and the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau will be used to market and promote the September event and to replace deteriorated signs that welcome visitors as they enter Nicholson.

Promoting this once-in-lifetime event will be key,” related Josh Stull, Grants Committee Chair. “And this grant will help ensure that we can effectively spread the word.”

Nicholson Borough Council member Christian Zeme says, “The County Room Tax Fund Grant to replace our aged welcome signs will bring a fresh look to our town. I’m thrilled that the Borough received the grant.”

Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jean Ruhf said that she was “delighted to announce that Nicholson received two grants in connection with the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Nicholson Bridge. I look forward to working with the Nicholson Heritage Association and the entire community on this historic milestone.”

The Heritage Association and the Nicholson Women’s Club are still in the coordination stage, and new activities and vendors will be added as the final event schedules are completed in the summer.

Highlights will include History on Main Street day on Saturday, Sept. 12. Ceremonies will begin in the morning, and a parade is slated for the afternoon. Main Street will be closed all day for entertainment, food, and exhibits. Additionally, the Association is working on walking historical tours for both weekend days.

The Nicholson Women’s Club will spearhead the Bridge Day activities for Sunday, Sept. 13. Main Street will be lined with vendors selling crafts, food and other items.

Michelle Herron, President of the Nicholson Women’s Club, stated, “The Nicholson Women’s Club has been having extra committee meetings each month to prepare for the big event. We are expanding the entertainment and attractions available on Sunday and want to have something for the entire family.”

The Nicholson Heritage Association meets regularly to discuss and work on initiatives that include the Nicholson Tourism Center at the Historic DL&W Railroad Station, the Viaduct Valley Way Scenic Byway, and purchasing U.S. flags for local businesses. The next Nicholson Heritage Association meeting will take place at 7 pm on Wednesday, Jan. 28 at the First Presbyterian Church, 65 State Street, Nicholson. For updates, interested readers can log on to www.nicholsonheritage.org or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Check in at www.nicholsonbridge100th.com for updates on activities an details concerning the celebration. A Google map at the site shows area accommodations.

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4 Comments

  1. Scott J. Whitney on

    The one thing that I hope can be accomplished with cooperation of the railroad (whichever one may own it at the time as that is going to change soon!) is to repair the word Lackawanna on the bridge.

  2. Really, I think the loss of the lower part of the K gives it character!

    Not sure if you know, but the letters were not original to 1915… they were added later about 1940 by a name of Chip Chappy. Let me find that article….

    Josh

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