LANESBORO, SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Built more than a decade before the Civil War, it is said to be the oldest stone railroad bridge in Pennsylvania still in use. By all definitions it is massive, but still is somewhat hidden in rural Susquehanna County.
“The [Starrucca] viaduct was the eighth wonder of the world,” said Nancy Mess, a Lanesboro area historian.
Mess’ family roots in Lanesboro go back generations before the pre-civil war stone marvel was built by the Erie Railroad.
“I mean they adored it. They appreciated it, they had a fondness for it and it is still there,” Mess said.
“The Starrucca Viaduct, very famous bridge built in 1847-48 in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. Built by the Erie Railroad as a shortcut to Buffalo, New York,” said Betty Smith, curator for Susquehanna County Historical Society.
The historical society has thorough documentation, photos and history of the construction as compiled by the late William S. Young.
Retired farmer Ray Barnes lives in the shadow of the stone arch viaduct and marvels at the construction by some 800 laborers, led by Julius W. Adams and James P. Kirkwood, beginning in 1847.
“If you walk in the woods like this time of the year especially, you can see where the quarries where, a lot of them, where they took the stone out. It speaks highly of their engineering. I mean it is sitting on pylon lusters — and their wood — and yet they’re still holding for all these years,” Barnes said.
“It is easy to get to, and you don’t expect it, when all of a sudden you are facing it. And it is just wonderful,” said Smith.
“There are quite a few people who come around and take pictures. And some ask to go on back, we own this land down back, and they go down there to get pictures of it, so on and so forth,” Barnes said.
From 18th century landscape artist Jasper Francis Cropsey to modern day drone video from “Access Aerial” — the Starrucca Viaduct has been captured in thousands of images but must be seen in person to experience the grandeur.
“When we show people the paintings, we do recommend that they go over to see the viaduct,” Smith said.
Northfolk Southern owns the rail line, which is maintained by the New York, Susquehanna, and Western Railway. Area historians are hoping the upcoming 175th anniversary in 2023, will be embraced by the railroads.
“It’s a quarter mile long. It’s a hundred feet tall. My function was to raise awareness that this significant anniversary was on the horizon,” said Mess.
“It’s just it’s natural beauty,” Smith said.