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A Visit To Kinzua Bridge State Park In Mount Jewett, PA

  My original plan for this trip was to spend the day railfanning in the Erie, PA area. I knew I wanted to start the day in Conneaut, OH (just west of the Pennsylvania state line) to get a photo of Amtrak Train #48 - The Lake Shore Limited passing by the Conneaut Railroad Museum which is a former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern (New York Central) passenger depot. I knew that this would be a great photo, if the sun would shine as I got a photo at this location last year but it was later in the summer with the sun being in a different position in the sky. The sun's position in the sky was critical to making this photo work. Unfortunately, the sun dipped behind a cloud but I was here so I wasn't gonna not get the photo! After leaving Conneaut, the day was essentially open, so I had breakfast at the All Aboard Dinor (yes that's the way they spell it), which is built in a former New York Central station in Lake City, PA, west of Erie. After a good breakfast there, and a "cat nap" in the car afterwards, I decided that I'll come back to Erie next year for some railfanning in the area. I also wanted to visit Kinzua Bridge State Park which I know is nowhere near Erie, but figuring I had good weather and it was only about 70 miles away, so I decided I was done railfanning in this area and hopped in the Honda and drove to Mount Jewett, PA to visit this historic viaduct.
  Here is a brief history of this historic viaduct with special thanks to the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission for providing historical info: It was built in 1881 out of iron and was at the time of its construction, the tallest and longest railroad viaduct in the world at a half mile long with a height of 301 feet. The bridge and mainline that crossed it were owned originally by the New York, Lake Erie & Western Railroad and the line was used to ship coal, lumber and oil. The NYLE&W later became part of the Erie Railroad. By 1900, steam locomotives and the cars they hauled were getting heavier and a bridge that could support them was needed so a steel bridge was built on the same site as the old iron bridge. The Erie Railroad used the bridge until 1959 and in 1963, Kinzua Bridge State Park was opened. The Knox & Kane Railroad operated excursions over the bridge for a time but would stop once structural engineers examined the bridge and expressed concerns about the structural integrity of the bridge in the early 2000's. One thing that would ultimately be a contributing factor in the bridge's partial collapse in 2003 would be a decision to use the old iron anchor bolts on the old stone supports to anchor the "new" steel structure.
  Yes, I mentioned a partial collapse. An F-1 Tornado partially destroyed the bridge as the old iron anchor bolts couldn't handle the strong winds coming from multiple directions when the tornado hit the area. The bridge was already in the middle of a $12 million rehabilitation when the tornado came through. Thankfully, since nobody was working on the bridge when the tornado hit (it occurred in the evening), nobody was hurt when it collapsed. Due to the cost of rebuilding the entire bridge being prohibitively expensive, a decision was made to turn what was left of the bridge still standing (6 steel columns), into a skydeck which is what you'll find here today. The portion of the bridge that collapsed was left in place, untouched. So by visiting this, you'll see what kind of damage the raw power of Mother Nature can really dish out! At the same time, you'll get an absolutely incredible view of the Kinzua Gorge and the Allegheny National Forest.
  Included in this travelogue are photos I took in the morning in Conneaut, OH before making the drive to Mount Jewett as well as photos at the Kinzua Bridge State Park. Until my next trip, Happy Railfanning...

If only the sun hadn't dipped behind the clouds just minutes before a nearly on-time Amtrak Train #48 - The Lake Shore Limited came
flying through Conneaut with GE P42DC #104 leading the New York & Boston-bound train! My whole goal was to get a very early-morning
sunny photo of this train as the sun was on the side of the train shown in this photo. Oh well, I didn't drive over 140 miles to fail! This
was the end result of those efforts!
After the photo in Conneaut, I drove east back into the small town of Lake City, PA, located west of Erie to have breakfast at the
"All Aboard Dinor" shown above. This is built inside a former New York Central freight station. Breakfast was delicious and the interior
of this station is filled with lots of railroad-related memorabilia on the walls and a G gauge train running around the dining area.
Now on the way to Mount Jewett, PA, I'm driving on US 219 in Limestone, NY just miles from the Pennsylvania State Line when I pass
a slow-moving Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad southbound freight. Having gotten ahead of the train, I pulled over onto Bailey Drive and got
this photo of it. This is B&P Train SIRI with EMD SD40 #3332, a former GCFX and Canadian National unit. For what it's worth, $5.99 for
a case of Pepsi is a good price, see the billboard behind the train!
This is the observation deck located near the parking lot and picnic areas of the park. This was my first view of this bridge
and honestly, I couldn't believe one "little tornado" did all this damage!!!
A wide-angle view of what's left of this bridge!
Looking away from the bridge, the former Erie mainline wanders off into the woods, eventually meeting up with a former B&O mainline
now run by the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad. The pavement on the left side of the tracks may have been a station platform at one time.
When you turn around after looking at the abandoned tracks, this is what you see. Here is a nicely-constructed skydeck built on
six of the remaining steel columns left from the bridge, and the view from this deck is incredible as you'll soon see!!!
At the end of the skydeck is this wide platform with a glass floor in the middle that yes, you can stand on!
Here's a close-up view of the glass floor on the skydeck! You will later see a photo of a daredevil (me) standing on it! The view through
the glass is about 200 feet down to the ground, and provides a very unique view from the skydeck of the ground below!
Here's a view looking through the glass floor!
LEFT: A daredevil (me) providing proof I stood on a piece of glass 200 feet above the ground on a bridge! As you can tell,
I'm NOT afraid of heights!!! RIGHT: A view from the end of the skydeck showing the bridge structure.
Unbelievable that an F-1 Tornado did all this damage. I would think that the cost of getting equipment into that valley to remove
the steel would exceed the scrap value of it, maybe that could be why it was decided to just leave it there?
This is the other end of the bridge. It's amazing that the steel rails just sit there, having been blown off the bridge when the tornado hit.
Pieces of the twisted steel structure left to be reclaimed by nature.
Well, at least if you still need to get across that creek by foot, it's still possible!
Oh, C'mon, it's not that high!!!
This is the observation deck as seen from the skydeck. I can only imagine what the foliage in the fall must look like here!
Thanks for checking out these photos!!!