Capturing NEPA’s Railroad History From Above

At the turn of the 20th century North Eastern Pennsylvania was the engine of the Industrial Revolution. Railroads carrying coal and freight coursed through the valleys like blood through the veins of the nation. The Railroad companies and the Coal Barons funded colossal infrastructure projects that produced some of the most impressive railroad bridges and viaducts the world had ever known. The area surrounding Scranton provided the fuel for a growing industrial power and continued to do so through the two World Wars. After the wars the nation turned more and more away from coal and toward oil and natural gas for sources of energy. Traffic on the rails slowed to a trickle.

The railroad bridges and viaducts built during the heyday of ‘King Coal’ still stand as monuments to just how great of an economic powerhouse North East Pennsylvania once was. Today these impressive giants see a fraction of the freight traffic they once did. Still, if you’re lucky enough you can still catch a train crossing over and it will stop you in your tracks.

Over the last few years we’ve endeavored on a project to film some of these historically significant structures. Growing up in Scranton area we knew that we had some of the nations most impressive railroad infrastructure right in our backyard. We knew that using drones to photograph the bridges and viaducts would show a never before seen perspective on these man-made giants.

Here are the results:

Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct aka Nicholson Bridge

We started our aerial imaging project with the largest and longest viaduct in the area, the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, referred to in the area as the Nicholson Bridge. From the air we captured an imposing concrete structure towering high above the town of Nicholson Pennsylvania. The colors on the trees just beginning to reach their peak serve to highlight what was the largest concrete viaduct in the world and remained so for over 50 years. Construction started in 1912 and was completed by 1915.

A thing colossal and impressive. Those arches! How really beautiful they were. How symmetrically planned! And the smaller arches above, how delicate and lightsomely graceful! It is odd to stand in the presence of so great a thing in the making and realize that you are looking at one of the true wonders of the world. – Theodore Dreiser

Over the years many rumors emerged about a worker who fell into the structure and buried alive in concrete but historians dispute this legend pointing out that the massive amount of rebar and the fact that the men worked at the same level as the concrete during construction would have made “sinking in” virtually impossible. However, at least 4 workers are known to have died during the construction.

On our last visit to Nicholson we were lucky enough to catch a Norfolk Southern train crossing the viaduct. It was a surreal sight. Check it out below:



A few miles north of Nicholson sits Kingsley, Pa where nestled between the hills stretches the 1600ft Martins Creek Viaduct. The Kingsley Bridge, as it is sometimes known, was constructed at nearly the same time as the Nicholson bridge (1915).

 During World War I the Martin’s Creek Viaduct was considered so vital to the railroad infrastructure of the nation that troops were stationed in the marshes below to protect it.

The bridge appears almost out of nowhere as you travel down Route 11 and will immediately leave you in awe of it’s impressive concrete spans and arches as it comes into view. We haven’t had the chance to get up there recently but this footage from 2 years ago shows just how impressive she is.


The Starrucca Viaduct

Sometimes referred to as “The Stone Bridge”, the Starrucca Viaduct is over 1000 feet long and 150 feet tall and is the oldest and in some ways most impressive structure we filmed with our drones. It was completed in 1848 and was at time the most expensive railroad bridges in history coming in at a cost of cost of $320,000 (equal to $8,722,462 today).

After its completion some engineers couldn’t believe a stone bridge could carry the weight of a steam locomotive. they sent a train across at walking speed with no one in it and then hopped aboard after the train had made it across.

Needless to say the bridge was more than capable and has been in continuous use since 1848.


Finally we visited a relic of the coal boom lies just below I-84 in Dunmore PA. Hidden among the gorgeous Pennsylvania fall foliage lies the incredible Erie Jessup Branch Viaduct. Built in 1895 by the Erie Railroad she spans 545 feet and was in service up until the mid 1980’s.

If You are Interested in working with us on a project Please contact us at

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