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‘8th Wonder’ Bridge Walks New Walk

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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A historic bridge hailed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” when it opened in 1882 has gained a new lease on life as a pedestrian walkway high above a Pennsylvania gorge.

At 301 feet high and 2,053 feet long, the Kinzua Sky Walk—formerly, the Kinzua Viaduct—was the highest and longest railroad viaduct in the world when it was built in May 1882.

 Kinuza Skywalk, formerly the Kinuza Viaduct

 Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau

The structure was the world’s longest, highest railroad viaduct when it was built in 1882.

The massive structure was designed to transport coal, oil and lumber across the Kinzua Gorge. The project was the brainchild of Gen. Thomas Kane, president of the New York, Lake Erie and Western Coal Company; and Octave Chanute, chief engineer for the Erie Railroad.

It took a crew of 40 just 94 working days to build the original iron viaduct, using trestles in kit form instead of scaffolding, MSNBC reported.

Tornado’s Wrath

In 1900, the viaduct was rebuilt using steel, and builders predicted it would last 100 years. They were right.

In the 1960s, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired the viaduct and made the surrounding land a state park. In 1977, the Kinzua Viaduct was placed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

 A tornado knocked down much of the century-old Kinzua Viaduct in 2003

 PA DCNR

A tornado knocked down much of the century-old Kinzua Viaduct in 2003. 

In 2003, however, much of the 103-year-old historic bridge collapsed in a tornado. A later investigation traced the origin of the failure to corroded anchorages.

 Deterioration within the anchorage system

 PA DOT

The weak link in the bridge proved to be hidden deterioration within the anchorage system. High winds took at out 23 of the 41 structures.

In 2009, work began to reinvent the remaining towers of the historic viaduct as the Kinzua Sky Walk, with glass decking panels that allow the public to “Walk the Tracks Across the Sky.” The $4.3 million structure just reopened last week.

 Glass panels in decking

PA DCNR 

Glass panels in the decking invite views of the Kinzua Gorge hundreds of feet below the bridge.

‘We are excited that visitors can experience in a new way what the bridge once was, and also understand the power of the forces of nature that claimed a portion of it,’ said Richard J. Allan, of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Renovation; Steel

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