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Roadtripping to the Imposing Tunkhannock Viaduct in Nicholson, PA

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Tucked away along Route 11 in northeastern Pennsylvania is one of the most amazing man-made structures in Pennsylvania: the Tunkhannock Viaduct.

The Tunkhannock Viaduct (also known as the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, Nicholson Viaduct, or the Nicholson Bridge) crosses imposingly over the small Wyoming County community of Nicholson. From basically anywhere in this borough, the viaduct can be seen as it passes up to 240 feet above the town and Tunkhannock Creek.

This creates an incredibly unique visual that’s definitely worth taking the time to see.

Historic marker for the Tunkhannock Viaduct with the bridge in the background
The Tunkhannock Viaduct in Nicholson, PA, is one of the most impressive sites in the state.

The Tunkhannock Viaduct was completed in 1915 for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. The structure was designed by William Hull Botsford, who was the chief designer for the railroad. At the age of 26, he died in the sinking of the Titanic, shortly after his plans were approved for the viaduct.

The viaduct was constructed as part of the Nicholson Cutoff, which allowed the railroad to save 20 miles off of its trip and allowed for nearly double the allowable speed, ensuring that goods and passengers could pass from Binghamton, New York to Scranton much more quickly.

The Tunkhannock Viaduct passes over a home in Nicholson, PA
Tunkhannock Viaduct is an imposing structure over Nicholson.

However, to create this cutoff, the railroad had to conquer the mountains and valleys in northeastern Pennsylvania. To do this, they built two large viaducts (the Tunkhannock Viaduct and the slightly smaller Martin’s Creek Viaduct) as well as the over half-mile-long Nicholson Tunnel.

Construction started in May 1912 and was completed in November 1915 at a cost of $1.4 million dollars (more than $34 million in 2018). Over 500 men worked on the bridge, and at least four lost their lives (though none were buried in the bridge’s cement despite rumors).

Drone photo of the Tunkhannock Viaduct crossing over a creek
The viaduct was built over the valley created by the Tunkhannock Creek.

When it was completed, the Tunkhannock Viaduct was the largest concrete structure in the world, and it would take 50 years for a larger concrete bridge to be built in the United States.

Today, the bridge still carries train traffic over Nicholson and the Tunkhannock Creek Valley.

The bridge is 2,375 feet long and up to 240 feet above the valley floor. This makes the bridge longer and nearly as high as the famous Kinzua Bridge in northwestern Pennsylvania. It’s also much larger than the nearby Starrucca Viaduct.

Nicholson Bridge as seen from over a field near town.
Looking over a field in Nicholson towards the imposing Tunkhannock Viaduct.

The bridge is comprised of 12 arches. Of these, ten are 180 feet across and two are 100 feet across. Only 10 of the bridge’s arches are visible, however, as one on each side is hidden in the mountain for support.

Driving around Nicholson, it’s not only possible to see the bridge from several vantage points, but also to drive underneath it. While it’s impressive to see from anywhere in town (the local cemetery has an especially impressive view), it’s at its most imposing as your drive through one of its arches.

Nicholson Cemetery view of Tunkhannock Viaduct
Looking out from the local cemetery towards Tunkhannock Viaduct.

If you want to really take some time to enjoy this beautiful spot, however, the best spot is at the small park along Route 11 just to the south of town. This is where you’ll find the historical marker for the bridge, information signs that tell more about its story, and a great view of the bridge.

The Tunkhannock Viaduct as seen from the small park just south of Nicholson PA
The Tunkhannock Viaduct as seen from the small park just south of town.

Today, this National Historic Landmark still stands as a testament to the engineering achievements of the past and also to the current transportation history of Pennsylvania. Visitors to the area can follow in the footsteps of President Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison who came to see the bridge.

To celebrate this heritage, Nicholson plays host every September to Bridge Day. The event features many craft vendors and informative lectures on the history of the bridge.

Exterior of the DL&W Station in Nicholson, Pennsylvania
The old DL&W Station in Nicholson is being restored to serve as an area museum.

The Nicholson Heritage Association is also renovating the old DL&W Railroad Station that sits on the outskirts of town. While the building has seen better days, it has a lot of historic charm on the inside and the hope is to turn it into a great museum that showcases the history of the viaduct in Nicholson and the area’s great railroading heritage.

Interior of the DL&W Station in Nicholson, PA
The inside of the station is in good shape, but sadly not yet open to the public.

Whether you are visiting Scranton, checking out Little Rocky Glen Preserve, enjoying the outdoors in the Endless Mountains, or are traveling Route 6, a short detour to see the Tunkhannock Viaduct is something that shouldn’t be missed.

Where is the Tunkhannock Viaduct?

Tunkhannock Viaduct passing over Tunkhannock Creek in Nicholson, PA
Looking down Tunkhannock Creek towards the viaduct.

The Tunkhannock Viaduct is located in northeastern Pennsylvania along Route 11 in the community of Nicholson. It’s about 30 minutes northwest of downtown Scranton and 20 minutes northeast of Tunkhannock.

To find it, simply direct your GPS to Nicholson, PA, or use the following coordinates: 41.625483, -75.778474.

Drone photo of the Tunkhannock Viaduct in Nicholson PA
It’s easy to see how the viaduct towers over the town in this drone view.

If you want to see the smaller, but also impressive Martin’s Creek Viaduct, head another 10 minutes north on Route 11. That viaduct crosses the road north of Hop Bottom and can’t be missed.

[Click here for information on how to use coordinates to find your destination.]

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3 thoughts on “Roadtripping to the Imposing Tunkhannock Viaduct in Nicholson, PA”

  1. My mother was born on a farm a couple of miles northwest of Nicholson the year the bridge was completed (1915). I grew up in north Jersey in the 50s but the bridge was a part of my childhood as we often made the drive up to the area to visit relatives. The interstate highways were just being started and most of the three hour drive went through every small town and stopped at every traffic light in both states. I remember the old three lane sections of Rt 611 with one lane in each direction and a suicide passing lane in the center. Dad and I used to fish and swim in the creek under the bridge arches.

    I’m creeping up on 70 and Nicholson hasn’t changed all that much since the days when I walked the downtown board sidewalks and played on the grade school swing set. I moved to Oklahoma in 1980 and today most of the relatives sleep peacefully on the hill side over looking the bridge, but we stop and visit when we’re in the area.

  2. Nice work. Enjoy your posts. Raised in Binghamton area and traveled down 81 many. Times. Is there a good exit off 81. To access this view . .?


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