An awe-inspiring bridge billed as the Eighth Wonder of the World when it was completed in 1882 has opened as a pedestrian walkway to visitors.
The historic Kinzua Viaduct in Pennsylvania, originally built from iron, was the highest and longest in the world at the time of construction, measuring 301 feet high and 2,053 feet long.
It was rebuilt using steel in 1900 and stood firm for more than a century before being mostly destroyed by a tornado in 2003.
Walkway in the air: Visitors to Kinzua Viaduct can now walk the 300-foot high track, which once was a pathway for commercial trainsBut the bridge has been remodelled and now the breath-taking views once reserved for train passengers – who wanted the experience of flying – can be enjoyed by members of the public after the walkway was opened yesterday.
Glass panels have been placed along the wooden flooring to allow walkers vertigo-inducing vistas of the valley below.
'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, from Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.The Kinzua Viaduct was built in Allegheny National Forest, north-west Pennsylvania, in 1882 to speed trains loaded with coal and timber to market.
Thomas L. Kane, president of the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railway, had needed to find a route off the main line in Pennsylvania, from Bradford south to the coal fields in Elk County. The fastest way to do so was to build a bridge to cross the Kinzua Valley.
Unique glimpse: A shot of what visitors to the walkway will see when they set offAbove the trees: Walkers can get incredible views and a sense of history from the walkwayEdge of the Eighth Wonder of the World: A shot of the Kinzua Bridge, with remains left strewn in the valley, from 2004Skywalk: The first visitors to the viaduct, opened yesterday, try out the glass viewing panelsIt took a crew of 40 just 94 working days to construct the viaduct between May and August, mainly because trestles coming in kit form were used instead of scaffolding.
At 301 feet above the valley – 24 feet higher than top of the Brooklyn Bridge towers – the bridge traversed a 2,053-foot gulf.
It hummed with commercial railroad traffic six days a week, but on Sundays it was crowded with pleasure riders who came from all over to experience the tracks across the sky.
Excursion trains from as far away as Buffalo, New York, and Pittsburgh would come just to cross the bridge.
'There were no airplanes, so if anyone wanted to experience what it was like to fly, they'd take a Sunday train across Kinzua,' Linda Devlin, executive director of Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau told MSNBC. 'It was world renowned.'
It was rebuilt in 1900 by famed French railroad engineer Octave Chanute, who used steel to cope with heavier trains. He would become better known as the Wright brothers tutor and was eulogised in 1910 as the father of aviation.
Upon completion of the Kinzua restoration, Chanute boasted the bridge would stand 100 years.
His hopes were exceeded by three. A tornado travelling at around 40 mph blew down 11 of the 20 towers on July 21, 2003. Corroded anchor bolts holding the bridge to its foundations had failed.
Fortunately, there were no human deaths or injuries.
Do look down: Reinforced glass panels allow visitors a perspective of the heightOriginal: This is the wrought iron Kinzua Bridge, before its reconstruction in 1900Speedy construction: The bridge took 40 workers just 94 days to build because trestles coming in kit form were used instead of scaffoldingAttraction: Excursion steam locomotives, such as this one, travelled the viaduct until as recently as 2002The bridge had stayed in commercial service until 1959 before being sold to the state of Pennsylvania in 1963, becoming the centrepiece of the new 329-acre Kinzua Bridge State Park.
Today, the Kinzua Sky Walk perches atop six now repaired towers and concludes with a reinforced-glass view of the valley below. Built at a cost of $4.3m, visitors can enjoy spectacular landscapes while walking above the treetops in the park that also offers picnic areas, hiking and camping.
One of those in attendance at yesterday’s ribbon-cutting was 96-year-old Odo Valentine, a barnstorming pilot with more than a little history himself.
Fantastic stunt: The picture of Odo Valentine flying through Kinzua Viaduct in a biplane in 1939, which stayed hidden for 70 years'When I was a kid just starting to fly, I told my dad one day I was going to fly through Kinzua bridge,' Mr Valentine told MSNBC. 'And he said, "Son, if you’re going to do it, you’d better have someone take a picture 'cause no one’s ever going to believe it."'
On July 4, 1939, he flew a propeller biplane with a 32-foot wingspan perpendicular between the 64-foot centre spans at 110 mph.
One slip and Mr Valentine would have left a different sort of mark on Kinzua.
He deliberately chose July 4 because he knew everyone would be at a nearby holiday parade but immediately began quashing rumours of the stunt when he learned bridge owners were angry and determined to sue if they ever caught the reckless pilot, who was sure to lose his license.
For 70 years the Mr Valentine kept quiet and swore the cameraman and another witness to secrecy.
No one ever found out, he never lost his license and went on to be a decorated pilot trainer in World War II and the Korean War. He was even friends with famed aviator Eddie Rickenbacker and baseball ace Ted Williams.
'When the bridge came down, I thought I’d see if I could find that picture up in the attic. I was sure my wife had thrown it away.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2038391/Kinzua-Viaduct-Railroad-bridge-Pennsylvania-named-8th-Wonder-World.html#ixzz1YJJr14pA
In: Other Entertainment
Tags: Railroad, bridge, eight, wonder, world, when, built, 1882
Location: Pennsylvania, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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