A viaduct is a long bridge consisting of a series of short spans supported on piers or towers. In the U.S. viaducts became popular in the era of railroad building to take the rails across wide valleys. Not long ago I had a two-viaduct day in northern Pennsylvania. The best photos are aerial shots with blue sky, fall foliage, and an historic locomotive traversing the span. I didn’t manage that, but viaducts are nonetheless interesting subjects worth capturing.

I found three aspects of viaducts I could treat on a cloudy winter’s day: the panorama of the setting, the craftsmanship of construction, and life under the bridge.

First stop was the Starrucca Viaduct near Lanesboro, Pennsylvania. It is a remarkable feat of engineering, built of bluestone in 1848 and at the time the most expensive railroad bridge in the world. The obvious thing to do, I think, is to take a long panorama to fit the long skinny subject.

Starrucca Viaduct
Starrucca Viaduct. Larger version here.

I took seven images from a point near the bank of Starrucca Creek. Photoshop™ did a nice job of splicing them into a single image, using the cylindrical projection option. I hand held the camera and tried to keep the horizon at the same level in each frame. With so many images, that technique does not work too well, so that the vertical field of view must be cropped to accommodate the lowest frame in the sequence. I’d have been better off with a tripod, but there was no room in my luggage for that. Besides, this is Quick Shot Artist.

The exposures varied over the many frames, and the creek end of the sequence was difficult to match in color and contrast with the the rest of the image. Despite its flaws, the image does a good job of recalling the location and the day.

The panorama does not show the craftsmanship of the bridge. Somehow, more than 150 years ago they chipped out bluestone and fit the pieces into an enduring 1000-foot bridge. A closeup provides more detail.

Starrucca Viaduct

My second viaduct of the day was the Tunkhannock Viaduct, over in Nicholson, about 30 miles away. While the Starrucca Viaduct is large, the Tunkhannock is enormous: 240 feet high and 2375 long. When is was built in 1915, it was the largest concrete bridge in the world. It’s still impressive.

An obligatory panorama shows the structure.

C ViaductStarrucca Viaduct. Larger version here.

It’s nice to include a car on the road. With spliced panoramas, there is a problem with the same car appearing in two frames, or with a car ending up in splice region. A car in the splice region appears as half a car. That happened in this sequence, so I used Photoshop to erase the fractional vehicle.

The panorama doesn’t convey the mammoth size of the structure. A house under the bridge shows the true size.

Tunkhannock Viaduct

It must be like living with a neighbor that keeps a Tyrannosaurus Rex in his back yard. After a while you’d ignore it.