Tracks of Time in the Twin Tiers

By Matt Markham

May 27, 2011 Updated May 27, 2011 at 7:38 PM EDT

Susquehanna, PA (WBNG Binghamton) The railroad has had a tremendous impact on how our area developed and is now identified. But, perhaps that is no more evident than in part of Susquehanna County.

They say they don't make things like they used to. The Starrucca Viaduct has stood the test of time.

"It's a remarkable landmark," said William Young, a historian who literally wrote the book on the viaduct. "How many bridges that are over 150 years old would still be carrying rail traffic?"

It was built quickly to meet demands of the heyday of railroads.

"They had to get to Binghamton by the end of 1848 or lose their charter," Young said. "So they had every reason to press very hard."

The New York and Erie Railroad built the viaduct to cross the valley.

"It's amazing really," Young said. "They did most of the work on this remarkable bridge in only seven months."

Just to the west the trains rolled in to Susquehanna Depot. Walt Fisk sees the bustling yard in his mind's eye.

"Sometimes through here, there were 70 or 80 trains a day," Fisk said. "There were thirteen tracks over there where we switched cars. Trains would come in from the East, and we'd switch them out."

Once up to 8,000 cars would pass through Susquehanna. It may be 100 now.

"It was an all together different world from what you have today," Fisk said.

But, the industry is coming back. Short lines are seeing more traffic and are laying track, and the trains still go over the viaduct.

"They go over about once a day," said Arnold Terpstra, who lives right next to the viaduct in Lanesboro. "We see people from all over the world, they come here."

"This bridge's got a lot of character," Terpstra said.

The Starrucca Viaduct is a simple stone arch design that is not only a work of art, but identifies where this community has been and where it's going.

The construction of the viaduct was supervised by James Kirkwood, for whom the Town of Kirkwood is named.

After working here, he went on to oversee the construction of the Pacific Railroad westward from St. Louis.