Series-- Exploring Railroad History: Letchworth State Park (near Rochester, NY)

Posted by John Brady on

The construction of railroads allowed the U.S. to grow and develop economically, so it's no wonder that we can see railroad history everywhere we look-- if only we pay attention!

A recent trip to Letchworth State Park near Rochester, NY (about 4.5 hr from Pittsburgh) allowed one of our employees to explore the "Grand Canyon of the East" and its many waterfalls. However, what she wasn't expecting to see was a train crossing a famous bridge-- the Portage Viaduct/ Genesee Arch Bridge. 

Upstate New York, like Western Pennsylvania, has a long history related to transportation, including engineering marvels like the Erie Canal. Industry demands in the region demanded the development of rail infrastructure to transport good (as well as people!) across the state. While Upstate New York has fewer hills than Pennsylvania, other engineering challenges emerged, including the need to traverse gorges!

The original bridge over the Genesee river gorge in Letchworth State Park was build in 1852 and made of timber. The wooden trestle bridge was the longest and tallest wooden bridge in the world at the time, but was destroyed in a fire in 1875. An iron bridge was built to replace it and was used until 2017-- however, the bridge's age caused restrictions and slowdowns on Norfolk Southern's Southern Tier route. The current bridge is 240 feet tall and was completed in 2017 and features a steel arch design.

If you're ever near Rochester, don't miss out on this opportunity to view beautiful waterfalls and learn more about local railroad history! Wait for the train by the Upper Falls-- it's worth it!


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