Notable landmarks and famous locations can be distinguished as noteworthy structures
and feats, which were extremely difficult to accomplish, especially during the early years of the railroad industry when mechanized equipment had yet to be invented (such as the B&O's Thomas Viaduct among others). These include
such things as impressive bridges and mountain passes, which required
long tunnels to circumvent (such as Moffat Tunnel). For purposes of
this site we will discount stations and depots since there is already a
section of the website covering that topic. Today, many of these fabled
locations remain in regular use, some more than a century old and even
those locations which have been abandoned still carry an aura about them.
CSX C44-9W #9021 leads a westbound freight out of the tunnel at Sand Patch, Pennsylvania on December 21, 1995.
Many of the famous railroad locations
around the country were constructed nearly, if not more than, a century
ago. Infrastructure such as the Tunkhannock bridge built by the
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad or the Snoqualmie tunnel
built by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad were
constructed during a time when the industry was booming and rails were
the only efficient means of moving goods and people. In contrast, a
significant rail infrastructure project has not been completed in well
over a half-century. Of course, during that span trains lost leverage
to trucks, cars, and planes with there being little need for such massive projects to be carried out.
Several Delaware & Hudson Alcos including RS36s #5017 and #5020 as well as RS11 #5002 roll under the Starrucca Viaduct at Lanesboro, Pennsylvania along the road's famed Penn Division (now abandoned) during late March of 1976.
With the resurgence of rail over the last 30+ years it remains to be seen if a new awe-inspiring bridge or tunnel will be attempted although with mountains of paperwork now required, like environmental reviews and public acceptance, the chances are slim. As colossal as many of these engineering feats were perhaps what made some of them even more impressive was the materials used, particularly those projects built before concrete became an economical and viable support base. For instance, in the eastern United States many early bridges and viaducts were constructed using local stone, hand-cut and laid by experienced masons (most of which were Italian or Irish immigrants).
The precision and stoutness of their work continues to carry on today as
most of these bridges (i.e., the Erie Railroad's Starrucca Viaduct in
Pennsylvania, the B&O's Thomas Viaduct in Maryland, and the
Pennsylvania Railroad's Rockville Bridge also in Pennsylvania) remain in
regular use (they are also listed on either the National Register of Historic Places and/or as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark), more than 100 years since they were built! While this section looks to highlight many famous feats of engineering, such as bridges and tunnels, it will also look at
well known locations and "railfan hot spots" such as the Santa Fe's Tehachapi Loop and the busy intersection that is Fostoria, Ohio. For more information regarding these locations please visit the appropriate link below.
Sadly, a number of these locations or structures are either completely gone, no longer used in their original capacity or used for other purposes (in particular all of the locations
along the Milwaukee Road's Pacific Coast Extension). Perhaps most
importantly, however, is that they offer a glimpse at not only the might
of this great nation but also the awe-inspiring engineering feats that
we were capable of long before the days of computers and other fancy
gadgets. Perhaps one day in the future we will again see such
impressive projects completed (or rebuilt) by the railroad industry.
A westbound Norfolk Southern stack train led by C40-9W #9581 flies over the historic Rockville Bridge at Marysville, Pennsylvania headed for Pittsburgh on August 4, 2007.
Most famous railroad engineering feats were constructed either entirely
or partially by a company that is no longer in existence. Known as
"fallen flags," it is a term describing those railroads whose corporate
name has been dissolved either through merger, bankruptcy, or liquidation. At one time in the United States there were nearly 140 Class I railroads (or those with at least $1 million annual operating revenue at that time). For more information regarding fallen flags please click here. Also, for more information about other engineering feats such as stations and depots please click here.