Famous Railroad Landmarks Across The Country

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.

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.   For more information regarding these locations please visit the appropriate link below. 

Santa Fe's Cajon Pass, Scaling The San Bernardino Mountains 

Great Northern's 7.8-Mile Cascade Tunnel, Through The Cascades 

Carving A Path Through The Southern Appalachians, The Clinchfield Loops 

Western Maryland's Connellsville Extension, Offering A Western Outlet 

Baltimore & Ohio's Stiff Cranberry Grade Across Northern West Virginia 

Finding A Way Over The Sierras, Southern Pacific's Donner Pass 

Milwaukee Road's Eagle Nest Engineering Marvel Through Montana's Sixteen-Mile Canyon 

New York City's Hell Gate Bridge, Providing New Haven Access To Manhattan 

Western Mayrland's Sweeping Helmstetter's Curve 

The Hoosac Tunnel, The First Bore Through The Rugged Green Mountains 

Pennsylvania Railroad's Landmark Horseshoe Curve 

Western Pacific's Keddie Wye Through Northern California 

Florida East Coast's Audacious Key West Extension

Erie's Kinzua Viaduct Across Pennsylvania's Kinzua Valley 

The DL&W's Low-Grade "Air Line" Across Western New Jersey And Eastern Pennsylvania, The Lackawanna Cutoff 

Spanning The Great Salt Lake, Southern Pacific's Lucin Cutoff

The B&O's Main Line Improvement On The West End, The Magnolia Cutoff 

The Rio Grande's 6-Mile Moffat Tunnel, Offering A Low-Grade Route West Of Denver 

Jersey Central's Four-Track Main Line Across The Water, The Newark Bay Draw 

Further Improvements To The B&O's West End, The Patterson Creek Cutoff 

Spanning The Continental Divide, Milwaukee Road's Pipestone Pass

Crossing The Hudson, The Sweeping Poughkeepsie Bridge 

Southern's Main Line South Of Cincinnati, The Rathole Division

Santa Fe's Original Main Line Through Northern New Mexico, Raton Pass 

Pennsylvania Railroad's Four-Track, Stone Span Over The Susquehanna, The Rockville Bridge 

Southern's Torturous Route Through Western North Carolina, Saluda Grade 

The B&O's Main Line Over The Western Appalachians, Sand Patch

The Best Engineered Route Through The Cascades, Milwaukee Road's Snoqualmie Pass

The First Route Through The Cascades, Northern Pacific's Stampede Pass

Milwaukee Road's Route Through Montana's Bitterroots, St. Paul Pass

Erie's Breathtaking Stone-Arch, Starrucca Viaduct 

An Engineering Marvel, Southern Pacific's Tehachapi Loop 

Through The Rockies, Not Around Them:  Rio Grande's Tennessee Pass 

One Of The First Stone-Arch Bridges, The B&O's Thomas Viaduct 

Richmond's Impressive Triple Crossing 

The Illinois Central's Tulip Viaduct 

The Lackawanna's Imposing Tunkhannock Viaduct 

An Incredible Engineering Feat, Milwaukee Road's Vendome Loop 

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. 

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

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