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“one Of The True Wonders Of The World”

May 2024
1min read

Engineers occasionally tried to modify what they saw to be the stark ugliness of naked steel beams. The most notable of these attempts is the railroad bridge across the Cape Cod Canal at Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. The famous architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White was called in and designed two towers capped by steel abstractions meant to represent lighthouses. The bridge, finished in 1935, is shown at the left, with the main span raised to permit shipping to pass underneath. The first American concrete bridge, a humble twenty-foot span in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, was built in 1871. By the turn of the century this new material was capturing the interest of engineers, and in 1915 novelist Theodore Dreiser enthused: “It is rather odd to stand in the presence of so great a thing in the making and realize that you are looking at one of the true wonders of the world.” He was referring to the majestic Tunkhannock Viaduct, the huge concrete bridge shown below. Mainstay of a twelve-million-dollar thirty-nine-mile cutoff on the Lackawanna Railroad, the 2,375-foot Tunkhannock carries its railway line 240 feet above the valley it spans. It is still the biggest and most impressive concrete bridge in North America.

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