I wonder how many people will include Nicholson, PA as one of their travel destinations this summer? We were just there this weekend. It wasn’t our first time to visit this sleepy, small village. Through the years, we’ve driven through it many times. Northeastern PA is dotted with small towns, so small that if you blink while driving through, you’ve missed them. Not so with Nicholson. It has a landmark you can’t miss. In fact, every time we drive through the town, we are awe struck with its amazing bridge and it appears that this little town lives side by side this majestic bridge in quiet awe.
Work was started on the Nicholson Bridge in May 1912 and it was completed three
years later. It was formally dedicated on Saturday, November 6, 1915. It is still considered the largest concrete railroad bridge in the world. My husband always shakes his head in disbelief at how such a undertaking was accomplished, nearly a century ago.
I will not give the complete history of this magnificent structure, because it is easily found on the internet and I want to tell you about our trip there and what effect a closer look at this awesome bridge had on us. This massive structure is 2,375 feet long and
spans the valley of Nicholson and the Tunkhannock Creek. It was built and owned by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. It cut the running time between NYC and Buffalo by 20 minutes and reduced the freight train run by a half hour.
You can’t help but appreciate the beauty of its 10 arches, nor can the average person visualize its construction feat. The bridge stands 240 feet high, two of its piers are 92 feet below the creek bottom and others, 60 feet below. Legend has it that a man was buried alive when he fell into the wet concrete, but this has not been proven true. However, at least four persons were killed during construction. On Sundays when work ceased, tourists rode the concrete buckets for the thrill of their life and a breath-taking view of the countryside.
Nothing that exciting greeted our arrival there. In fact, sleepy and quiet are two words that best describe Nicholson where today only 767 people reside in 302 households. I read where 300,000 people moved into town to build the bridge. We had packed up our
vintage camera gear, when I say we, I mean my husband and daughter, Janine, who are new owners of Kodak Autographic cameras dating back to the early 1900’s. The results on 120 film are yet to be developed. Of course our digital cameras made the trip, too, and our son-in-law, Matt, had researched several geocaching spots in the area. Geocaching is a treasure hunting game and in the few short years that he has been enjoying this hobby he has found over 400 geocache sites.
And now for the hightlights of our visit. We traipsed up a dirt lane to the railroad track at the top of the bridge, just in time for the passing of a Canadian Pacific Railway train of
nearly 30 cars and the engineer actually acknowledged our presence with a blast on his diesel horn. After lots of picture taking, our geocaching venture took us, less then a mile away, to Stephen Cemetery and instructions not only directed us to the location of the cache, but challenged us to find the tombstone of Priscilla Basset and to learn how she died. Janine found it and it told a sad story. Priscilla was only 20 years old when she died and the cause of her death was drowning.
As we left the majestic span of the bridge behind us, we knew the Canadian Pacific Railway was its current owner, but they could never take it away from the people of Nicholson, surely that’s to whom it really belongs.