Monday, May 4, 2009

Kinzua Bridge State Park and Speeders

We were still waiting for the truck and so we picked up some phamphlets on attractions in the area. One such was the Kinzua Bridge State Park and so we packed a lunch and headed to the park. Taking the scenic road, we really couldn't see much except trees, and so it was a surprise as we arrived at the bridge and saw all the speeders!
Whats a speeder? Well its a motor rail car that was used to inspect tracks for damage. Larger rail cars were also used to carry repair gangs to work. They were phased out with specialized pickup trucks but luckily a few were saved and restored by rairoad buffs and NARCA,(North American Rail Car Association), was born. NARCA was having a ride on the rails at Kinzua State Park!
The group was eating lunch at the bridge and we were able to walk along the cars, asking questions and taking photos. As we ate lunch the group loaded up, sounded their piercing locomotive horns and headed off to Kane, riding the rails of course. We later came across the group traveling along the rails near Kane.
The Bridge itself is quite a sight and had quite a story. Its over 300 feet high and spans over 2000 feet. Built in 1882, to allow coal trains to carry coal to Buffalo, it was rebuilt in 1900. Unfortunately they rebuilt it using the old wrought iron bolts, on the foundation, leaving the weakness in the whole system. See the bridge was designed to carry a heavy load but not to resist much upward force, (At least on the east side, the west side was built to resist wind speeds and uplift).
So when a tornado came along, in 2003, it hit the bridge perfectly wrong, lifting the east side, shearing the old bolts,(which had been weakened by corrosion and fractures), and the tower started to collapse. A collapse that was witnessed by a construction crew that was strengthening the bridge. It took 30 seconds for the 94 mph winds to cause the damage seen in the image. Luckily no one was injured!
It was a really amazing site, to see the wreck of the bridge and to see the fallen spiral pattern of the trees. They had planned on building it so people could use it as a bike trail but there is no way most people could have crossed it. Talk about acrophobia, its half the height of Devils Tower! Add a cross wind, no way.
Finishing our lunch we watched the rail cars motor away down the tracks and continued on our tour of the scenic highway. Again there are just too many trees here and you really can't see much. Hmmm, maybe I lived out west too long? Clear skies.

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