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We are known as PaWingers or just The Wingers by our Geocaching friends. When we found our first cache we had to come up with a name to log the find. We came up with this name simply because of residing in Pa. and because one of our many passions is cruising this beautiful country on our Honda Goldwing. Aside from geocaching we are passionate about most anything outdoors including hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling and biking. We are blessed beyond words with a wonderful son and daughter in law. We're also blessed with some terriffic family and friends. We consider ourselves very fortunate due to the fact that after being married over 40 years we still enjoy these things together.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mother Nature Shows Her Fury and Strength

Kinzua Bridge was an enormous iron structure that was erected in 1882.  At that time it was the highest railroad bridge in the world.  It stood 301 foot high and spanned 2,053 feet with Kinzua Creek in the valley below.  The original bridge was constructed of wrought iron and in 1900 this was replaced with solid steel to accommodate heavier trains.  Unfortunately they had the right idea of replacing the wrought iron with structural steel but didn't replace the iron anchor bolts.  This turned out to be a fatal mistake for the aging bridge.

Up until 2002 this historic icon of the Pa Wilds carried excursion trains across the Kinzua Valley much to the delight of young and old.  In 2002 an inspection revealed some damage and structural weakness and the bridge was shut down to train traffic.  On a Monday, July 21st 2003, Mother Natured displayed her awesome fury as Kinzua Bridge got hit with an F1 tornado with wind speeds of 71 to 112 miles per hour.  The anchor bolts failed and the tornado made easy work of 11 of the 20 towers leaving a mass of twisted steel and devastation.

Years after the tornado wiped out the bridge there was much controversy as to the future of this bridge.  Would it be rebuilt or would the park simply be closed down and left to be taken over by nature.  It was finally decided to use part of what remained and after making sure it was safe, build an observation deck.  Yesterday, we decided to take advantage of the nice day and blue skies and check it out.

We walked out on the bridge and felt completely safe strolling out to the observation deck.  At this point our confidence turned to apprehension as we cautiously approached the glass panels making up part of the decking.  Our first steps out onto the glass were a bit unnerving but that feeling quickly passed.  It was truly an awesome experience and the project very well done.  Even though we have seen the twisted steel several times from the far bankside overlook, seeing it up close and personal from the observation deck gives you a whole new perspective.  We highly recommend checking this place out for yourself.

Looking down at the twisted steel gives a whole new perspective.

This shot was taken with the lens aiming down through the glass deck.  Note the reflection of the clouds along the fringe of the picture.

Taking advantage of a quiet day on the bridge.

Taking time out to catch a few rays.

There will be many weekends where this just won't be possible due to crowds.  We decided to take advantage of this opportunity.

This shot was taken from the observation deck and shooting toward the parking area.  I liked this shot, hope you do too.

Hope these towers are strong now.  Wonder if they replaced the anchor bolts!!!


Anonymous said...

From what I was made to understand the bolts were not the problem. The contractor who was refurbishing the structure had taken too many of the bolts out at one time without replacing them and severely weakened the structure. With the bolts in place in would have withstood the wind. WIthout the bolts in place is was in danger of collapse even without the high wind.

PaWingers said...

I'm sure there are tons of theories as to what caused the failure and we'll never know for sure which is correct. The theory I mentioned came right from the first paragraph on the large sign as you walk down the path to the bridge. I assumed this was probably reliable info.

Les Barr said...

An interesting Post you have done here. While on a ride up thru RT6 one year, on our Goldwing, we had stopped off at the Kinzua Dam, but never took the time to see the old Bridge.

It's too bad that the old Bridge could not withstand the heavy wind. However, by your Images, it seems that they have done some good with what is left of the Bridge. I think that I would be just as apprehensive walking on that glass, as you were.

Would like to see the place again after so many years, but this time not on a Goldwing. Kinzua Bridge is a good 3 hr. drive for us.

Thanks for sharing

Coy Hill said...

Thanks for taking me back. Back in the late 90's we visited the bridge and walked across between trains. the space between the railroad ties gave my wife the willies. I does look like they made the best of a bad situation.

Love the photo job you did also, good work!

Willard said...

An excellent series, Tom. Two or three of the photos capture the feeling of height so well that I actually feel slightly dizzy looking at them. They make me feel as thought I am actually there without any protective glass or railing.