By the middle of the nineteenth century engineers had reached the limits of what traditional bridge building materials could offer. The Industrial Revolution brought new materials and new needs. The steam powered industries needed to get a steady supply of materials and to distribute their products far and wide. The ideal solution was the railway, which could transport large loads over long distances. Steam locomotives were becoming faster and more reliable and railways began to spread throughout industrialised countries. It was the beginning of the great railway age. However the railway locomotives required a level line to travel and so a new style of bridge was needed in order to overcome obstacles such as rivers valleys and canyons. These new rail bridges had to low, flat and strong. .
In this essay I will look the style, construction, function and significance of two rail bridges that went into construction in 1882. One made of iron and one made of steel.
The first bridge I will discuss is the Kinzua Viaduct in Kushequa, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. In the nineteenth century, the vast forests of northern Pennsylvania were supplying millions of board feet of timber to feed local industry, such as chemical plants and tanneries. The state also contained a rich source of oil, natural gas, and especially coal which was important to the growing economy. The nearby areas of Buffalo and New York were undergoing rapid industrialisation. This led to a high demand for coal. By 1880 Buffalo alone was using approximately three million tons of coal a year. However, an obstacle lay between Pennsylvania's coal deposits and the awaiting industry to the north and west, in the form of the Kinzua Creek Valley.
Railroads were used to transport these supplies that fueled the fires of industry, heated homes, and powered the trains themselves. The New York, Lake Erie, and Western Railroad and Coal Company recognised the profits that could be gained be transporting coal across the valley, as opposed to taking the much long route around the tops of the mountains.