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Railroad Engineering Records: Bridges & Tunnels

This page presents records and firsts for railroad tunnels, bridges, and stations in the U.S. and worldwide.

More railroad records:  Early Railroads,  Locomotives,  Routes & Track,  Train Records,  Train Wrecks

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What was the first railway tunnel in the world?

The world's first railway tunnel was the Stodhart Tunnel on the Peak Forest Tramway at Chapel Milton, Derbyshire, UK. The Peak Forest Railway was a 6-mile horse- and gravity-powered railway that carried limestone from quarries to canal. The 280-foot single-track tunnel was completed in 1796. The north portal collapsed in 1949 during the realignment of a road over the tunnel, but the south portal remains standing today.

What was the first railroad tunnel in the USA?

The first railroad tunnel in the United States was the 901-foot Staple Bend Tunnel, five miles east of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The tunnel was built from 1831 to 1833 for the Allegheny Portage Railroad, a 36-mile gravity railroad that connected two canals in Central Pennsylvania. The railroad was rendered obsolete in 1854 with the opening of the steam-powered Pennsylvania Railroad. The tunnel was restored and opened to pedestrian traffic as part of the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in 2001.

What is the longest railway tunnel in the world?

The world's longest railway tunnel is the Gotthard Base Tunnel, a 35.4-mile tunnel under the Swiss Alps. Drilling was completed in 2010 and the tunnel is expected to open to rail traffic in 2016, shortening travel times and increasing capacity between Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.

The world's longest rail tunnel already operational (as of 2012) is the Seikan Tunnel in Japan. The 33.5-mile tunnel includes 14.5 miles under the Tsugaru Strait. The tunnel opened in 1988 and is operated by the Hokkaido Railway Company.

What is the longest railroad tunnel in the USA?

The longest railroad tunnel in the United States is the Cascade Tunnel at Stevens Pass. The 7.8-mile tunnel, located on the BNSF mainline through the Cascade Mountains between Spokane and Seattle, was completed on January 12, 1929, replacing the original 2.6-mile Cascade Tunnel that was built in 1900 and plagued by snow slides.

What was the longest railroad tunnel built prior to the patent of dynamite (1867)?

The Woodhead 1 Tunnel was the longest railway tunnel completed prior to the invention of dynamite. The 15,880-foot tunnel was completed by the Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne & Manchester Railway in 1845. Woodhead 1, and parallel Woodhead 2 (built 1852) and Woodhead 3 (built 1953), served as a rail link from Manchester to Sheffield in Northern England.  Woodhead 1 & 2 were closed in 1953 and Woodhead 3 in 1981.

What was the first underwater railway tunnel in the world?

The world's first underwater rail tunnel was the Thames Tunnel, built beneath the River Thames in London, England. Tunnel construction began in 1825 and it opened to pedestrian traffic on March 25, 1843. The tunnel was purchased by the East London Railway in 1865 and opened for rail traffic on December 7, 1869. The tunnel is currently used by the London Overground suburban rail system.

What was the first underwater railroad tunnel in the USA?

The first underwater rail tunnel in the USA was the St. Clair Tunnel beneath the St. Clair River between Port Huron, Michigan, USA and Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. The original 6,025-foot tunnel opened in 1891 and served Canadian National Railway until 1994 when a larger parallel replacement tunnel was completed.

What is the longest underwater railway tunnel in the world?

The Channel Tunnel between England and France has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel worldwide. The tunnel's total length is 31.4 miles, with 23.5 miles under the English Channel, and was opened by the Eurotunnel Group in 1994.

What is the longest underwater railroad tunnel in the USA?

The longest underwater tunnel in the USA, and all of North America, is the Transbay Tube which takes BART rapid transit trains beneath the bay between San Francisco and Oakland, California. The 3.6-mile tunnel was opened in September 1974.


What is the world's oldest bridge still in active railway use?

In 1810, the Glasgow, Paisley and Johnstone Canal built an aqueduct over the River Cart near Paisley, Scotland. The canal was purchased by the Glasgow & South Western Railway and much of the route (including original aqueduct) was used to construct the Paisley Canal Railway Line which has operated since 1885.

What is the highest railway bridge in the world?

The world's highest rail bridge will be the Chenab Bridge under construction in India. The 1,178 foot high and 4,314 foot long steel arch bridge is scheduled for completion in 2015, carrying a new railway line in Jammu and Kashmir over the Chenab River.

The highest railway bridge currently in use (as of 2012) is the Beipanjiang River Railway Bridge near Liupanshui in Guizhou province, China. The 902 foot high and 1,594 foot long steel and concrete arch bridge opened in 2001 across the Bei Pan River Gorge.

What is the highest railroad bridge in the USA?

The highest railroad bridge in the USA is the Pit River Bridge on the Union Pacific Railroad at Shasta Lake, California. The cantilever bridge carries a highway and two tracks over Shasta Lake at a height of 433 feet above the original water level of the Pit River. Completion of the 600 foot high Shasta Dam downriver from the bridge can increase the water level to within 30 feet of the rail deck.

The highest U.S. rail bridge as measured from deck to typical water level is the High Steel Bridge in Shelton, Washington. The 365 foot high bridge was constructed in 1929 by the Simpson Logging Company, carrying its logging railroad over the South Fork of the Skokomish River. The bridge was converted for road use in 1950 and is still open to automobile traffic today.

What is the longest railway bridge in the world?

The world's longest bridge of any type is the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge on the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway. The 102.4-mile viaduct in East China’s Jiangsu province opened in 2011, spanning a lake, rivers, and several cities. The world's second longest bridge, the 70.6-mile Tianjin Grand Bridge, is located on the same railway between Langfang and Qingxia.

What is the longest railroad bridge in the USA?

Norfolk Southern's Lake Pontchartrain Bridge between Slidell and New Orleans, Louisiana is the longest railroad bridge in the United States. The 5.8-mile bridge carries NS freight trains and Amtrak intercity passenger trains.

What is the longest stone masonry arch railroad bridge in the world?

The Rockville Bridge across the Susquehanna River is the longest stone masonry arch railroad bridge in the world. The current bridge, opened by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1902, replaced former wood and iron bridges. The Rockville Bridge features 48 spans with a total length of 3,820 feet, serving Norfolk Southern freight trains and Amtrak intercity passenger trains just north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


What is the world's busiest train station in terms of daily passenger volume?

The world's busiest train station is Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, Japan. Including intercity, commuter, and metro lines, the station serves 3,500,000+ daily passengers.

What is the busiest train station in the USA?

Pennsylvania Station in New York City is the busiest in the United States. Including Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, NJ Transit, and subway passengers, Penn Station serves 600,000+ people daily.

What is the world's largest train station in terms of platform capacity?

Grand Central Terminal in New York City is the largest in the world with 44 platforms.

When did U.S. railroads establish standard time?

For efficiency of scheduling and operations, American railroads instituted four standard time zones on November 18, 1883. The time of day was a local matter prior to standard time, with most towns using a local solar time based on "high noon" and maintained by a public town clock.


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