By the late 19th century, railroads had become the only efficient way to transport large amounts of supplies and commercial products over land in the western U.S. With varying landscapes that included deep canyons, thick forests and raging rivers, trains crossed these obstacles by the use of rail bridges. Many of these bridges still stand as modern marvels of design and these are the top five highest train bridges in the country.
Pit River Bridge
The Pit River Bridge, the highest train bridge constructed in the U.S., is located in Shasta Lake, California. Built in 1942, this 500-foot high cantilever-style bridge is also the highest combination road-rail bridge in the world with a rail length of 2,754 feet, a road length of 3,588 feet, and its largest span measured at 630 feet. It crosses the former canyon created by the Pit River, which was filled with water after the construction of the Shasta Dam.
West Branch Feather River Bridge
Located in Cherokee, California, the West Branch Feather River Bridge is the second highest train bridge in the country with a height of 450 feet and a central span of 576 feet. Built in 1962, it crosses Lake Oroville, the deepest man-made lake in the U.S., which was formed by the creation of the Oroville Dam. The bridge also is the second highest combination road and rail bridge in the world.
High Steel Bridge
The High Steel Bridge crosses the South Fork of the Skokomish River in Sheldon, Washington. Built in 1929 by the American Bridge Co. for the Simpson Logging Co. to transport the lumber in the region, it is the highest arch-style train bridge in the U.S. with an elevation of 365 feet. In 1950, it was converted from train to automobile use only and visitors can walk across the 366-foot span on foot.
Vance Creek Bridge
The Vance Creek Bridge also is located in Sheldon, Washington, just a few miles north of the High Steel Bridge. Also built in 1929 by the American Bridge Co. for the Simpson Logging Co., it is the second highest arch-style train bridge built in the U.S. with an elevation of 347 feet above the forest below. Unlike the High Steel Bridge, it was eventually abandoned.
Pecos River Railroad Bridge
The Pecos River Railroad Bridge, also known as the Pecos High Bridge, is located near Comstock, Texas. Built in 1892, 321 feet above the river, it was the highest bridge ever built in Texas and one of the highest train bridges in the U.S. at the time. It was constructed by Phoenix Bridge Co. for the Southern Pacific Railroad and is 2,180 feet in length with a central span of 185 feet.