NICHOLSON — The 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Nicholson Bridge, set for Sept. 11-13 at various downtown venues, could attract as many as 20,000 visitors, according to Marion Sweet, Nicholson Heritage Association chair.
That’s about 27 times the borough’s latest population count of 746 residents.
“Twenty-five years ago in 1990, we did the 75th anniversary, and we thought we were going to have, we figured 6,000 people, and we had 12,000 in the three days. So, now they’re telling us we could have as many as 20,000 because back then, we didn’t have Facebook, we didn’t have computers 25 years ago.
“Where are we going to put them?” she said. “I don’t know.”
Parking will be available on some downtown streets and at the baseball field and carnival grounds where shuttles will transport guests to the activities.
But parking isn’t the only concern. The committee is also doing all it can to ensure no one goes hungry while in town.
“We’ll have a lot of professional food trucks in, because last time we literally ran out of food,” Sweet said. “There was nothing in town. By 3:00 in the afternoon, there was no food. They didn’t plan for that many… The (owner of the) pizza place said he made more money in those three days than he made in a whole year. So now, let me tell you, these places in town, they’re planning on a lot.”
She expects non-food related small businesses in town to benefit from the weekend economy boost, as well.
“I really hope that all of the stores do well,” she said. “We only have a few stores. We have a drug store and we have two other stores that have a lot of memorabilia in them, but the stores also have nice little gifts — the one store has a lot of antiques in it.”
The three-day celebration, hosted by the Nicholson Heritage Association on Friday and Saturday and the Nicholson Women’s Club on Sunday, will feature live entertainment, a parade, a vintage photography exhibit, historical presentations, fireworks, souvenir and craft vendors and more.
One may wonder - why such a fuss for a concrete bridge?
According to Sweet, the world’s largest reinforced concrete railroad bridge is much more to the area than “just a bridge.” Without it, there would likely be no Nicholson, and possibly even no Factoryville or Hop Bottom. The town grew from a few houses around the railroad, and the railroad could not exist where it does without the viaduct.
She explained in the 1840s, Scranton had a lot of iron ore and coal, which needed to be transported to the Great Lakes. The iron was there to make the rail and the businessmen knew the route they needed to take, so they brought in engineers to map it out from Leggetts Gap (Scranton) to Hallstead where it met up with another line which continued to New York.
“They ran that route for a good many years,” she said. “They had to have pusher trains, and there was a lot of hills, a lot of climbing, a lot of curves, and it was kind of a treacherous thing. So when William Truesdale became president of the railroad, he decided they needed to do something about the curves, and they needed to do something about the steep inclines. So all the engineers and the architects went through, and that’s when they changed the line to where it is now.”
And this 39.6 mile stretch, called The Clarks Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, created the need for the viaduct.
According to the association’s website, nicholsonheritage.org, the viaduct was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. Construction began in 1912 and its dedication was held on Nov. 6, 1915. The project designer was Abraham Burton Cohen and George J. Ray was chief engineer. In 1975, the American Society of Civil Engineers designated it as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and on April 11, 1977, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
More information about the history of the Nicholson Bridge, also known as the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct or Tunkhannock Viaduct, as well as a full schedule of events, can be found online at nicholsonbridge100th.com.