Technological Transitions

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Mon Feb 27 23:13:31 EST 2017

Abram commented on how the fantastic ErieLack photos are a view into the methods and machinery for executing heavy civil engineering work one hundred years ago. 

Another series of photos that illustrates this well (albeit with no N&W connection excepting one photo with an N&W gon in it) is hosted by the Miami Valley Conservancy. This organization was formed following the terrible March 1913 floods that heavily impacted Ohio, with the intent of eliminating future flood catastrophes via heavily engineered waterways and dry dams.

There's railroad content (line relocations), but I found fascinating that mix of muscle (men and mules) and industrial labor (steam), ascending and obsolete transportation modes (automobiles and interurbans vs canal) and host of other technological tipping points. 

If you like steam draglines and concrete and earthwork that were outsized for their time, you'll enjoy the album. 

Matt Goodman
Columbus, Ohio

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On Feb 21, 2017, at 7:14 AM, NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:

David W. Flickwir (1852-1935) arrived in Roanoke as Construction Engineer of the Shenandoah Valley RR, rose to General Superintendent of the N&W's Eastern General Division in 1890, and resigned to establish his own large-scale construction contraciting firm in 1895.  His home on South Jeffrerson Street still stands.  Two of his major construction projects were building portions of the Lackawanna Railroad's New Jersey Cut Off (Port Morris Jct to the Delaware River at Slateford Jct) and Pennsylvania Cut Off (Scranton-Binghamton.)  Flickwir's greatest work was surely the construction (1912-1915) of the staggeringly massive Tunkhannock Viaduct 40 miles northwest of Scranton - 240 feet high and weighing 670,000,000 pounds.  (If you are ever in the area, do go to visit Tunkhannock - you will be awed by its immensity.   And the equally impressive 1848 Starucca Viaduct of the Erie is only 40 miles from Tunkhannock.)

Steamtown holds the entire Lackawanna Railroad glass plate negative collection and each day releases scans of items from that collection.  Yesterday's release included three photographs of the Flickwir work on the Pennsylvania Cut Off in 1913, one of which shows a Flickwir 0-4-0 construction engine engaged in dumping dirt for a very large fill.

The images are interesting in that they show how major construction was done by steam locomotives and steam shovels, ropes, jib cranes, pulleys, sheaves and human muscle,  just before the advent of heavy machinery driven by internal combustion.

-- abram burnett

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