I was recently contacted by Mary Everett of Greene County, Indiana who wondered about the Greene County Railroad Viaduct. She informed me of area claims which state that the 700m (2,295ft) long, 48m (157ft) high railroad viaduct is the “third largest such structure in the world”. She asked if I was aware of any evidence to support or refute that claim.
To define largest is always somewhat complicated. We could assume this means longest, but that ignores the height. Which of those should we give greater precedence to? To be larger does it need to defeat both or just one? It’s my opinion that beating both makes an obvious winner, but substantially beating in either still makes it “larger”. Additional complexity comes in deciding whether or not to consider width or spans. Finally, what is meant exactly by “such structure.” I assume we are only talking about viaducts used to carry rail. However, what is the difference between a bridge and a viaduct? As far as I can tell, a viaduct is a type of bridge that is multi-span and has to carry vehicles.
With those decision criteria established, I decided to use Wikipedia’s List of Bridges By Length as a starting point. Here is what I found…
The Binhai Mass Transit, Bridge No. 1 in China is 25,800m (84,645ft) long. They do not state how high this bridge is, yet it is without a doubt the longest bridge in the world that carries rail. Finally, the bridge carries two-way commuter rail.
China also has the second longest bridge. The Kam Sheung Road-Tuen Mun viaduct which is part of KCR West Rail in Hong Kong is 13,400m (43,963ft) long. Again, the height of this bridge was not stated. This bridge also carries two-way commuter rail.
To find the third longest rail bridge you need to travel to either Denmark or Sweden as the Oresund Bridge connects these two countries with a length of 7,845m (25,732ft). The only height measurement of the Oresund Bridge given is to say the highest pillar is 204m (669ft). This measurement is not extraordinarily useful in making a judgement since standard traffic runs on an upper level while trains run on a lower deck.
Finally we reach the largest rail bridge in the United States with the Huey P. Long Bridge in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana measuring in at 7,003m (22,996ft) and 41m (135ft) high. This is also a bridge that combines rail and standard traffic. The rail viaduct is much longer and extends elevated into the city of New Orleans.
The list continues on Wikipedia, but at this point it seems clear that the Greene County Railroad Viaduct is stretching to claim third largest such structure. In fact, I’m left wondering which three they specifically are claiming rank above them…
One other bridge you may find from a simple Google search for world’s largest railroad viaduct”. The Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct or Nicholson Bridge is 724m (2,375 ft) in length and 73m (240ft) high. This bridge makes claim to be the World’s Largest Concrete Railroad Bridge. I wasn’t prepared to disprove this as it seems pretty specific.
The Greene County Railroad Viaduct is still a very unique and amazing structure. I was sorry to have to disprove it’s status as the people in the region seem very proud of it. Thanks again to Mary for piquing my curiosities and for sending me along some great pictures of the viaduct.