Spanning the horizon for almost a half a mile, an historic viaduct commands the bucolic landscape one hundred and fifty feet below. But the scene is not in France or Italy, and the landmark isn’t from the Roman era.
The world’s third-longest bridge of its type happens to be in Greene County, Indiana.
Located between Solsberry and Tulip, the railroad viaduct known as the Tulip Trestle was constructed by the Indianapolis Southern Railroad on its southwestern line to Effingham, Illinois.
Work began on the bridge officially labeled “X75-6” in May, 1905. Crews of mostly Italian immigrants were employed to construct the concrete-and-steel viaduct at a cost of $246,504.
Supported by 18 towers, the bridge extends almost 2300 feet to cross the Richland Creek valley. Families would picnic nearby to watch the massive structure being erected. When construction was completed in December 1906, the railroad bridge was the country’s longest.
The Tulip Trestle was integral to the efficiency of the railway system through Greene County, which had been rapidly expanding in response to the area’s coal boom. While Indiana is coal-rich throughout its southwestern quadrant, Greene County’s coal was especially plentiful. 450 coal mines have operated in the county and its environs since the 1850s; mining activity peaked in the early twentieth century.
Once the viaduct completed the rail line to Effingham, Illinois, a connection with the north-south lines there opened up markets for Greene County coal from Chicago to New Orleans.