The present Rockville Bridge is 100 years old this year. The bridge was the Pennsylvania Railroad crossing of the Susquehanna just north of Harrisburg on an alignment to use the "middle route" from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh(see Railroutes of the Alleghenies),
The third of three crossings at this location, the present bridge was completed March 30, 1902 by Drake & Stratton on the east end and H.S. Kerbaugh on the west....
The present bridge has 48 spans, some say intentionally representing the 48 states before Alaska and Hawaii(Dan Cupper dismisses this noting that when the bridge was built there was only 45 states), each 70 feet long. Here on a late Sunday evening August 24, 2002 Amtrak crosses from east to west. Note in the background one of the piers that the first two Rockville bridges used.
Total length is 3,820 feet, width is 52 feet built for 4 track. Another late evening shot on August 25th shows a NS freight being passed by Amtrak on the bridge. This photo is from the west shore looking north.
The bridge is 46 feet above the normal river level. On this late August evening, the river is about 3 feet at Harrisburg. A westbound NS trains of double stack trailers is accelerating after waiting for track clearance. This shot is from the east shore looking south.
Viewing the region around Rockville bridge gives dramatic proof that rivers preceded mountains as the Susquehanna cleanly cuts through a series of the first of the Allegheny system ridges, continuing its leisurely pace to the Chesapeake. Here we see a train of mostly CSXT loaded coal hoppers heading east led by NS power. My guess is that CSXT brought the coal across the Susquehanna on the ex Reading bridge to Rutherford then to Enola by way of this Rockville bridge. When track space permitted, we now see the CSXT coal heading east once again to perhaps a power station in the Lehigh Valley. Or this may be totally wrong, what is your theory?
CSXT has the distinction of falling off this bridge in August 1997 when pier 19 gave way and dumped 4 loads of coal in the river
Six highwater marks are painted on the east abutment of the current Rockville Bridge. Two of these marks were before the present bridge was built, but perhaps the predecessor bridge shared this abutment (see photo below). The top mark is the infamous Hurricane Agnes of June 1972, when the Susquehanna hit an all time high of 32.57 feet, 15 feet over flood stage. The Rockville Bridge stood, but all around the region rail lines were being wiped out, some never to be rebuilt. The Rockville Bridge withstood all floods, but the first wooden bridge was partially destroyed by a tornado.
From The Pennsylvania Railroad, A Pictorial History by E.P. Alexander, photos presumed to be from the Pennsylvania Railroad archives.