The Lyman Viaduct under construction, July 4, 1871
It’s hard to gauge just how high the Lyman Viaduct is until you click on the photograph to get a larger view and look closely at the bottom. See the man and the horse (or maybe it’s a mule, it’s hard to tell)? Then compare them to the enormity of the trestle, then under construction. Amazing, isn’t it?
At 1100 feet long and 137 feet high, the Lyman Viaduct iron railroad trestle was built 1872-1873 to span the valley of Dickinson Creek near Colchester, Connecticut. Named after David Lyman, the man who built the New Haven, Middletown & Willimantic section of the Air Line Railroad, the trestle was a major link in a railroad line that was billed as the fastest route between Boston and New York City.
In 1912, as trains became heavier and the railroad became concerned about the stability of the trestle, the Lyman Viaduct was filled in with sand and gravel. It is now part of the Air Line State Park Trail, on the Rails-to-Trails network. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in August 1986.
The Lyman Viaduct is a technological marvel, showing the great lengths Americans went to to take advantage of the most powerful mode of transportation of the time. By the early 1900s almost every town in Connecticut had a railroad line easily accessible, enabling travel among the towns and cities as well as across the nation.
This primary source conforms to the Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Framework for Grade 8 students, particularly Strand 1.5 — weigh the impact of America’s Industrial Revolution, industrialization and urbanization on the environment.
Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections