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Visual Evidence 
Image 2: Crossing Water, the Thomas Viaduct

The B&O Railroad constructed the Thomas Viaduct in 1835 to cross the Patapsco River Valley near Relay, Maryland.

The B&O Railroad constructed the Thomas Viaduct in 1835 to cross the Patapsco River Valley near Relay, Maryland. The intent was to make the viaduct as strong and durable as possible, so stone was used as the main building material. Later on in the 19th century, railroads decided stone was too expensive and instead converted to wooden or iron bridges. This stone viaduct still stands today, supporting modern CSX freight trains.

Questions for Image 2:

  1. Why were viaducts and bridges built by railroad companies?

  2. This viaduct was constructed by the B&O Railroad in 1835; why do you think it is still around today?

  3. Compare the “road” provided by the viaduct to the “road” you see on the banks of the Patapsco River below the bridge?

  4. What difficulties would those who built this viaduct have faced when constructing it in the 1830s?

  5. Which do you think would present the more difficult challenge when building a railroad: crossing waterways or mountains?
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