Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Old Railroad Bridge


From the historical marker at the site of the Old Railroad Bridge:

In 1832, the Alabama legislature authorized the Florence Bridge Company to construct this bridge across the Tennessee River.  In 1840, it opened as a toll bridge.  Twice damaged by storms, it was reopened in 1858 as a double-decked bridge by the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.  Additional piers were added to support the large wooden superstructure with trains using the upper deck while the lower deck served as a toll bridge.  In April 1862, the Confederate army burned the bridge. Later in the Civil War, the piers were used to assist in ferry crossings and to anchor a pontoon bridge built by Gen. John B. Hood’s Confederate Army of Tennessee in November 1864.  After the war, both decks of the bridge were rebuilt and returned to service in 1870.

 In 1892, an engine and five cars crashed through both decks into the river.  The superstructure was replaced with steel spans which are still visible.  A turn span crossed the navigation channel until 1962 when a lift span was installed and used until 1992.  Trains used the upper deck until 1988, as did streetcars from 1904 to 1933.  The lower deck served as a toll bridge until O’Neal Bridge opened in 1939.  In 1993, the Norfolk-Southern Railroad Company donated the bridge to the Old Railroad Bridge Company.  The 1560-foot long lower deck was restored to serve as a walking trail.  With the original piers a part of the present structure, it is the oldest river bridge in Alabama.
Sponsored by the Old Railroad Bridge Company and Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation [2010]


Looking east from the railroad bridge: Singing River Bridge and Wilson Dam

On the railroad bridge looking west: The O'Neal Bridge

Local historian, Harry Wallace, tells how young men in the open street cars that crossed the Tennessee River on this bridge would swing out over the side of the car to impress the ladies. 

What a beautiful gift this group of volunteers gave us all.  They worked diligently to make sure the bridge would be open to the public and never destroyed.

Walking there is a lovely way to spend a glorious autumn afternoon.