Altamaha River Bridge near Hazlehurst

The Altamaha River begins at the merging of the Ocmulgee and Oconee in south central Georgia. About a mile downstream from that confluence is this former Georgia & Florida Railroad bridge, built by the American Bridge Company in 1908-09 at a cost of slightly under $140,000.

Alongside the south river bank is the drawbridge section. Of a type known as a Scherzer rolling lift, the 102-foot lift span rolls back from the river in a motion somewhat similar to that of a rocking chair. As it rolls, a huge counterweight moves down while the truss and railbed move up. In the photo above, the counterweight can be seen at the top left. Directly under it are the two "rockers," called segmental girders, on which the span rolls. When the bridge is closed, trains pass beneath the counterweight and between the segmental girders.

The bridge has not been used in many years, having been abandoned by Norfolk Southern. (The G&F came under the control of Southern Railway in 1963, and Southern merged into Norfolk Southern in 1982.) Because steamboats vanished from the river nearly a century ago and modern boats have adequate vertical clearance, there is rarely, if ever, a need to raise the bridge.

Along with the lift span, the bridge has three fixed spans.

A closer view of the rolling mechanism. The operator's shack, now gone, was trackside to the left of the photo.

(All photos October 2012).


RailGa.com. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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