Bridges, Trestles, and Viaducts
Over the past 170 years Georgia's railway builders have used a variety of structures to carry heavy trains across streams and roadways. Earthen fills with culverts are adequate for many small watercourses, but often the job requires a wooden trestle, a masonry arch, or a steel bridge. Here's a small sampling of the rail spans found in the Peach State:
• Wells Viaduct, Toccoa. Amtrak's Crescent crosses this sky high bridge over the North Fork of the Broad River.
• Etowah River bridge, Rome. A through-truss bridge that carried Central of Georgia trains over the river. Preserved as part of a recreational trail.
• Tallulah Falls bridge, Tallulah Falls. Piers from a 1913 railway bridge.
• Alapaha River bridge, Stockton. A plate girder deck bridge for the Atlantic Coast Line.
• Hard Labor Creek bridge, Apalachee area. A Warren truss deck bridge on the Central of Georgia north of Madison.
• Flint River bridge, Albany. A pair of slightly different through-truss spans.
Because the railroad-building period coincided with the steamboat era, it was often necessary to construct drawbridges where rails crossed rivers. Steamboats traveled hundreds of miles of Georgia rivers including the Chattahoochee to Columbus, the Flint to Albany, the Altamaha along its entire length, the Ocmulgee to Macon, the Oconee to Milledgeville, the Savannah to Augusta, and the Coosa to Rome. Lower sections of the Ogeechee, Satilla, and St. Marys were also navigable to steamboats.
Three basic types of movable railroad bridges have been constructed: bascule, swing, and vertical lift.
• Altamaha River bridge, Everett. The Orange Blossom Special and other great passenger trains of the Seaboard once traveled on this now-abandoned swing span.
• Altamaha River bridge, Hazlehurst. A rolling-lift bascule near where the river begins its journey.
• Altamaha River bridge, Jesup. A bascule of the type known as a Strauss Heel Trunnion, built for the Atlantic Coast Line.
• Ocmulgee River bridge, Lumber City. This old Southern Railway swing bridge still carries trains across the river.
• Oconee River bridge, Mount Vernon. A swing bridge over the lower Oconee.
• SAL Flint River bridge, Bainbridge. A swing bridge on the Seaboard's old GF&A line.
• ACL Flint River bridge, Bainbridge. A half-mile upriver from the Seaboard bridge is the Atlantic Coast Line's swing bridge over the Flint.
• Oostanaula River bridge, Rome. A preserved swing bridge at the mouth of the Ooostanaula in downtown Rome is now used by pedestrians and bicyclists.
• Chattahoochee River bridge, Omaha. An abandoned vertical-lift bridge left in the up position.
• Savannah River bridge, Augusta. A rolling-lift bascule bridge in downtown Augusta.
Masonry arch bridges
• Central of Georgia Railroad bridges, Savannah. Two brick-arch railroad bridges built before the Civil War.
• L&N Overpass at Pine Log. A rail bridge at a scenic spot in Bartow County.
Wooden trestles and bridges
• Georgia Railroad trestle, Athens. A high wooden trestle on one of state's oldest rail lines.
• Hichitee Creek trestle, Chattahoochee County. An 1896 photograph shows a construction crew on this western Georgia trestle.
• Humpback road bridges, Fewer and fewer of these will be seen as the years go by.
• Article on The Trestles of North Georgia at About North Georgia.
• A Treatise on Wooden Trestle Bridges According to the Present Practice on American Railroads (1891) by Wolcott C. Foster, online at Internet Archive.
Other notable bridges
• Etowah River bridge, Cartersville. The stone piers of the old Western & Atlantic Railroad bridge stand upstream of the current bridge, built in 1944.
RailGa.com. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey