This historic Alabama bridge is one of the few in the world
A preserved bridge in Alabama reminds locals of terrifying crossings, in which cars, trains and an elevated span for barges can collide at any time, according to Billy Milstead with RuralSWAlabama.org.
The Old Naheola Bridge on Alabama Highway 114 near Pennington, Alabama is not just the source of nightmares or a relic of a bygone era – it’s an important part of transportation history . Before it closed to cars in 2001, it was one of the few in the world that could handle rail, automobile and waterway traffic, Milstead said. It is still open to rail traffic but a new bridge has been built for motorists. The center span of the bridge, which was built for the Meridian & Bigbee Railroad, could be raised vertically to allow barges to pass over the river below, according to Encyclopedia of Alabama.
Built in 1934, the bridge promised a rather terrifying crossing of the Tombigbee River between Choctaw and Marengo counties.
“On the side of the bridge there were short balustrades that allowed for an unobstructed view of the Tombigbee River which appeared to be at least a mile below,” says Milstead. “Crossing the Naheola Bridge has always been an exciting ride and it could be a terrifying experience at times, especially at night when it was foggy or there were freezing conditions.”
One feature that added to the scary racing was the way the cars had to cross – straddling the train tracks. In addition, the bridge only accommodated one lane of traffic at a time and curved at the end, creating a blind spot. Drivers had to rely on traffic lights to warn them if: a) a train was coming towards them, b) another car was heading towards them, or c) the center of the bridge had been raised for a barge to pass alongside. River.
“Traffic lights have been installed at each end of the bridge to signal traffic to stop or continue. The lights were controlled by the drawbridge operator, who was stationed in the bridge house near the middle of the bridge, ”Milstead said. “The lights were needed because the bridge was only wide enough for one-way traffic, and motorists couldn’t see end to end because the half-mile long structure had a blind curve at one end. “
The late historian Ben Windham wrote in a 2004 article for Tuscaloosa news: “Each time you cross it, you roll the dice. The Naheola Bridge was old, rickety – and one-sided. But what really raised the fear was the railroad tracks going right through the middle. It was one of two bridges in the world where cars and trains shared the same surface.
The name Naheola is likely derived from a Native American word, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama. “The name is a variation of the Choctaw word ‘naholo’ (‘white water people’), which were water spirits who sometimes kidnapped humans and also turned them into water spirits.”