9 Abandoned Railroad & Train Bridge Trestles

Durable by design and situated by necessity in difficult to access locations, train trestles are often all that remain when railroads are closed and abandoned.

Tallulah Falls Railway, Georgia

Georgia’s Tallulah Falls Railway operated over a span of nearly 90 years – from September 1st, 1871 to March 25th, 1961. You may have seen the railway from your living room as it was featured in several films including 1951′s I’d Climb the Highest Mountain and the 1955 Walt Disney production, The Great Locomotive Chase. As well, 1972′s epic film Deliverance featured two of the main tourist attractions the Tallulah Falls Railway was built to serve: the waterfall at Lake Tallulah Falls and the scenic view from Tallulah Gorge. Guaranteed to make you squeal!

In order to keep trains running on the straight & level along the railway’s 58 mile stretch from Cornelia, Georgia to Franklin, North Carolina, more than 40 wooden trestles and one series of steel and concrete trestles had to be constructed. It’s little wonder the railway closed due to a mounting and unsustainable debt load. One of the railway’s now bridge-less steel and concrete trestles is shown above, courtesy of Flickr user Je Kemp.

Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railroad, Michigan

A combination wood and steel trestle and pocket dock was constructed in 1931 to bring iron ore to ships waiting in Marquette, Michigan’s lower harbor. The dock officially closed on December 31st, 1971 when ore shipments were diverted to Escanaba and the railway, trestles and dock subsequently fell into disrepair. In the early 2000′s, redevelopment resulted in portions of the trestle and dock being demolished. Kudos to Beaded Heron who captured the wooden portion of the trestle standing in majestic solitude after the adjoining steel dock had been salvaged.

Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railroad, Colorado

In 1903 when the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railroad first laid rails across the Great Divide at Colorado’s 11,660 foot high Rollins Pass, it was hailed as a triumph of American railway engineering. Twenty-five years later, another engineering triumph – the Moffat Tunnel – negated the need for the Rollins Pass line and the rail bed was converted to accommodate road traffic.

Supported by the east and west Devils Slide Trestles, the route has been off-limits to cars and trucks since 1990 when a rock slide blocked the Needle’s Eye tunnel. Hikers and bikers are still allowed to cross the over-a-century-old wooden train trestles, though one might end up meeting the Devil himself should he or she take an unexpected slide.

Atlantic Coastline Railroad, North Carolina

The abandoned Atlantic Coastline Railroad trestle over the Tar River in Edgecombe County, North Carolina was once a vital component of the conveniently direct rail connection between the town of Tarboro, NC and Norfolk, Virginia. In those far-off days when train travel was both affordable and fashionable, the line shuttled visitors and vacationers to and from Oceanview and the Virginia beaches.

Props to Flickr user Watson Brown, aka EdgecombePlanter for these strikingly beautiful images of the now-abandoned and decrepit ACR trestle. The contrast of the rusty railroad infrastructure, the aged wood of the pilings and the radiant azure Tidewater sky is visually uplifting though the image content itself is somewhat saddening.

Lake Shore Electric Railway, Ohio

The Lake Shore Electric Railway (LSE) ran from Cleveland to Toledo, Ohio, in the early years of the 20th century. Originally supported by 12×12 wood beams standing on sandstone footings, a portion of the structure in Berlin Heights, Ohio was replaced in 1917 by a 183-ft long line of 6 reinforced concrete trestles standing 32 feet tall. The LSE went bankrupt during the Great Depression and though looking much the worse for wear, the abandoned concrete trestles in Berlin Heights still stand today.

San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway, Texas

In 1915 a railroad bridge was built across the Brazos River at Simonton, Texas, to serve the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway. The bridge was destroyed when a log jam took out the western piers around 1950 and as the era’s taller trucks had trouble clearing the old trestle, the bridge was never rebuilt.

Money was never in abundance for the railroad industry once the era of the Robber Barons had passed and the full-metal-jacketed piers of the old bridge across the Brazos would cost a pretty penny to remove. Since they weren’t an impediment to navigation nor did they have any appreciable value once the cost of disassembling them was taken into account, the decision was made to let the trestle piers rust in peace… which they have, quite appealingly. Flickr user Patrick Feller chose the perfect day to capture the piers in situ, burnished to a warm hue by the unforgiving Texas sun.

White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, Yukon, Canada

This isn’t the “After The Gold Rush” Neil Young was thinking of, though it’s almost as moving as the man’s music. As for the old Dead Horse Gulch railroad bridge and trestle, it must have been really something back in the late 1890s when wannabe Yukon Corneliuses rode the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad to the heart of the Klondike, chasing dreams of silver and gold. Full credit to Flickr user Heidi Andrade for bringing us the powerful and poignant image above.

Just check out the bridge being built in 1899! After 70 years of stalwart service, the old Dead Horse Gulch railroad bridge and trestle was bypassed in 1969 by a new tunnel and bridge designed to withstand the weight of loaded ore trains from the Faro lead-zinc mine, which opened the same year. The new bridge was just a stone’s throw from the old one, providing riders on the revived WP&YR Heritage Railway an awesome sight from their window seats, especially when the fog rolls in.

California, Shasta and Eastern Railway, California

The monumental ruin above would look equally at home in ancient Mesopotamia or on a planet of enormous termites. Its true origins are actually much more prosaic: it’s an abandoned pier of the defunct California, Shasta and Eastern Railway. The 15 mile long shortline railroad shuttled felled logs and finished wood products from Bella Vista to Anderson, California. Oddly, the railway had fallen into a period of relative disuse by 1925 when then-owners the Red River Lumber Company invested heavily in pouring new concrete piers for the trestle across the Sacramento River. By 1937 the rail bed had been torn up and in 1946 the line was officially granted abandoned status.

Florida East Coast Railway, Florida

Just over 101 years ago and 7 years after construction began, the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway was finally completed. Dubbed “the Overseas Railroad” and “the 8th wonder of the world”, Henry Flagler’s dream was made real at the cost of $50 million and the lives of dozens of workers. The images above are of the Bahia Honda Rail Bridge connecting (until 1972) Bahia Honda Key and Spanish Harbor Key.

The Labor Day Hurricane of September 2nd, 1935 put the money-losing railway out of business with one blow, pardon the pun. Flagler’s innovative bridge construction techniques were not wasted, however, being quickly re-purposed into the 127.5 mile (205.2 km) long Overseas Highway that opened in March of 1938 (the Overseas Highway was substantially rebuilt in the 1970s and ’80s). As for the Bahia Honda Rail Bridge, it’s notorious gap wasn’t caused by storms or decay. Rather, two spans of the bridge were removed to accommodate boat traffic and discourage pedestrian use of the span… we reckon the remedy was remarkably effective on both counts.

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