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Volunteers replacing Old Railroad Bridge decking boards

Published: Jun. 20, 2019 at 4:03 AM CDT
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(WAFF) -According to our news partners at the Times Daily, volunteers have started removing some of the estimated 2,400 boards on the Old Railroad Bridge deck, and they hope eventually to have all new boards adorn the historic structure.

The workers are members of the Old Railroad Bridge Company, a nonprofit responsible for preservation of the bridge, which once completely spanned the Tennessee River from Colbert County to Lauderdale County.

Many of the workers are retired from the railroad industry, association member Tim Wagnon said Wednesday.

"This bunch kind of likes hard work — just a bunch of tough old former railroad workers," Wagnon said as the crew took apart old boards and set down new ones.

The bridge, which is located on the oldest bridge site in Alabama, was built in the late 1800s. It was last used for automobile transportation in 1939 and for train traffic in 1988.

Trains crossed the upper deck of the bridge, while the lower section was available for pedestrian crossing. Today, the lower section is a popular spot for the public to walk across and shoot photos. The upper section is closed to the public.

Damion Caperton laughed when he recalled riding a train across the bridge on his first day working for the railroad.

"They had me scared to death, having me put on a life jacket and everything," Caperton said.

Wagnon said a $3,000 grant will pay for the first stage of the work, which calls for the replacement of 288 boards. Funds still are needed for approximately 2,100 boards, which cost $11 each.

Wagnon said the structure is safe but the boards are aging, so the organization is replacing them, starting with the ones that appear most in need.

A donation box at the bridge's entrance is available for contributions. In addition, you can send a donation to ORBC, PO Box 727, Florence, AL 35630. The group's PayPal account is available at OldRailroadBridge.com.

Another project calls for a restroom to be built adjacent to the bridge, thanks to a $10,000 grant.

In 2018, the company commissioned local artist Scott Campbell to paint a mural on the wall leading to the bridge.

In addition, a security system was installed that focuses on the bridge, the wall and the walkway leading to the bridge.

Also, a special "graffiti blocker" was applied to the wall that allows workers to remove paint graffiti without impacting the mural, officials said.

The Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area provided a $10,000 grant for that project.

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