Repairs begin on rail trestle

Published 8:36 am Thursday, October 2, 2008

Repair work has begun on the railroad trestle that spans the Black Warrior River north of Demopolis.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has provided a floating platform next to the trestle to allow workers from Scott Bridge Co. Inc. to work more efficiently.

“The bridge is currently embargoes,” said Bill Riehl, director of structures for Riehl America, the parent company of Alabama & Gulf Coast Railway, the rail company that uses the trestle. “That means that traffic is told not to come this way until such time as we can effect repairs and get the bridge back in operation.”

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Riehl said that some rail traffic could be allowed to cross as early as Friday.

“Right now, we’ve negotiated a waterway closure with the Coast Guard from 7 a.m. to noon, which is our target time for passing trains,” he said.

Originally, it was reported that a counterweight had come to rest on the tracks on the south (Marengo County) side of the river, but Riehl said that does not accurately reflect he damage caused when a dredge and service boat hit the trestle support Friday morning.

“I don’t know that anything fell,” he said. “After the impact, some of the control systems were damaged, so the bridge over-drove on the one end, and that’s why you see the counterweight on the tracks.”

Repair had just begun on the trestle yesterday (Wednesday), so it was still not clear how long repairs would need to be completed.

“The primary focus today (Wednesday) is mobilizing the equipment so we can get into the towers, get the damaged metal out of the way and we can start reaching the bridge and lowering it again,” Riehl said.

“The total scope of work is being developed as we go. It’s safe to say that we’ve got at least a week more, maybe a little bit longer.”

On Friday, a dredge and service boat owned by the U.S. Corps of Engineers struck the trestle support on the north (Greene County) side of the river, causing the cables to buckle and allowing the massive concrete counterweight on the south side of the river to come to rest on the tracks, while the counterweight on the north side remained a few feet above the tracks.

The accident also caused traffic problems with the Alabama & Gulf Coast Railway, which uses the trestle in its run from Pensacola, Fla., to Columbus, Miss.