Old Naheola Bridge on the Tombigbee River at Pennington, AL (handled rail, auto & barge traffic)

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Until its closure to automobile traffic in 2001, the Naheola Bridge was one of only a few bridges in the world that accommodated rail, auto, and river traffic. The bridge has a vertical lift span that is raised to allow barge traffic on the Tombigbee River to pass underneath.

Traffic lights were mounted at each end of the bridge to signal the auto traffic to stop or proceed. The lights were controlled by the drawbridge operator, who was stationed in the bridge house near the middle of the bridge. The lights were necessary because the bridge was only wide enough for one-way traffic, and motorists could not see from one end of it to the other because the half-mile long structure had a blind curve at one end. The lights were also used to warn motorists of the presence of a train or when the drawbridge was raised to allow river traffic to pass underneath. Vehicles traveling across the bridge straddled the railroad tracks. On the side of the bridge were short railings that allowed a clear view of the Tombigbee River which appeared to be at least a mile below. Traveling across the Naheola bridge was always an exciting ride and it could be a terrifying experience at times, especially at night when it was foggy or there were icy conditions.

In 2001, the Alabama State Highway Department began construction on a new highway bridge immediately south of the Naheola Bridge and auto traffic was discontinued on the railroad bridge. This ended the old Naheola Bridge’s unique claim to fame.

The Nahoela Bridge is located beside the new highway bridge that’s across the Tombigbee near Pennington, AL (GPS Coordinates 32.237667,-88.015389)

Source: Choctaw County Historic and Genealogical Society.

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The following video contains snapshots of the Naheola Bridge.

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