Seneca River trestle
The Seneca River trestle is the official company name for the Norfolk Southern railroad crossing over Lake Hartwell at the edge of Clemson. The original rail alignment dates to the early 1870s when the Atlanta & Richmond Air Line Railway spent three years constructing a five-foot gauge line between Atlanta and Charlotte. The original line opened on September 28, 1873. The bridge was single-track and was replaced by a more substantial steel structure in 1905. The concrete abutments of the 1905 bridge are immediately south of the current crossing.
The Southern Railway System was created by New York banker J.P. Morgan in 1894 merging many collapsed Dixie railroads into one system, including the Richmond & Danville, which absorbed the Atlanta & Richmond property.
In 1917, the Southern Railway replaced the previous trestle over the Seneca River with new twin track spans as part of a three-year realignment project. The new spans were fabricated and erected by the McClintic-Marshall Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Following World War II, new railroad operating systems no longer required duality over the whole Washington-Atlanta mainline and the southbound spans were lifted. Inexplicably, the easternmost span of the second track remained into the late 1970s, when it too was removed.
Just after midnight on April 7, 1965, 38 cars of a Southern freight train derailed on the trestle and along the west embankments. Clean up took several days with two boxcars laden with cotton waste left in Lake Hartwell after being deemed too heavy to be lifted. Rail traffic was rerouted over the Z-line at Seneca (the former Blue Ridge Railroad) to Anderson and Belton and thence to Greenville over Southern’s Greenville-Columbia line, while the wreck was cleared.
In August 2010, preliminary right-of-way improvements for a replacement for the 1976 single-track bridge over SC 133 that replaced a 1917 twin-box culvert which accommodated the original two track line installation through Calhoun, forecasts a possible return of two track alignment if high-speed rail proposals in the Southeast are carried out. The new Highway 133 railroad bridge will have space for multi-tracks.
The Southern Railway merged with the Norfolk & Western Railway in 1982 to form the Norfolk Southern Company.
The remaining 100-foot bridge sections contain some 1530 tons of steel, and at maximum low-water, the rail-bottoms stand 88 feet above the surface.
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