Beaufort County engineers assessing a deteriorating railroad trestle over Huspah Creek have made a decision: It's got to go.
The county is accepting bids through Feb. 24 from contractors to remove the bridge, part of the defunct Seaboard Air Line railroad, county engineering director Rob McFee said.
The pilings that support the trestle are weak, and the county closed the bridge and the Lobeco Fishing Pier that sits atop it in January. It also issued a warning to boaters to use caution in the area.
Because of its age and condition, the bridge would cost too much to restore, McFee said.
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Operations on the Seaboard line from Savannah to Charleston, which included the trestle over Huspah Creek, began in 1917. The line was part of an effort to connect coastal towns from Virginia to Florida, according to Larry Rowland, history professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.
"When my mother was a young lady in the 1930s, she remembers being able to catch trains in Lobeco right next to the trestle and going to Charleston," Rowland said.
Instead of catering primarily to passengers, however, the railroad was created to transport vegetables from farms on the Sea Islands, Rowland said.
People who rode the trains on the Seaboard line along with the refrigerated produce cars had different nicknames for it.
Among whites, the Seaboard line was dubbed the "Boll Weevil" because its arrival in 1917 was the same year the insect first entered Beaufort County, Rowland said.
When Rowland was visiting the Dale community, a train stop east of the trestle, African Americans told him they called it the "Chicken Bone Special."
Many black residents of the Sea Islands who migrated north in the early 20th century made the first leg of their journey to Charleston on the Seaboard line, he said. Because they were not allowed to buy food at segregated restaurants at railroad stations along the way, they brought it from home.
"By the time they got to New York, all they would have left was a box of chicken bones," Rowland said.
The line ended by the 1970s and came into the county's possession about a decade later, McFee said.
McFee said that so far he has heard no complaints about the county's plans to tear down the bridge.
Those who once rode those rails will have something to remember it by, however. Engineers hope to restore the Lobeco Fishing Pier after the work is over, McFee said.
"We're going to salvage the fishing-pier component," he said. "And once we get this trestle out of the way, we're going to see what if any accommodation we can make to access the Huspah Creek."
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.