Anyone crossing the Manatee River between Bradenton and Palmetto, whether on the Desoto Bridge or the Greene Bridge is unable to miss the CSX Railroad bridge which crosses the river between the other two bridges.
The Tampa Southern Railroad, which was incorporated in 1917, and was a subsidiary of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, constructed a rail line from Tampa to a point in Sarasota County, southeast of Sarasota, in a small town named Southfort (near Fort Ogden in the Peace River valley). This railroad line was completed to Sarasota by 1924 and ultimately to Southfort by 1927. Northeast of Palmetto near Rubonia, a rectangular loop was constructed to serve the agricultural growers in the area and return to the mainline in Palmetto. This loop was known as the “Ellenton Belt Line”. Just south of Palmetto the line crossed the Manatee River. To accomplish this crossing, a deck causeway was built which tied into a bascule bridge on the Bradenton side of the river just north of the Braidentown Railroad Depot (now Dr. Pope’s Eye Depot).
This bridge is a single leaf bascule bridge (drawbridge) which utilizes a counterweight at one end to raise the span. I was unable to determine the exact date that this bridge was built but I can’t imagine it being 90 years old. This bridge only sees about 4 trains daily, the north and south bound Tropicana Juice Train and the north and southbound Tampa-Bradenton Local mixed freight. With permission from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2004, the bridge operation was automated without a bridge tender. As a train approaches the bridge from either direction, contact is made with the CSX Signal Department. They in turn activate scanners at water level to ensure there are no boats in the vicinity of the bridge opening and then with a constant warning alarm, the bridge is lowered. After the train has crossed the span, the bridge re-opens to allow marine traffic to continue.
Thanks to Wikipedia, my major source for this history lesson. 🙂