Many years ago in the town where I grew up, there was a train track behind our home. My parents bought that house because it has an extra-long yard for planting a large garden. My father cleared out brush and poison ivy in his speedo. (Not kidding.) It was the closest thing to a farm they could afford. I spent days wandering through the adjoining “forests,” climbed trees, imagined stories. Neighbor kids and I played hide-and-seek and other games there now and then.
Three train bridges crossed nearby roads. Years passed and soon we watched as the lonely tracks got only occasional use — small vehicles slowly tugging discarded trains on the way to the “train graveyard,” which eventually became the location for a mall.
Oh, that forward march of change that we have little control over.
Trucks would get stuck under one of these bridges on a regular basis (despite a clear height warning sign), causing traffic distress to motorists on their way to work or home.
Until the bridges came down, I recognized graffiti put there by a fellow junior high student many years previous. Each time I drove past as an adult, that silly saying made me smile and think of my classmate.
Many of us walked on those tracks and over the bridges as kids to get to different destinations — such as the lake beach not too far from our house.
It’s funny how ugly landmarks get into our psyches as emotional attachments, and how removing them jolts us. Who can explain it, except that they become part of who we are.
I guess that’s why some people in Whipple, Ohio, don’t want this bridge to come down. One person even took a wedding picture in front of it. I spoke to Scott Bever, who lives near the bridge; he said it was his cousin’s wedding, but he never could understand why.
I’m pretty sure I totally get it though.
“Are you from the historical society?” Bever asked, a wee bit defensive.
He wanted to share his safety concerns and show us how dangerous it has become. We walked over it and took photos from different vantage points, including from his porch.
It’s difficult to capture the blind spot with a camera. Bever has seen numerous accidents over the years caused by the bridge blocking the view of oncoming traffic.
He asked us to wait, and went inside to get some large, old black-and-white photos of the area. We got permission to photograph the photos to share with our readers. (See below.)
The two giants — one a governmental agency, another an oil and gas exploration company based out of southwestern Pennsylvania — have teamed up together in order to remove the Whipple Railroad bridge that spans across Route 821 in Washington County. The project will be funded by EdgeMarc, with the removal being overseen by ODOT.
Once the bridge is removed, ODOT will also complete the creation of the slopes down to the road, seeding and mulching.
Bever explained that an oil and gas company had to go 20 miles out of its way to move equipment because it couldn’t get past the bridge. He’s seen trucks get stuck before, just as in my town years before.
There are quite a number of reasons why many people in the community feel that the Whipple Bridge over State Route 821 needs to go, and the reason most cited is safety. For example, the side streets that enter onto Route 821 near the bridge have to deal with significant blind spots, something that makes driving a school bus or any vehicle safely somewhat problematic.
However, not everyone in the area views the Whipple bridge as a concern.
A story in the Marietta Times from June 2013 indicated that not everyone feels that the bridge is a problem. In fact, quite a number of people made their opinions known concerning the beauty. Some couples have even had their wedding pictures taken there to celebrate their union. When I asked the neighbor about that, he could only think of one wedding photo taken there.
The project is slated to begin sometime this summer under the direction of the Ohio Department of Transportation.
When I go back to my hometown to visit, I can hardly recognize it now. Many landmarks are gone. Some of us belong to a Facebook group where we talk about our memories.
Much change is coming to the Southeast Ohio area. We need to hold on to our memories with photographs, journal entries, articles and art — even Facebook pages and websites. My sister owns our childhood home now. My parents have passed. Not only the bridges are gone — even the tracks were removed a few years ago.
If the bridge in Whipple holds good memories for you, now’s the time to get a photograph taken in front of it.