Norfolk-Southern Railroad Bridge, Pamlico River, NC
The Norfolk-Southern Railroad bridge spans the Pamlico River just downstream of Washington, NC.
It was dawn when I paddled out of Runyon Creek. At least, I think it was. The fog had turned a lighter shade of grey. There was no one at the launch ramp, no one on the road, no one anywhere.
It was a disquieting feeling, paddling with no visible reference, floating on a blank canvas, listening for the sound of an approaching engine. The one saving grace of navigating a river with almost no visibility was no one else was foolish enough to be there.
I thought I was paddling upriver, parallel to the north shore, until the south shore appeared out of the fog. I followed the south shore until the dark span of the bridge rose out of the fog.
The bridge and swing span was built in 1900, constructed of wood for the most part. It was always a dangerous crossing for trains. They tentatively crept across the bridge at the pace of a man walking, timbers creaking, trestles swaying. Trains still cross at the same pace 100 years later.
The red light marks the starboard edge of the bridge opeining for vessels bound upriver toward the head of navigation. (The sailor’s neumonic is “Red Right Returning.”) On that day, it was the only bit of color on a gunmetal grey day.