Imagine a world quite different from today. No telephone, no electricity, no cars. Not a slower, simpler time, that would be an insult to our ancestors – just a different time. A time when travel by rail ruled. Now imagine seeing the grandeur of the Centerville Trestle for the first time. An engineering accomplishment for any small Southern town. The sixty foot high structure spanned over a quarter of a mile over the mighty Duck River. The date was December 7, 1883, a mere eighteen years after General Lee surrendered ending the Civil War. A day the local newspaper called “A Gala Day.”
With no public announcement when the project would be completed, only a handful of people gathered to watch workmen lay the last of the track. All stood in awe on that chilly Saturday afternoon as a train whistle blew in the distance. Moments later a train of rail cars approached with the engine behind. Soon after, another whistle blew announcing the approach of a second engine from the other direction. That engine stopped a short distance in front of the first. Amazingly, a third engine whistled its way to the other two, ringing its bell, as the final length of track was ceremoniously laid as onlookers marveled that the trestle could hold three train engines, confident the enormous structure could bear the weight of a dozen more.
Distinguished visitors aboard the rail cars were former Governor of Tennessee, James D. Porter, President of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway Company; Col. John W. Thomas, General Manager; Col. R.C. Morris, Chief Engineer and other dignitaries with the rail industry.
When the train crossed the trestle and came to a stop, a small group collected to congratulate and shake hands, marveling at what they had just witnessed and what that progressive day meant for Hickman County.
Many regretted not experiencing the event first hand and having to read about it in the paper.