Let’s look into two of the Louisville Southern Railroad’s most significant bridges in Kentucky.
Originally incorporated as the Louisville, Harrodsburg & Virginia Railroad in 1868, it was reorganized as the Louisville Southern Railroad (LS), with construction commencing on a route between Louisville and Harrodsburg, Kentucky, in 1884. In 1888, the LS began construction of the Lexington to Lawrenceburg Division, a spur from Lawrenceburg to Lexington via Versailles, which involved the erection of Young’s High Bridge across the Kentucky River gorge at Tyrone and a viaduct over a branch of the Cedar Brook.
Young’s High Bridge was initially designed to be five feet lower than Cincinnati Southern’s High Bridge; it was revised to be six inches higher to claim the title of being the highest bridge structure in North America. The ground was broken for the new bridge on February 7, 1889, with the substructure construction performed by the Hopkins & Company while the superstructure erection was conducted by the Union Bridge Company of Buffalo, New York, and Athens, Pennsylvania. Steel for the superstructure was sourced from the Detroit Bridge & Iron Works Company of Detroit, Michigan. The first train crossed the new $200,000 Young’s High Bridge on August 21.
Young’s High Bridge was named after William Bennett Henderson Young, then president of the Louisville Southern Railroad.
To the west of the Kentucky River is an impressive steel stringer over a branch of Cedar Brook.
Although the LS had high hopes for traffic on the Lexington to Lawrenceburg Division, passenger revenues dwindled with the advent and rise of the automobile leading to the termination of passenger operations on December 27, 1937. Freight traffic, while never significant, remained steady until a derailment at the Tyrone Power Station led to the spur’s closure in 1979. A runaway locomotive on the steep spur destroyed several coal cars.
The LS, which was incorporated into the Southern Railway in 1892, became a part of the Norfolk Southern (NS) in 1980. With few customers remaining along the NS’s Lawrenceburg Division and with maintenance costs mounting on the aging Kentucky River bridge, the line between Lawrenceburg and Versailles was mothballed in November 1985. At the time of the Young’s High Bridge discontinuance, it was notable for having never been strengthened, modified, or reconstructed.
The Bluegrass Railroad Museum (BGR) was formed in the late 1970s to operate a railroad museum and excursion train over the LS, and for a while, it was hoped that the BGR would operate between Versailles and Wild Turkey Distillery. Because it would have required the NS to strengthen and reinforce Young’s High Bridge to accept heavy passenger cars, the passenger excursion was only operated 5½ miles from Versailles to the east abutment of the bridge.