The Louisville & Southern Railway Lexington to Lawrenceburg Division is a partly active and abandoned railroad in central Kentucky.
The Louisville, Harrodsburg & Virginia Railroad (LH&V) was incorporated in 1868 with the goal of constructing a railroad between Louisville and Virginia via Harrodsburg although no work was completed because of a lack of financing. 1 In 1882, the Louisville, New Albany & Chicago Railway (LNA&C) was chartered with the hopes of challenging the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in its near-exclusive access to the eastern Kentucky coalfields. Noting the formation of the LNA&C, the LH&V was reorganized as the Louisville Southern Railway (LS) and hired the LNA&C’s president, Bennett Young. 1
Construction commenced on a route in 1884 between Louisville and Harrodsburg via Shelbyville and Lawrenceburg which opened in 1888. 1 The railroad also built a spur to Burgin where the LS connected to the Cincinnati Southern and acquired the Versailles & Midway Railroad to connect to Georgetown. Shortly after, the LS began the development of the Lexington to Lawrenceburg Division, a spur from Lawrenceburg to Lexington via Versailles, 1 which involved the erection of a bridge across the Kentucky River gorge at Tyrone.
The ground was broken for the new bridge on February 7, 1889, 3 and the first train crossed the new $200,000 Young’s High Bridge on August 21. 3 Named after William Bennett Henderson Young, then president of the Louisville Southern Railroad, 4 the crossing was the highest single-span cantilever structure in the world. 3 Although planned to be six inches higher than High Bridge, it ended up being 12 inches lower and couldn’t boast of being the highest bridge structure in the nation.
The East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railway later leased both the Cincinnati Southern and the LS, and all three were merged into the Southern Railway system in 1894. 1
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. 2 Freight traffic, while never significant, remained steady until a derailment at the Tyrone Power Station led to the spur’s closure in 1979. 5 A runaway locomotive on the steep spur destroyed several coal cars.
The Southern Railway 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 Young’s High Bridge, the line between Lawrenceburg and Versailles was mothballed in November 1985. 2
- Castner, Charles. The Encyclopedia of Louisville. “Louisville Southern Railroad.” University Press of Kentucky [Lexington], 2001.
- Powell, Tim. “Young’s High Bridge, Tyrone, Kentucky.” WorldTimZone. 2006.
- “A Tale of Two Cities.” Daily Leader [Lexington], 25 Aug. 1889, p. 1.
- Kocher, Greg. “Old Kentucky River railroad bridge will become bungee-jumping platform.” Herald-Leader [Lexington] 24 Feb. 2013.
- “Track Rehabilitation.” Bluegrass Railroad Museum. 18 Sept. 2007.