Trains and railways were the first major transportation disruption of the industrial age. They have completely revolutionized transport, with ground transport dramatically reducing costs and time spent traveling. But in much of the world, the rails have struggled to adapt to the new world of trucks, highways and planes. In other places they have been abandoned as the old mines for which they were built have fallen into disuse.
Kentucky, (like so many other states) has its fair share of abandoned and forgotten railroads. Sometimes, one will find decaying railway bridges, stations, and even disintegrating train cars in the middle of nowhere. In addition, there are also many abandoned highways in the United States that one can explore – these are mostly sections that have been bypassed.
Young’s High Bridge – Louisville Southern Railroad
Originally, there was a plan to build a railroad between Louisville and Virginia. A railroad was built between Louisville and Harrodsburg that ran through Shelbyville and Lawrenceburg. It was built in the 1880s and a railroad bridge, called Young’s High Bridge, was built over the Kentucky River Gorge at Tyrone.
Unfortunately for the railroad, it wasn’t long before automobiles were on the rise – and they ate away at its passenger base. On December 27, 1937, passenger services ceased while freight trains continued to run until 1979.
In 1985, the section of the line between Lawrenceburg and Versailles was mothballed – including the aging de Young Bridge.
- Location: New Tyrone, Kentucky
- Built: In 1889
- Last passenger train: Crossed on December 27, 1937
- Last train: Crusader in November 1985
The Young’s High Bridge is an eye-catching bridge that was within inches of the tallest bridge in the United States when it was built. The bridge is 1,659 feet long, sits 283 feet above the river, and features a 551-foot-long cantilever span.
Today, the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Lexington Extension of the Louisville Southern Railroad.
- Attractions: Bungee jumping, train excursions, sightseeing
Efforts are being made to preserve this remarkable abandoned bridge. In February 2013, it was sold to Young’s Bridge Partners LLC. They operate a bungee jumping platform, so visitors can now experience the thrill of jumping off what was nearly the tallest bridge in America.
Another attraction is to take a trip with Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum to the east end of Young’s High Bridge.
Derelict caboose and passenger cars
According to Abandonedonline.com, various abandoned caboose, passenger cars and miscellaneous cars remain as well as the former Louisville & Southern Railway Lexington at Lawrenceburg Division in central Kentucky.
- Possesses : Near the Bluegrass Railroad Museum
They have been stored for potential reuse and refurbishment by the Bluegrass Railroad Museum. It is unknown how many have been restored and how many remain in a weakened state. If one takes the museum’s excursion trains from the east side of Young’s upper deck, one can see the old mothballed trains as well as the old branch line to the now demolished Tyrone Power Station.
The museum offers both regular weekend train rides and charter rides, as well as a choice of coach and first-class seating.
Fares for regular train journeys at the weekend:
- Adults: $14
- Children: 2-12 years $12
First class seats:
- Adults: $19
- Children: $17
Additionally, they offer their Open Air Car “Hobo Experience” for – Adults $19 Children $17.
About Kentucky’s Abandoned Railroad System
The Commonwealth of Kentucky has a network of abandoned common carrier mainlines, narrow-gauge logging railroads, and short-lived spurs that served the coal mines. Explorers can discover many today, some restored as attractions while others are completely abandoned and overgrown.
- Abandoned track: About 1,200 miles of abandoned track in Kentucky
- Setting: Urban and rural
In 2001, Kentucky had only about 2,780 miles of trail, compared to more than 4,000 miles at its peak in the 1930s. That means 20 years ago the state had an astonishing 1,200 miles of abandoned railroad tracks in Kentucky. Over 125 different abandoned rail lines have been identified by kyrailbeds.com.
These abandoned lines are found in both urban and rural settings – and in 2001, less than 1% were converted to recreational uses.
Other abandoned railroad lines in Kentucky:
- Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Passenger Terminal: Ashland, Kentucky
- The Frankfurt and Cincinnati Railroad: Paris to Frankfurt, KY
- The Glo Spur: Glo, Kentucky
- The Lexington Subdivision: Ashland in Lexington, Kentucky
- The Morehead & North Fork Railway: Morehead in Redwine, KY
- The Western Kentucky Railroad: Providence in Blackford and Dixon, KY
To see more abandoned railroad lines in Kentucky — and throughout the United States — see abandonrails.com. They list all abandoned railroads in the United States. One can browse photos of abandoned train tracks and get an eerie reminder of the past.
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