Kentucky Union Railroad

Reached Lexington:  1890

Route:   Lexington to Jackson (via Winchester)

Corporate Names:

Kentucky Union (1854 – 1894)[1]

Lexington & Eastern (1894 – 1915)

Louisville & Nashville (1915 – 1983)

Seaboard System (1983 – 1986)

CSX Transportation (1986 – 2003)

R J Corman (2003 – Present)

Early in the 1850s, speculators planned to build a railroad from Lexington through the rich timber and coal fields of Eastern Kentucky to Bluefield, Virginia.  By a special act of the Kentucky General Assembly, the Kentucky Union Railway Company was chartered on March 10, 1854.  The company intended to build from Newport or Covington (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) through Central Kentucky to Pound Gap, Pennington Gap and Cumberland Gap and then to Big Stone Gap, Virginia. At Big Stone Gap the line was to connect with the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad (with further connections to the Atlantic Coast).

This proposed route would run through the rich timber and coal fields in Eastern Kentucky.  However, the outbreak of the Civil War delayed the proposed line.

The Kentucky Union Railroad Company was incorporated in 1872 as a successor to the Kentucky Union Railway Company. In January 1884, the C. R. Mason & Company began construction from Kentucky Union Junction (just east of Winchester) to Clay City (roughly fifteen miles).  This portion was finished on June 6, 1885.

First Mortgage Bond, issued 1888

Second Mortgage Bond, issued 1890

The Kentucky Union established its headquarters at Clay City.  Clay City was a collection point for logs floated down the forks of the Red River. At Kentucky Union Junction, the railroad connected with the Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy (later the Newport News & Mississippi Valley and Chesapeake & Ohio) Railroad.

Construction began in October 1888 westward from Kentucky Union Junction toward Lexington and in January 1889 eastward from Clay City toward Slade (Dundee).  The line reached both Winchester and Slade in June 1889, and Lexington in March 1890.  By December 1889, the line extended from Slade into Three Forks City (St. Helens).   The railroad was finished to Jackson on July 15, 1891.

General Mortgage Bond, issued 1894

Lexington & Eastern Railway:

On February 10, 1891, the Kentucky Union Railroad was placed in the hands of receivers after defaulting on its construction bonds.  The Lexington & Eastern Railway Company was organized on October 13, 1894.  The new company assumed operations on November 1, 1894 of the reorganized company.

Louisville & Nashville Railroad:

In November 1910, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad acquired the Lexington & Eastern, but the purchase was kept secret until 1915.  The Louisville & Nashville wanted to avoid bad publicity and charges of monopoly of the coal routes.  The Louisville & Nashville had acquired the competing parallel Louisville & Atlantic in 1909.

In the 1950’s the route from North Lexington (Eastland subdivision) to the Bok (near the Bryan Station Cutoff) was removed.  The portion from the old North Lexington yard to Eastland remained as an industrial spur, with connections via the Belt Line Company.

In 1983 and 1986, the Louisville & Nashville became the Seaboard System and CSX Transportation, respectively.  Since 2003, the Kentucky Union line between the Bryan Station Cutoff and Winchester is operated by the R J Corman Railroad Group.


Stations, Depots and Yards:

Machine and Repair Shops - in September 1892, the City of Lexington granted $15,000 to the Kentucky Union Railroad to acquire fifteen acres on Winchester Road (near Third Street at the city limits) to build its locomotive and car repair shops.  These facilities included a ten-stall roundhouse, machine shop and coach shed.  After the Lexington & Eastern (successor to the Kentucky Union) consolidation with the Louisville and Nashville during 1915, the shop’s usage decline.  Following the Second World War, the site became an industrial siding (today the Smucker’s plant).

Freight Depot - located on the north side of Main Street, between DeWees and Megowan Streets.  Built in the early 1890s by the Lexington & Eastern Railway and discontinued after the 1915 merger.


Avon - until 1890 Weathers, a siding on the Kentucky Union Railroad on Clintonville Road.  During the Second World War, the Avon/Bluegrass Signal Depot was established at the siding.  Currently the site is an industrial park.

Bok - was the junction of the Louisville & Nashville’s Winchester line and Bryan Station Cutoff.  It was named after Edward W. Bok, a newspaper editor.

Camp Hamilton - was located on Bryan Station Road, about 4 miles northeast of Lexington.  The camp was used for mustering and training army recruits during the Spanish American War in 1898.  The Lexington & Eastern Railway maintained a temporary station at the camp.

Fenwick - a small village east of Lexington on Muir Station Road, with a flag stop on the Kentucky Union. Railroad.  Originally, known as Whites, which was changed in 1890 to Leamington, then later to Fenwick.

Montrose was another flag stop east of Lexington at a crossroad and small village on Bryan Station Pike.  The stop was known as Berkley until 1890.

Pelham - named changed to Netherwood in 1890, was a flag stop on the Kentucky Union Railroad, on Hume Road, east of Lexington and was named for a voting precinct.


[1] Known as the Kentucky Union Railway Company (1854 – 1872) and Railroad Company (1872 – 1894).

William M. Ambrose, Bluegrass Railways, Limestone Press, Lexington, 2009.