Louisville Southern Railroad

Reached Lexington:   1889

Route:   Lexington west to Louisville (via Versailles)

Corporate Names:

Louisville, Harrodsburg & Virginia (1868 – 1884)

Louisville Southern (1884 – 1894)

Southern (1894 – 1974)

Norfolk Southern (1974 – 1996)

Lexington & Ohio (Gulf & Ohio) (1996 – 2003)

R J Corman (2003 – Present)

The Louisville Southern Railroad was formed to break the monopoly held by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad with southern freight traffic.  The company was originally formed on March 9, 1868 as the Louisville, Harrodsburg & Virginia Railroad.  Henry Dent, of Louisville, was President.  The line was proposed to run from Louisville to Virginia, but never laid track.[i]

On April 25, 1884 the company was reorganized as the Louisville Southern Railroad Company.  The corporation was controlled by a syndicate headed by W. Bennett Young.[1][ii]

Construction began in 1886 on the line from Louisville through Shelbyville and Lawrenceburg to Harrodsburg.  On June 1, 1888, the first train departed from Louisville on the completed line.  The road was approximately 78 miles in length.  At Harrodsburg, the line connected to the Southwestern Railway.

Southwestern Railway:

The Southwestern Railway was a short line established in 1877 to connect Harrodsburg with the Cincinnati Southern Railroad at Burgin.  The track was 4.72 miles in length.  In 1888, the Southwestern was acquired by the Louisville Southern and the two lines consolidated.[iii]

Stock Certificate, issued 1890

In December 1888, the Louisville Southern was leased for thirty years to the Louisville, New Albany & Chicago Railway (forerunner of the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville, also known as the Monon Lines).  The line was operated as part of the Monon.[iv]  The Lexington Extension was also leased on September 10, 1889 to the Monon Lines.[v]  However, in 1890, both leases were adjudged invalid, due to restriction on free trade and commerce.

Versailles & Midway Railway:

In 1888, the Louisville Southern purchased for $387,000 the Versailles & Midway Railway, which connected Versailles to Midway.  The Versailles & Midway Railway was chartered in 1884 and in November 1885 finished construction between the two towns.  At Midway, the line connected with the Louisville & Nashville to interchange of railcars.  The Louisville Southern consolidated operations under its name and extended the line in 1888 to Georgetown (connecting with the Cincinnati Southern just south of town).  The interchange at Midway was terminated and a new station was built on Lees Branch.[vi]

Engraving of Louisville Southern locomotive from stock certificate, circa 1884

In July 1890, the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad leased the entire Louisville Southern.  In July 1891, the Louisville Southern purchased property in Lexington to connect with the Cincinnati Southern’s mainline.  In January 1892, the railroad completed the interchange and began using the Cincinnati Southern depot on South Broadway.[vii]  At the same time, Louisville Southern abandoned the connection[2] to the Kentucky Central Railway (between Water Street and the Cincinnati Southern mainline).[viii]

By 1892, legal and financial problems forced this company into receivership.  On August 16, 1894, the Louisville Southern was sold at foreclosure to the Southern Railway Company.  The purchase price was $1,000,000, the minimum required by the court, subject to the first mortgage to the Louisville Safety Vault and Trust Company.[ix]  The purchaser was Drexel, Morgan & Company, which was reorganizing Southern railroads.  The existing bondholders exchanged the Louisville & Southern bonds for seventy percent in second and third mortgage bonds and thirty percent in preferred stock of the new Southern Railway Company.

Southern Locomotive #158 (2-6-0) at Lawrenceburg, circa 1895   <Sulzer>

Southern Railway of Kentucky:

The Louisville Southern was merged into the Southern Railway, through its Subsidiary Southern Railway of Kentucky, which became the operating entity.  The Southern Railway also controlled the tracks of the Cincinnati Southern (thought Lexington), which operated as the Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railroad.  The old Louisville Southern routes were operated separately as the “Southern Railway in Kentucky.”

Southern Locomotive #760 (2-6-0) heading passenger train at Versailles, 1900   <Sulzer>

A narrow gauge railroad was operated by the Central Kentucky Phosphate Company from around 1915 to the late 1920s.  This line originated at Wallace Station, Woodford County, Kentucky, ran east to southeast for about a mile to a mile and quarter in length, connecting to the phosphate fields.  The company erected a phosphate mill for processing ore, located on a spur off the mainline.

Passenger service along the Lawrenceburg to Lexington line was discontinued on December 27, 1937.  During 1974, the Southern Railway became part of the Norfolk Southern System.

In 1996 the Versailles to Lexington line was sold to the Gulf & Ohio Railroad, which operated as the Lexington & Ohio Railroad.  In March 2003, the R J Corman Railroad Group purchased this portion of the right-of-way.  In addition, the Bluegrass Railroad Museum operated a five-mile section of the old Lexington Extension from west of Versailles to the Young’s High Bridge, on the Kentucky River.[x]

Photographs of Burgin. circa 1890s


[1] William Bennett Henderson Young (1843 – 1919) – Attorney.  During Civil War, he was a member of John Hunt Morgan’s command and led the famous raid on St. Albans, Vermont.  Between 1884 and 1888 he was President of the Louisville Southern Railroad and later involved with the Richmond, Nicholasville, Irvine & Beattyville Railroad..  He also was Vice President of the Kentucky Union Railroad during the early 1880s.  He was a noted author and National Commander of the United Confederate Veterans.

[2] This interchange was rebuilt in 2005 by R J Corman, to connect the old Louisville Southern route to Corman’s Central yard (the old Louisville & Nashville).


[i] Curry (Leonard), page 110.

[ii] Coleman, page 67 and Sulzer (August 1947), page 21, 42 - 46.

[iii] Kleber, page 835-36, Sulzer (August 1947), page 21, 42 – 46, Sulzer, page 57-62 and Poor, 1881, page 497 – 78, 1882, page 508 and 1885, page 513.

[iv] Lexington Leader, September 10, 1889, page 4, column 3 and October 15, 1889, page 5, column 3 and Sulzer (August 1947), page 21, 42 - 46.

[v] Bluegrass Railroad Museum.

[vi] Kleber, page 835-36, Sulzer (August 1947), page 21, 42 - 46 and Sulzer, page 57-62.

[vii] Lexington Morning Transcript, July 21, 1891, page 5, column 2 and January 13, 1892, page 1, column 8 and Sulzer (August 1947), page 21, 42 - 46.

[viii] Bluegrass Railroad Museum.

[ix] Lexington Morning Transcript, August 17, 1894, page 1, column 2 and October 20, 1894, page 6, column 3 and Sulzer (August 1947), page 21, 42 – 46.

[x] Bluegrass Railroad Museum.