Louisville Southern Railway (Lexington Extension)

In late 1887, the Louisville Southern proposed an extension from Lawrenceburg to Lexington, subject to public support from Woodford and Fayette Counties.  This line was in direct competition to the Louisville & Nashville Railroad’s Old Road line from Louisville to Lexington.

In January 1888, the Woodford County magistrates voted to subscribe $50,000 for the Lexington Extension.  The subscription was approved by the voters.  The funds were due when the line was finished from Versailles to Lexington.[i]

On Election Day, May 29, 1888, the anti-railroad crowd held a big rally in Lexington at the courthouse.  In a heavily contested referendum, the voters of Lexington approved a bond issue of $100,000.  There were charges that the construction company purchased votes for $5 and supplied whiskey to the voters.  These subscription required that the line be finished into Lexington by August 29, 1889.[ii]

The construction contract was again awarded to the Southern Contract Company.  The railroad agreed to pay $1,000,000 in railroad stock and $1,500,000 in bonds.  The work was subcontracted to Mason & Foard Company[1] and G. W. Wady & Company.[iii]  The contractor established a work camp, known as Camp Young, on the F. M. Smith farm on Frankfort Pike, four west of Lexington and in January 1889 began clearing the right-of-way.[iv]

In September 1888, surveyors finished locating the new line from Lawrenceburg to Lexington.[v]

On October 9, 1888, the Louisville Southern received congressional approval for the Tyrone Bridge, over the Kentucky River.  Congressional action was required since the river was a navigable waterway.  The railroad submitted plans for the bridge to the War Department for final approval to insure that river boats could pass.  The Corps of Engineers were responsible for navigable waters.[vi]

Drawings of Tyrone Bridge

In January 1889, the Louisville Southern issued $1,500,000 in First Mortgage Bonds[2] for the Lexington Extension.

On January 10, 1889, the Union Bridge Company began erection of a bridge at Tyrone.  John N. Ostrom was the engineer in charge.  Foundation and pier work began on February 20, 1889, by Hopkins & Company, and was finished on June 11, 1889.  On June 24, erection of the steel towers began and was completed in four days.  On August 19, the installation of the steel bridge plates was finished.  The coupling on the center spans was finished on August 19 and the last spike driven on August 21, 1889.  The steel work was brought to the site on barges.  The bridge spanned 1,659 feet in length, 283 feet above the low water mark and had a 551 feet long cantilever center span.  The bridge cost $245,000.[vii]

Between Lawrenceburg and the river, the railroad built two large trestles.  The first over Walker Branch, was about a mile from Lawrenceburg, was 84 feet high and 759 feet long.  The trestle was built of Kentucky oak and Mississippi yellow pine.  The second over Cedar Brook, 1.5 miles from Lawrenceburg, the Union Bridge Company erected an 800 foot prefabricated Pratt truss bridge (deck over).  The bridge was 110 feet above Cedar Brook.  In addition, the railroad excavated several deep cuts on the approaches to the river.[viii]

Cedar Creek Viaduct, between Lawrenceburg and Tyrone

Tyrone Bridge, now known as Young’s High Bridge, was the longest  cantilever bridge at the time it was built in 1889

In January 1889, it was reported that nine squads of laborers were at work on the extension between Lawrenceburg and the Kentucky River.  Each squad had 14 men and several mule carts.  At the river, the bridge contractors opened a quarry on the river cliffs for stone for the bridge masonry.[ix]

During January 1889, the contractors began hiring additional laborers for construction of the line.  In Versailles, the company established a camp on Clifton Pile.  This section was under contract with Morrison, Young & Company.  It was reported that 300 to 400 hands were already at work on the line.[x]

In March 1889, the contractors had 2,000 men working on the extension, with 225 men and 50 mule teams at work on the grade along the river in Anderson County.  It was also reported that the grading through Versailles was underway.[xi]

In April 1889, W. B. Hawkins was killed when an unexploded charge went off while he was inspecting it.  He was one of the superintendents for R. S. Ryan, of Mason, Gooch & Company, the contractor for the line from Versailles to Lexington.  He had set three charges, of which only two exploded on time.  The contractor had established a labor camp near Pisgah Church, with 150 men[xii]

During May 1889, it was reported that the railroad grade was completed, except for two cuts on the Newman Farm, from Lawrenceburg to the Kentucky River.  The two cuts were 27 and 38 feet deep.  A large stock of ties and rails were stockpiled at the depot at Lawrenceburg.[xiii]  Later that month, an Italian laborer was killed near the Kentucky River, when a heavy charge exploded tossing a large rock 150 feet onto the roof of a shanty.  The man was crushed.[xiv]

By the end of May, the rails were laid from Lawrenceburg to near the bridge site.  In addition, the stonework on the bridge approaches was completed.[xv]

In May 1889, a lawsuit was filed to obtain an injunction to stop the delivery of the $100,000 in bonds from the city of Lexington.  However, Judge Jeremiah R. Morton ruled in favor of the Louisville Southern.[xvi]

By the end of June 1889, the track had reached Firmantown, two miles east of Versailles.  The contractors were erecting the iron bridge over the Elkhorn.  It was reported that the several ladies had taken a ride from Firmantown to Versailles and return.  Mrs. Frank Bohannon, Carrie Jesse and Mamie Bohannon rode on one of the work trains.[xvii]

On August 21, 1889, the last spike was driven on the extension on the Tyrone Bridge and a small excursion ran from Versailles to Lexington over the completed line.  The Lexington Transcript reported:

“Colonel Bennett Young has again proven himself a Napoleon in railroad building.  No feat is bridge building has ever equaled that of Tyrone bridge.  It is as high as High Bridge, and the center span is 551 feet long – one foot longer than the center span of the great Huntington bridge at Cincinnati.”[xviii]

Bennett H. Young crossing the Tyrone Bridge on August 24, 1889, whichwas the first train across    <Bluegrass Railroad Museum>

At noon, on August 24, 1889, the first train from Louisville towards Lexington arrived at the west side of the Tyrone Bridge.  The train, pulled by the Bennett H. Young, crossed the bridge first and then returned to the west side.  This allowed a Lexington train to cross the bridge.  Then both trains then left for Versailles, where the two trains were combined.  Then the combined train ran on into Lexington, reaching the Kentucky Central Depot at 2:30 pm.  Enroute, the passengers were entertained by Schneider’s Band, playing My Old Kentucky Home.  The directors of the railroad spent the afternoon in Lexington and were later entertained at the Bluegrass Fair.[xix]

Corporate Line of the City of Lexington, the junction of the Cincinnati Southern and Louisville Southern Railways, near Versailles Road, circa 1910   <UK>

At Lexington, the line connected with the Kentucky Central Railway on Water Street.  The railroad used the Kentucky Central Depot behind the Phoenix Hotel.  The Kentucky Central received an exchange fee, of seventy five cents per car, from the Louisville Southern.  The roundtrip fare from Lexington to Louisville was $1.50.[xx]

On October 19, 1889, the Lexington Extension was leased to the Louisville, New Albany & Chicago Railroad for thirty years.  The Louisville Southern would receive half the operating profit, after deduction for fixed costs.[xxi]

On October 21, 1889, the Louisville, New Albany & Chicago begin two daily runs from Louisville to Lexington, via Versailles.  The schedule called for the trains to leave from Louisville at 7:35 am and 4:30 pm, reaching Versailles at 10:45 am and 7:45 pm and Lexington at 12:15 pm and 8:35 pm.  The railroad also reached Georgetown at 12:15 pm and 8:45 pm.    The train left Lexington at 7:10 am (Train #1) and 3:55 pm (Train #9).  The train ran daily, except Sunday.  The cost from a roundtrip ticket was $1.50.[xxii]

Cedar Brook Viaduct, 2012   <Bogart>


[1] Mason & Foard Company operated as the excavating contractor for Mason & Hoge Company.  Mason & Foard leased inmates from the state penitentiary.  The firm consisted of Horatio P. Mason, Silas B. Mason, John F. Foard, S. D. Gooch, William F. Dandridge, William Morrow, William M. Duncan, Charles E. Hoge and John J. King.  In 1888, the firm built the Eddyville Prison for $146,730.  Later, the firm operated a shoe and chair factory in the penitentiary.

[2] The bonds were issued on January 1, 1889, due January 1, 1929 (forty year bonds), at 6% interest, in denominations of $500 and $1,000, with Louisville Safety Vault and Trust Company, Trustee.  The bonds were secured with the branch lines from Lawrenceburg to Lexington and Versailles to Georgetown.


Stations, Depots and Yards:

Camp Miles - located on the Weil’s farm, about four miles west of Lexington on the Southern (formerly Louisville Southern) Railway.  During the Spanish American War, the camp served as an overflow camp for Camp Hamilton (mustering point) and later for black soldiers.  Reopened briefly during the First World War.

Elk Chester - a station at the crossing on the Louisville Southern Railroad, with Elk Chester Pike, in western Fayette County.  The station still exists and is used for farm storage.  The crossing was used as a backdrop in the motion picture Flim Flam Man (1967).

Payne - also known as Payne Farm, a siding on Viley Road to off load thoroughbreds on the Louisville Southern line.  This siding continued to be used by the famed Calumet Farm and Keeneland Racetrack until the 1950s.

Van Meter - a flag stop on the Louisville Southern Railroad on Van Meter Road, in western Fayette County.

Map – Louisville Southern (1890)   <Winfrey Adkins>


[i] Maysville Daily Evening Bulletin, January 20, 1888, page 2, column 1.

[ii] Lexington Leader, May 9, 1888, page 1, column 4, May 12, 1888, page 1, columns 3-4 and September 18, 1888, page 1, column 2, Lexington Transcript, May 18, 1888, page 3, column 3 and 5, May 29, 1888, page 1, column 4 and May 30, 1888, page 1, column 1 and page 2, column 1 and Harrison, Fairfax, A History of the Legal Development of the Railroad System of Southern Railway Company, Washington, DC, 1901, pages 1054-1068.

[iii] Thomas J. Michie, American and English Corporation Cases, Geo. R. B. Michie & Company, Charlottesville, 1899, pages 682-692.

[iv] Bluegrass Railroad Museum, “LS History – Timeline” (Winfrey Adkins papers).

[v] Lexington Leader, September 18, 1888, page 1, column 2.

[vi] Lexington Leader, September 21, 1888, page 1, column 3.

[vii]  “The Kentucky River or Tyrone Cantilever Bridge,” Engineering News Report, April 5, 1890, in the University of Kentucky Library Microfilm collection.

[viii] Woodford Sun, May 24, 1889.

[ix] Woodford Sun, February 1, 1889.

[x] Lexington Transcript, January 10, 1889 and Woodford Sun, February 8, 1889 and February 15, 1889.

[xi] Woodford Sun, March 22, 1889.

[xii] Woodford Sun, March 22, 1889 and April 2, 1889.

[xiii] Woodford Sun, May 3, 1889.

[xiv] Woodford Sun, May 17, 1889.

[xv] Woodford Sun, May 31, 1889.

[xvi] Lexington Transcript, February 27, 1889, page 1, column 3 and May 30, 1889, page 4, column 3.

[xvii] Woodford Sun, June 28, 1889.

[xviii] Lexington Transcript, August 21, 1889, page 4, column 3.

[xix] Lexington Transcript, August 21, 1889, page 4, column 3, August 22, 1889, page 4, column 3, August 24, 1889, page 4, column 3 and August 31, 1889, page 1, column 4.

[xx] Bluegrass Railroad Museum.

[xxi] Lexington Leader, October 15, 1889, page 5, column 3.

[xxii] Lexington Leader, October 21, 1889.

William M. Ambrose, Louisville Southern Railroad, Limestone Press, Lexington, 2013.