Category Archives: News

24-Mile Railroad connecting Lexington to Lawrenceburg has trail potential

Original Name: “LL” branch of Louisville Southern (Lexington to Lawrenceburg)
Date Constructed: 1888-1889
Length: 24 miles
Location: The line runs through Fayette, Woodford, and Anderson counties.
Highlights: Starting behind Rupp Arena and the Newtown Pike Extension, beside Town Branch Creek and the James E. Pepper Distillery, travels through beautiful thoroughbred horse country, behind Keeneland Race Course, through the village of Pisgah, to Versailles, crossing the Kentucky River on a breathtaking1659 foot long, 280 foot high structure at Tyrone called Young’s High Bridge, passes beside the Wild Turkey Distillery and ends in Lawrenceburg.
Historic highlight: Hauled thoroughbred horses in specially equipped cars to Keeneland, Calumet, and King Ranch.
Current ownership and conditions: The western-most 3 miles were in service until recently for the Austin Nichols Distillery (Wild Turkey) from Lawrenceburg; Young’s High Bridge has been closed to train traffic since 1985; a 5.5 mile “middle stretch” from the bridge running to Versailles has been operated by the Bluegrass Railroad Museum since 1987. The eastern-most 15 miles from Versailles to Lexington is actively owned and operated by RJ Corman.

Below is a history created by Emmett Bell:

The Louisville Southern (LS) began construction of its new railroad in Louisville, and proceeded in a east-southeast direction through Jefferson, Shelby, and Anderson Counties, reaching Lawrenceburg in mid-1888. Late in the same year, surveyors began plotting out a tortuous route (compared to the rest of the railroad) from Lawrenceburg, eastward towards Lexington. The last 24 miles of the railroad would require two large bridges, including a 1659 foot long, 280 foot high structure over the Kentucky River at Tyrone, as well as numerous steep grades, cuts, and sharp curves. LS president Bennett Young hired the Union Bridge company of New York to build the Kentucky River bridge, which had required Congressional approval to construct, and to oversee the project personally. Young was a well known person during this time, and was a highly regarded hero from the Civil War. He had planned and led one of the northern most actions of the war, when his band of raiders robbed a bank in St. Albans Vermont. After the war, Young became active in Reform politics in Kentucky, and was named the president of the Louisville Southern because of his numerous successful business ventures and political actions.
As construction on the Kentucky River bridge (now named Young’s High Bridge) continued, track crews pushed the line steadily towards Versailles, and a connection with the Versailles And Midway (V&M), which built a line between those two cities, and a branch to Georgetown, in 1885. The LS Finally reached its goal in early August when it established a connection with the Cincinnati Southern (Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific) in Lexington. On August 21st, 1889 a special train departed Louisville and made it’s way to the east end of Young’s High Bridge, where the ceremonial last spike was driven, and then proceeded to Lexington with Federal, State, and local officials on board. The Louisville Southern was finally a reality.
Shortly after completion, the LS acquired the V&M, and began making improvements on the hastily constructed mainline. Not unlike many of the new railroads of this era, the LS started to suffer from financial woes, and ended up in receivership in the fall of 1889. The line was leased to the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago (MONON) on October 14, 1889, and this would prove to be the first of several different reorganizations of the railroad. After a stockholders revolt, the line came under the control of the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad (ETV&G), which was later absorbed by the Southern Railway in Kentucky, and finally the Southern Railway System.
The line prospered, with several scheduled passenger trains a day, and an ever increasing amount of freight traffic. The Southern Railway took over operations of the CNO&TP between Cincinnati and Chattanooga, and began running regular passenger trains between St. Louis, Louisville, Lexington and points South.
As traffic increased, the portion of the railroad between Lawrenceburg and Lexington began to be a bottleneck, with its uneven topography and curves, and the Southern began construction of a upgraded line from Lawrenceburg, south through Harrodsburg, to a point north of Danville (SJ Tower) where it connected to the CNO&TP. All passenger traffic, and most of the freight traffic was routed via the new “Lawrenceburg cut off”, and the 24 miles from Lawrenceburg to Lexington became the “LL” branch. Traffic remained moderate over the line for the next several decades, with large amounts of coal being brought to the Kentucky Utilities steam plant at Tyrone, and other local traffic for online customers. Thoroughbred race horses were also handled across the line in specially equipped cars, being moved in and out of the Keenland race track, and from Calumet and other horse farms near the railroad. A special spur and loading ramp was constructed at Kings Ranch (MP 20.0LL), behind Calumet Farm to serve this business.
In the early 1980’s, coal traffic began to decline, and was suspended in 1984. The loss of the coal business, plus the ever worsening condition of Young’s high Bridge and the track in general, forced the closing of the “middle” 5 1/2 miles of the branch. The last train crossed the bridge in August of 1985, bringing to a close 117 years of continuous service on the old LS.
The western 3 miles of the line were left intact to allow service to the Austin Nichol’s distillery (makers of Wild Turkey Bourbon Whiskey), and the out of service portion between the east end of the Kentucky River bridge and MP 9.0LL was sold to the Bluegrass Railroad Museum in 1987 for tourist train operations. Norfolk Southern still retained the eastern 14 miles between Versailles and Lexington to serve several customers in Versailles. NS train K-21 and K-22 made the trip to Versailles 5 days a week until the traffic levels became too low for NS to justify operation. The line was sold to Gulf And Ohio Railways, and on May 11th, 1996, a newly formed G&O subsidiary, the Lexington & Ohio Railroad began operation of the line.

History compiled and written by Emmett Bell.

Town Branch Trail Receives Environmental Project Approval

Lexington’s Town Branch Trail has recently received (April 2004) environmental authorization to proceed with construction. Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), any project receiving Federal funds must undergo an analysis of potential impacts to the natural or human environment. After a survey of the trail area by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet – Division of Environmental Analysis, the Federal Highway Administration determined that the Town Branch Trail posed no significant impact to the environment (e.g., no federally listed endangered plant species running buffalo clover was found). As a result of this approval, the Town Branch Trail takes another step forward.

Golden Gate Bridge across Town Branch

Newtown Pike project to include Lexington version of Golden Gate Bridge
By Delano R. Massey
A gateway “signature” bridge over Town Branch will be included in the Newtown Pike extension project, Mayor Jim Newberry announced Monday.

Newberry said the bridge would be an “opportunity to enhance the beauty of our city” and “welcome our visitors with a strong statement about community pride and history.” The bridge, he said, would be the gateway into the city.

The bridge will be designed by Entran, an engineering firm that has been hired to do design work for the road project. Newberry said conceptual bridge designs would be presented later.

When pressed about the design of the bridge, Newberry said he learned a long time ago “to not play to your weaknesses.”

“The last guy you want designing that bridge is me,” Newberry said to a room full of laughter. Newberry said that’s why the city has tapped Entran to design the bridge. Generally speaking, Newberry said, the bridge should reflect something that comes to mind when people think about Lexington.

He likened it to the Golden Gate Bridge, which stretches across the San Francisco Bay in San Francisco, or the Zakim Bridge, which spans the Charles River in Boston. Of course, he said, those examples are “on a much, much, much larger scale than what I’m talking about here.”

“But on the smaller scale, there’s no reason why we can’t have something that will be a landmark for Lexington — particularly when you think about Newtown Pike being such a gateway to Lexington,” Newberry said. “There will be many, many, many people whose first impressions of Lexington will be a result of coming across that bridge. And we need to make sure that that first impression is a positive one.”

Newberry, flanked by U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, Vice Mayor Jim Gray and councilman Tom Blues, also gave an update on the plans for the Newtown Pike extension, which “will take some of the traffic off busy downtown streets and provide more direct access to the interstates for south Lexington and the University of Kentucky campus.”

The extension project has been studied since the 1960s — as Chandler joked, “longer than I’ve been on earth.”

In February or March, families that live in the lower Davistown neighborhood will start moving into new temporary modular homes that will be erected in the park. The families will live in the temporary homes for up to two years while their old homes are torn down.

New, permanent housing will be built for them in the neighborhood.

The reconstruction of lower Davistown — one of the city’s most economically depressed areas — is part of the massive $87 million Newtown Pike extension project. Nearly half the project money, about $42 million, will be used to buy land in lower Davistown, rebuilding the area’s infrastructure and paying for a portion of new housing that will be built there.

Ultimately, the Newtown Pike extension will stretch from West Main Street, where Newtown Pike now ends, to Broadway and, with a second prong, to South Limestone at the main entrance to the University of Kentucky, along what is now Scott Street.

Engineers are working to complete the first phase of the boulevard, from Main Street to Versailles Road, by 2010, in time for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Assuming funding is available, the second phase is to begin by 2011 and will stretch from Versailles Road to Broadway. The third phase is to begin by 2012 and will stretch from Patterson Street to Limestone. The city hopes the entire project will be finished by 2014.

In addition to the bridge and road construction, the project entails construction of a revitalized neighborhood in the area, which is rare for a federal or state road project.

A Community Land Trust will be established to ensure that current and future generations will have access to safe, affordable housing.

The Rev. Martina Ockerman of Nathaniel Mission said a committee made up of residents and members of the mayor’s office, among others, has been meeting once a month for the last four years to get everyone on board. Early on, she said, there was a lot of “mistrust” and “confusion,” but the group eventually came to a consensus.

Because it’s such a huge undertaking, and one that involves so many layers, Ockerman said this project could become a national model for combining affordable housing with a large project.

“People are watching this,” she said.

Reach Delano Massey at (859) 231-1455 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1455.

Congressman says downtown Lexington need water feature


Lexington Herald-Leader Publication


Congressman says downtown Lexington need water feature

The Associated Press

August 14, 2007. LEXINGTON, Ky. —
U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler says downtown Lexington needs a water feature. He said yesterday that in the past, the city covered up The Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek that now flows beneath Vine Street.

Chandler says people flock to water, whether a river, a stream, a lake or an ocean. He notes that a water feature along Vine could be financed with some of the $500,000 in federal money he helped earmark for downtown revitalization in Lexington.

The appropriation is included in the federal Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending bill. It has already been passed by the House and Chandler says he expects the Senate to approve it as well.

It’s unclear how the $500,000 appropriation would be spent in downtown Lexington if it’s approved. Mayor Jim Newberry said the most pressing needs would be identified once the money becomes available.

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Happy trails: Proponents say trails will be a big draw for city

Lexington Herald-Leader Publication


Happy trails: Proponents say hiking, biking opportunities
will be a big draw for city

Jennifer Hewlett, The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.Apr. 20–For years, Lexington leaders have envisioned a system of interconnecting trails that would run throughout Fayette County, providing places for people to bike and hike — and possibly serving as a draw for tourists and others hoping to get an up-close look at the Bluegrass.

Those plans have generally been a path to nowhere.

But this might be the year when many Lexingtonians are able to start dusting off their bicycles and lacing up their sneakers.

Before the year is out, Lexington’s trail mileage should nearly double with the construction of 6.5 more miles of paved trail for bicycling, walking and other types of non-motorized use. The mileage, scattered throughout Fayette County in six planned trail sections, will bring the total number of trail miles in Fayette County to nearly 15.

And city leaders, who say Lexington lags behind other cities in
recreational opportunities such as trails, plan to spend more money on trail-building next year. So far, there are plans to build 4 miles of trail in Fayette County in 2008. An additional 13.6 miles are on the drawing board.

Mayor Jim Newberry has proposed spending $2 million for trails in the next city budget. City officials say that local money could be parlayed into $10 million in new trails if used to match federal grants.

Newberry said the renewed focus on trail-building could bring a lot of benefits to Lexington.

“In addition to recreation, they are economic-development tools, they
are paths to improved health and can even be alternative
transportation,” he said this week as the city put the finishing
touches on the first mile of the Brighton East Rail Trail. That route
runs from Bryant Road to Pleasant Ridge Drive in southeastern Fayette
County.

The mile-long section, which was paid for with $426,000 in federal funds and will be officially dedicated Sunday, is the first piece of trail built along an abandoned railroad corridor in Fayette County. The railroad abandonment runs from Lexington to just outside of Ashland.

“How can anybody not be for this?” said Lexington attorney Bill Gorton, who represents the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council, an organization that promotes turning abandoned railroad corridors into trails and greenways. “It is an absolute win-win for everybody, including neighbors.”

Trail sections to be built this year include:

— A second mile of the Brighton East Rail Trail, from Pleasant Ridge Drive to Deer Haven Lane, at a cost of $500,000.

— Town Branch Trail, 2 miles, from Long Branch Lane to Alexandria Drive, $550,000.

— South Elkhorn Trail, 1 mile, from Lockdale Terrace to Joseph Bryan Way, $200,000.

— Wellington Trail, a half-mile on Reynolds Road, from the traffic circle to the Shillito Park entrance, $150,000.

— Liberty Park Trail, a half-mile parallel to Flying Ebony Drive, $100,000.

— West Hickman Trail, a mile and a half, from Man o’ War Boulevard to Veterans Park, $1.5 million.

Construction is set to begin on the Liberty Park Trail section in the next couple of weeks. All of the trail projects planned for this year, which are being paid for with federal transportation dollars, should be complete before the end of the year, said Keith Lovan, a municipal engineer for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government who oversees local trail projects.

Trail proponents in Lexington point out that in other parts of the country, trails have led to an increase in tourism and the development of businesses along them, including bicycle shops and bed-and-breakfast inns.

“It actually increases the value of properties near or adjacent to
these trails,” Gorton said. “The people that use them are generally the kind of people you would want in your neighborhood.”

Van Meter Pettit, who has been working for years to get a trail built that essentially follows Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek, sees that particular proposed trail as more than something that would lead to health and economic benefits. He sees it as a way of restoring “dormant” history.

Lexington got its start along Town Branch, part of which now runs under Vine Street and emerges west of Rupp Arena.

“What happened was, the city was just a village — it was laid out on a creek, and then it outgrew the creek, and they kind of covered it up, bit by bit,” said Pettit, who is president of Town Branch Trail Inc. “A good century and a half of the city developed along the regular course of the creek.”

A half-mile section of Town Branch Trail, from Leestown Road to Long Branch Lane, opened in October 2005.

There is opposition to certain trail legs proposed for Lexington. Some people who live near proposed trail segments are concerned about loss of privacy and vandalism, Lovan said.

“It has proven not to be the situation,” he said. “A lot of times our biggest opponents become our biggest supporters.”

Kentucky is behind many states when it comes to trails. But several other cities and towns in the state, including Louisville, Bowling Green and Owensboro, have made a commitment to building them. Louisville, especially, has a good trail program, Lovan said.

“We have a plan for a 100-mile loop, known right now as the Metro Loop,” said Metro Louisville transportation planner Mohammad Nouri. Nineteen miles of the loop, which will encircle Jefferson County, are already in place. Construction is to begin on 8 more miles this summer, he said.

He said Lexington ought to be commended for the trails it’s building.

Lexington leaders hope to eventually have two major trail arteries —
one running north-south, from Veterans Park to the Kentucky Horse Park, and the other running east-west, from Masterson Station Park to Deer Haven Lane — to which neighborhood trailways would be connected. The exact routes for the north-south and east-west trails have not been determined, but three of the trail sections set to be built this year would be legs of the north-south and east-west trails, Lovan said.

“A lot of American cities have 20, 30, 60 miles of trails, and
Lexington is one of those great American cities that is catching up,” Pettit said. “Louisville sets a very high benchmark for us, and it’s a good thing. If we set our sights on emulating Louisville, then we’ll have a world-class trail system in no time.”If you go

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The first section of the Brighton East Rail Trail will be dedicated at 2 p.m. Sunday in Pleasant Ridge Park. The event will include bike and pony rides, popcorn and prizes.

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Lexington is getting 6.5 miles of biking and walking trails this year. The trail sections to be constructed are scattered throughout Fayette County.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.

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