A century ago, if you were travelling outside of the center city, you wanted to be on a train. Just take a look at Frankfort Avenue up above from 1910. The dirt turnpike is muddy and full of potholes and would likely have been an unpleasant ride in a wagon or early automobile. Luckily for Louisvillians past, a state of the art interurban train ran parallel to the road providing a quick, reliable, and smooth ride out into the far reaching hinterlands.
While interurbans once ran out of Louisville like spokes on a wheel, none exist today. The line on Frankfort began Downtown and traveled out to Anchorage, Pewee Valley, and eventually LaGrange. Back in the heyday of Louisville rail, you could have caught the Louisville & Eastern Railroad’s Yellow Flyer train every half hour between 6:00am and 10:00pm with the day’s last train running at midnight.
These commuter trains could speed you in and out of Louisville at 65 to 89 miles per hour, breezing past motorists stuck in the mud. Imagine the convenience today of traveling nearly 90 mph out to St. Matthews, Lyndon, or Anchorage from a dense and thriving core city.
These interurban rail lines helped to fuel growth of Louisville’s early suburbs which were clustered in centers around train stops. Early “streetcar suburbs” were more dense and walkable by nature than their modern counterparts since residents would take the train to their daily destinations outside of their suburban core. As roads improved and cars changed from “toys” of the wealthy to daily modes of transportation, rail declined and has now become obsolete. In 1911, the L & E was bought by the Louisville & Interurban Railroad and ran until August 1935.