Imagine boarding a train in New Albany and stepping off in Downtown Louisville, all the while watching carelessly from a window at riverboats passing slowly on the Ohio River. Louisville once had a superb train system running everywhere you could imagine throughout the city and region, radiating out like spokes on a bicycle wheel from Downtown.
One span in particular occupied a stretch roughly taken by Interstate 64 today. There are still a few remnants to remind us of the riverfront train line that began in the 1800s, but the transportation option is far gone in the history of Louisville, along with its grand station at Seventh Street.
Tipster R. David Schooling sent in the above graphic (and a few more below) demonstrating Louisville’s extensive riverfront train systems in Kentucky and Indiana. He reports that electric trains (preceded by steam-powered trains) ran on an elevated track beginning around First Street around the clock.
Train service was halted only a few times in its history by severe weather (that we’ve recently become reacquainted with). Flooding twice stopped the track, once in 1937 and again in the 1940s as waters rose to unprecedented levels. The tornado of 1890 also brought the trains to a standstill (as it did with most of the city).
A grand Richardsonian Romanesque train station, first dubbed Union Depot and then Central Station, served as one stop at Seventh Street and River Road. The brick edifice with a large train shed and platform sits partially on land occupied by Interstate 64 and once housed the Actors’ Theater in the 1960s after passenger rail ceased. (Check out some vintage postcard-views of the station below.)
The train tracks are long gone from the riverfront, but a couple artifacts reveal their old path. The last train bridge was dismantled on the Museum Plaza site last year (at Seventh Street), but concrete structures and earthen berms along the Waterfront Plaza and Belvedere show where the tracks once ran. (A view of the elevated rail before Interstate 64 in the 1960s is also below.)
Schooling also points to the elevated rail connected to the Big Four Bridge in Louisville and Jeffersonville as evidence to Louisville’s elevated rail history, with tracks flying high above the rooftops of Victorian mansions and one train station evidently 60 feet above the ground. (A couple photos of the Big Four elevated rail are below.) The new pedestrian approach to the Big Four Bridge in Jeffersonville will roughly follow the original train path from the bridge.
The above diagram overlaid on the 8664.org vision of Downtown Louisville demonstrating the path of Louisville’s historic elevated rail unencumbered by an Interstate 64 is captivating. Imagine a modern train gliding silently along the riverfront on a fraction of the elevated right-of-way required by the highway. Passengers free to take in the changing Ohio River and kinetic skyline without the burden and safety issues of paying attention to traffic.
- Developer Proposes Streetcar Line For Bardstown Road (Broken Sidewalk)
- Local Architect Proposes Local Access Bridges (Broken Sidewalk)
- Jeffersonville Considers Innovative Canal District (Broken Sidewalk)