Tue, December 09, 2003

History of Young’s High Bridge

I’ve been researching the history of Young’s High Bridge. Like the High Bridge, this is a railroad cantilever bridge crossing the Kentucky River. Young’s High Bridge, also called the Tyrone Bridge due to its close proximity to Tyrone, Kentucky, was constructed in roughly six months during 1889. A somewhat spindly looking bridge, it never received much railroad traffic, certainly not as much as High Bridge. The bridge has never been strengthened or modified, but remains today as it was orginally constructed. With its elegant angles it is a delightful bridge to view. The last train crossed the bridge in November 1985. The railroad lists the bridge as out of service and has abandoned the line.

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Jodie Wells, a Bluegrass Railroad Museum member, and the president of the Tyrone Bridge and Rail Company, a non-profit organization working to save the bridge. They are seeking to get the bridge listed on the Historic Landmark Registers in order to make it eligible for federal and state preservation grants. They are also raising money that they hope will one day help make the historic bridge a tourist attraction and state park. She points out how difficult it would be for a private organization to handle the liability on the bridge, but that it would be a different issue altogether as a state park.

With the nearby Wild Turkey bourbon distillery, and miles of abandoned line, this would make a beautiful biking and walking trail. Wells points to a similar project in Pennsylvania that she uses as a model: the Kinzua bridge and park. The Kinzua bridge was unfortunately partially destroyed by a tornado shortly after the start of a multi-million dollar strengthening project earlier this year, pointing out the urgency for preserving these aging structures. See the Kinzua Bridge Foundation for more details.

If the Tyrone Bridge and Rail Co. are not able to raise the necessary funding, there’s a good chance the bridge will be destroyed. Wells estimates that they need to raise a $5 million endowment as a starting point. Although that’s a significant amount, it may not be so unreasonable when you consider that cost estimates for taking down the bridge are in the $1 million range.

“I’ll guarantee you this,” Wells says, “if we can’t do it, it won’t be done.”

To contribute to the endowment or for more information write the Tyrone Bridge and Rail Co., P.O. Box 1202, Versailles, Ky. 40383.

Historic High Bridge color photos     Just write, right?