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

The Elmer L. Foote Lantern Slide Collection has a number of pictures of High Bridge, including some of its original construction and some of the reconstruction. The collection is fairly large and includes many waterfall pictures as well as pictures of various mountain folk. The High Bridge photos begin around number 80 in the collection. Don’t miss slide 81 which shows the reconstruction of the bridge from near the stone towers. Slide 91 shows the completed bridge from the towers.

The pictures in this collection were taken by Foote, who was a Cincinnati photographer and public library staff member. His pictures appeared in the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune. Many of the slides are hand-tinted, which lends an almost color photograph feel. I love that the Kentuckiana Digital Library is making these pictures available.

Transportation trails in Kentucky

On November 19, I attended a meeting of the transportation advisory committee for the Jessamine County portion of the US 68 widening project. Part of the discussion was about what pedestrian and bicycling facilities needed to be included in the project. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet policy requires that these facilities be considered in every construction project.

The advisory committee ended up recommending that the road include wide shoulders for bicycle use from Lexington up to Catnip Hill road. At that point, the old Harrodsburg road will be used as both a bike route and for automobile traffic—it is expected that far fewer cars will be using the old road. The bicyclists and pedestrians will then join a shared use path for non-motorized vehicles only. It will cross under US 68 using a new tunnel (almost 150 feet long). The path will continue along Harrodsburg road up to KY 29.

I was a little surprised that most of the bicycle advocates wanted wide shoulders and to stay on the road. I was much more interested in the possiblity of a path along the road that could be used for various forms of exercise, including walking, running, strolling, biking, and skating. Walking beside a four lane highway on a shoulder isn’t that enjoyable. The advisory committee doesn’t want this to look like an interstate highway, so concerns for preserving the beauty of Harrodsburg road using grass shoulders won out. This led to recommending a separate 12 foot wide path. Similar concerns meant that we get a tunnel instead of a bridge crossing the road.

I was thrilled with the strong support of a number of bicyclists and those friends of rail-trails. It would be wonderful to be able to bicycle from Lexington to High Bridge along safe trails. There’s still work to be done to make that a reality. Wilmore would need to extend its existing trail from the veteran’s center out to Ky 29. And there’s the High Bridge rail-trail that would provide the last portion from Wilmore to High Bridge.

I’m excited about the future possibilities. I’ve dreamed of biking to work from Wilmore, but the present road conditions make it unsafe. The new path is a dream come true. Having this path may help tourism in Jessamine county and those living along Harrodsburg Road will also enjoy it.