Big 4 Bridge: Jeffersonville to Louisville

The Big Four Bridge is an abandoned six-span railroad truss bridge that crosses the Ohio River, connecting Louisville, Kentucky and Jeffersonville, Indiana. It was completed in 1895, and updated in 1929. It has its largest span at 547 feet, for 2,525 feet in total. It gets its name from the defunct Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, which was nicknamed the “Big Four Railroad”.

 

The Big Four Bridge fell into disuse after the Big Four Railroad’s parent company, the New York Central Railroad, was merged into the Penn Central in 1968. The Big Four Bridge’s former traffic was then routed over Louisville’s Fourteenth Street Bridge. By 1969 both approach spans had been removed and sold for scrap. As a result, the Big Four Bridge became the first Louisville bridge to fall out of use, and gained the nickname “Bridge That Goes Nowhere”.

The Big Four Bridge was first conceived in Jeffersonville in 1885 by various city interests. The Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Company was formed in 1887 to construct the Big Four Bridge, after a charter by the state of Indiana; Kentucky also chartered the company in 1888. The riverboat industry, a big economic factor in Jeffersonville, had requested that the bridge be built further upstream from the Falls of the Ohio, but the United States Army Corps of Engineers approved the building site, even after the vocal protestations.

Construction began on October 10, 1888. The Big Four Bridge would be the only Louisville bridge with serious accidents during its building; thirty-seven individuals died during its construction. The first twelve died while working on a pier foundation when a caisson that was supposed to hold back the river water flooded, drowning the workers. Another four men died a few months after that when a wooden beam broke while working on a different pier caisson. The Big Four Bridge had one of the biggest bridge disasters in the United States, occurring on December 15, 1893 when a construction crane was dislodged by a severe wind, causing the falsework support of a truss to be damaged and the truss—with forty-one workers on it—fell into the Ohio River. Twenty of the workers survived, but twenty-one died. The accident almost cost more lives, as a ferry crossing the Ohio River just barely missed being hit by the truss. Hours later, a span next to the damaged span also fell into the river, but was abandoned at the time, causing no injuries. As a result, falsework was longitudely reinforced to prevent further occurrences, and also to prevent strong winds from causing similar damage by using special bracing on the bottom frame of the truss. Also, a new rule was enforced: “never trust a bolted joint any longer than is necessary to put a riveted one in place”.

The Big Four Bridge was finally completed in September 1895. Because of the location of the bridge and the growth of the Kennedy Interchange, the interchange had to avoid the columns that were on the approach to the bridge, causing the interchange to have several two-lane ramps rather than a single stretch of highway, and helped earn the nickname Spaghetti Junction. Due to the various accidents, the Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Company was financially strapped after building the bridge, and later in 1895 sold it to the Indianapolis-based Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, also known as the Big Four Railroad. This gave the railway its first entry into the Louisville market, although the railroad would have likely used the bridge even if they had not bought it, as they desired access to Louisville. One effect of the opening of the Big Four Bridge was increased transportation of freight by rail, significantly decreasing the number of packet boats that at one time crossed the Ohio River by the dozens.

On February 19, 1904, a Baltimore and Ohio train accidentally crossed the Big Four Bridge, due to the engineer and foreman falling asleep and going the wrong way at Otisco, Indiana. The fireman kept shoveling coal and did not pay attention. It was the conductor that finally noticed the error midway across the Big Four Bridge. The wayward train had to back up all the way back to Otisco.

On September 12, 1905, the first interurban crossed the Big Four Bridge. In January 1918, two interurbans collided on the Big Four Bridge, killing three and injuring twenty aboard.

Due to the increasing weight of the rail traffic, contracts were finalized in June 1928 to build a bigger Big Four Bridge, which opened on June 25, 1929. The new Big Four Bridge was built on the piers of the old bridge, a “novel building process”, as it sped up the time necessary to build the new bridge; the old one served to reinforce the new one as it was being built. The old piers would still be used, but the falsework was entirely removed. During construction, the Big Four Bridge’s usual rail traffic was routed over the Kentucky & Indiana Terminal Bridge. The interurbans that used the Big Four Bridge would instead disembark at Sellersburg, Indiana and have the passengers board buses into Louisville for the duration of the Big Four’s reconstruction.

After unsuccessful litigation to stop the project, the Big Four Bridge is as of 2006 in the process of being converted into a pedestrian and bicycle bridge as part of Louisville Waterfront Park and the ongoing revitalization of the Louisville riverfront. This conversion has been proposed and planned since the 1990s; funding is unclear as of 2007, although it may be funded as a part of the Ohio River Bridges Project. The Indiana Department of Transportation has pledged $1 million for the project to build a ramp to the Big Four Bridge on the Indiana side, on Riverside Drive, and Jeffersonville has pledged $200,000; early estimates were that the Indiana ramp would cost $2.8 million, but is likely to increase. The Kentucky ramp is expected to cost $4 million, but the ramp foundation is already done. Fixing the Big Four Bridge is expected to cost $3 million and take 18 months, but funds are still dependent on the federal budget. The only other facility still standing that was owned by the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway is the Spring Street Freight House. However, the mayor of Jeffersonville, Tom Galligan, called for a redesign of the entrance ramp to the bridge on the Indiana side, stressing that the proposed ramp would be unattractive and that the building of the column on a flood plain would probably not be possible. Galligan pointed out that neither the United States Coast Guard nor the Army Corps of Engineers have approved of the planned rampway. Galligan said he would rather have a ramp that reached over the floodwall and ended on Mulberry Street, causing a less severe incline on and off the bridge. Previous plans to access the Big Four Bridge included building an elevator.

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The Spring Street Freight House is a site on the National Register of Historic Places, located in Jeffersonville, Indiana. It was placed on the Register in May 2007, after being nominated by the Indiana Department of Transportation. It is one of the few railhouses built in the 1920s still standing.

It was built by Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (CCC & St. L RR), also known as the Big Four, around 1925. It was built Craftsman-style, and is 1.5 stories high. Its foundation and walls are made of wood, and the roof is asphalt shingles. It includes a brick chimney. The property upon which the freight house is upon covers .52 acres.

It was originally part of “Jeffersonville Springs”, a resort that featured mineral springs, which being chalybeate was deemed back then to be good for the body. This lent the name to a nearby street, Spring Street. The resort was started by Swiss immigrant John Fischli, who originally owned 13 acres (53,000 m2) of the property, until his death in 1838. In 1852 it was bought by a Methodist church, who converted the gambling houses by it into school houses. The hotel which Fischli had built burned down in 1857.

The property was bought by the Big Four in 1890. There were initially plans by the railroad to rebuild the resort, but that never happened. In 1907 the Railroad had destroyed the Springs.

After the railroad abandoned it in 1963, R.A. Alms & Sons Feed Wholesalers used it from 1970-1975. In the 1980s a cable company used it. It is currently unused, but the Ohio River Bridges Project had plans to restore it in 2008 and turn it into its headquarters; as of August 2009 nothing has been done to renovate it.

The building is a near-perfect example of how train depots of that time period were built and is considered rare as many from that era were dismantled as rail transportation evolved through the late 20th century. The facility still houses the original freight scale, manufactured by the Fairbanks Scale Company, which is still in working order. The scale dates to the early 1900s and was potentially manufactured 20-25 years before the building itself.

In addition to its architectural significance, the Freight House played an important role in the economic and demographic growth of the Jeffersonville and Indiana. INDOT’s nominating document called it, “significant as a symbol of the railroad’s vital role in the city’s economic growth, as well as that of the state.”

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LouisvilleBrokenSidewalk

ColgateClock

State and Woerner Ave • Jeffersonville, Indiana

The Colgate-Palmolive plant is located in the old Indiana Reformatory for Men. Constructed in the late 19th century, this Romanesque structure was sold to Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Company in 1923. Reopened the following year as a soap factory, the facility is now Southern Indiana’s oldest civilian employer, producing a broad range of soaps, detergents, and personal care products. The Colgate Clock is the second largest timepiece in the world, exceeding London’s Big Ben. Measuring 40 feet in diameter with hands of 16 and 20 1/2 feet respectively, the Colgate Clock has been a major Southern Indiana landmark for nearly seven decades.
The clock was manufactured by the Seth Thomas Co in Thomaston, Connecticut and arrived in Jeffersonville by rail.

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The Fourteenth Street Bridge, also known as the Ohio Falls Bridge, Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge or the Conrail Railroad Bridge, is a truss drawbridge that spans the Ohio River, between Louisville, Kentucky and Clarksville, Indiana.

Built in 1868 by the Louisville Bridge and Iron Company, the bridge was operated for many years by the Pennsylvania Railroad, giving the company its only access to Kentucky. Ownership of the railroad and the bridge passed on to Penn Central and later Conrail, which then sold the line from Louisville to Indianapolis, Indiana to the Louisville and Indiana Railroad, the current bridge owner.

The draw portion of the bridge is a vertical lift bridge. The draw span is across the upstream end of the Louisville and Portland Canal, which includes the McAlpine Locks and Dam. Ohio River traffic passes through this canal to navigate past the Falls of the Ohio.

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The Louisville, Kentucky roundhouse was joint NYC (Big Four) and Chesapeake & Ohio. The turntable from this roundhouse is still extant at the Kentucky Railway Museum and engineering work is currently underway for it’s installation at KRM.

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L&N_Office_Building_Louisville_closeup

L&N Railroad Office Building with Union Station next to it

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The Louisville and Indiana Railroad (reporting mark LIRC) is a Class III railroad that operates freight service between Indianapolis, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky, with a major yard and maintenance shop in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

The 106-mile line was purchased from Conrail in March 1994. Previous to Conrail, the line was owned by Penn Central, and before that, the Pennsylvania Railroad. It serves the cities of Franklin, Sellersburg, Seymour and Columbus, Indiana, and also serves the former Clark Maritime Center, now Port of Indiana, Jeffersonville. In Louisville, the LIRC interchanges with the Paducah and Louisville Railway, CSX Transportation and the Indiana Rail Road, former Canadian Pacific Railway (via trackage rights over CSX’s former Monon line). Traffic from them mostly is Potash. In Indianapolis, the line interchanges with CSX Transportation at Avon Yard approximately 7 miles west of the Circle City.

The LIRC was briefly home to the Amtrak passenger train Kentucky Cardinal, a failed attempt to capture express business from the United Parcel Service air hub in Louisville. Inconvenient departure and arrival times, coupled with the prevailing 30-mph speed limit on the LIRC, led to the train’s demise in 2003. The former express facility is now run by A&R Transport, which is a plastics transload facility. Plastics make up the majority of the online business with the railroad.

CSX negotiated trackage rights over portions of the LIRC in 2004. This enabled CSX to abandon a portion of former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad trackage from New Albany, Indiana to Jeffersonville, and access the remainder of the line to Charlestown, Indiana and the former Indiana Ammunition Plant using LIRC trackage over its Ohio River bridge. Additionally, CSX has used rights over the LIRC as far north as Seymour, where it connects with another former B&O line from Cincinnati, Ohio to St. Louis, Missouri. These trains have been used to bypass a congested CSX line directly between Cincinnati and Louisville.

The line’s power includes GP39-2, GP38-2, and GP11’s. There also is a GP16 on the property.

Road trains are:
CA: Day Train from Columbus to Avon Yard and back
CJ: Night train from Columbus to Jeffersonville and back.
Columbus Local: Runs from Columbus and does North work. Also switches industries on the old Madison Railroad line in South Columbus. Most notable is the large Amcor P.E.T. Packaging facility in Franklin, Indiana.

JS3- Jeffersonville Yard Switcher. Switches inbound and outbound CJ train. Builds NS cut for the Transfer later in the day. Builds CSXT cut that their local train picks up.
Transfer: Which runs from Jeff Yard to Clark Maritime Center, Norfolk Southern Railway interchange in Louisville, Kentucky, . Also does industry work in Louisville.
Colgate: Switches industries on the Dutch Lane Runner in Jeffersonville.

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