High Bridge (Cincinnati Southern)

High Bridge crosses the Kentucky River near Wilmore, Kentucky and was once the highest bridge in North America and the highest railroad crossing in the world.

In 1851,2 the Lexington & Danville Railroad (L&D) desired a connection between the cities of Lexington and Danville, Kentucky.1 John A. Roebling designed a grand suspension bridge over the deep gorge, although construction was never completed due to financial difficulties brought upon by the advent of the Civil War. Only four sandstone anchor towers were completed.

Work resumed after the Civil War when the L&D’s successor, Cincinnati Southern, resumed work on the Kentucky River crossing. Instead of a suspension bridge, the railroad chose to construct a Whipple deck truss. It hired the Baltimore Bridge Company of Baltimore, Maryland to construct the superstructure, which was completed in 1877 at a cost of $404,856. At 1,125 feet long and 275 feet tall, the new High Bridge was the highest of any crossing in North America until 1888 when Young’s High Bridge was built to the north along the Kentucky River; it was also the highest railroad bridge in the world.1 2 3 High Bridge dedicated by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879.

Between 1910 and 1911, a stronger crossing was constructed around the older bridge, which was kept in continuous service throughout the construction.2 The new High Bridge was constructed by the American Bridge Company of New York. The only modifications that were undertaken since High Bridge’s reconstruction was the installation of a second track in 1929, which required the removal of the sandstone anchor towers.2

High Bridge was declared an engineering landmark in 1986 by the American Society of Civil Engineers.2 3