History The 92-mile Kentucky Union Railway (KU) wa
The 92-mile Kentucky Union Railway (KU) was constructed between Lexington and Jackson, Kentucky between 1884 and 1890. 1 The KU went into receivership in 1891 and was reincorporated as the Lexington & Eastern Railway (L&E) in 1894.
In 1903, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N) became interested in the rich coal seams that were discovered in Letcher and Perry counties, which were north of its Cumberland Valley division. To reach the newly identified coal seams, the L&N acquired the Louisville & Atlantic Railroad (L&A), a 101-mile line from Versailles to Beattyville Junction at the L&E, in June 1909. This allowed the L&N to connect with the L&E at Airedale.
In 1910, the L&N acquired the L&E. The company then invested $5 million to improve the L&E and L&A railroads, and $5.7 million to construct the North Fork extension, a 101-mile venture from Dumont, just south of Jackson, to McRoberts. By January 1, 1911, most of the route was secured and construction began. The extension, which included the construction of 16 bridges across the North Fork Kentucky River, was finished on November 23, 1912. It became known as the Eastern Kentucky Division. 1
The L&N alignment between Winchester and Maloney east of Beattyville, originally built by the KU, consisted of numerous steep grades and tunnels. The L&N saw the route as a determinant as a heavy coal hauling route and the railroad opted to construct a new line between Winchester and Irvine, a distance of 29 miles. 2
The new Winchester to Irvine alignment opened on May 14, 1916, 2 which included the construction of the 544-foot-long Bridge No. 56 over the Kentucky and Tunnels No. 8 and No. 9 at Ford. 3 (The original KU alignment was abandoned between 1942 and 1947.)
Much of the double track along the Eastern Kentucky Subdivision was single-tracked by the L&N when centralized traffic control was implemented in the late 1980s, which allowed the railroad to increase traffic density on a single track and reduce operating costs. 3 The southbound Bridge No. 56 and Tunnels No. 8 and No. 9 were abandoned in favor of singularly using the northbound track.
- State: Kentucky
- Route: CSX Eastern Kentucky Subdivision
- Type: Warren Through Truss, Tunnel
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 544 feet (Bridge No. 56); 636 feet (Tunnel No. 6)
- “A Look at Eastern Kentucky.” The Louisville & Nashville Railroad, 1850-1963, by Kincaid A. Herr, University Press of Kentucky, 2000, pp. 183–186.
- “North Fork Extension.” The Louisville & Nashville Railroad, 1850-1963, by Kincaid A. Herr, University Press of Kentucky, 2000, pp. 186-198.
- Journal of the CSXT Historical Society, vol. 2, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1–7.