The Fourteenth Street Bridge is a one-mile-long combination through truss and lift bridge that carries CSX and the Louisville & Indiana Railroad over the Ohio River between Louisville, Kentucky, and Clarksville, Indiana.
The earliest attempts to build a bridge to link Louisville with Indiana came in 1829 when James Guthrie, head of the Ohio Bridge Company, attempted to build such a crossing. Ithiel Town, an architect from New England, was hired to build a wooden structure. A cornerstone was laid for the new bridge at Twelfth Street in Louisville in 1836, but the Panic of 1837 stopped any further work from progressing. An additional attempt was made to finish the bridge in the 1850s, but financial difficulties stopped any further progress. 1
By the 1860s, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N) and the Jeffersonville & Indianapolis Railroad desired a railroad crossing of the Ohio River. The United States Congress approved the building of such a bridge in February 1865, stressing that such a bridge does not interfere with river navigation.
Financed by the Louisville Bridge Company, the L&N hired Albert Fink to design the river crossing who used his patented Fink truss design for the project with the exception of the swing span which was of the Warren truss type. 3 Construction began on August 1, 1867, and the first train to cross the new bridge occurred on February 18, 1870. At the time, it was the longest iron bridge in the United States at 5,294 feet in length with 27 spans total. 1 3 It featured a swing span over the Portland Canal to allow steamboats to pass unimpeded and a span of 400 feet over the Indiana channel of the river. 3
In the mid-1870s, the Pennsylvania Railroad acquired the L&N’s 60% ownership of the bridge after purchasing the tracks between Jeffersonville and Indianapolis. By 1882, the bridge was being used by trains up to 150 times per day and up to 300 times per day by the early 1900s. 1
Because of a constant increase in locomotive loading and traffic, a new double-track steel superstructure was constructed around the old bridge 2 between June 1916 and January 1919. 1 3 It resulted in the replacement of the swing span with a lift span over the canal and the removal of one pier to provide 645 feet of horizontal clearance over the Indiana channel of the river, well above the minimum government mandate of 600 feet. 2 3 It also featured a through span 370-feet long over the main channel of the river and a lift span 260-feet long over the canal. At the time of its competition, the bridge featured the longest and heaviest simple riveted truss span in existence. 2 3
The Pennsylvania and the New York Central Railroad merged to form Penn Central in 1968 which fell under the auspices of the Consolidated Railroad (Conrail) in 1976. The Louisville & Indiana Railroad gained purchased its Louisville to Indianapolis line from Conrail in March 1994.
- State: Indiana, Kentucky
- Route: Louisville & Indiana Railroad, CSX Transportation
- Type: Vertical Lift, Pennsylvania Through Truss
- Status: Active - Railroad
- Total Length: 5,218 feet
- Main Span Length: 644 feet
- The Encyclopedia of Louisville, by John E. Kleber, The University Press of Kentucky, 2015, pp. 315-316, 362-363.
- Mehren, E.J., and Charles Whiting Baker, editors. “Riveted-Truss Span of Record Length.” Engineering News-Record, vol. 82, no. 21, 22 May 1919, p. 995.
- Mehren, E.J., and Charles Whiting Baker, editors. “Design of New Superstructure of Louisville Bridge With 644-Foot Riveted Span.” Engineering News-Record, vol. 82, no. 21, 22 May 1919, p. 1007-1011.