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Henderson Railroad Bridge

Henderson Railroad Bridge

The Henderson Bridge carries CSX across the Ohio River between Henderson, Kentucky, and Vanderburgh County, Indiana. It was originally built for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L


Prior to the construction of a fixed railroad bridge across the Ohio River between Henderson, Kentucky and Vanderburgh County, Indiana, ferry boats carried goods and passengers across. 6 For freight, the process could take two to four hours to load and unload cargo. Additionally, the ferry boats could not operate during times of inclement weather or when the river would freeze over.

To resolve this issue, the Henderson Bridge Company was chartered by an act of the Kentucky Legislature on February 9, 1872, with the intention of building a railroad bridge for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N) across the river. 6 It initially had a capital stock of $2 million, although this was deemed excessive and it was lowered to $1 million before being raised back to $2 million. The first meeting of the incorporators and directors was held at Henderson in September 1880, and stock subscriptions were opened in October.

By December 1881, contracts were let for the construction of the foundations and masonry for the bridge but work progressed very slowly. 6 Eventually, the Company took over the building of the foundations and masonry in April 1883, and substructure work was completed during the winter. The superstructure was then erected by the Keystone Bridge Company.

The new Henderson Railroad Bridge opened across the Ohio River between Henderson, Kentucky, and Vanderburgh County, Indiana on August 6, 1885. 6 The longest of its type in the world, 1 6 the 8,200-foot bridge connected to all of the railroads entering at or near Evansville with the L&N at Henderson, thus making the shortest and most direct route from St. Louis, Chicago, and the Midwest to Nashville, Chattanooga, and the Southern seaboard. 6 It cost $1.86 million to construct.

Plans to replace the aging bridge were set in place in November 1930 when the L&N submitted paperwork to Col. W. A. Johnson, United States District Engineer, and attended hearings conducted by a board of federal engineers. 4 The new crossing was proposed to provide 675 feet of horizontal clearance, a vertical clearance of 45 feet above the water and 92.2 feet above lower water.

The start of construction of the new bridge by the Missouri Valley Bridge & Steel Company was delayed as the city of Henderson refused to grant right-of-way. 5 A delegation of citizens decried the aesthetics of the bridge and that it would somehow jeopardize traffic below. By May, however, work had started and the massive 12,123-foot crossing, which included a five-span polygonal Warren through trusses, opened on December 31, 1932. 2 The new $9 million bridge was the largest in the L&N system. 3 It was inaugurated at 2:46 pm following dedication ceremonies that included the arrival of two special trains that brought in businesspeople from Evansville and the L&N offices in Louisville at 11:30 am and the driving of the final rivet at 1:45 pm. 2

The first scheduled run over the new bridge was immediately following the ceremonies when the No. 51 passenger train left Evansville for Nashville. 2 It was pulled from Evansville to Henderson via a massive K-5 Pacific type passenger engine that was decorated with flags and painted red, blue, and silver.



  • State: Indiana, Kentucky
  • Route: CSX
  • Type: Warren Through Truss
  • Status: Active - Railroad
  • Total Length: 8,200 feet (1885); 12,123 feet (1930)
  • Main Span Length: 525 feet (1885); 675 feet (1930)
  • Spans:


  1. Boyett, Frank. “Bridge Building Boom Brings Three New Steel Ones Here in Year’s Time.” Gleaner [Henderson], 30 Mar. 1996.
  2. “New L. and N. Bridge To Be Opened Today.” Evansville Press, 31 Dec. 1932, p. 1.
  3. “Bridge Construction in Henderson Draws Surplus of Laborers, Jobless.” Owensboro Messenger, 27 Mar. 1931, p. 3.
  4. “Rail Span Hearing Is Set for Today.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 7 Nov. 1930, p. 32.
  5. “Henderson May Lose Rail Span Over Ohio River.” Messenger-Inquirer [Owensboro], 22 Apr. 1931, p. 7.
  6. “Henderson’s Bridge.” Courier-Journal [Louisville[, 7 Aug. 1885, p. 2.

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