High Bridge

High Bridge

The High Bridge carries an active railroad across the Kentucky River near Wilmore, Kentucky. The bridge 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 was hired to design a suspension bridge over the Kentucky River, and although some construction had begun on the crossing, it was never completed because of financial difficulties owing to the Civil War. Only four sandstone anchor towers were finished.

L&D’s successor, the Cincinnati Southern Railway, resumed work on the bridge after the Civil War had concluded, but instead of a suspension bridge, the company chose to construct a Whipple deck truss. It hired the Baltimore Bridge Company of Baltimore, Maryland to construct the superstructure, which was completed at the cost of $404,856 in 1877. 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 completed nearby. 1 2 3 It was also the highest railroad bridge in the world.

The High Bridge was 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 project. 2 Built by the American Bridge Company of New York, the new High Bridge permitted heavier locomotives to cross the Kentucky River unabated.

A second track was installed on the High Bridge in 1929, which required the removal of the sandstone anchor towers from the never-completed suspension bridge. 2

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


  • State: Kentucky
  • Route: Norfolk Southern Railroad
  • Type:
  • Status: Active - Railroad
  • Total Length: 1,125 feet
  • Main Span Length: 525 feet
  • Height: 275 feet


  1. “High Bridge, Kentucky.” Kentucky Atlas & Gazetter. 27 Feb. 2009.
  2. Powell, Tim. “High Bridge History.” WorldTimZone 2008. 27 Feb. 2009.
  3. “High Bridge.” Jessamine County Kentucky Tourism.” 27 Feb. 2009.

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