Big Four Bridge: Bridging the gap between past and present - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Big Four Bridge: Bridging the gap between past and present

This is a photo of the Big Four Bridge taken sometime before 1929. (Source: UofL Archives) This is a photo of the Big Four Bridge taken sometime before 1929. (Source: UofL Archives)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - From rail to trail, the Big Four Bridge has graced the Louisville skyline for more than 120 years. It's been more than 40 years since trains rumbled across the tracks.

It is called the Big Four Bridge because it carried the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway - nicknamed Big Four Railroad. The 2,525-foot span containing six trusses allowed freight traffic to dramatically increase across the region.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Big Four Bridge security in Jeffersonville set to get a boost]

Construction on the bridge began in October 1888. On December 15, 1893, two years before it was finished, the bridge project made headlines across the nation after strong winds dislodged a construction crane. A truss holding 41 workers on the span collapsed into the icy Ohio River. Twenty-one of the workers drowned.

Local and National newspapers lead with the story. The headline on the Jeffersonville News declared the accident an "awful disaster." Louisville's Courier-Journal published the headline, "Death Undid the Building." The tragedy was also front page news in the New York Tribune and Los Angeles Herald.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Ramp construction on Indiana side of Big Four Bridge complete]

A total of 37 people died during the bridge's construction.

The bridge was completed in September 1895 with a $2.5 million price tag. It would cost $60 million today.

Everything old is new again - the original Big Four Bridge had a pedestrian walkway on the west side of the tracks. People could walk across the bridge alongside trains until 1929 when a newly constructed replacement bridge using the same bridge piers replaced it.

Because of the bridge's height, high trestle elevated structures cut through neighborhoods for more than three miles in Indiana and Kentucky. Elevated trains ran day and night over neighboring houses. The viaducts that once towered over homes were dismantled and sold for scrap.

By the late 1960s, modern locomotives were too heavy or wide for the bridge. In 1969, the Interstate Commerce Commission declared the bridge abandoned. The Kentucky and Indiana approaches were removed in 1974.

In May 2008, faulty wiring on a light fixture caused a fire on the bridge deck. While the crossties and wooden walkway were damaged, the bridge structure itself remained unharmed.

Known for years as the bridge to nowhere - is a destination once again.

Copyright 2014 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

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