Cincinnati Southern Bridge

The Southern Bridge is a railroad-only span connectingthe western edge of the city with the small town of Ludlow, KY. It wasbuilt by the Cincinnati Southern Railroad, the only major railroad in theUnited States built by a municipality.  In a move unmatched in Americanhistory, Cincinnati voters approved a $10,000,000 bond issue for constructionof an entirely new railroad south to Chattanooga, TN.  Constructionbegan in 1869, requiring another $10,000,000 bond issue before completionof the 350 mile line in 1880.  The bridge opened in 1877, and 130+years later it is still the busiest in the city.

Despite the 27 tunnels built through the hills of Kentuckyand Tennessee, the railroad's Ohio River bridge was the most expensivesingle structure on the new line.  It was originally a single trackbridge on masonry piers similar to the original  L&NBridge, but with a swing span at the southern end.  Like the otherrailroad bridges, it was a victim of its own success and in 1922 was rebuiltin an elaborate operation that kept the bridge in service while work proceeded.The upper half of the original piers were encased and widened with concreteand the new double track truss assembled around the original truss. Thecircular pivot pier of the original bridge's swing span was left standingand is still there today.  The rebuilt bridge does not have a swingor draw span.

Aerial view looking west.  [ LarryStulz   photo]

Today the Southern Bridge is extremely busy -- accordingto the September 2002 issue of Trains magazine, the bridge carries28-36 trains per day.  During peak hours, no more than a 5 minutegap passes between mile long trains, with each taking 10 minutes or moreto crawl across the bridge.  The pedestrian walkway was abandonedin the 1970's and it is impossible to walk along the tracks before a traincomes along. The Kentucky approach through the town of Ludlow is fairlyinteresting, with a small yard just south of the bridge and two high trestlesabout a mile further south. The Ohio approach descends a 1/2 mile snakingviaduct (visible in the above photo) to the massive Gest St. and Queensgateyards at the base of Price Hill. This viaduct was rebuilt first in 1931in anticipation of Union Terminal's construction. After passenger serviceceased in 1972, the terminal concourse was demolished and the Gest St.yard expanded. The approach was modified again in the 1970's after theyard expansion, however much of the approach is still over the 1930's eraviaduct. The yard's throat is located at the end of this viaduct, and itis common to see mile long trains stopped for crew changes, with the fronthalf on the viaduct and back end still all the way across the bridge.

The Cincinnati Southern Railroad is still owned by thecity, which leases it currently to Norfolk Southern.  Although criticizedas a white elephant in its day, the railroad paid tens of millions in dividendsto the city throughout the 20th century, repaying its original $20,000,000cost many times over.

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