Sunday, June 8th, 2008
R. David Schooling recently emailed me some mind-blowing information about the history of electric rail service in Louisville, including elevated trains? You didn’t know Louisville had an elevated rail system? Neither did I. Here is some fascinating information.
- Multi-car elevated electric trains with 15 minute headways, operating nearly 24/7, were running in Louisville Ky 114 years ago. The heavy rail elevated steam locomotive commuter trains started running in 1886 and were replaced with all electric trains in 1893. They were an instant hit and wildly popular with heavy ridership.
- This commuter rail service was owned and operated by the K&I Bridge and Railroad Company. The K&I bridge across the river held commuter tracks as well as a swivel section that allowed it to open for passing ships. This only happened four times, one of which was for an Australian convict ship. You can read more about the bridge on Wikipedia.
- Louisville also had one of the highest (in elevation) el stations (from ground level) in the country, an elevated station with a subterranean entry, and and electric freight subway.
- The 3rd rail train that exhibited in Chicago for a few weeks in 1883 came directly to Louisville and ran for 4 years.
- In the early 1900’s Louisville had nearly 100 steam and electric commuter rail stations. Its electric commuter trains ran on till as late as the eve of 1946.
- There were pictures of sixteen car commuter trains from Louisville in Life Magazine as late as the World War II era.
- In the early 1930’s Louisville had electric commuter trains that ran at 70 mph on the Indianapolis run and were capable of nearly 100 mph. They were specifically designed and built with extensive use of aluminum and with special undercarriage trucks also designed for high speed. They were clones of the Ohio “Red Devils, but rebuilt on steroids.
Schooling is working on a book about this, tentatively titled “Louisville’s Elevated Rail and Electric Trains”. It should be fascinating stuff. I know Indianapolis, and presumably most other Midwest cities, also once had an extensive interurban network. It just goes to show that the region was once a leader in rail transit.