Ashland to Lexington

The Lexington Subdivision

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(Forwarded from the Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad)

Note: Some of this information was drawn from Charles Bogart's article appearing in the December 2003 issue of the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Magazine.

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"Hi-railing" westbound at Olympia, KY. Note old signal foundation at left. Photo by T. J. Mahan, July 2005.

A large portion of this line was originally built in 1881 by the Elizabethtown, Lexington and Big Sandy Railroad (itself a successor to the Lexington and Big Sandy Railroad), and saw both passenger and freight service. Seeking passage to the west, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad purchased the EL&BS in 1892, which connected to their mainline in Ashland, KY. In order to reach Lexington proper, the C&O also purchased four miles of track from the Passenger Belt Railroad, completing C&O ownership of track between Ashland and Lexington.

The C&O once had a major rail yard on the line east of Lexington, named "Netherland Yard", which included an engine house with turntable, along with other facilities.

At Morehead, KY, the Morehead and North Fork Railroad branched off from the C&O and headed south to serve the clay pits at Clack Mountain and beyond.

Passenger service along the line ceased in the mid 1950s. The tracks between Coalton (west of Ashland) and Lexington were abandoned in 1985 by CSX. The right-of-way is still visible is most places; even a water tower in east Lexington marks the former location of the Netherland Yards (see photo).

The C&O/CSX exersized their trackage rights from Winchester to Lexington on the L&N (not sure of the date?) and removed their main between the two. It shows it in the CSX Trackcharts (1983). The line was abandoned from Winchester to Chilesburg. The C&O route into Lexington is missing on the L&N System map (1968) so C&O/L&N junction was pre-1968. Probably about the time passenger traffic ended on the line (mid 50s) as C&O would have no reason to keep track going to passenger station on their line if no passenger traffic existed. They would need to honor freight contracts though. They had also retired their (Netherland) Yard as well. At the time when Diesels were coming online?? If you have any other information Lexington line (Subdivision) I would be interested in knowing - I'm hoping to model the line.

Ron Foskett
London, ON, CN
2/18/2009

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I grew up in Lexington, KY and the first passenger train I rode was on the C&O from Lexington to Winchester in early 1967. It was a trip of 20 miles and I remember the train went very fast. The C&O kept passenger service to Lexington up to Amtrak Day, May 1, 1971.

When the Chessie System and the Seabord System were considering their merger back in 1978, the C&O posted a notice in the Lexington newspaper announcing their plan to abandon the mainline between Chilesburg and Winchester and operate over the L&N line between Leixngton and Winchester. The C&O stopped running trains on their line between Lexington and Winchester in April 1981. Some of the track was removed later that fall. The rest came out in 1983. When the one business in Chilesburg closed a few years later, the rest of the line was removed back to Lexington.

Originally, the C&O operated trains between Ashland and Louisville, KY via trackage rights over the L&N between Lexington and Louisville. Between 1981 and 1985, the C&O operated trains between Ashland and Winchester; these trains did not continue to Lexington and Louisville on the L&N. This seemed to hasten the desire to abandon the rest of the Lexington Subdivision which happened in 1985.

I have never been a fan of how CSX first ran their system. Whenever they wanted to abandon a route, they would first tear out the middle, which would kill off business from the remainder of the route, thus justifying the closure of the rest of it.

A footnote to all this: R J Corman purchased all of the L&N main from Anchorage (near Louisville) to Winchester, including the line through both Frankfort and Lexington.

This maens that CSX no longer serves Lexington at all.

John Whitehead
Clinton, TN
2/20/2009

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I have a question. In May 1967 and June 1969, I disembarked from C&O Train 21 at a location different than the old C&O/L&N Union Station in Lexington and I am trying to pinpoint the exact location. Does anyone know? And when was Union Station closed? Thanks to any who respond.

Bob Withers
Huntington, WV
10/6/2009

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During the 1950's Lexington's Union Station was served by both the C&O and the L&N. When the L&N discontinued their remaining passenger trains from Lexington in about 1959, Union Station was closed and was torn down in 1960. The C&O converted their downtown freight station into a passenger station. In 1968, the city of Lexington created a project called "Urban Renewal". Among other things, this involved the removal of the C&O trackage from dowtown Lexington. To bypass the downtown area, the C&O operated their trains over the Beltline Railroad, a lightly used line serving various industries. This also involved the contruction of two short segments of new trackage to reach their Netherland yard. The C&O built a new staion on Delaware Avenue (which is now a church) and started using it in December 1968. The station that the C&O used between 1959 and 1968 stood on the corner of Rose and Vine Streets; a high-rise retirement apartment building is located on this site.

John Whitehead
Clinton, TN
10/25/2009

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I grew up in Lexington and spent many a summer on the east end where the C&O once ran. I remember action in and around the Netherland Yards after the formation of the Chessie System. Although the yards was primarily a staging area and end point for freight, I can still remember the Chessie System locomotives moving around the Jiff Peanut Butter factory on Winchester Rd. in the 1970's!

Too young to remember passenger service to Lexington although I have followed the old ROW through downtown Lexington thanks to my father pointing it out for me. Part of the rails are still visible in the sidewalk off main street where the tracks crossed and headed towards the Union Depot. Part of the line was left intact so rail services could continue from the yards to the Lexington Hearld Leader Building on Midland Ave. but sadly that's where it ends.

Rory Cundiff
Somerset, KY
11/5/2009

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Did the Lexington Big Sandy lay any track on the originally planned route into Catlettsburg? During a recent repair of I-64 near intersection with US 23 the equipment operators uncovered an "old" set of rails. The dozer operator took pictures with his phone (I have yet to see them) but the boss made him cover them up. I have never heard of any tracks in that location, it is less than a mile from the Big Sandy line of CSX.

Also, do you know the original route into Catlettsburg from Coalton?

David Whitlock
Catlettsburg, KY
2/24/2010

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Actually, the Louisville section of the George Washington ran over the Lexington Subdivision until the last GW, a westbound, left Lexington on Amtrak day in 1971. My friend, James F. Harris, was the engineer on the EMD E-8 that pulled that last run. The run terminated in Louisville (via trackage rights over the old L & N line) and the equipment was later deadheaded eastbound. C & O passenger operations were always operated over the Lexington - Chilesburg - Winchester segment of track until the end of passenger service.

The Lexington - Winchester segment was abandoned in 1980 although a section was left in place between Lexington and a fertilizer warehouse that used to be on Cleveland Rd. Later, the line would be pulled up from Cleveland Rd. back to a point behind Linkbelt off of Palumbo Dr. in Lexington. After abandonment of the Winchester - Chilesburg section of line, the remaining trains 391 and 392 ran between Russell and Patio yard in Winchester, KY. Any westbound traffic would be forwarded on the Lexington local that ran on the Winchester, Avon Lexington line that is actually mostly the old EK line.

The last train between Winchester and Russell ran in June of 1985 and the line was abandoned from near the point where the line crosses under I-64 near KY Electric Steel in Carter Co. to Winchester. About 3 miles of line west of KY Electric Steel was left in place to serve a proposed landfill operation that never came to pass and was later scrapped.

Bill Johnson
Lexington, KY
3/14/2010

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I am pretty sure that passenger service ran from Lexington to Ashland until around 1971 when Amtrak took over. My father and mother rode the train in 1970 to Lexington.

To David Whitlock: The rails found during excavation work on I-64 belonged to the Oakland Furnace line that ran from Big Sandy track a few miles to the Oakland Furnace that was located in that area in the late 1800's. It may have also served several mining operations that were once there also.

There were several lines in the 1800's that connected the hollows to the mainline. In Ashland, the Keys Creek RR ran from the coal yards at Normal out 45th Street/Shadowlawn Dr./KY Rt. 168/Boy Scout Rd. and went up the present day Wildwood Drive to an area near Blazer High School where many coal mines once existed prior to 1900. It can be seen on a map in dated 1871 I believe it was.

Andy Brown
Catlettsburg, KY
11/7/2010

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There was passenger service until at least 1969. That year, all interline business passes were given up and I had to turn in my C&O pass which was specifically good between Alexandria, VA and either Cincinnati or Louisville. I rode the "George" and it's connection, several times on business while I worked for the Southern Rwy. Test Dept.

Jerry Sullivan
Jacksonville, FL
8/22/2011

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I was on that track from Ashland KY to Fl. for training at Pensacola NAS. That was in 1964 summer. I was on a L&N car hooked up to the C&O RR engine. L&N car was old, had an old coal stove, it shocked me compared to C&O passenger cars

Jim Prout
Lexington, KY
9/11/2011

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Any idea when the Southern Depot on Broadway closed? Curious to see how long it sat vacant before it burned in the early 1990s.

Melissa Jurgensen
Lexington, KY
6/20/2012

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Melissa Jurgenson, the Southern Railway station on S. Broadway served as the Lexington freight offices until about 1982, when a newer, smaller structure was build just to the north of the old station. The station stood for several years and slowly crumbled. There was talk of renovating it and turning it into a restaurant in the late 1980's, but a fire on May 4, 1991 sealed its fate. It wasn't completely torn down until 1992.

John Whitehead
Clinton, TN
10/8/2012

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I have the pillars from the railroad station torn down on S. Broadway. They are huge and two are whole and two are in three pieces each. Would love to sell them.

Robert Wells
Lexington, KY 40504, KY
12/9/2012

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I'm interested in the Southern Pillars. Contact me at joenugent986@yahoo.com for further discussion.

Joe Nugent
Lexington, KY
1/6/2013

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My sister was a student at UK from 1962 until '64. She returned to the campus in '66. She road the C and O home to Charleston in the early '60s. The Lexington coach(es) were connected to the George Washington and/or The FFV at Ashland and continued east. I road the C and O from Lexington to Charleston sometime afterwards, maybe '66 or '67.

Stanley D. Wyatt
Charleston, WV
4/1/2013

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Passenger service was ended on the C&O Ashland-Lexington

line the day before Amtrak took over passenger service.I rode the last train from Lexington to Morehead.

rogruth
Kentucky
10/26/2013

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I thought the pillars from the S. Broadway depot were donated to BGRM? Maybe Mr. Wells could find it more beneficial to donate them to the Lexington History Museum or other historical preservation group? I think the tax write off would net you more than selling them outright.

Also FWIW, this summer the structure next to the C&O depot in Mt. Sterling burned to the ground.

TJ Mahan
GCS, FL
11/21/2013

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I'm glad to report that the eastern end of the line is getting a new (and smelly) lease on life. A new trash contract went into effect at the beginning of the year, and the landfill at Coalton is now getting at least 50-60 flatbeds of trash cars almost daily, with possibly more coming in soon. The tunnels at Princess and Ashland have been notched out for the new cars, welded rail has been laid out and is due to be changed over sometime in the next couple weeks. Road power is now becoming a norm on the line, which used to only be able to take 4-axle EMD locomotives.

Mike Sullivan
Catlettsburg, KY
4/3/2014

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Where exactly downtown Lexington was Union Station located?

T.M.
Lexington, KY
8/14/2014

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Do you have any info on the rail lines in Mt Vernon, KY?

Apparently part of the L&N. Part of the line is now a road. HWY 150, a bypass between Mt Vernon and the communities east but the rails west of HWY 461and 150 intersection are still there. They service two industrial buildings and a quarry but people from that area say they've never seen a train, Atleast not in years.

So I wondered upon your site and didn't see anything there about it.

Maybe its just inactive CSX or RJ Corman lines.

It branches off of what is now the main line near Mullins station rd before the mainline enters the North/South route into the old Twin Tunnels in Orlando, KY just south of Berea where the last original L&N station still stands.

To my understanding the last passenger service station on the L&N. The last passenger train departed the station in 1952. I believe it was the L&N's Flamingo.

Anyway. Just very curious about this branch line because people in Mt Vernon say they've never seen a train yet there are usually different rail cars at the siding on the old plastics plant and on the siding around the gravel quarry. So someone must be operating on this rather long branch from the mainline near Orlando yet dead ends at HWY 461.

Jacob Mchone
Berea, KY
9/4/2014

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The line through Mt. Vernon is the Lebanon branch. It ran from Lebanon Junction on the L&N mainline from Louisville to Nashville, to just east of Mt. Vernon where it hit the line from Corbin to Winchester.

Tommy Young
Paris, TN
9/8/2014

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C&O trackage rights over the L&N's Old Road between Lexington and Louisville did not start until the L&N yard (now R.J. 's Rupp Yard} in Lexington. The C&O could not over freght service over the Old Road but passenger trains could stop at Midway, Frankfort, Shelbyville, and Anchorage. The C&O got trackage rights over the L&N because at one time the L&N operated the what became the Lexington Sub between Lexington and Mt. Sterling. This was all of the line that could be built at the time and it was leased to the L&N. At one time the C&O thought about moving its Louisville trains to the Southern Railway (Lexington-Versailles-Lawrenceburg-Louisville). L&N did not want to lose the lease payments the C&O paid them so the L&N built the Shelby Cutoff between Christiansburg and Shelbyville to connec with the L&N owned Shelby Railroad so the C&O would stay on the L&N. CSX did not need to exercise trackage rights over the L&N because the L&N had disappeared into the Seaboard System and CSX is the result of the merger of Chessie System and Seaboard System.

David Morse
Frankfort, KY
11/4/2014

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Regarding:

"Passenger service along the line ceased in the mid 1950s". This is too early.

I personally rode the passenger train from Ashland to Louisville KY (via Lexington) several times while in high school to school club conventions in Louisville (1966 to 1970) time frame. And, had friends that visited home from Lexington to Ashland while at UK at Lexington in the very early 1970's via this line.

So there was passenger service from Lexington KY to Ashland KY up until at least the very early 1970's.

Lon Coleman
Rush, KY
8/13/2015

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