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Big Four Bridge

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Photos 

Overview

Photo taken June 2005 by James Adorno

Video 

Big Four opening

Opening of the big four bridge

Video by J.P.

Map 

Street Views 

Description 

Built by the Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Company starting in 1888 and finishing in 1895. Thirty seven workers died during construction including 21 who fell from a collapsed falsework and died in the river on December 15, 1093. The bridge was finished in September 1895 at the cost of $2.5 million, the accidents had driven the Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Company into bankruptcy and Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway (Big Four) bought the bridge. C & O Railroad owned 1/3 interest in the bridge and B & O Railroad, a road closely aligned with C & O owned the road approaching the bridge from the north. The bridge was used by interurban cars starting September 12, 1905. Two interurban cars collided in January 1918 with the loss of three lives, this being the only serious accident on the bridge. Big Four bought out C & O's interest in the bridge in 1927. It was rebuilt in 1929 by Louisville & Jefferson Bridge Company at a cost of $3.5 million. On Feb. 1, 1930 New York Central took over operation of the Big Four. Strangely B & O never used the bridge and took it's traffic over the Kentucky & Indiana Terminal Railway Bridge three miles further downstream. When NY Central and Pennsylvania Railroads merged the Penn Central routed traffic away from the bridge. It was last used in 1969 and the approach spans were scrapped in 1974. A railroad enthusiast, Charles Hammond bought the bridge in 1982, and wanted to develop the bridge with condos and retail stores. Tax trouble brought the plan to an end and the bridge was bought at a sheriffs action by a charity, "Bridge the Gap" in 1987 for $10,000. They decorated the bridge each year for a Christmas toy drive promotion.

Facts 

Overview
Rail to Trail six-span through truss railroad bridge over the Ohio River at Louisville
Location
Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, and Clark County, Indiana
Status
Open to pedestrians only
History
Originally built 1895 by the Louisville & Jefferson Bridge Co. Bought by Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago Railroad after construction. Rebuilt 1929 using existing stone piers. Approches scrapped 1974.
Builder
- Louisville & Jefferson Bridge Co.
Design
From north to south:
One riveted, 8-panel Parker through truss
Three riveted, 16-panel Pennsylvania through trusses, each 547 ft. long
Two riveted, 10-panel Parker through trusses
Dimensions
Length of largest span: 547.0 ft.
Total length: 2,525.0 ft. (0.5 mi.)
Also called
Bridge to No Where
Big Four Bridge cross-river skywalk
Big Four Bridge
Big Four Railroad Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+38.26603, -85.73930   (decimal degrees)
38°15'58" N, 85°44'21" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/610286/4236083 (zone/easting/northing)
USGS topographic map
Jeffersonville
Inventory number
BH 18821 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • January 2, 2014: Updated by Ed Hollowell: Typo
  • May 30, 2013: New photos from J.P.
  • April 10, 2013: New photos from J.P.
  • February 11, 2013: Updated by Luke Harden: Added builder
  • February 11, 2013: New video from J.P.
  • February 7, 2013: Updated by J.P.: Added category "Rail-to-trail"
  • February 4, 2013: Updated by James McCray: edited status to show bridge will open to pedestrian traffic this thursday at 11:00 am
  • December 20, 2012: Updated by J.P.: changed opening date.
  • December 10, 2012: Updated by James McCray: Added category "Spiral/Pigtail/Loop Bridges"
  • June 30, 2012: New photo from Kim Harvey
  • March 13, 2012: Updated by J.P.: Added category "Railroad"
  • May 9, 2011: New photos from J.P.
  • May 3, 2010: New Street View added by J.P.
  • April 4, 2010: Updated by J.P.: sorry found a better view on 65 on the louisville side
  • March 28, 2010: Updated by Ed Hollowell: Additional discription information.
  • March 28, 2010: New photos from Anthony Dillon
  • March 8, 2010: Updated by James McCray: Updated History and added essay.
  • March 7, 2010: New photos from J.P.
  • August 29, 2009: New photos from J.P.
  • April 20, 2009: New photos from J.P.
  • May 28, 2008: New photos from Joe Virruso
  • April 27, 2008: Updated by Max Johnson
  • October 10, 2005: Posted photos from James Adorno

Sources 

  • James Adorno
  • HAER KY-10 - Big Four Bridge, Spanning Ohio River, Louisville, Jefferson County, KY
  • Joe Virruso - virrusofamily [at] att [dot] net
  • J.P. - wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • blog with news video - There is a local news video were a the journalist gets to go to the top of the ramp. LUCKY!!!!!!
  • James McCray - jamesinslocomb [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Tony Dillon - spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Ed Hollowell - erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com
  • Wikipedia - Artical on Big Four Bridge
  • Kim Harvey
  • Luke Harden - lukemh9 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Bridges & Tunnels.com Entry - Big Four Railroad Bridge

Comments 

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted March 26, 2014, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Figured I would share this with you guys.

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Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted September 15, 2013, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

A late night view of the big four bridge.

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Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 15, 2013, by Don Morrison

According to wikipedia, the Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Co was formed in 1887 to build the bridge. Due to accidents in construction, they went bankrupt and sold it to the Big Four.

So, apparently, they were a consortium of local interests that wanted to construct and own a bridge. This is the only bridge they were associated with.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 14, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

You have to be very careful when assessing old bridges. When they say that "Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Company" built the bridge they are not referring to a company that fabricates or constructs bridges. They are referring to a private company that was formed to finance, own, and operate the bridge. For clarity, these entities should be referred to as owners, not builders.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 14, 2013, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

That builder built the original bridge in 1893.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 14, 2013, by james mccray (jamesinslocomb [at] yahoo [dot] com)

According to this link, http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=24916.0, the builder of the bridge is the Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Company. If this info is correct and maybe someone would like to confirm this, then the L@J Bridge Co. would seem to be a local firm. This begs the question, what other bridges did they build and what happened to them?

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 11, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I don't know a lot about Virginia Bridge and Iron, if they built big bridges like this? One company that was notorious for building monstrosities was McClintic Marshall Company, and I did find a plaque with similar bolt positions, but this alone in my opinion is not enough to establish builder.

http://www.historicbridges.org/truss/southern/bkg_winmw41.JPG

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 11, 2013, by K. A. Erickson

Virginia Bridge and Iron then? While many are the four bolted plaques there are several over the years with just two in that fashion.

http://bridgehunter.com/photos/19/02/190200-L.jpg

http://bridgehunter.com/photos/22/28/222866-L.jpg

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 11, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I am not saying American Bridge did not build this bridge. However, the photo of a plaque scar below is a plaque that would NOT have followed the standard American Bridge Company plaque for that period. So if they did build this bridge, they either used a non-standard plaque, or their plaque was located elsewhere on the bridge. Here is a plaque from 1930:

http://www.historicbridges.org/pennsylvania/dowlerjunction/pict9361.jpg

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 11, 2013, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

I'd say AmBridge is a good bet for the builder.

Certain railroad used certain builders almost exclusively.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 11, 2013, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

With the American Bridge Company being such a big builder in the Louisville area, building the K&I bridge and the 2nd street bridge. Is it plausible that this bridge is most likely the work of that firm?

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Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 8, 2013, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Nathan, Sorry I did not have time to caption the photos yesterday, but that is the incomplete ramp on the Indiana side of the bridge. Currently you can walk to the edge of the bridge were there is a fence that keeps you from going any further.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 8, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

The railings on the top chord mentioned below show up in 1975 HAER documentation, so they are not new or part of this current conversion for pedestrian use. They very likely are just railings for bridge inspections. Large bridges like this often have handrails on the top of the top chord so bridge inspectors can safely navigate the structure. As an interesting example elsewhere, the Quebec Bridge actually has an entire truss system framed around the top chord eyebars that provides a walkway for inspectors.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 8, 2013, by Bill Eichelberger (wallyum [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Could be that they're going to offer the same climbing trips that they offered on the Purple People/L & N Bridge between Newport and Cincinnati. I think they discontinued the trips, but they were big news for a brief time.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 8, 2013, by Don Morrison

Hmmm....

Looking good.

Are the handrails at the top of the truss for the "extreme" pedestrian? The guy that wants a better view and a little more challenge to his hike across the river?

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 7, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I would be curious to see some description/explanation for photo 91 of 117. Is this an additional, incomplete approach for the bridge? Or can you not walk all the way across yet? I assume its closed because it does not have real railings. And is that a glass deck?

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 7, 2013, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Looks great JP!

Will look forward to seeing more pics!!

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 7, 2013, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Bridge is officially open. Here is a teaser photo from all the photos I took.

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Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted February 4, 2013, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Bridge opens on Thursday at 11am. I plan to be there, will be bringing back tons of photos!!!!

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted December 20, 2012, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The soft opening of the Big Four Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge will be delayed until late January/early February due to a holdup in the fabrication of the railings for the bridge. The balance of the railings for the bridge will not be received until mid-January, and installation could take several weeks. As safety is of utmost importance, the bridge cannot be opened until all railings are installed.

When opened in late January/early February, the bridge will be complete with railings, lights, benches, signage, and the simulated rail bed down the middle.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted December 6, 2012, by Gary S. (rebel9668 [at] hotmail [dot] com)

The first time I saw this bridge would have been about 1972 when I was 4 years old. I remember being down by the first pier of the kentucky side with my family looking for driftwood for some kind of craft project. I fell in love with it then and have wanted to walk it ever since. Now I'm 44 and will soon finally be able to. :)

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted December 4, 2012, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Bridge is set to open in a couple weeks. Final Cost of the rail to trail project is 22 million. Jeffersonville will have its ramp completed in the spring. But for now you will be able to walk across from Louisville to the end of the bridge.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted September 7, 2012, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)
Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted September 7, 2012, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Bridge I believe from the Louisville Side is set to open in December. It also looks like skate boards and skates are not going to be allowed, so ladies & gentlemen leave them at home.

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20120824/NEWS01/308240102/Plan-walk-bike-run-not-skate-over-Louisville-s-Big-Four-Bridge

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted August 29, 2012, by J.P. (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

They laid the final concrete slab yesterday and the Big Fours public opening is expected for December, the Indiana approach ramp will be opened in the Spring bringing the project to a close. A success in bridge preservation I say.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted August 26, 2011, by J.P.

First things I just read a report that A canal that is being installed into the City of Jeffersonville Will directly below the first Pier of the Big Four Bridge, Which means they will be tunneling through the foundation of the Big Four Bridge. The report says they will reenforce the foundation, but either way is this a dangerous thing to do with such a big truss on it.

2nd the the construction of the Indiana Ramp is suppose to start January.

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110809/NEWS02/308090088/Construction-Big-4-ramp-outlet-canal-start-January-Jeffersonville

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted May 9, 2011, by J.P.

Think I have covered this bridge the best I can from the ground, now the wait is on for the Indiana approach ramp. I really really want to get up there.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted April 8, 2011, by J.P.

Looks like both sides are getting ready to move in to the next phase of this. With Indiana building a ramp and Louisville getting the repair work done. Early 2013 is the expected date for completion.

http://newsandtribune.com/business/x930494263/Showing-signs-of-progress-Big-Four-could-be-open-by-early-2013

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted May 3, 2010, by J.P.

since this is a 2nd bridge should the first be given its own profile.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted May 3, 2010, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Neat pic JP......I have seen a picture of the old bridge from the side, but not this one.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted May 3, 2010, by J.P.

so i realized that this was not the original bridge at this location. i did find a picture of the first bridge here. which looked liked it was pinned.

http://digital.library.louisville.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/cs&CISOPTR=794&CISOBOX=1&REC=7

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted April 14, 2010, by J.P.

emailed the person who is the contact of the Indiana side of this project, and they expect to have the designs done by this fall, with construction (crosses fingers) starting spring of 2011. the bridge i believe is scheduled to be open spring of 2012. Can't wait to walk across this bridge.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted March 28, 2010, by mike j (a [dot] jordan09 [at] insightbb [dot] com)

love this bridge

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Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted March 7, 2010, by J.P.

just added pictures of the big four rehabilitation that is going on. Its amazing the work they have done in the last few months. Saddly indiana has yet to even start their side. Ahh Jeffersonville what are you doing.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted May 18, 2009, by J.P.

I finally see working being done on the louisville side of the big four. You can actually see supports standing for the approach to the bridge. I found an article saying that the bridge should be opened by summer 2011. Indiana is still trying to decide how to do their approach, but it sounds like it will be coming over the flood wall. I'm looking foward to this bridge being reopened.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted March 13, 2009, by will (wmarsh [dot] wp [at] gmail [dot] com)

"Construction could be complete by late 2007. " 2009 and still no walkway. This thing has been "coming next year" since 1989. It'd be great if it ever gets done... but after a while you have to say "I'll believe it when I see it".

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted May 14, 2008, by Ed Talone (etalone [at] americanhiking [dot] org)

Can't wait to walk this....saw note though that this will be longest pedestrian bridge in the USA...doubtful...

there is one in Florida 2.6 miles long...and a number over a mile.

great bridge!

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted May 14, 2008, by Randy Brush

I heard newspaper about fire in truss bridge since May 8, 2008. They already put out of fire. It is still standing. It was not damagetruss bridge. Thank you.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted May 7, 2008, by Jessica

The Big Four Bridge caught on fire today 05-07-08. They news says it will not hurt the construction that is ongoing for the walk-way. I hope it doesn't prolong its opening I want to see it done in this life time.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted March 13, 2007, by Jonathan Parrish (wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com)

its official for the Big 4

Construction on Phase III began in late Spring 2005, which will add 13 acres (53,000 mē) and include the conversion of the former Big Four Railroad bridge into the longest pedestrian only bridge in the world. The bridge will connect to Jeffersonville Indiana's waterfront park. Several more lawn areas, tree groves, walking paths, and picnic areas will also be added. Construction could be complete by late 2007.

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Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted June 28, 2006, by andy cole (andycole [at] earthlink [dot] net)

The "Big Four" bridge was the first thing that caught my eye during a recent visit to Louisville. I stood at the north end and marveled at how man can put such effort into building an engineering marvel only to abandon it just a few decades later.

I also vistited the "Falls of the Ohio" bridge and admired the remnants of the stone structures at the bridge entrance where now only one set of tracks now crosses.

Oh,how I would love to travel back in time to the heyday when the rails were alive!

Andy Cole,

Hawaii

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted April 12, 2006, by james mccray (jamesinslocomb [at] yahoo [dot] com)

This bridge is in the works to being apart of the Waterfront Park in Louisville. When the bridge is completed, it will be used as a walk over bridge over the Ohio River. A great example of a bridge being reused as such is the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis.

Big Four Railroad Bridge
Posted March 20, 2006, by Chad

There has also been a rumor that a private orginization would like to build apartments on the bridge, in such a way to allow for a "waterfront" view.