Frankfort Union Station

Historical Marker #1955 commemorates Frankfort's Union Station and an early railroad tunnel built near downtown.

In 1820, Lexington was still the largest town in the commonwealth. The coming of the steamboat, followed by an economic depression in 1819, severely undermined the town's economy. Therefore, by the mid-1820s, Louisville had emerged as the state's premier urban community. In late 1829, efforts were made to reestablish Lexington's commercial leadership. Several leading citizens there, led by General Leslie Combs, proposed that a railroad be built to link Lexington with the Ohio River.

In 1830, there were only twenty-three miles of railroad in operation in the United States. In that year, Kentucky took the initial step in the work west of the Alleghenies. An act to incorporate the Lexington & Ohio Railway Company was approved by Governor Thomas Metcalfe on January 27, 1830. The act provided for the construction and repair of a road from Lexington to a suitable point on the Ohio River. It was not to exceed sixty-six feet in width and was to have as many tracks as the president and directors of the company might deem necessary.

Construction began at Lexington on October 22, 1831, marked by formal rail-laying ceremonies presided over by General Combs. Despite weather problems, the first six miles were in operation by March 1833. Ten months later, the first section had been completed between Lexington and a hill on East Main Street in Frankfort. Unfortunately, financial difficulties and route designation problems at the Louisville terminus stalled the project for several years. Because of the delay, that section was reincorporated as the Lexington & Frankfort Railroad Company.

Convinced that completion of the line between Lexington and Louisville was essential, in May 1848, the Lexington city council voted to levy a property tax for the Lexington and Frankfort Railroad. One of the first orders of business was to eliminate the long incline at East Main Street at Frankfort. The track would be diverted from its existing bed, beginning four miles outside the city. The new route called for the construction of a tunnel 600 yards long under the Main Street hill, which would direct the track into downtown Frankfort along Broadway, a street parallel to Main. Construction began in late 1848 and was completed in January 1850. The line was connected to Louisville by 1852.



Railroad Tunnel in 1900bmp / 690.05 kB Download