Steep Grades Helped Cause End of Railroad

Dublin Core


Steep Grades Helped Cause End of Railroad


The last two Saturday Madison's Heritage columns dealt with the L&N's abandonment in 1932 of the old RNIB Railroad line which ran through Madison County. Reasons given were that the timber in Estill County and the coal around Beattyville were largely depleted, and that the distillery at Cliffside near Frankfort was closed. However, in 1916, seven years after it bought the line, the L&N had built a much more level grade railroad line between Winchester and Irvine, and that was the beginning of the end of the old RNIB route. Freight and passenger trains could go faster and more cheaply between Lexington and Irvine via Winchester than from Lexington to Nicholasville, then Richmond, and on to Irvine over a roadbed that went up and down rather steep grades. According to railroad measurements, Nicholasville is 990 feet above sea level. From there to Valley View, a distance of 10 miles, there was a drop in elevation of 400 feet! From Valley View (at 590 feet) to the Richmond station (at 940 feet) there was an increase of 350 feet in about 11 miles. Panola station, near the Estill County line, was 780 feet above sea level, and the railroad then went up and down and around hills until it came to West Irvine at an elevation of 630 feet, 310 feet below the level of Richmond. It's no wonder the L&N preferred to use its more level track between Winchester and Irvine. For those readers who clip and save the Madison's Heritage articles, last week's column on the RNIB railroad had an incorrect statement referring to timber "for the trestle from Marble Creek to near Million." It should have read for the trestle over Marble Creek (in Jessamine County) and the trestle near Million." There is also still some confusion over when the first trains ran on the RNIB. The Richmond Cli-max newspaper of September 17, 1890, reported that the first passenger train from Versailles on "the 3-forks railroad" had arrived at Richmond. It noted that the railway to Irvine was not yet finished. Robert Rennick's Placenames of Kentucky (1984) states that Hispanola was probably founded and named in 1890 when the railroad was built through there. The name was shortened to Panola, Rennick states, when the post office was established on November 27, 1891. Elmber G. Sulzer's Ghost Railroads of Kentucky (1967), in the Townsend Room in the EKU Crabbe Library, states that the 60.8 miles between Versailles and West Irvine was completed September 29, 1890. Sulzer says that the RNIB bridge over the Kentucky River at Irvine was not built until 1895; before that, passengers could go only as far as West Irvine. Mr. Harold Richardson of Wellington Court operated a store for a number of years at Panola. When the depot at that place was torn down, he got two old tickets which were found in a wall. He says they were round trip tickets between Hispanola and West Irvine, and that they were dated in April 1887. Mr. Richardson gave one ticket away, and the other was lost in a fire at a later date. It is possible that before an official opening date, some trains may have run on some sections of completed track. Does anyone else have an old ticket, freight bill, or newspaper article giving a date for early trains on the RNIB? Or does anyone still have the old ticket given away by Mr. Richardson?


Dr. Robert Grise




Content may be freely copied for personal and educational purposes with appropriate citation. Permission is required to reprint.




Dr. Robert Grise, “Steep Grades Helped Cause End of Railroad,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 30, 2023,