Maysville and Lexington Railroad
At the end of the 18th century, Lexington was the major city west of the Appalachian Mountains. Unfortunately, though, it was not located on
a navigable waterway. Goods coming from the east were transported overland to Wheeling, Va. (now W.Va.) and were taken from there by boat down the Ohio River to Limestone (Maysville), where they were reloaded onto wagons for travel over what became the Maysville and Lexington Turnpike to Lexington. Overland transportation was expensive and slow. Costs doubled for every 100 miles moved, and because wagons generally traveled at a speed of 12 miles per day, perishables could not be carried any appreciable distance.
By the mid-19th century, Cincinnati and Louisville had become important commercial centers of the West, at the expense of Lexington. In an attempt to regain its place as the leading city of the West, Lexington advanced the canalization of the Licking and Kentucky rivers and the development of railroads. Lexington promoted four railroads, each leading to the Ohio River: the Lexington and Ohio to Louisville, the Covington and Lexington (C&L) to Covington, the Lexington and Big Sandy to Catlettsburg, and the Maysville and Lexington (M&L) to Maysville.
The M&L began construction north from Lexington in 1854, meeting the C&L at Paris, where the C&L provided service to Covington beginning
in December of that year. In March 1856 the Kentucky General Assembly permitted the C&L and the L&D (Lexington and Danville) railroads to use
the name Kentucky Central Railroad. In 1858 Robert Bonner Bowler, a director of the Kentucky Central Railroad, persuaded the company to defer
debt payment in order to make improvements on the line. A major creditor filed suit, and the railroad was sold at public auction. In 1865 the original stockholders filed suit against the heirs of Bowler but lost. In the same year, the C&L and the M&L were sold at a foreclosure sale and bought by
the Kentucky Central Association, a holding company, which continued to operate the C&L and the M&L as separate entities. The revived M&L began
laying track from Paris to Maysville that year; in March 1872, the first train from Maysville arrived at Paris. In 1875 the C&L and the M&L were
merged as the Kentucky Central Railroad (KC).
The M&L at this time consisted of two separate railroads, the line from Lexington to Paris and the road from Paris to Maysville. The KC, in turn, was sold to Collis P. Huntington in 1881 to provide a
connecting route between two of his railroads, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O) on the east and the Chesapeake, Ohio, and Southwestern
on the west. These railroads were part of his grandiose plan to build a seamless coast-to-coast rail system. Shortly after Huntington purchased the
KC, his railroad empire went into receivership, and the KC was sold in 1891 to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N).
The L&N had aspirations for the Paris to Maysville line and built a large depot in Maysville (now the Maysville Police Department). Traffic,
however, did not develop. When the C&O opened its line from Ashland to Lexington in 1895, after the purchase of the Elizabethtown, Lexington, and Big Sandy Railroad, through traffic from the east to Lexington was switched to them or direct Ashland Winchester-Lexington road. The Maysville section became solely dependent upon local traffic and limited to seasonal agricultural products. The building of the Covington, Flemingsburg, and
Pound Gap Railroad (CF&PG) eastward from Flemingsburg Junction (along the M&L) in 1877 hinted at some future coal business for the M&L, but the CF&PG failed to extend eastward beyond Hillsboro.
In 1908 the L&N acquired the Frankfort and Cincinnati Railroad (F&C), which operated from Frankfort and Georgetown to Paris. The L&N
planned to open a Louisville-to-Maysville service via that route, but the Kentucky Railway Commission ordered the L&N to divest itself of the F&C for anti-monopoly reasons.
After World War II, the M&L was losing money. There was no through-line activity to sustain the line, and local business was switching to trucks. In 1951 its track between Lexington and Paris was abandoned, and in 1979 the L&N sold the Paris-to-Maysville track to TransKentucky Transportation Railroad Inc., a modern short line operator that uses it to haul Eastern Kentucky coal from its connection with the L&N and CSX’s Covington-Corbin division at Paris to an Ohio River barge terminal at Maysville.
“First Railroad Trip to Paris,” Maysville Bulletin, March 7, 1872, 3.
Herr, Kincaid A. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Lexington: Univ. of Kentucky Press, 1964.
Tenkotte, Paul A. “Rival Cities to Suburbs: Covington and Newport, Kentucky, 1790–1890, PhD diss.,Univ. of Cincinnati, 1989.
Turner, Charles W. Chessie Road. Richmond, Va.;
Garrett and Massie, 1956.
Charles H. Bogart
Above excerpted from page 597 of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NORTHERN KENTUCKY THE UNIVERSITY PRESS OF KENTUCKY ISBN 978-0-8131-2565-7