Belle of Louisville
Mom and I went to Louisville in June of 1994. We took my brand spanking new Camaro for the trip. There is something liberated and classic about two women traveling in the early summer in a hot red muscle car. Okay, Mom was happy to let me drive in my newer-than-hers car and she knew I was just silly with the thrill of my new baby. Yes, as much as I don’t like driving, it was different in that car. That car is still in our garage and, though I can’t drive it anymore, the last time I did drive it, last March, it was still fun to drive that car!
We drove through Indiana from Michigan to get to Kentucky this trip. It was a sunny Friday, the first day of our 4-day trip. As we crossed the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge on the I-65 into Kentucky Mom noticed a train on the train bridge next to it and mentioned it to me. I looked over quickly and acknowledged the train but didn’t get a good look since I was driving. Mom was not a train nut like me, but she used to love to watch the trains going over the Ohio River whenever we visited Cincinnati. She just thought a train floating over the water was cool. I had no problems sitting with her watching the trains cross the river because, well, they were trains! So she made mention of the train because it was definitely something we might enjoy finding a place to watch for more trains with a picnic style lunch after the boat ride.
When we got into Louisville, around noon, we parked in one of the downtown lots by the river. We had planned to ride on the sightseeing cruise on the Belle of Louisville riverboat when we first got into town since it was early to check in to the hotel. It was easy to find the boat landing because from the time we got off the interstate you could hear the calliope melodies echoing on the street by the riverfront. We went in to the office and got our tickets, then boarded the boat. The nice thing about cruising on a Friday is that it’s not as crowded as it is on the weekend and even after getting in to town just in time to get our tickets and board, there were still seats and rail space in the front of the boat.
The sightseeing tour was guided by a gentleman who used a microphone to be heard on all sides of the boat, but announced from the area where we were. He pointed out sights and gave some historical information about the boat, riverboats, the city of Louisville and Jeffersonville, Indiana on the other side of the river. By the way, Jeffersonville is where Louisville Slugger bats are actually produced now. They are packaged and shipped in Louisville.
As we approached the Big Four railroad bridge that runs parallel to the freeway Mom and I were looking to see if there was a park for lunch nearby where we could watch the bridge. Our tour guide asked over the speaker how many people had just come in to town. There was a decent number of people who acknowledged that they had, us included. There was a good number who also nodded when he asked if we came in on the interstate form Indiana. Then he asked how many of us saw the train today. Mom and I both had as well as about a dozen others in the area where we were in front of the boat. Then he asked, “Do you believe in ghosts? Because y’all just saw one.”
Then we cleared an area of trees on the Kentucky side of the river and this is what we saw:
The Big Four Bridge, named for the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St, Louis Railway, known as “The Big Four Railroad,” closed in 1969. It had become known as “The Bridge to Nowhere.” There was no way a train had crossed the bridge that day or any day for quite a while before then. The collective gasp was quite audible and there was lots of chatter afterwards. Was it an optical illusion, powerful suggestion or was there really a ghost train?
Me being haunted by a train makes sense, but my Mom, the boat nut? It would make more sense if she’d been haunted by a boat! Well, it was on a boat, that we learned the punch line of our supernatural joke!
It was a fun long weekend in Kentucky, but there was no more haunting!
** No more haunting – the Big Four Railroad bridge is being converted to a walking and bike trail between Louisville and Jeffersonville and the eerie sheer drops have been replaced with entrance ramps from street level.