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Curious Louisville: What's In The Tiny House On The 14th Street Bridge?

Photo by J. Tyler Franklin

John Goldman is the president of the Louisville and Indiana Railroad Company. In his job, he fields a lot of questions — but one question has come up again and again.

“Yeah, people that I know [ask],” Goldman said. “People I run into randomly, some phone calls.”

And it’s one that Curious Louisville listener Aaron Morris asked us, too: “What's it like in the tiny house on top of the 14th Street Drawbridge?"

The bridge spans the Ohio River and is lifted up and down depending on whether trains need to travel over it, or barges need to float under it.

“A lot of people wonder if there’s someone in the house that actually operates the bridge,” Goldman said.

The short answer, according to Goldman, is “no.”

The tiny house — a light blue structure that can be seen almost at eye-level from I-64 — is what’s called a “motorhouse.”

“It’s where the motors are located that make the bridge go up and down,” Goldman said.

Nick Adams, a bridge inspector for L&I continued: “When you first walk in, there’s a vertical motor. It’s one of two. In between the two motors, there’s gear drives that run a shaft out to the outside pulleys that pull the up-position ropes, and then lower for the down-position ropes.”

And all of this is being controlled from outside the house.

“There’s actually a tower where the bridge operator is located; it’s on the Kentucky banks,” Goldman said. “That tower is hard to see from the interstate because it’s just a little bit higher than the bridge.”

Inside that tower, the bridge operator sits at a desk covered with computer monitors that show the GPS locations of incoming barges and trains.

“Right now we run eight to 10 trains across it and then anywhere between 10 and 18 barges that go under us each day,” Goldman said.

So the tiny house — or, well, the motor inside — is getting a lot of use on a daily basis.

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