In 2021, Miller Bus service, provides three daily bus trips from Frankfort’s Walmart parking lot to Lexington and Louisville. Frankfort Transit System, in turn, provides bus service between the Walmart parking lot and other sections of Frankfort. However, if one wishes to travel north to Owenton or south to Lawrenceburg there is no public bus transit system to transport you to these cities. That was not always true.
During the 1960s, Southeast Trailways Transportation Company provided daily bus service north from Frankfort to Cincinnati, Ohio, and south to Knoxville, Tennessee. Daily, five buses headed north from the Frankfort bus station, located at the Capitol Hotel (now Whitaker Bank) at Ann and Main streets, and five buses went south. At both Cincinnati and Knoxville, connecting Trailways routes led outward in various directions to other nearby and distant cities.
Trailways was Greyhound Bus Company’s biggest competitor. While Greyhound was a standalone corporation owning all of its buses, Trailways consisted of a number of independent franchise operators. Southeast Trailways, with headquarters in Lexington, was one of the franchise operators.
The Trailways bus route through Kentucky from Cincinnati to Knoxville was anything but a straight line. The Cincinnati Trailways bus station was located at 310 E. Fifth St., now the location of Proctor & Gamble Corporation headquarters. Upon leaving Cincinnati, the Trailways bus used the Suspension Bridge to cross the Ohio River and reach Covington, its first stop in Kentucky.
The Covington Trailways bus depot was located at 440 Madison Ave. Upon leaving its Covington depot, the Trailways bus headed down U.S. 25 for Walton. The Cincinnati, Newport & Covington Transit Company provided daily bus service from Covington to as far south as Florence. From Walton, the Trailways bus continued down U.S. 25 to Crittenden and Dry Ridge.
In Dry Ridge, the Trailways bus turned west on KY 22 for the flag stops of Holbrook, Needmore and Sweet Owen. Flag stops were designated roadside locations where if someone flagged, that is waved at the bus, the bus stopped and picked them up. Persons, upon request, were also dropped off at flag stops. Flag stops generally lacked any structure to shelter the person waiting for a bus from the weather. However, flag stops were often located in front of a general store, which during hours of operation provided some shelter.
At Sweet Owen, the Trailways bus turned right from KY 22 to take KY 3095 to U.S. 127. At U.S. 127, the bus turned south for Owenton. The Trailways’ Owenton bus station was located at the St. Nicholas Hotel. From Owenton, the bus continued down U.S. 27 to its junction with KY 227 where there was a flag stop. It was then on down U.S. 127 to Monterey and its flag stop.
For some unknown reason, the Trailways bus did not stop at Swallowfield but continued down U.S. 127 to Frankfort and the Capitol Hotel, Kentucky State College being a source of local passengers.
From Frankfort, the Trailways bus continued down U.S. 127 to a flag stop at Alton. Before the U.S. 127 Bypass was built, U.S. 127 followed present day KY 512 to Alton before continuing on south on what is now KY 151. Old U.S. 127, now Business 127, took the Trailways bus through downtown Lawrenceburg and on south to a flag stop at Stringtown. Business U.S. 127 rejoins the present U.S. 127 just north of the Bluegrass Parkway. From Stringtown, it was down U.S. 127 to Harrodsburg and Danville. In Danville, a bus station was located at the Hensen Hotel to service Centre College.
Upon leaving Danville, the Trailways bus route left U.S. 127 to follow U.S. 150. Flag stops were located at Stanford, Rowlands, Crab Orchard and Broadhead. At Mt. Vernon, Trailways had a bus station at Elliots Restaurant. From Mt. Vernon southward the bus traveled U.S. 25 once again. Flag stops were located at Livingston and at the junction of U.S. 25 and KY 490 (1-mile from East Bernstadt). Then it went down U.S. 25 to London and Sue Bennett College.
From London, the Trailways bus continued southward down U.S. 25 to the flag stop of Lilly. Then it was on to Corbin where a 30-minute meal stop was made at the combined Greyhound-Trailways bus station located on South Main Street. From Corbin, the Trailways bus followed U.S. 25 to Williamstown and the bus depot on South Fourth Street where Cumberland College students could always be found.
Just south of Williamstown, on U.S. 25, was the flag stop of Pleasant View. The next stop after Pleasant View was Jellico, Kentucky. As Southeast Trailways did not have permission to operate in Tennessee, the schedule listed Jellico as being in Kentucky and Tennessee. From Jellico, another component of the Trailways family of bus lines took the paying passengers down U.S. 25 to Knoxville. Just when Trailways ceased running the Cincinnati-Knoxville bus service via Frankfort is unknown, but the consensus is circa 1975.
The Capital City Museum is seeking to add to its collection memorabilia concerning Trailways bus service to Frankfort.