The Chicago, St. Louis & New Orleans Railroad’s 34-mile Paducah-East Cairo line was constructed in 1902 and 1903 between East Cairo and Paducah, Kentucky. At the time of its construction, the Illinois Central operated two major north-south routes which converged at Fulton, Kentucky. Forming a “V” through Kentucky and Illinois, the western line passed through Cairo, Illinois while the eastern line went through Paducah. The completion of the Paducah-East Cairo route allowed trains to travel east to west and west to east without having to tour through Fulton.
Two daily passenger trains operated between Paducah and Cairo, but by the early 1930s, passenger service had been reduced to a mixed train and ultimately discontinued on November 6, 1937. The route west of Barlow to East Cairo was essentially abandoned after a 1,172-foot wooden trestle three miles east of East Cairo burned on August 2, 1942. A 7.13 mile segment of the line from East Cairo to Barlow was officially abandoned on July 29, 1943, while the section from Paducah to Kevil was left intact to serve the Kentucky Ordnance Works, now the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. A small segment from Kevil to Barlow was removed from service in 1978.