The Chicago, St. Louis & New Orleans Railroad was a railway company that operated from 1878, a product of a merger between the New Orleans, Jackson and Northern Railroad Company and the Central Mississippi Railroad Company, until 1951 when it was merged into the Illinois Central Railroad. It was a subsidiary of the Illinois Central. The railroad acquired numerous smaller lines over the years, beginning with the Chesapeake, Ohio & Southwestern in 1896, the Short Route Railway Transfer Company a year later, the Ohio Valley Railway, the Owensboro, Falls of Rough & Green River, the Kentucky Western and Hodgenville and Elizabethtown in 1902, the Paducah Union Depot Company and the Kentucky Valley in 1913 and finally the Kentucky Midland in 1922.
The 34-mile Paducah-East Cairo line was constructed in 1902 and 1903 by the Chicago, St. Louis & New Orleans.2 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 vice versa 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, 1937.2 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 1978.1