Several years ago, I hiked to the east abutment of the abandoned Young’s High Bridge in central Kentucky to photograph the sunset and blue hour. Little did I know that I was about to witness a suicide—or did I?
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.
On June 15, Kentucky’s newest rail trail will open between West Van Lear to Royalton along the former Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Dawkins Subdivision. The 18.5 mile Big Lovely Mountain Rail Trail will be open to pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians. One of its highlights is the 662-foot Gun Creek Tunnel and several trestles.
West Virginia has many miles of fantastic rail-to-trails, or railroads that have been abandoned and converted into recreational corridors. Most of the trails are not paved, and many contain impressive bridges and tunnels that make any trip exciting. And quite a few of them have remnants of their coal mining past remaining, whether it is abandoned mine portals or discarded equipment.
Several years ago, I traveled to Hawks Nest State Park along the US 60, the Midland Trail, to hike along the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (C&O) Hawks Nest Subdivision. The 3.4-mile line was originally as a narrow-gauge railroad alongside Mill Creek in Fayette County, connecting the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (C&O) at Hawks Nest Station to Ansted and is today a rail-to-trail.