The Paducah-East Cairo Line: A Remnant of Railroad History

Chicago, St. Louis & New Orleans Railroad’s 34-mile Paducah-East Cairo line was constructed in 1902-03 between East Cairo and Paducah, Kentucky and abandoned in 1943 after a wooden trestle burned.

The 34-mile Paducah-East Cairo line of the Chicago, St. Louis & New Orleans Railroad was constructed between 1902 and 1903, connecting the cities of East Cairo and Paducah, Kentucky. At the time of its inception, the Illinois Central operated two major north-south routes that converged at Fulton, Kentucky. Forming a “V” configuration through Kentucky and Illinois, the western line passed through Cairo, Illinois, while the eastern line traversed Paducah. The completion of the Paducah-East Cairo route facilitated the movement of trains east to west and west to east, eliminating the need to navigate through Fulton.

Initially, two daily passenger trains operated between Paducah and Cairo. However, by the early 1930s, passenger service had been reduced to a mixed train and ultimately discontinued on November 6, 1937. The segment west of Barlow to East Cairo was essentially abandoned after a 1,172-foot wooden trestle, located three miles east of East Cairo, was destroyed by fire on August 2, 1942. A 7.13-mile portion of the line from East Cairo to Barlow was officially abandoned on July 29, 1943, while the section from Paducah to Kevil remained operational to serve the Kentucky Ordnance Works, now known as the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. A small segment from Kevil to Barlow was removed from service in 1978.

Through this historical account, we gain insight into the evolution of rail transportation in the region, where once-bustling routes have given way to the passage of time, leaving behind remnants that bear witness to an era when the railroad played a pivotal role in shaping the economic and industrial landscape.

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