Historic Railroad

Historical Marker #1134 in McCracken County celebrates the historic Illinois Central Railroad.

Rail played a significant role in the growth and expansion of western Kentucky through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Paducah served as a major hub of rail activity, which included a line of the famed Illinois Central.

The construction of the original Paducah railroad, the New Orleans and Ohio, brought future Confederate General Lloyd Tilghman to the Bluegrass. The first seven miles of this line were in operation by mid-1854. Railroads played a very important role in the American Civil War, providing supplies and transporting troops on both sides.

By 1916, after acquiring many lines through sales and mergers, the Illinois Central Railroad was the most dominant rail company in western Kentucky. The official announcement concerning the new Illinois Central shop in Paducah came on January 15, 1925. Ground was broken on the project two months later. The project was completed within two years, opening on September 1, 1927. The opening day labor force was estimated at 436 and the final cost of the shop was around $8,000,000.

The project had four main buildings: locomotive shop, boiler shop, blacksmith, and tank shops. Thirty-three other buildings covered the 110 acres. In total, more than eight acres of glass was used in the construction of the shops.