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.

Images

The Illinois Central Railroad

The Illinois Central Railroad

Workers on the Illinois Central Railroad take a break on one the company's engines. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Refrigerator Car on the Illinois Central

Refrigerator Car on the Illinois Central

A group of men stand before an Illinois Central Railroad refrigerator car. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Early Railroad Routes

Early Railroad Routes

Outlined on the map are the proposed routes of early railroads, including the New Orleans and Ohio, a predecessor of the Illinois Central, and the early Illinois Central, itself. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

H.G. Markham, President of Illinois Central

H.G. Markham, President of Illinois Central

H.G. Markham was president of the Illinois Central Railroad when the Paducah shops were dedicated in 1927. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

McKenzie Martin, “Historic Railroad,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed May 23, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/370.
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