Railroads were an integral part of the infrastructure throughout Western Kentucky in the 19th and 20th centuries. But what of the men who undertook the backbreaking task of building and maintaining the rails in an era without mechanical aid?
In the basement of Don Clayton’s Madisonville home a different world exists. The 1800 square foot space is home to hundreds of O-scale model train cars and dozens of engines. A group of men aged 19 to 82 gather weekly in Don’s basement to run their trains, many of them have been doing it for 30 years.
The Great Depression, along with floods and a severe drought in the 1930s, left many Kentucky families with the difficult decision to keep their hungry children or send them away to a place where they could be taken care of and fed. For at least one orphanage in Jefferson County, that meant overcrowding, and eventually the children’s home began sending orphans across the state on westbound trains.
West Kentucky High Iron feature story - Boom to Bust: The History of Earlington.
The history of many towns in west Kentucky has been shaped, in large part, by the coal companies and railroads that brought in jobs, money, and people. During the golden years of coal and rail in the early 20th century these towns boomed. And when the coal ran out and the trains stopped rolling, they crashed. The city of Earlington, Kentucky is one of those towns.