WKMS Premieres West Kentucky High Iron: The Story of Four Rivers Rail

Feb 27, 2013

Former Paducah Mayor Albert Jones at the Paducah & Louisville Railway yard. Photo Copyright John Paul Henry 2013, www.johnpaulhenry.com

Murray State’s NPR station, 91.3 WKMS presents the first program in its new “Sounds Good Documentary Series” with the airing of West Kentucky High Iron: The Story of Four Rivers Rail on Sunday, March 3 at 9:00 a.m.

Listen to this Documentary:

The hour-long documentary takes listeners around the four rivers region exploring the rail industry’s history and how this method of transportation has touched people’s lives. Rail historian Cliff Downey and WKMS Producer Todd Hatton connect the segments with reflections recorded while riding the historic “City of New Orleans” Amtrak line from Carbondale, IL to Fulton, KY.

West Kentucky High Iron segments include a report by Drew Adams with former Cadiz Railroad President Stan White on the workers who laid track for White's now non-existent line. Reporter Shelly Baskin goes to the historic rail boom town of Earlington, whose population in the early 1900s was larger than the county seat of Madisonville, because of coal mining and the rail lines that carried it away.

In Paducah, Todd Hatton and former Mayor Albert Jones recall the story of Illinois Central Special Agent Richard Kelley who was murdered in Paducah’s rail yard in 1935. Reporter Whitney Jones describes how a Trigg County man named Elmer Hollon found his way here via Kentucky’s orphan train. Also, News Director Chad Lampe speaks with 90 year-old Princeton resident Isabelle Quinn who remembers the hobos who populated her back yard.  Lampe also provides an audio post-card of a weekly gathering of members of the West Kentucky Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society where President Rick Bivens and his group of “Railroaders” run their model trains on an 1800 square foot layout in a member's home in Madisonville.

The current state of freight rail in Kentucky is booming. More than 26,000,000 tons of coal roll along the Commonwealth’s tracks annually.  It’s efficient too, locomotives haul one ton of freight 469 miles on a single gallon of diesel. We’ll visit the massive VMV Paducahbilt compound where you’ll find out how workers there make old locomotives more efficient. Where rail might not be booming, some communities are finding ways to recycle old rail lines.   In Hopkinsville the city is working on transforming an old Department of Defense rail line into an eight mile walking and biking trail to improve its ranking among healthy cities.

WKMS broadcasts to over 20,000 listeners weekly in western Kentucky, southernmost Illinois and northwestern Tennessee. The station's public media services include 91.3 WKMS-FM, Murray; WKMS HD-1 and All-Music HD-2; 90.9 WKMD and WKMD HD-1 and HD-2, Madisonville; 89.5 WKMT, Fulton; 99.5 Paris, Tenn., and All-Music 92.5 Paducah and 105.1 Madisonville. The station also offers both channels WKMS HD-1 and HD-2 at wkms.org, where regular weekly schedules of programs are available. Listeners with questions can call 1-800-599-4737 during regular business hours.

Contact:  Membership Coordinator Jenni Todd (270-809-4748 or jtodd14@murraystate.edu)