Hopkinsville, Ky.
A CSX freight train passes through downtown Hopkinsville, Ky., circa 2002. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. — CSX freight trains regularly pass through this southern Kentucky town known as the “Pearl City of the Pennyroyal.”

As early as 1832 investors hoped to build a railroad from Hopkinsville to Eddyville, Ky., about 30 miles to the northwest. That effort ultimately failed and the leaders could not organize the railroad’s construction.

It wasn’t until the 1860s that railroads finally made it to the area. After the Civil War, railroads helped the tobacco industry grow in northern Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky, including the Hopkinsville area.

Service on the Evansville, Henderson, & Nashville Railroad began in Hopkinsville on April 8, 1868, almost 30 years after the railroad’s predecessor was formed. The line, which was extended north to Henderson, Ky., was acquired by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in 1879.

A second line, the Ohio Valley Railroad, built in 1892, served Hopkinsville, running between Gracey, Ky., and Hopkinsville. The Illinois Central Railroad purchased that road in 1897.

The Illinois Central became the Illinois Central Gulf in 1972 after it merged with the Gulf Mobile & Ohio Railroad.

The Tennessee Central Railway’s Western Division connected Hopkinsville and Clarksville, Tenn., in 1903 or 1904, marking the third line serving Hopkinsville.

In 1968, when the Tennessee Central went under, Illinois Central purchased for $600,000 the portion of the road between Hopkinsville and Nashville, Tenn.

The Illinois Central abandoned its line in the 1980s. Well after 2000, portions of the railroad’s right of way were still visible around Hopkinsville.

The Department of Defense took over a portion of that road in 1990, which ran from Hopkinsville to nearby Fort Campbell, Ky. Today, the military installation uses the train tracks to help deploy troops stationed at Fort Campbell.

The former Louisville & Nashville Railroad depot still stands in downtown Hopkinsville. In 1975, the building was added to the National Register of Historical Places.

Notable Happenings

  • In October 1948, a 32-year-old woman fell from the Georgian passenger train about 10 miles north of Hopkinsville. Railroad officials told an Atlanta newspaper they believed the woman fell accidentally from the train when she opened the wrong door. Truck drivers found the woman, alive but dazed, on the side of the tracks.
  • In September 1969, packages and parcel post mail was destroyed after a mail car on the Georgian passenger train caught fire. The fire delayed the train in Hopkinsville for nearly an hour and a half.

The original version of this article was published in the November 2005 edition of The Cross-Tie.

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