Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Hopkinsville's Railroad

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... History and Old Stuff...


I had to stop this morning for a train that was rolling across Skyline Drive. A portion of the Hopkinsville Elevator Company can be seen at left. Grain is sometimes shipped from here on the railway, but coal from mining areas north of here is one of the main freights carried through town. The coal goes to Nashville and ultimately to coal-burning electric plants of the Southeastern U.S. (or so I have read.)

The CSX, formerly the Louisville-Nashville Railroad, is the line that goes through Hopkinsville. A nice article about the topic at hand: "Railfanning in Hopkinsville, Ky." can be read online. My photos here and the few lines of commentary I'm writing are not nearly as authoritative or researched. I took the photos below a few weeks ago on a day when the sky was gray, instead of nicely blue as it is today.

We have a picturesque old train station in Hopkinsville on Highway 68/80/41 (these highways converge for several blocks.) The old L&N (Louisville and Nashville) station is now the home of the Pennyrile Arts Council. The folks at the station are nearly always selling tickets for some sort of local cultural event and there's sometimes an art exhibit inside.

Several of these signs are posted high on the outside walls of the station.

This photo looks north from the station's platform. The big brick building at right is the former L & N freight depot that currently houses a movie rental business. At the far right, a corner of the stone wall that encloses Peace Park can be seen. A tobacco warehouse owned by John O. Latham once stood on that block of real estate. After the warehouse was burned during the "Tobacco Wars" around 1910, Mr. Latham donated the land to the city as a park.

This photograph looks south from the station's platform. On the left of the photo, Peace Park is seen again. Farther down the tracks you can see a large pinkish tobacco warehouse. Tobacco companies buy directly from the farmers now so the warehouse is no longer used for storing or shipping tobacco. The grain elevators in the distance are one of the tallest features in Hopkinsville's skyline. I drove by them a few days ago, and I wasn't able to spot any convincing evidence that they are still in use.

The depot was built in 1892 and was still used for sending and receiving freight through the late 1960's. I like to imagine the depot at the turn of the century (about 1900, I mean), when the arrival of the trains were the biggest events of the day in Hopkinsville. The poem below describes the life of a retired farmer who enjoys meeting the train every day. I know it's long and it's in dialect, but try to read it. I think you'll enjoy it.

When The Train Comes In

By Nixon Waterman
From A Book of Verses
Copyrighted 1900 by Forbes & Co.

Well, yes, I calkerlate it is a little quiet here
Fer one who's b'en about the world an' travelled fur an' near;
But, maybe 'cause I never lived no other place, to me
The town seems 'bout as lively as a good town ort to be.
We go about our bizness in a quiet sort o' way,
Ner thinkin' o' the outside world, exceptin' wunst a day
We gather at the depot, where we laff an' talk an' spin
Our yarns an' watch the people when the train comes in.

Si Jenkins, he's the jestice o' the peace, he allers spends
His money fer a paper which he glances through an' lends
To some the other fellers, an' we all take turns an' chat,
An' each one tells what he 'u'd do ef he was this er that;
An' in a quiet sort o' way, afore a hour's gone,
We git a purty good idee o' what's a-goin on,
An' gives us lots to think about until we meet agin
The follerin' to-morrer when the train comes in.

When I git lonesome-like I set aroun' the barbershop
Er corner groc'ry, where I talk about the growin' crop
With fellers from the country; an' if the sun ain't out too hot,
We go to pitchin' hoss-shoes in Jed Thompson's vacant lot
Behin' the livery-stable; an' afore the game is done
As like as not some feller'll say his nag kin clean outrun
The other feller's and they take 'em out an' have a spin
But all git back in town afore the train comes in.

I see in the papers 'at some folks, when summer's here,
Pack up their trunks an' journey to the seashore every year
To keep from gettin' sunstruck; I've a better way 'an that,
For when it's hot I put a cabbage-leaf inside my hat
An' go about my bizness jes' as though it wasn't warm--
Fact is, I ain't a-doin much sence I moved off my farm;
An' folks 'at loves the outside world, if they've a mind to, kin
See all they ort to of it when the train comes in.

An' yit I like excitement, an' they's nuthin' suits me more
'An to git three other fellers, so's to make a even four,
'At knows the game jes' to a T, an' spend a half a day
In some good place a-fightin' out a battle at croquet.
There's Tubbs who tends the post-office, an' old Doc Smith an' me
An' Uncle Perry Louden -- it 'u'd do you good to see
Us fellers maul them balls aroun'; we meet time an' agin
An' play an' play an' play until the train comes in.

An' take it all in all I bet you'd have to look aroun'
A good, long while afore you'd find a nicer little town
'An this'n is. The people live a quiet sort o' life,
Ner carin' much about the world with all its woe an' strife.
An' here I mean to spend my days, an' when I reach the end
I'll say, "God bless ye!" an' "Good-bye," to every faithful friend;
An' when they foller me to where they ain't no care ner sin,
I'll meet 'em at the depot when the train comes in.


Kathleen F. said...

I am enjoying your blog very much. Thanks for visiting mine! Wonderful pics on your site. Just FYI: my daughter can quote Jimmy Stewart's lines in "It's a Wonderful Life" just right :)

Anonymous said...

Ahh, the skyline drive crossing. I've wasted many an hour sitting there watching the train slowly rumble through, sometimes it would stop completely to hitch or un-hitch a wagon or two at the grainstore. If I was heading in the wrong direction it would catch me again as I headed downtown. We don't have anything quite like that over here and certainly nothing quite like it's 'whistle' it's very evocative sight and sound and certainly one of my most abiding memories of the town.

Genevieve said...

Kathleen, I laughed about your daughter talking with the movie. My kids had a repertoire of favorite movies that they could recite. Had every one of those movies with its scripts been destroyed by some catastrophe, Keely and Isaac could have reconstructed them perfectly from memory.

Genevieve said...

You've described the frustrations of the railroad crossing on Skyline Drive quite well. :D

We can hear the train whistles out here in the country. ten miles from the nearest tracks. I suppose we hear the blasts from several different intersections. They're not loud, but there's no mistaking the sound. It's noise pollution, in truth.

Kathleen F. said...

That's funny that your kids could quote whole movies, too. My daughter has an knack for it and will entertain guests with whole movie scenes. It's funny how she can even get Jimmy Stewart's inflections right. Great blog!

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.