The United States of America is a nation made of fifty states. Many of these states have major cities with suburbs of which some may extend into other states. Each of these states has its small towns. Among these states is the state of Kentucky. The first thing that comes to many minds about Kentucky is the fast food restaurant chain known as Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Be advised that the restaurant chain was not established in this state.) It is the home of the Kentucky Derby, a horse race that happens to be the longest continuous sporting event in the world located in Louisville. You have the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory that makes baseball balls for the sport of baseball. In Bowling Green, you have the Corvette Factory when the world famous Chevrolet Corvette is assembled. Oh, how can you forget ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ in Bardstown. As for natural wonders, you cannot ignore Mammoth Cave, the largest cave in the nation. You cannot ignore the Bourbon Trail, a trail of bourbon factories where bourbon is made. This state has so much to see. In the western part of the state is the small town of Paducah.
Some of you are saying, “Great! Here is some small town in the middle of nowhere with nothing to see except a post office and maybe a town hall and a gas station. I see nothing special about Paducah, Kentucky.”
Ladies and gentlemen, if you think that the small town of Paducah, Kentucky is just another small town, you are very mistaken. The town of Paducah has much to offer to include museums and galleries and parks and festivals. Located where the Tennessee River feeds into the Ohio River, it is a shipping town, and being close to the Mississippi River, barges full of products can be taken to St. Louis, Missouri, Memphis, Tennessee, Louisville, Kentucky, and even New Orleans, Louisiana. Sadly, being on two major rivers, the town has its share of floods to include a flood that happened in 1937. Today, a floodwall protects the town from many of the floods that would otherwise put the town underwater.
Some of you are saying, “This is great. You have two great rivers flowing past this town. It is sad about the flooding. Being near the Mighty Mississippi River, of course, there are floods. The sad thing is that this town has nothing to do with the railroad. Therefore, this town is not on my list of places to visit.”
So Paducah, Kentucky, is not of your list of towns to visit. It should be.
As mentioned, a floodwall was built to keep the flood waters of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers out of Paducah. Artists have painted murals on the floodwall for many to enjoy. As you walk along the floodwall, you come upon a special memorial. What is this memorial? You have arrived at the Iron Horse Memorial.
Some of you are saying, “Oh, great! While some artist painted their works on the floodwall, some dude had to make a cast iron horse with four legs. I wonder if this horse has a saddle of a rider.”
What is the Iron Horse Memorial? No, it is not an iron sculpture of a horse with a rider on it back. The term iron horse is also another name of a steam locomotive. Why is it here? Early towns benefited from the waterways. As the railroad came across the nation, many cities and towns benefited. Paducah was one of those towns. In matter of fact, the town of Paducah was a railroad hub for the Illinois Central Railroad. Although other railroads served the town, the Illinois Central Railway had its locomotive shops here until 1960 where the steam locomotives where replaced by the diesel locomotives. (The shops in the town continue to service the diesel locomotives today.)
So, what is the purpose of the Iron Horse Memorial? Consisting of Illinois Central Railway Locomotive Number 1518, a baggage car, and Caboose 8045, the memorial commemorates the workers of the Illinois Central Railway and how they were the major contributors to the town of Paducah.
So now you have a reason to visit the town of Paducah, Kentucky. If you need another reason to visit, the Paducah Railroad Museum is blocks away.
The Iron Horse Memorial is located along the floodwall of Water Street at the intersection with Kentucky Avenue. It is easily accessible from Interstate 24 and U.S. Routes 45, 60, and 62. Parking is on the street. There is no admission to visit, and you can see the memorial any time day or night. As you see the memorial, you will be impressed, and it will be a constant reminder of a town that was built by the railroad.