Construction project unearths Paducah history

For the first time in nearly 70 years, we’re getting a glimpse of what’s beneath Paducah’s Kentucky Avenue. Some of the dug-up dirt and wood reveal a path once taken by mules that pulled the city’s first streetcars in 1872.

Local historian and Paducah Railroad Museum volunteer Bob Johnston devoted much of his life learning about Paducah’s past. The streetcars were phased out in the 1930s, making way for buses that he remembers taking to run errands with his family. “This particular location is where the streetcars, part of the trolley car system, crossed Kentucky Avenue,” Johnston said.

Spikes from cross ties haven’t seen daylight in decades. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd said these discoveries may be the beginning of a larger history lesson.

“They’ll come back and more gently remove some of the earth underneath the roadway to get down to the water lines, the drainage lines. But they have bumped into a couple things so far, and this trolley line right here happens to be one of them,” Todd said.

It’s what you don’t see that could have the biggest back-story. Eight different rail lines crisscrossed Paducah. Johnston said the height of World War II changed the city’s landscape.

“When I was growing up the rails were still in the street on Broadway, all over. But during World War II they dug them up to use for the scrap drive,” Johnston said. 

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