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The Central City Limited

June 8, 2009

Steam power and passenger trains returned to the former Illinois Central Railroad’s Kentucky Division on September 19, 1992, when former Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 #765 hauled the first of two round trip excursions to Central City.

The line was no longer a part of the Illinois Central’s map, having been spun off by Illinois Central Gulf the decade before to create a new regional called the Paducah & Louisville Railway. This turned out to be fortunate for steam aficionados, as Illinois Central was firmly against hosting steam excursions. When approached by a local group in Paducah, the P&L was far more agreeable.

Paducah was an ideal place return steam to Illinois Central rails. Paducah was the home of the main backshops of the Illinois Central system, having rebuilt most of the railroad’s steam power and a large portion of the diesel fleet at one time or another. It is also home of one of the few remaining big I.C. steam locomotives: 2-8-2 #1518.

#765 hauled two days worth of excursions. While the trips ran without a hitch and all in attendance had a great time, ticket sales were rather disappointing. Scheduled runs out of Louisville scheduled for the following week were cancelled due to low sales, and the events were never repeated. But for one weekend, the sounds of steam returned to the coal country of northern Kentucky.


Prior to the Saturday’s run, 765 is hot and ready to roll in North Yard. Shortly, the train will move ahead to the site of the old Illinois Central passenger station to load its passengers.


The train is eastbound out of Paducah as it departs for Central City.


765 lays down a cloud of steam as she whistles for a crossing at Calvert City.


765 continues eastbound near Eddyville, Kentucky.


The train is nearing the end of the run as it passes east of Madisonville.


The train is in Central City. 765 has cut off the train and is pulling ahead to take on coal for the return trip.


765 and the crew car ran to Greenville, Kentucky, to turn for the return trip to Paducah. Here the engine is turning on the Greenville wye.


The train is returning to Paducah as it passes through a cut below U.S. 62 between Central City and Madisonville.


The train is westbound for Paducah as it passes through Dawson Springs.


In the soft light of the late afternoon, the Central City Limited rounds the curve at Princeton, Kentucky. It will be after dark before the train reaches Paducah.


Copyright 2009 – Mary Rae McPherson

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Bergamt permalink
    February 2, 2010 11:06 am

    This brought back a lot of memories. I was on this trip on Saturday, chased it on Sunday. I’m old enough (62) to witness the final years of IC on this line. One of our homes was right on the JK line at a community called Charleston just outside of Dawson Springs. I had climbed the coaling tower at Dawson Springs before they dismantled the crossover conveyor. It seemed like it wzs a mile high when you looked out the windows.

    One slight correction. The shot at the Sandy Cut (between Central city and Madisonville) was taken from the state route 70 bridge, not US 62. US 62 paralleled the line from Central to City to Dawson Springs that went through Greenville. I have an 8×10 color shot of 2613 taken at that same location by Larry Fellure on the fan trip ran in 1960. As a 12 year old kid, I remember it going by our house.

    Enjoy your articles, keep up the good work!

  2. George permalink
    February 6, 2010 1:40 am

    I really enjoyed this article, wish I could have been there. All your photo essays are interesting to read/view.

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