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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Tracks' removal is end of an era

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I already miss the railroad tracks running east-west through Sikeston. Though I have cursed them through the years, their removal this week is clearly the end of an era - though it could be argued their era ended long ago.

Sikeston's rail connection through the heart of our community became a relic of bygone days. In the end the line served just two customers here and that apparently signaled the end to our rail.

Rail service will remain here of course. We still depend on the railroads to deliver coal to our power plant and serve the Industrial Park north of town. But the quaint line that bisected the heart of our community is now a pile of ancient wood and steel.

A plan was devised a few years ago to buy the local line and run a tourism train from Miner to the downtown area. Though it was an interesting idea, it gained no traction.

I have long advocated the removal of the rails and the widening of Malone to a six-lane highway. But the cost of that idea - including the construction of a bridge - is probably prohibitive given the economics of the time and countless other factors.

It struck me this week that viewing the removed rails, I was seeing something in my community not one of us has ever seen. These rails have been along Malone Avenue longer than any of us have been around. And though I have often complained about their lack of purpose, I still found myself sad in some ways.

A journalism professor of mine many years ago said there was but one way to write a story about just such an event. "Like the passing of the buffalo, this change marks the end of an era," he would say. Despite that flowery prose he suggested, the feeling is appropriate.

Across central Missouri, a major rail line was abandoned and turned into a massive walking trail. That is unlikely to happen here. And for good reason.

I doubt there is any organized effort or suggestion on how to address this newfound look in our community. Perhaps over time, grass will slowly replace the scarred earth where the rails once rested. Someday, the rails will be no more than a memory - like the church that once held the downtown columns that we cherish and protect.

A whole lot of our community's history was rapidly removed this past week. It can be viewed as progress. Or it can be viewed as a sad commentary on the changes within a small town.

My first wish would be that we had so much manufacturing and industrial need along the rail line that it would have remained. But since that is no more than a pipe dream, I supposed the logical choice was to scrap the steel and call it progress.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen