News / USA

Abandoned US Railroad Tracks Find New Life

Old Tracks Find New Purpose as Cyclists Ride Railsi
X
October 28, 2013 5:13 PM
Thousands of kilometers of railroads once criss-crossed the United States, carrying the freight that kept America's economy steaming. While trains are still important to the economy today, they play a much smaller role. Thousands of kilometers of tracks have been abandoned... including a segment of the Kansas-Missouri-Texas Railroad, better known as the “Katy,” that runs across half of the midwest state of Missouri. But, as Shelley Schlender reports from Sedalia, Missouri, that unused line became the first to find new purpose as a bike path, thanks to the Rails to Trails Conservancy.
Old Tracks Find New Propose as Cyclists Ride Rails
Shelley Schlender
The morning sun shines like gold on the two rails of train tracks that run through Sedalia, Missouri.

An automobile rumbles over the tracks then disappears up the street.

A clanging crossing gate drops, allowing a lone engine to chug by pushing a single boxcar.

When trains were king

Ten blocks away, three dozen tourists dressed in bicycling clothes, gaze up at a train museum that looks like a palace topped by a towering, green tiled roof.

Tour guide Kathleen Boswell says this historic depot dates back to the 1860s, when trains were king.

Hundreds of trains stopped at the depot along the Kansas-Missouri-Texas Railroad, also known as the Katy, each week.

However, by the 1970s, so many trucks and planes carried freight and people, that the train tracks were largely abandoned.

In the 1980s, private donors worked with government officials to turn this stretch of track into the tourist attraction it is today.

New way to ride the rails

The former Katy railway is now one of longest recreational trails in the National Rails to Trails Conservancy. It was also one of the first.

The tourists hop onto their bicycles and take to the trail, gearing up for a week of biking up to 80 kilometers a day. They'll be pedaling along a car-free trail that winds through hardwood forests and train tunnels, past corn fields and beside the expansive Missouri River.  

The group is among the nearly half-million people who use the Katy Trail every year. More than 20,000 of them come from out of state.

“I love biking. That’s why I’m here," said Stacy Heikes, who is from Colorado. "I love biking in new places. Right up the road, I hear, there is a burr oak that’s a state champion in size.”  

A tour agency called Road Scholars organized this group’s itinerary, and it encourages side trips to train museums, vineyards and the Missouri state capital.  

The historic murals at the capital building in Jefferson City captured California resident Alice Frost's heart.

“The one mural in the senator lounge was just magnificent," Frost said. "I had never been to Missouri before and I had put it on my low list of places I might like to go, but after seeing it, I see there’s many good things for vacationing, and I’m enjoying it.”

Paying off

The Katy Trail cost $6 million to build. Today, the state of Missouri spends a small fraction of that each year to maintain the 390-kilometer long trail.

Katy Bike Rental owner Todd White says the resulting tourist traffic means the investment pays off.

"The economic impact study says that $18.5 million every year [is] getting sprinkled along this trail," White said. "Two hundred and fifty thousand meals and, of course, the bike shops and different support services along this trail as well.

Many Missouri cities now require major roads and bridges to include a bike lane, and for residential areas to add bikeways that link up with the Katy Trail, according to White.

Since beginning with the Katy in the 1980s, the Rails to Trails program has helped convert 32,000 kilometers of abandoned train tracks into recreational paths. The group's ultimate goal is to create a nationwide network of connecting trails.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More