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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid