I’ve been researching the Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas off and on since 1988, recording interviews with former employees, traveling the state looking for relics of the once grand railroad, and just working to learn as much as I can about its operations here. I’ve shared much of that material here, with interviews that you can listen to and see photos that I’ve taken or collected.
The bankrupt railroad was shut down by a judge in March 1980 at the urging of creditors, namely Henry Crown, who felt it was worth more dead than alive, with all of its assets liquidated. In Arkansas, most of its tracks were taken up, except for a few stretches now operated by other railroads. Thankfully many of the former depots have survived. A few decades ago some were abandoned and it looked like they would be torn down, but most of those have found new life.
In 2015 I was approached by Arcadia Publishing, which found this website looking at the Rock Island, and was asked if I would be interested in putting together a book of historical photos of the railroad in Arkansas as part of its Images of Rail series. I knew it would be a lot of working finding high resolution, mostly historic images, then writing and assembling the book, but it seemed like a great challenge that would expand on a topic that I was deeply passionate about. The book is now completed and will be released April 3, 2017. You can preorder a copy by clicking on the image of the book’s cover.
I will also be speaking about the book at two events taking place in Little Rock in April. I’ll have more details as the dates get closer, but on April 4, the day after the book’s release, I’ll be speaking at the Clinton School of Public Service, which is housed in the building that was once the Rock Island’s Little Rock passenger station. Video of that event will be streamed live online. Then toward the end of April I’ll be speaking about the book as part of a panel discussion at the Arkansas Literary Festival. I’ll add exact times and other details as the events get closer. It’ll also be signing copies of the book after each event.
RECENT NEWS STORIES RELATED TO THE ROCK ISLAND
In recent years as news director for NPR station KUAR-FM 89.1 in Little Rock I’ve done a few stories related to the Rock Island, which you can read on the links.
Sign Celebrates Railroad Past Of Little Rock’s Historic Choctaw Building
Aug. 29, 2016 – Former employees of the Rock Island Railroad joined officials from the Clinton Foundation and Clinton School of Public Service Monday, August 29, to unveil a vintage sign attached to the brick facade of what was the railroad’s longtime Little Rock passenger station. Today the two organizations, aligned with Bill Clinton’s neighboring presidential library, have offices in the restored building.
Hundreds Turn Out For Dedication Of Clinton Presidential Park Bridge
Sept. 30, 2011 – Former President Bill Clinton led a dedication ceremony Friday in Little Rock for a new $10.5 million pedestrian and cycling pathway over the Arkansas River, which was built inside an old railroad bridge. He was joined by his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, daughter Chelsea, and the mayors of Little Rock and North Little Rock.
Ceremony To Begin Renovations Of Former Rock Island Bridge Over Arkansas River
May 28, 2010 – Work is finally getting underway to renovate the 111-year-old Rock Island Bridge adjacent to the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock. Former President Bill Clinton is to lead a groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning at the bridge, which at one time was slated to be torn down.
Fight Over Whether To Turn Former Railroad Bed Into Highway
May 7, 2009 – A battle is brewing in Saline County between community leaders who want to build a highway over an abandoned railroad bed and homeowners who say it would encroach on their property. It would provide another route connecting Benton and Little Rock. Walking on a clear path where tracks once carried the trains of the Rock Island Railroad, Irene Thompson said, “Looking at it, it’s unbelievable isn’t it?” But she and her husband Tommy dread the thought of a highway being constructed on their property.
I’ve been hosting a section looking at the Rock Island in Arkansas since 2003, but right now am in the middle of rebuilding my website so that it is more modern and works on different platforms, including mobile devices. This should be completed by the end of March 2017. I’ll have this revised soon so please check back!