The rail runs through and through

by | Mar 1, 2019 | Editorial

Hank Williams Sr. sang about the midnight train whining low and how that forlorn moan — along with a whip-poor-will, a crying moon, weeping robin, and a falling star — amplified his loneliness. It’s a song of poetic beauty. But my experience with all of those components has had the opposite affect on me. The trains, especially, make me feel more connected.
Of course, the pleasures of a roaring train are always in inverse proportion to your distance from the tracks. Growing up in the city limits of Atkins, I was never far from the rails. But from our house, the passing trains offered only a friendly holler and gentle rumble. Back then, I didn’t know that those sounds were quintessential small-town Americana. To me, they were just part of the fabric of everyday life woven into my soul. From all of my River Vally addresses — Atkins, north of Morrilton, the Yell County river Bottoms, the foot of Buck Mountain, and my current residence just south of Dover, the comforting melody of the railroad has always brought me peace. I remember drifting off to sleep in Kansas one spring night with whip-poor-wills, a full moon, and a wailing train spurring the Hank Williams tune along with warm thoughts of home.
I slept like a baby.
Trains have brought a lot of other stuff to the River Valley besides euphonic pleasure to a few sentimental ears. Railroad tracks run through the history of the region. They brought raw materials for industry and they brought people. They shipped our products across the nation. They sometimes swung political power between the communities. It’s an oversimplification, but Dover was the Pope County seat… until the railroad decided to run through Russellville.
In this issue of ABOUT, we uncover another layer of railroad lore in the River Valley. The Rock Island Line has been defunct for decades, but the remnants still remain, scattered throughout the area. And in a wonderful coincidence, one of those remnants is tied to ABOUT. Our founder Dianne Edwards chose one of the old Rock Island rail cars resting behind Stoby’s in Russellville as ABOUT the River Valley magazine’s first official office.
Like the communities whose stories we tell, those railroad tracks run through our history as well.
And in a bit of irony, writer Mike Quain was drawn to the Rock Island story because he’s a music nerd, which you can read all about in the story. That’s right. It was a song that brought the story of the Rock Island Line to these pages. The music of the rails is simply a part of who we all are here in the River Valley.

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