Gotta Catch That Train

Mar 21, 2018

Gotta Catch That Train: The History of The Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with reporter, KUAR news director,  photographer, and writer Michael Hibblen about his independent project of chronicling the Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas. We also hear from former Rock Island employees, Joe Rook, L.T. Walker, and Guy Winters, he has interviewed over the years and railroad historian, Bill Pollard. 

Hibblen's book Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas, published by Arcadia Publishing, recounts, through photographs and prose, the history of the Rock Island Railroad from its hostile takeover of the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad in 1902 to its last ragged trains in 1980. 

“When the Rock Island was shut down in 1980, it was an incredible blow for Arkansas. The railroad had a huge footprint in the state and was an institution in the communities it served.”

-- Hibblen

Hibblen has worked in broadcasting and news in Arkansas, Washington DC, Richmond, Virginia, and Miami, Florida. He is currently the news director of NPR member station KUAR in Little Rock. A native Arkansan, Hibblen is a regular panelist for AETN's Arkansas Week. This is his first book. 

Thank you to musicians The Damsels In Distress, Jim Mize, The Crumbs, The Mallett Brothers, David RamirezFret and Worry,  Willi CarlisleGuitar Dave Fredieu, Detroit Johnny, Bonnie Montgomery and  Amyjo Savannah

Thank you also to Stickyz Rock & Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.  

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Listen to the song "The Rock Island Line" by Jim Mize

Listen to the song "Wave " by The Crumbs

Listen to the song "Aint Gonna Die" by Amyjo Savannah

Executive Producer & Host: J. Bradley Minnick

Producer: Mary Ellen Kubit


Interns: Krista Hancock, Marty Burton, and Kaitlin Strain