History of Cape's First Train is Mostly Myth

JANUARY 2,2006 - Posted at 2:05 p.m. CST

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO - The man who built Cape Girardeau's railroad used to say the first train rolled into town on New Year's Day 125 years ago to a cheering crowd.

But now there's a challenge to that story.

Southeast Missouri State University Professor Joel Rhodes says the train was so mechanically flawed it had to enter town in reverse.The train's chief engineer on that historic occasion -- the
early morning hours of January First, 1881 -- was William Penny. Years later, Penny admitted there were no people in sight, the saloons were all closed and there certainly was no band or cheering crowds.

Professor Rhodes says the man who built the railroad -- William Houck -- was a big self-promoter who embellished the story.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)